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2020 Ford Explorer Hybrid sips its way to EPA-estimated 28 mpg combined

Opt for all-wheel drive and the efficiency falls, though.

Pretty frugal for a big SUV that can tow, we'd say.

Emme Hall/Roadshow

For those on the hunt for frugality and function, Ford believes it may have just the SUV to fit the bill. That is the 2020 Explorer Hybrid, which the EPA has finally provided fuel economy estimates for.

Forbes first reported on the fuel economy estimates on Wednesday and the government said the 2020 Explorer Hybrid will muster 27 miles per gallon city, 29 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined. That's for rear-wheel drive models, mind you. Across large portions of the US where winter is a thing, the Explorer Hybrid with all-wheel drive will return an estimated 23/26/25 mpg.

For some comparison, the RWD model boasts a 4 mpg better rating compared to the Explorer's standard 2.3-liter turbo-4 engine. For AWD models, the Hybrid manages to be 2 mpg more frugal. While that may not sound like a huge difference, Ford did tell us during our first drive of the Explorer Hybrid that the SUV should go about 500 miles between fill-ups. That's a stat many families will likely love to hear.

Power for the hybrid model comes from a 3.3-liter V6 married to a 1.5-kilowatt-hour battery and 35-kilowatt electric motor. There's no pure electric mode, rather, the Explorer Hybrid simply operates in the most efficient setting at all times. Drivers won't hear a peep or hum when crawling around parking lots, but the engine will fire up when the driver gets up to speed. When needed, 318 horsepower and 322 pound-feet of torque are on tap. Those are slightly higher figures than the turbocharged 2.3-liter's 300 hp and 310 pound-feet of torque.

While the Explorer Hybrid is the more efficient of the SUV's portfolio, it falls short of the standard bearer: the Toyota Highlander Hybrid. The current model will return an estimated 28 mpg combined with standard AWD. The next model is expected to be even more efficient as it moves from V6 power to an inline-4 engine.

So, where does Ford see a play for hybrid sales? Towing. The Explorer Hybrid is rated to tow 5,000 pounds. Toyota's electrified Highlander will do just 3,500 pounds.

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