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Comparing the 2020 Ford Explorer vs the 2020 Honda Pilot

A blue 2020 Ford Explorer, which wins when comparing the 2020 Ford Explorer vs 2020 Honda Pilot, is parked next to a boat dock with kayaks behind it.

The joys of owning an SUV or crossover are boundless—they’re roomy, can more easily go off-road than a car, and tend to have a lot of versatility (like towing capabilities). It’s a market that is red hot right now, and there are so many options out there that it can get a little overwhelming. Fortunately, we’re just looking at two popular options today by comparing the 2020 Ford Explorer vs 2020 Honda Pilot.

Ford vs Honda

Let’s take a quick look at the history of these two huge companies.

Ford is an American company and a global force in the automotive industry. It’s been around for more than a century and is a favorite for true patriots all over the United States. The Explorer has been around for about 30 years, which makes it one of the older SUVs in terms of straight manufacturing years. Don’t think there’s anything old about it, though, as the 2020 model is a new and modern machine.

Honda is a Japanese company that was founded a little over 70 years ago. Ford may have a few decades on Honda, but that doesn’t mean this company is any less successful. In fact, Honda vehicles (including motorcycles) are some of the most popular options around the world. The Pilot has been around less time than the Explorer (about 12 years less), but it still competes very well, especially in the U.S. market.

A blue 2020 Honda Pilot is driving on a highway with mountains in the distance.

Prices and Trim Levels

The 2020 Ford Explorer has four different trim levels. With starting prices, they are the XLT ($36,675), Limited ($48,130), ST ($54,740), and Platinum ($58,250).

The 2020 Honda Pilot has six different trim levels. With starting prices, they are the LX ($31,650), EX ($34,530), EX-L ($37,960), Touring ($42,720), Elite ($48,220), and Black Edition ($49,720).

Right off the bat, you can see the Explorer starts off quite a bit higher with its pricing across trim levels, but that could just be because the Pilot has a couple more options to choose from. However, the Pilot’s highest option (Black Edition) is almost the same starting price as the Explorer’s second option (Limited).

Let’s see if there’s a reason why the prices are so different.

Performance

The Explorer XLT comes standard with a 2.3L EcoBoost I-4 Engine with Auto Start-Stop Technology (300 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque) and Rear-Wheel Drive. The Limited will be the same, but there will be an option for a 3.3L Hybrid Engine (318 hp and 322 lb-ft of torque). Both the XLT and Limited have the available option of Intelligent 4-Wheel Drive, which includes the Terrain Management System and seven selectable drive modes. The ST and Platinum trims come standard with a 3.0L EcoBoost V6 Engine with Auto Start-Stop Technology and Intelligent 4-Wheel Drive. Although it’s the same engine, the Platinum version will have 365 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque while the ST version will have 400 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque. The ST is brought to you by the Ford Performance Team, so you can obviously expect some enhancements.

For the Pilot, all trim levels come standard with a 3.5L V6 Engine (280 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque), although the Touring, Elite, and Black Edition models will have a 9-speed automatic transmission while the others will have 6-speed automatic transmissions. Trim levels LX through Touring come with 2WD with the option for AWD, although the Elite and Black Edition trims come standard with AWD.

It’s quite noticeable that the Explorer options all have more powerful engines compared to what you can find among the Pilot models. Getting up to the ST and Platinum trims will really put some kick into your ride, which is most likely a huge reason for the price difference between the higher level Pilots and these. It’s also important to note that the Explorer has a hybrid option while the Pilot does not.

Features

A close up of the large infotinament screen inside of the 2020 Ford Explorer is shown.

To best compare the features of both vehicles, we’ll start with the lowest Explorer and compare it to the Pilot that falls closest to the same starting price. In this case, it would be the Explorer XLT vs the Pilot EX-L.

The XLT comes with Remote Start, tri-zone electronic temperature control, three 12V power outlets, a rearview camera, FordPass Connect 4G LTE Wi-Fi Hotspot, and SiriusXM Satellite Radio. Safety features include Lane Keeping System (Lane-Keeping Assist, Lane-Keeping Alert, and Driver Alert) and Reverse Sensing System.

The EX-L comes with a leather-trimmed interior, One-Touch Power Moonroof, Power Tailgate, Integrated 2nd-Row Sunshades, Three USB ChargingPorts, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, Tri-Zone Automatic Climate Control System, SiriusXM Radio, and three 12V power outlets. Safety features include Honda’s entire suite of Honda Sensing Safety & Driver Assistive Technologies. Highlights include Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keeping Assist System, Forward Collision Warning, and Blind Spot Information System with Cross Traffic Monitor.

Obviously, there are more features, but this will give you a general feel for what they come with. And, you can expect even more features as you move up the trim levels. Overall, the Pilot seems to have some pretty great features, mostly centering around their extensive safety suite. The best thing is you don’t need to move up trim levels for more safety features, they all come on every level. The Explorer’s features like Remote Start and the Wi-Fi Hotspot can be convenient, for sure, but they aren’t always necessary. Also, it should be mentioned, the Pilot can seat up to eight passengers while the Explorer can only seat up to seven. Those capacities may change depending on the trim level and configuration.

Overall Thoughts

Both vehicles have their pros and cons, but in the battle of the 2020 Ford Explorer vs 2020 Honda Pilot, there’s no ultimate winner. Basically, they both excel at different things, and it really comes down to what it is you’re looking for. If you want a little more power (and have the money for it), the Explorer would probably be the best option, considering the XLT and Limited (the lowest trim levels) have more power than all of the available options on the Pilot. And if you really want an upgrade, try out the Platinum or ST. The ST is very intriguing because of its connections to the Ford Performance team, and 400 hp is quite good for a vehicle that’s normally seen as a family commuter.

If you don’t care too much for the extra performance and would rather save some money (but not necessarily lose out on features), then the Pilot would be a good bet. Honestly, having the Honda Sensing Safety and Driver Assistive Technologies come standard across the board is pretty huge. It makes your LX feel like a luxury vehicle because a lot of brands will only include those features on their highest trim levels. Plus, you shouldn’t have to pay more for safety. Also, if you’re looking for an 8-passenger seating capacity, the Pilot will be your choice over the Explorer. Just note, though, that the Elite and Black Edition models only come in the 7-seater configuration, which is pretty common once you get to the higher trim levels.

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