2020 Ford Explorer vs. 2019 Lexus RX Series

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

Both the Explorer and RX Series have child safety locks to prevent children from opening the rear doors. The Explorer has power child safety locks, allowing the driver to activate and deactivate them from the driver's seat and to know when they're engaged. The RX Series’ child locks have to be individually engaged at each rear door with a manual switch. The driver can’t know the status of the locks without opening the doors and checking them.

The Explorer has standard Post Collision Braking, which automatically apply the brakes in the event of a crash to help prevent secondary collisions and prevent further injuries. The RX Series doesn’t offer a post collision braking system: in the event of a collision that triggers the airbags, more collisions are possible without the protection of airbags that may have already deployed.

The Explorer’s driver alert monitor detects an inattentive driver then sounds a warning and suggests a break. According to the NHTSA, drivers who fall asleep cause about 100,000 crashes and 1500 deaths a year. The RX Series doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

Both the Explorer and the RX Series have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver and front passenger knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, height adjustable front shoulder belts, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, daytime running lights, lane departure warning systems, rearview cameras, available all wheel drive and around view monitors.

Warranty

There are almost 13 times as many Ford dealers as there are Lexus dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the Explorer’s warranty.

Reliability

The Explorer has a standard “limp home system” to keep drivers from being stranded if most or all of the engine’s coolant is lost. The engine will run on only half of its cylinders at a time, reduce its power and light a warning lamp on the dashboard so the driver can get to a service station for repairs. The RX Series doesn’t offer a lost coolant limp home mode, so a coolant leak could strand you or seriously damage the truck’s engine.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Ford vehicles are better in initial quality than Lexus vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Ford fourth in initial quality, above the industry average. With 7 more problems per 100 vehicles, Lexus is ranked 8th.

Engine

The Explorer has more powerful engines than the RX Series:

Horsepower

Torque

Explorer 2.3 turbo 4 cyl.

300 HP

310 lbs.-ft.

Explorer 3.3 DOHC V6 hybrid

318 HP

322 lbs.-ft.

Explorer Platinum 3.0 turbo V6

365 HP

380 lbs.-ft.

Explorer ST 3.0 turbo V6

400 HP

415 lbs.-ft.

RX 350 3.5 DOHC V6

295 HP

268 lbs.-ft.

RX 450h 3.5 DOHC V6 hybrid

308 HP

n/a

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the Explorer gets better fuel mileage than the RX Series:

MPG

Explorer

RWD

2.3 turbo 4-cyl.

21 city/28 hwy

AWD

2.3 turbo 4-cyl.

20 city/27 hwy

RX Series

FWD

3.5 DOHC V6

20 city/27 hwy

AWD

3.5 DOHC V6

19 city/26 hwy

Regardless of its engine, the Explorer’s engine automatically turns off when the vehicle is stopped, saving fuel and reducing pollution. (Start/Stop isn’t accounted in present EPA fuel mileage tests.) Lexus only offers an automatic engine start/stop system on the RX Series Hybrid.

The Explorer 2.3-liter’s standard fuel tank has 1.4 gallons more fuel capacity than the RX Series Hybrid’s standard fuel tank (18.6 vs. 17.2 gallons). The Explorer V6 Turbo’s standard fuel tank has a gallon more fuel capacity than the RX Series’ standard fuel tank (20.2 vs. 19.2 gallons).

The Explorer has a standard cap-less fueling system. The fuel filler is automatically opened when the fuel nozzle is inserted and automatically closed when it’s removed. This eliminates the need to unscrew and replace the cap and it reduces fuel evaporation, which causes pollution. The RX Series doesn’t offer a cap-less fueling system.

Transmission

A 10-speed automatic is standard on the Ford Explorer, for better acceleration and lower engine speed on the highway. Only an eight-speed automatic is available for the RX Series.

Brakes and Stopping

For better stopping power the Explorer’s front brake rotors are larger than those on the RX Series:

Explorer

Explorer ST

Explorer ST opt.

RX Series

Front Rotors

13.6 inches

13.6 inches

14.3 inches

12.9 inches

Rear Rotors

12.4 inches

12.8 inches

13.8 inches

13.3 inches

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the Explorer has larger standard tires than the RX Series (255/65R18 vs. 235/65R18). The Explorer ST/Platinum’s optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the RX Series (275/45R21 vs. 235/65R18).

The Explorer ST/Platinum’s optional tires provide better handling because they have a lower 45 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the RX Series’ optional 55 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the Explorer ST/Platinum offers optional 21-inch wheels. The RX Series’ largest wheels are only 20-inches.

Having a flat tire is dangerous, inconvenient and expensive. The self-sealing tires available on the Explorer can automatically seal most punctures up to 3/16 of an inch, effectively preventing most flat tires. The RX Series doesn’t offer self-sealing tires.

Suspension and Handling

The Explorer’s drift compensation steering can automatically compensate for road conditions which would cause the vehicle to drift from side to side, helping the driver to keep the vehicle straight more easily. The RX Series doesn’t offer drift compensation steering.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the Explorer’s wheelbase is 9.3 inches longer than on the RX Series (119.1 inches vs. 109.8 inches).

For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the Explorer is 2.5 inches wider in the front and 2.9 inches wider in the rear than on the RX Series.

Chassis

The front grille of the Explorer (except 3.3 V6 non-Hybrid) uses electronically controlled shutters to close off airflow and reduce drag when less engine cooling is needed. This helps improve highway fuel economy. The RX Series doesn’t offer active grille shutters.

The Explorer Hybrid uses computer-generated active noise cancellation to help remove annoying noise and vibration from the passenger compartment, especially at low frequencies. The RX Series doesn’t offer active noise cancellation.

Passenger Space

The Explorer has standard seating for 7 passengers; the RX Series can only carry 5.

The Explorer has 1.3 inches more front headroom, 2.6 inches more front hip room, 4 inches more front shoulder room, 1.4 inches more rear headroom, 1 inch more rear legroom, 3 inches more rear hip room and 4.3 inches more rear shoulder room than the RX Series.

Cargo Capacity

The Explorer’s cargo area provides more volume than the RX Series.

Explorer

RX Series

Third Seat Folded

47.9 cubic feet

n/a

Third Seat Removed

n/a

18.4 cubic feet

Second Seat Folded

87.8 cubic feet

56.3 cubic feet

Towing

The Explorer’s standard towing capacity is much higher than the RX Series’ (3000 vs. 0 pounds). Maximum trailer towing in the Lexus RX Series is only 3500 pounds. The Explorer offers up to a 5600 lbs. towing capacity.

Servicing Ease

The engine in the Explorer is mounted longitudinally (North-South), instead of sideways, as in the RX Series. This makes it easier to service and maintain, because there are no rear spark plugs and the accessory belts are in front.

Ergonomics

In case you lock your keys in your vehicle, or don’t have them with you, you can let yourself in using the Explorer’s exterior PIN entry system. The RX Series doesn’t offer an exterior PIN entry system.

The Explorer ST/Platinum’s Active Park Assist 2.0 can parallel park or back into a parking spot by itself, starting, stopping and changing direction automatically. The RX Series doesn’t offer an automated parking system.

Recommendations

The Ford Explorer outsold the Lexus RX Series by over three to one during 2018.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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