We may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.
When you are looking for the perfect, midsize SUV to take you where you want to go, you might consider the Ford Explorer. The Explorer has been ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the best midsize SUV’s of 2020. So, if you are ready to hit the road and want to haul your camper, boat, or ATV along for the trip, you might wonder how much can a Ford Explorer tow? We looked at Ford’s trailer towing specifications for the 2020 Explorer to find the answer.
The Ford Explorer has a towing capacity of 3,000-lbs to 5,600-lbs, depending on how the vehicle is equipped. The following are Ford’s specifications for the 2020 Explorer’s maximum towing capabilities when properly equipped with a Class III Tow Package (n/a for the base model; standard on the ST and Platinum trim levels):
- 2.3L EcoBoost I-4 RWD/4WD – Towing Capacity 3,000-lbs (base model)
- 2.3L EcoBoost I-4 RWD/4WD – Towing Capacity 5,300-lbs (XLT, Limited)
- 3.0L EcoBoost V6 4WD – Towing Capacity 5,600-lbs (ST, Platinum)
- 3.3L HEV V6 -Towing Capacity 5,000-lbs (Hybrid)
Let’s take a closer look at the 2020 Explorer’s towing options, so you’ll know exactly which engine, drivetrain, and trim level will meet your towing needs. We’ll also take a brief look at previous years’ Explorer models to let you know what to expect for towing capacity throughout Explorer’s generations.
What Are the Ford Explorer’s Towing Options?
Ford provides you several options to customize the Explorer, particularly regarding towing capacity. Depending on the trim level, you can select from four engines with variant axle ratios. If you are in search of a tow vehicle, the Ford Explorer can be a very versatile choice.
When you equip the Ford Explorer, you choose between four powerful engines. Each engine is paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission.
2.3L EcoBoost I-4
Ford’s 2.3L EcoBoost I-4 engine packs 300-horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. Tow a maximum of 3,000-lbs with the 2.3L EcoBoost on the Explorer’s base model. Increase your towing capacity to 5,300-lbs by adding a Class III Tow package to the 2.3L EcoBoost on XLT and Limited trim levels.
3.0L EcoBoost V6
Ford’s 3.0L EcoBoost V6 engine boasts 356-horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque. Available for Explorer Platinum, add a Class III Tow Package for a max towing capacity of 5,600-lbs.
Enhanced 3.0L EcoBoost
Enhance your Explorer’s performance on the Sport (ST) trim with standard 3.0L Enhanced EcoBoost engine providing 400-horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque for a maximum towing capacity of 5,600-lbs.
3.3L V6 Hybrid
Go the distance with Explorer Hybrid’s 3.3L V6 engine powering 318-horsepower and 322 lbs-ft. of torque to tow up to 5,000-lbs.
Ford offers a range of axle ratio options for tow vehicles. When determining axle ratio for your Explorer, it helps to remember that as the ratio increases, the towing capacity increases because the vehicle has a mechanical advantage to send more torque to the rear tires (or front tires for 4WD). A higher axle ratio might help you to tow a heavier trailer, but it does decrease your gas mileage.
Ford’s axle ratios for the Explorer are provided below. NOTE: 2.3 EcoBoost engine towing capacity is increased from 3,000-lbs to 5,300-lbs with the Class III Tow Package added, however, the axle ratio remains the same for the base, XLT, and Limited trim levels.
- 2.3L EcoBoost RWD/4WD – 3.58
- 3.0L EcoBoost/4WD/Platinum/Class III Tow Package – 3.31
- 3.0L EcoBoost/4WD/Sport (ST)/Class III Tow Package – 3.58
- 3.3L HEV V6/RWD – 3.58
- 3.3L HEV V6/4WD – 3.73
What is the Explorer’s Towing Capacity for Older Models?
2014 Ford Explorer Towing Capacity
The 2014 Explorer’s maximum towing capacity of 5,000-lbs can be achieved by installing the Class III Tow Package (optional for XLT, Sport, and Limited) on models equipped with either Ford’s 3.5L EcoBoost engine or Ford’s 3.5L Ti-VCT V6 engine.
2015 Ford Explorer Towing Capacity
Adequately equipped with the Class III Tow Package (optional for XLT, Sport, and Limited), the 2015 Explorer’s maximum towing capacity of 5,000-lbs can be achieved with any engine except Ford’s 2.0L EcoBoost.
2016 Ford Explorer Towing Capacity
Ford’s 2016 Explorer can tow a maximum of 5,000-lbs when equipped with either the 3.5L Ti-VCT V6 engine or 3.5L EcoBoost engine and a Class III Tow Package.
The 2.3L EcoBoost engine paired with Intelligent 4WD on the 2016 Explorer has a maximum towing capacity of 3,000-lbs when a Class II Tow Package is added.
2017 Ford Explorer Towing Capacity
Equipped with the 3.5L EcoBoost engine or 3.5L Ti-VCT V6 engine and the Class III Tow Package (standard on Sport and Platinum trims), the 2017 Explorer can tow a maximum of 5,000-lbs.
With the 2.3L EcoBoost engine on base, XLT, and Limited trim levels, the 2017 Explorer is rated for 3,000-lbs maximum towing capacity when a Class II Tow Package is added.
2018 Ford Explorer Towing Capacity
Ford’s 2018 Explorer can tow a maximum of 5,000-lbs if properly equipped with either the 3.5L EcoBoost engine or 3.5L Ti-VCT V6 engine and Class III Tow Package (standard on Sport and Platinum trims).
The 2018 base model Explorer, XLT, and Limited trims can tow a maximum of 3,000-lbs when equipped with a 2.3L EcoBoost engine and Class II Tow Package.
2019 Ford Explorer Towing Capacity
On the 2019 Ford Explorer, get a maximum towing capacity of 5,000-lbs when equipped with either a 3.5L EcoBoost engine or 3.5L Ti-VCT V6 engine and Class III Tow Package (standard on Sport and Platinum trims).
The Class II Tow Package (requires 4WD) is optional for 2019 Explorer base, XLT, and Limited trims with a 2.3L EcoBoost engine to get a maximum towing capacity of 3,000-lbs.
What Does Ford’s Class II Tow Package Include?
The optional, factory-installed Class II Tow Package is available in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 Explorer models equipped with the 2.3L EcoBoost engine. The package includes:
- Class II Hitch Receiver
- 4-Pin Wiring Harness
What Does Ford’s Class III Tow Package Include?
Select the optional, factory-installed Class III Tow Package to boost your 2019 or 2020 Explorer’s towing capacity to the max (n/a on 2.3L EcoBoost engine). The package includes:
- Class III Hitch Receiver
- Engine Oil Cooler
- 7-Wire Harness & 4-/7-Pin Connector
- Cargo Area Management System (2020 models)
Does the Ford Explorer Have a Drive Mode for Towing?
Ford incorporates six (6) drive modes on all 2020 Explorer RWD models, including Tow Haul Mode for towing. Pair your engine and transmission with Ford’s Intelligent 4WD and gain a seventh (7) drive mode, Terrain Management. Ford Explorer also features Hill Descent Control and Trailer Sway Control (optional on XLT) systems so. You’ll select your mode to match the road conditions and experience a smooth, responsive ride while towing.
What Does Trailer Sway Control Do?
If your trailer starts to sway, the Trailer Sway Control system automatically engages and alerts you with a lit message on the instrument panel. The system applies the brakes to slow your speed, and if needed, will reduce engine power.
What Does Hill Descent Control Do?
The Hill Descent Control system is an automatic traction control that, when engaged by pressing the button, adjusts your vehicle’s braking as you descend a steep incline. You can set and adjust Hill Descent Control before going down a hill so that on the descent, you can focus on steering.
What Does the Tow Button Do on a Ford Explorer?
The Tow button on your Ford Explorer is a driver select mode. Pressing this button engages Tow Haul Mode to enhance your Explorer’s response to driver input.
When Should I Use the Tow Haul Mode?
Consider using Tow Haul Mode when you tow a heavy load over hilly terrain. The Tow Haul Mode reduces transmission shifts while climbing and provides engine braking while descending.
Ford recommends you DO NOT USE the Tow Haul Mode when towing on icy or slippery road surface conditions.
Does Tow Haul Mode Use More Fuel?
You should anticipate lower gas mileage when towing because of the additional weight and drag that a trailer adds to your vehicle. Tow Haul Mode can assist your vehicle’s towing performance over hilly terrain but, it is not expected to improve your gas mileage.
Driving at slower speeds while towing and minimizing your trailer’s frontal area can keep your vehicle’s gas mileage low. Ford recommends the trailer’s frontal area should not exceed 20 square feet (without Class III Tow Package) and 55 square-feet (with Class III Tow Package) for optimal towing performance on the 2020 Explorer.
Here are a few other Ford tips for improved gas mileage while towing:
- Distribute the weight of the trailer with approximately 60% of the weight in the front and 40% of the weight in the rear.
- Keep the load’s center of gravity as low as possible.
- Firmly secure the load.
- Turn off cruise control when towing.
- In the event towing causes excessive shifting to occur (certain automatic overdrive transmissions), lock out the overdrive for steady performance (see owner’s manual). If excessive shifting does not happen, using overdrive can improve gas mileage.
- Downshift for improved acceleration.
Can a Ford Explorer Tow a Boat?
Ford’s Explorer can tow ski boats, sailing dinghies, fishing/bass boats, and personal watercraft (PWC) with ease. Determine the fully-loaded weight of the boat and trailer before you hitch-up to your Explorer, so you do not exceed the vehicle’s maximum towing capacity.
What Size Camper Can a Ford Explorer Tow?
The Ford Explorer can tow short-based, lightweight travel trailers and campers. You can get the trailer’s dry weight, maximum carrying capacity, and tongue weight from the manufacturer to ensure the total weight of the load will not exceed your Explorer’s maximum towing capacity. Here are a few of our favorite travel trailers, a range of styles, to pair with the Ford Explorer:
Forest River Wolf Pup 15SW
With a GVRW of 4,999-lbs, Forest River’s Wolf Pup 15SW gives you ample living space when you reach your final destination. Your Explorer can easily tow this camper, and your site will be outfitted with a kitchen, queen size bed and pull-out sofa, and full bathroom.
Coachman Freedom Express Pilot 20BHS
Tow along with the spacious layout of Coachman’s Freedom Express Pilot 20BHS, with a GVRW of 4,800-lbs, you won’t exceed your Explorer’s towing capacity. You’ll have all the comforts of home at your final destination, equipped with queen size bed, bunk beds, full kitchen, and bathroom.
Travel without limits when you to Sylvansport’s VAST ultralightweight travel trailer with GVWR of 3,000-lbs. You’ll venture into the outdoors with all of home’s necessities equipped with an indoor/outdoor kitchen, one or two queen beds, and bathroom.
Camp-Inn 560 SUV Raindrop
Go retro when you tow Camp-Inn’s 560 SUV Raindrop weighing in at a total 1,400-lbs. You’ll enjoy the comfort of a queen bed, convertible couch/bunk bed, kitchen, and ample storage.
For off-road explorations with your Explorer, hitch-up the rugged Escapade Backcountry. This expertly engineered travel trailer will go anywhere, and the open floor plan lets you design your interior without worrying about exceeding the Explorer’s towing capacity with the trailer’s dry weight of 1,700-lbs.
Now that you know the Ford Explorer’s towing capacity and you have some examples of what the Explorer can tow, you’re ready to select your Explorer’s options so you can hitch-up your load to this midsize SUV and drive towards adventure.