2025 Ford Explorer: Hands on Preview

Lee Bailie
by Lee Bailie

The 2025 Ford Explorer made its first public appearance at the Chicago Auto Show with a refreshed design, updated interior, and a new digital user experience.

The sixth gen Explorer has been around since 2019 (as a 2020 model), and while the powertrains carry forward, Ford has simplified the lineup and made quality-of-life improvements. But I’ll get to that further down. First up, the visuals.

Design Update

At a glance, the ’25 Explorer doesn’t look much different from the outgoing model, but the differences reveal themselves upon closer inspection. Up front, the new Explorer has a bolder stance that includes a larger grille, slimmer all-LED headlights, front skid plate and wider air curtains.

Around back, there is a new liftgate, redesigned LED taillights, and a horizontal Explorer wordmark that stretches across the liftgate. A two-tone paint scheme featuring a black roof is available as an option for Platinum, ST, and ST-Line trims.

As with other SUVs and trucks, the ’25 Explorer will offer grade-specific grilles. The Active will have a sawtooth design with a black mesh grille with chrome bars. The ST-Line’s grille has a honeycomb design with gloss black with a black mesh insert. The ST version will be like the ST-Line, but with ST badging, and the Platinum will have a unique wing design, with satin chrome and ebony.

A host of aluminum wheel options, seven in total, are available. They range in size from 18 to 20 inches, with optional 21-inch sets for ST-Line and Platinum. The 21-inch set is standard on ST, while the Platinum gets a stock 20-inch set. The base Active comes with standard 18-inchers, but two 20-inch options are available.

Powertrains carry forward

The one aspect of the Explorer Ford isn’t tinkering with, at least for 2025, is powertrains. The two engines currently offered will remain. A 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder (300 hp / 310 lb-ft.) is standard for Active, ST-Line and Platinum grades, while the high-performance ST trim receives a 3.0-liter EcoBoost V6 (400 hp / 415 lb-ft.). The V6 is also available as an option for the Platinum. Both engines are paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission. Max towing for both engines is rated at 5,000 pounds.

All 2025 Explorers sold in the U.S. come with standard rear-wheel drive, with four-wheel drive available as an option. For Canada, four-wheel drive is standard across the model range.

Big Interior changes

During a presentation at the Chicago Auto Show, Ford reps said the primary focus for the 2025 Explorer was the interior. Based on my experience sitting in both ST and Platinum models on the show floor, the changes are indeed most pronounced.

The dashboard is further forward to create more space for front-seat occupants, and a new combination tray that has a wireless charge pad and small storage area is below the multimedia touchscreen. Another covered storage bin is located below the charge pad. USB charge ports

The overhauled cabin brings new materials, including soft touch surfaces covering the dashboard, door panels and center console. These “wrap and stitch” surfaces, as Ford calls them, are grade-specific, as the ST I sat in had lots of red stitching accents and Black Onyx ActiveX seating with Miko suede inserts.

Meanwhile, the Platinum model had a Mojave Dusk instrument panel, door panels and console with matched accent stitching. The Platinum also has Mojave Dusk leather seating with matched accent stitching. Active and ST-Line grades also feature trim-specific colors and materials.

Ambient lighting will also be available for three of four grades (standard on ST and Platinum, optional on ST-Line) in seven colors: Ice Blue, Orange, Soft Blue, Red, Green, Blue, and Purple.

Ford Digital Experience

The ’25 Explorer is the first company vehicle to receive the Ford Digital Experience, which allows users to access their digital life from within the car. The aim is for users to have greater connection and personalization through profiles, content, and apps.

For example, the Explorer’s two digital displays, a 13.2-inch multimedia touchscreen and 12.3-inch instrument cluster can display Google Maps. Voice commands via Google Assistant is the default, but the Explorer also comes with Alexa built-in, which can serve as an alternate for some controls, such as in-vehicle temperature, search information, setting radio / satellite stations, and more. It can also help make calls, send texts, and control connected home devices.

Music, audiobooks, and podcasts can stream through apps downloaded via Google Play, such as Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible, and iHeartRadio. The multimedia system also comes with standard SiriusXM, along with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

And when the car is parked, there is a slew of other entertainment options. Among these are videos that can stream through apps such as YouTube and Prime Video. Internet access through the Vivaldi browser app, which also supports a Bluetooth-connected keyboard is available. The multimedia touchscreen also supports games through Google Play, such as Asphalt Nitro 2, which is a Ford exclusive.

Ford says the Digital Experience will expand over time with more apps and services and will support over-the-air updates. The system supports 5G wireless tech, and with a subscriber connectivity plan, a Wi-Fi hotspot will provide internet access for up to 10 devices.

Simplified Lineup

As mentioned, the 2025 Explorer will come in four grades: Active, ST-Line, ST, and Platinum.

All U.S. models come with a good amount of standard equipment, including 10-way power and heated driver’s seat, 4-way power and heated front passenger seat, Ford Digital Experience, 13.2-inch LCD touchscreen, 12.3-inch color digital instrument cluster, 8 USB ports, three 12-volt outlets, Ford Co-Pilot360 Assist+, and more.


Select ’25 Explorer trims (Ford didn’t say which ones) come with Ford BlueCruise hardware that enables hands-free highway driving. Included in the system is Land Change Assist, which allows drivers to change lanes by tapping the turn signal when the path is clear. It also comes with In-Lane Repositioning, which allows for the vehicle to shift slightly in its lane to provide room for larger vehicles in adjacent lanes.

The 2025 Ford Explorer goes on sale this spring. Pricing starts at $41,220 in the U.S., and $50,535 in Canada. Full pricing will be announced closer to launch.

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Lee Bailie
Lee Bailie

With more than 20 years of industry experience, which includes automotive retail, motorsports PR, and writing and editing for various automotive publications, Lee is an AutoGuide freelancer, and car guy to the core. For nearly a decade and a half, he has married his two consuming passions together – journalism and the automotive industry. Whether it’s providing coverage on debuts from an auto show floor, writing road test reviews, or previewing a new model coming soon, Lee is eager to share his passion for the automotive industry with his readers. He is a long-standing member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) and won a feature writing award in 2018.

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