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The 2020 Ford Explorer ST is the latest offering in the company's SUV line-up from the Special Technology team.

With the prospect of declining sales on the horizon, carmakers are eager to find ways to distinguish their vehicles from the competition and to find a way to target potential buyers with specific tastes and wants.

The 2020 Ford Explorer ST is an effort to do both. With the exception of specific exterior design cues such as the distinctive grille, quad-tip exhaust and 21-inch wheels, it has the bold lines, longer wheel base and silhouette of the 2020 Explorer that Ford is beginning to roll into dealerships now. It also has the extra inch of ground clearance.

The new Ford Explorer ST also comes with smart technology, a confident stance and an interior that’s marked with the craftsmanship that has helped Ford elevate its stance in the closely watched Initial Quality Survey from J.D. Power.

But Ford engineers also added something extra to Explorer ST in form of a 3.0-liter, twin-turbo EcoBoost engine. It’s same engine that’s standard in the top-of-the line Platinum version of the Explorer but it has been tweaked by Ford’s Special Technology team to yield more power and more punch.

(Ford investing $1B, adding 500 jobs to expand SUV production. Click Here for the story.)

Behind the grille of the 2020 Explorer ST is a 3.0-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 putting out 400 horsepower.

The numbers show the difference the power train in the Platinum version of the Explorer with its 10-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drive, produce 365 horsepower and 380-foot pounds of torque. The new 3.0-liter Eco Boost powertrain in the Explorer ST, one the hand, produces 400 horsepower and 415 foot-pounds of torque.

Moreover, the power is delivered effortlessly as the 10-speed transmission never seems to miss a beat even on hilly terrain or winding roads. In addition, there is a selector switch that allows the driver to choose the operating mode. The selections include an off-road mode but on pavement the sport mode seems to suit the vehicles characteristics.

I found the Explorer ST’s driving dynamics quite impressive.

On the winding road on the north bank of the Columbia River, felt nicely planted but quite capable of handling the undulating terrain and delivering confident ride on some times uneven pavement. The solid suspension and quick, but not too quick, steering response made the Explorer ST a lot of fun to drive through the stunning landscape of the Columbia River Gorge dividing Washington and Oregon.

The Explorer has become a vehicle of choice for police departments around the U.S. and Ford engineers also have borrowed some of the things they’ve learned building police cars and applied them to the Explorer ST. The four-wheel disc brakes on the Explorer ST are the same as those used on the Explorers Ford equips as patrol cars and thus offer extra stopping power.

On the Explorer ST, the brake calipers are painted red and have larger vented rotors.

The Explorer ST gets an aggressive new look, including bright red brake calipers under black wheels.

The interior of the Explorer ST, while not quite as luxurious as the more expensive Platinum Explorer, does have a comfortable interior with easy-to-reach controls and storage, including a center console. Naturally, even though has sportier driving dynamics, the space for passengers and cargo hasn’t been compromised in any way.

(Click Here for our first drive in the 2020 Ford Explorer.)

The Explorer ST, like other Explorers Ford is introducing this summer, also comes equipped with the Ford Co-Pilot360 suite of driver assistance features, including automatic emergency braking with Pedestrian Detection, Blind Spot Information System, Lane-Keeping System, automatic high-beam for the LED headlamps and reverse backup camera, are standard, starting with the base model. Rain-sensing wind-shield wipers are also available.

In addition, it also comes with a list of extra features including enhanced active park assist, which is easier to use, heated and cooled seats, folding mirrors, memory driver’s seat, mirrors and pedals and wireless charging, a 110-volt inverter outlet as well as special touches such as enhanced engine sound and a special steering wheel.

A cargo management system and Ford Performance scuff plates also included in the ST.

The changes to the Explorer ST and the addition of new features as standard equipment have raised by the price by more than $8,000, according to Ford. The MSRP for the 2020 Ford Explorer is $54,740 plus a $1,095, which means Ford is now competing for a select group of buyers, looking to buy a sportier vehicle right out of the showroom.

But this audience could be growing a bit.

Sport-utility vehicles, in general, have never been noted for their drivability. Sedans and coupes still have them beat in the ride-and-handling department. But the higher seating position, something pioneered by Ford with the original Explorer, is a joy those vehicles cannot match.

(Ford unveiled its new Explorer Police Interceptor model. Click Here for the story.)

The improvements and refinements to the Explorer ST show that some SUV’s are beginning to erase the performance edge enjoyed by sportier cars.

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