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Comparison: 2020 Honda Pilot vs 2020 Ford Explorer

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The Explorer arrived on our roads in 1991 and practically invented the midsize SUV category and is also the best-selling model in Canada. It’s ahead of the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Toyota Highlander. A brand new model is coming up for 2020. The Pilot, which has been there since 2003, is also one of the best sellers of the brand since it entered the market and is considered one of the most reliable in this market segment.

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2020 Ford Explorer

Photo: B.Charette

The last major redesign of the Explorer was in 2011, so it was high time Ford took the bull by the horns with the SUV, even if the model remained popular. The new platform is longer and more rigid than its predecessor. In Canada, all models come standard with all-wheel drive.

Three engine choices
There’s a wide choice of engines buyers can have placed under the hood of their 2020 Explorer. The XLT at $45,199 is the base model and comes with a 2.3L 4-cylinder turbo engine that delivers 300 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. 

The SUV also comes in a new hybrid version at $57,199 with a 3.3L V6 engine making 318 hp and an estimated total full-tank range of 800 km, according to EPA figures. It can tow up 5,000 pounds and offers the same off-road capabilities as the other Explorers. 

Photo: B.Charette

The other engine is a 3.0L V6 turbo. This unit, borrowed from the Lincoln Continental, produces 365 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque in the Platinum version, which is the most expensive model in the range at $64,599. Then comes another new version, the ST, which boosts the power of the 3.0L turbo to 400 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque. 

All engines are associated with a 10-speed automatic transmission we first saw in the F-150. But take note that you need to put 93-octane gas in the tank to get those figures.

Many embedded technologies
The interior has gained space over the previous generation for occupants and cargo. Users will enjoy a very roomy and very quiet cabin environment, two qualities that are held in high regard in this kind of vehicle. All Explorers come with three rows of seats including second-row captain's seats, leaving room for 7 passengers. It costs $500 more if you want space for 8 passengers with a full second row. 

Photo: B.Charette

Available as an option, the power-folding third-row seats and 40/20/20 fold-down second-row seats provide a cargo area that can accommodate even those infamous 4x8 planks when the seats are properly configured. 

For the rest you have a mixture of wood, heated leather seats and ventilated seats in the first two rows. 

The Explorer comes standard with the Ford Co-Pilot360 driver assistance technology package that offers pre-collision assistance with automatic emergency braking (including pedestrian detection, forward collision warning and dynamic braking assistance). You also have the blind spot information system with cross traffic alert, lane keeping system, integrated rear view camera with lens washer and automatic headlight control with automatic high beam. 

Photo: B.Charette

Regardless of the row they’re in, passengers will enjoy FordPass Connect, a standard feature that provides wireless connectivity for up to 10 mobile devices through the 4G LTE (subscription) network. The updated SYNC 3 system supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as the Waze navigation tool. The base centre screen is 8 inches and an optional 10.1-inch screen is mounted vertically. 


Photo: B.Charette

Models higher in the trim pecking order are eligible for a Bang & Olufsen 12- or 14-speaker audio system delivering up to 980 watts. A flat-bottom heated steering wheel with ST logo and unique floor coverings are exclusive to the Explorer ST. Sport bucket seats in micro-perforated leather, urban gray contrasting stitching and the ST logo complement the sporty style.

More-refined performance
Comfort and performance are the main qualities for the new Explorer. The first impression is one of quietness on the road. Ford has installed a double-wall dashboard - a first at Ford – and acoustic glass, as well as active noise control on hybrid models. 

On the road the all-wheel drive automatically sends power to the front wheels according to need and the driving conditions. When only two wheels are needed, the front axle disconnects to improve fuel economy. 

Photo: B.Charette

On the road, the Explorer feels smaller than its real size and doesn’t give you the impression of driving a big SUV. The steering is precise and the different driving modes offer a wide range of possibilities and the abundant supply of engines will also appeal to a large group of buyers.

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Well, that's not always true. Ford has been able to renew one of its flagship models and bring it up to date. All is not perfect, as Ford has had birth pains with the climate control and the transmission and had to recall thousands of vehicles before even putting the new Explorer on sale, but with those issues ironed out the 2020 edition should handily keep the momentum going.

2020 Honda Pilot

Photo: Honda

The most recent overhaul of the Honda Pilot dates to 2016 and the popular SUV returns with little change for 2020. Honda offers its SUV in LX, EX, EX-L Navi, Touring (7 or 8 seats) and Black Edition versions. All use a 3.5L V6 engine and all-wheel drive. The LX, EX, and EX-L Navi models come with a 6-speed automatic transmission, while the Touring and Black Edition versions feature a 9-speed auto unit with a push-button gearshift.

All versions of the Pilot are equipped with power heated side mirrors, front wiper defroster, LED taillights, automatic LED headlights, variable intermittent front wipers, 18-inch alloy wheels, active noise reduction, 7.0-inch instrument display, conversation mirror and power windows. 

Photo: Honda

The parade of features continues with passive keyless entry, remote engine start, three-zone automatic climate control with rear controls, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, driver and front passenger seat armrests, 6-way manual driver seating and 4-way front passenger seat adjustments, heated front seats nd 7-speaker audio system

Not surprisingly, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility is included, as well as HondaLink, Bluetooth, CabinControl and hot-spot wifi. 

Photo: Honda

While Honda doesn’t quite match Ford for technologies, you still have valuable safety features such as front-end collision detection with auto-brake, tire pressure monitoring, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assistance and automatic headlights.

EX version incorporates blind spot camera monitor, LED fog lights, sunroof, roof bars, auto-dimming rear view mirror, garage door opener, 10-way power driver's seat and a leather-covered steering wheel. 

The EX-L Navi includes side mirrors and a driver's seat with memory, power liftgate, acoustic windshield, front and rear parking sensors, navigation, side sunshades in the second row, heated seats in the second row, leather seats and satellite radio. 

Finally, the Touring model gets the nine-speed transmission, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, auto leveling headlights, chrome-plated exterior trim, electroluminescent headlights, rain sensing wipers and 20-inch wheels.

Photo: Honda

This version also comes with a 115-volt power outlet, acoustic door glass, ambient interior lighting, CabinTalk PA system, wireless charging, ventilated front seats, 11-speaker audio system with subwoofer, HondaLink subscription, entertainment system at the rear with HDMI input and an internet access point. 

The seven-passenger Touring models swap out a three-seat bench seat in the second row for two heated bucket seats with armrests with sway and tilt functions. This package also adds a panoramic sunroof. 

Finally, the Black Edition adds black wheels and incorporates the door handles and exterior color body trim of the touring chrome parts.

Photo: Honda

Fun to drive
The Pilot is probably the best alternative to a minivan currently on the market. It’s spacious, flexible and can accommodate seven or eight passengers, plus it features bolder styling than you’ll get from a traditional van. Capable of pulling 5,000 lb with a V6 engine and delivering good fuel economy, this family vehicle, that parents will actually get some pleasure from driving, excellent comfort and space. It’s also the most reliable and fuel-efficient in the category.


Photo: Ford / Honda

Advantage Ford Explorer

The Explorer comes with a wide selection of engines, including a hybrid configuration. That version also has superior towing capacity - 5,600 lb versus the 5,000 for the Pilot. There’s availability of more technology on board the Explorer.

Advantage Honda Pilot

If reliability is important to you, Honda's reputation is second to none. You also have a flexible interior space that is more versatile than the Explorer’s, and a V6 engine that’s not very greedy. Another important point, the Pilot is more affordable to purchase and offers more cargo space.


In both cases, you’ll be able to accommodate 7 or 8 passengers. Both models offer an efficient all-wheel drive system for the winter and generous interior space.


We are going to be careful and respect a non-written rule not to buy a Ford product that is just coming out of the factory. The American giant who has experienced a string of problems with the Explorer and his cousin the Aviator at Lincoln, delivers once again a product that doesn’t look ready for the market. But even without this argument, the Pilot is more affordable, more reliable and offers more cargo space. These reasons alone are sufficient to declare put Honda ahead.

2020 Ford Explorer

We like

Wide variety of models
Generous space
Quiet interior
A lot of embedded technology

We like less

Some birthing pains for the new generation
You need Super unleaded to get the advertised HP

2020 Honda Pilot

We like

Well-conceived interior space
Good fuel economy
Big cargo space

We like less

Some awkward controls
Old 6-speed tranny
Non-ergonomic commands (9-speed-transmission version)

  2020 Ford Explorer 2020 Honda Pilot 
 Transmissionauto 10 speedauto 6 or 9 speed
  V6  3.0 L T3.5 L (9 speed)
 Fuel consumption (city)15.0 L / 100 km12.6 L / 100 km
 Fuel consumption (highway)11.0lL/ 100 km9.3 L / 100 km
  L4 2,3 L T 
 Fuel consumption (city)13.0 L/ 100 km 
 Fuel consumption (highway)9.0 L / 100 km 
  V6 hybrid 
 Fuel consumption (city)11.8 L / 100 km 
 Fuel consumption (highway)8.3 L / 100 km 
 Fuel Tank   73 L(83 V6) 73.3 L
 Output300 hp280 hp
 Torque310 lb-ft262 lb-ft
 Displacement2.3 L T3.5 L 
 Output365 ou 400 hp 
 Torque400 ou 415 lb-ft  
 Displacement3.0 L  T 
  V6 hybrid 
 Output318 hp 
 Torque322 lb-ft 
 Displacement3.3 L hybrid 
 Cargo Space515 L, 1356 L, 2486 L524 L, 1583 L, 3092 L
 Towing capacity2,540 kg (V6)2.268 kg
 Length5050 mm (5062 mm ST) 4941 mm
 Width2004 mm 2029 mm
 Height1775 mm 1846 mm 
 Wheelbase3025 mm 2820 mm 
 Warranty3 yrs / 60,000 km3 yrs / 60,000 km
 Pricing$45,199 to $64,599 $41,290 to $55,190