The 2020 Ford Explorer Hybrid’s 504-mile range may be something to ride home about —assuming home is far away — but the model’s fuel economy is nothing to write home about.
Related: 2020 Ford Explorer First Drive: Charting New Territory
In city/highway/combined ratings announced by Ford today and currently published on the EPA’s website, the Explorer Hybrid gets 27/29/28 mpg with rear-wheel drive — numbers we didn’t reach in a 1,180-mile road trip — and 23/26/25 mpg with all-wheel drive. The combined EPA figures are 9 to 25 percent higher (in rounded EPA numbers, anyway) than the agency’s combined estimates for the non-hybrid Explorer: 24 mpg with RWD or 20-23 mpg with AWD.
Still, the numbers trail the Explorer Hybrid’s chief rival, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid. With AWD as standard equipment, the 2019 Highlander Hybrid gets an EPA-estimated 28 to 29 mpg combined, depending on trim level. And the deficit will almost certainly grow once Toyota’s redesigned 2020 Highlander hits dealerships. The EPA has yet to publish numbers on the 2020 Highlander, but Toyota estimates the SUV’s hybrid variant, which goes from a V-6 to a four-cylinder with the redesign, will get an EPA-estimated 34 mpg combined.
The Explorer Hybrid’s 18-gallon fuel tank means 504 miles of range with RWD or 450 miles with AWD, both assuming EPA-combined mileage. Again, not great considering the Highlander Hybrid’s 482 to 557 miles, depending on trim level.
Still, Ford says the Explorer Hybrid can tow up to 5,000 pounds, which is 1,500 pounds more than the outgoing Toyota rival. Toyota has yet to announce towing figures for the new Highlander Hybrid, but the downsized drivetrain makes it doubtful the capacity would grow.
The Explorer Hybrid is available in one trim level, the Limited, with a starting price including destination of $53,475. Available only as an engine upgrade on the Explorer’s Limited trim, the hybrid combines a naturally aspirated 3.3-liter V-6 with a 10-speed automatic transmission that sandwiches in a 35-kilowatt electric motor. Electric power comes from a 1.5-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery that doesn’t compromise cabin or cargo space, and the whole of it makes 318 combined horsepower and 322 pounds-feet of torque — comparable to the Explorer’s base engine, a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder (300 hp, 310 pounds-feet of torque).
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