2021 Volvo XC90 vs. 2020 Ford Explorer

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

© 1999 - 2020 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved. This vehicle comparison and all of the content in it are provided only by license from Advanta-STAR Automotive Research Corporation of America. If you are not a legally licensed user of this vehicle comparison, it is against federal law to access it, copy it, forward it or use it in any manner whatsoever. Any unauthorized use of this vehicle comparison is a violation of U.S. and international law and is punishable criminally and civilly. 6IUEX-0KENZ 45.55.47.189 2020/10/29

For enhanced safety, the front and middle seat shoulder belts of the Volvo XC90 have pretensioners to tighten the seatbelts and eliminate dangerous slack in the event of a collision and force limiters to limit the pressure the belts will exert on the passengers. The Ford Explorer doesn’t offer pretensioners for the middle seat belts.

The XC90’s pre-crash front seatbelts will tighten automatically in the event the vehicle detects an impending crash, improving protection against injury significantly. The Explorer doesn’t offer pre-crash pretensioners.

For enhanced safety, the front and middle seat shoulder belts of the Volvo XC90 are height-adjustable to accommodate a wide variety of driver and passenger heights. A better fit can prevent injuries and the increased comfort also encourages passengers to buckle up. The Ford Explorer doesn’t offer height-adjustable middle seat belts.

The Volvo XC90 offers an optional built in child booster seat. It’s more crash worthy than an added child seat because of its direct attachment to the seat. Ford doesn’t offer the convenience and security of a built-in child booster seat in the Explorer. Their owners must carry a heavy booster seat in and out of the vehicle; XC90 owners can just fold their built-in child seat up or down.

Using vehicle speed sensors and seat sensors, smart airbags in the XC90 deploy with different levels of force or don’t deploy at all to help better protect passengers of all sizes in different collisions. The XC90’s side airbags will shut off if a child is leaning against the door. The Explorer’s airbags don’t have smart features and will always deploy full force.

The XC90 has a standard Whiplash Protection System (WHIPS), which use a specially designed seat to protect the driver and front passenger from whiplash. During a rear-end collision, the WHIPS allows the backrest to travel backwards to cushion the occupants and the headrests move forward to prevent neck and spine injuries. At the same time the pretensioning seatbelts fire, removing slack from the belts. The Explorer doesn’t offer a whiplash protection system.

Both the XC90 and the Explorer have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, height adjustable front shoulder belts, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, post-collision automatic braking systems, daytime running lights, lane departure warning systems, blind spot warning systems, rearview cameras, rear cross-path warning, driver alert monitors and available around view monitors.

A significantly tougher test than their original offset frontal crash test, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety does 40 MPH small overlap frontal offset crash tests. In this test, where only 25% of the total width of the vehicle is struck, results indicate that the Volvo XC90 is safer than the Explorer:

XC90

Explorer

Overall Evaluation

GOOD

ACCEPTABLE

Restraints

GOOD

GOOD

Head Neck Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Head injury index

37

110

Peak Head Forces

0 G’s

0 G’s

Chest Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Max Chest Compression

16 cm

24 cm

Hip & Thigh Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Femur Force R/L

.4/.7 kN

1.7/1.2 kN

Hip & Thigh Injury Risk R/L

0%/0%

0%/0%

Lower Leg Evaluation

GOOD

POOR

Tibia index R/L

.24/.41

1.54/.5

Tibia forces R/L

1.1/.2 kN

2.8/2.1 kN

For its top level performance in IIHS driver-side small overlap frontal, moderate overlap frontal, side impact, rear impact and roof-crush tests, its standard front crash prevention system, its “Good” rating in the new passenger-side small overlap crash test, and its headlight’s “Acceptable” rating, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the XC90 the rating of “Top Pick” for 2019, a rating granted to only 132 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The Explorer was not even a standard “Top Pick” for 2016.

Warranty

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The XC90 comes with a full 4-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, which covers the entire truck and includes 24-hour roadside assistance. The Explorer’s 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty expires 1 year and 14,000 miles sooner.

The XC90’s corrosion warranty is 7 years longer than the Explorer’s (12 vs. 5 years).

Volvo pays for scheduled maintenance on the XC90 for 3 years and 36,000 miles. Volvo will pay for oil changes, lubrication and any other required maintenance. Ford doesn’t pay scheduled maintenance for the Explorer.

Engine

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The XC90 Recharge’s 2.0 turbo/supercharged 4-cylinder hybrid produces 57 lbs.-ft. more torque (472 vs. 415) than the Explorer ST’s optional 3.0 turbo V6.

As tested in Motor Trend the XC90 T6 is faster than the Ford Explorer Hybrid:

XC90

Explorer

Zero to 60 MPH

6.7 sec

7.7 sec

Quarter Mile

15.1 sec

15.7 sec

Fuel Economy and Range

© 1999 - 2020 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved. This vehicle comparison and all of the content in it are provided only by license from Advanta-STAR Automotive Research Corporation of America. If you are not a legally licensed user of this vehicle comparison, it is against federal law to access it, copy it, forward it or use it in any manner whatsoever. Any unauthorized use of this vehicle comparison is a violation of U.S. and international law and is punishable criminally and civilly. 6IUEX-0KENZ 45.55.47.189 2020/10/29

On the EPA test cycle the XC90 Recharge running on electricity gets better fuel mileage than the Explorer:

MPGe

XC90

AWD

Electric Motor

58 city/53 hwy

Explorer

MPG

RWD

3.3 V6 Hybrid

27 city/29 hwy

2.3 turbo 4-cyl.

21 city/28 hwy

AWD

3.3 V6 Hybrid

23 city/26 hwy

2.3 turbo 4-cyl.

21 city/27 hwy

3.0 turbo V6

18 city/24 hwy

On the EPA test cycle the XC90 running its gasoline engine gets better fuel mileage than the Explorer:

MPG

XC90

FWD

T5 2.0 turbo 4-cyl.

21 city/30 hwy

AWD

T8 2.0 turbo/SC 4-cyl. Hybrid

26 city/28 hwy

T5 2.0 turbo 4-cyl.

20 city/28 hwy

T6 2.0 turbo/SC 4-cyl.

19 city/28 hwy

Explorer

RWD

2.3 turbo 4-cyl.

21 city/28 hwy

AWD

3.3 V6 Hybrid

23 city/26 hwy

2.3 turbo 4-cyl.

21 city/27 hwy

3.0 turbo V6

18 city/24 hwy

The XC90 T5’s maximum driving range in pure electric mode is 18 miles, 6 times as far as the Explorer’s 3-mile range.

Brakes and Stopping

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The XC90’s standard front and rear disc brakes are vented to help dissipate heat for shorter stops with less fading. The rear discs standard on the Explorer ST are solid, not vented.

The XC90 stops much shorter than the Explorer:

XC90

Explorer

70 to 0 MPH

167 feet

170 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

113 feet

125 feet

Motor Trend

60 to 0 MPH (Wet)

137 feet

139 feet

Consumer Reports

Tires and Wheels

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The XC90’s standard tires provide better handling because they have a lower 55 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Explorer’s standard 65 series tires. The XC90’s optional tires have a lower 35 series profile than the Explorer ST/Platinum’s optional 45 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the XC90 has standard 19-inch wheels. Smaller 18-inch wheels are standard on the Explorer. The XC90’s optional 22-inch wheels are larger than the 21-inch wheels optional on the Explorer ST/Platinum.

Suspension and Handling

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The XC90 offers an available driver-adjustable suspension system. It allows the driver to choose between an extra-supple ride, reducing fatigue on long trips, or a sport setting, which allows maximum control for tricky roads or off-road. The Explorer’s suspension doesn’t offer adjustable shock absorbers.

The XC90 R-Design/Inscription has a standard automatic front and rear load leveling suspension to keep ride height level with a heavy load or when towing. The XC90’s height leveling suspension allows the driver to raise ride height for better off-road clearance and then lower it again for easier entering and exiting and better on-road handling. The Explorer doesn’t offer a load leveling suspension.

The XC90 T6 AWD handles at .84 G’s, while the Explorer XLT 4WD pulls only .81 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

The XC90 T6 AWD executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver 1.2 seconds quicker than the Explorer Limited 4WD (26.8 seconds @ .65 average G’s vs. 28 seconds @ .63 average G’s).

For greater off-road capability the XC90 has a greater minimum ground clearance than the Explorer (8.3 vs. 7.9 inches), allowing the XC90 to travel over rougher terrain without being stopped or damaged. The XC90 w/Air Suspension’s minimum ground clearance is 2 inches higher than on the Explorer (9.9 vs. 7.9 inches).

Chassis

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The XC90 is 3.8 inches shorter than the Explorer, making the XC90 easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

As tested by Car and Driver while under full throttle, the interior of the XC90 T6 AWD is quieter than the Explorer ST 4WD (71 vs. 77 dB).

Towing

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The XC90’s minimum standard towing capacity is much higher than the Explorer’s (4000 vs. 3000 pounds).

Servicing Ease

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The XC90 uses gas struts to support the hood for easier service access. The Explorer uses a prop rod to support its heavy hood. It takes two hands to open the hood and set the prop rod, the prop rod gets in the way during maintenance and service, and the prop rod could be knocked out, causing the heavy hood to fall on the person maintaining or servicing the car.

Ergonomics

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The XC90 offers an optional heads-up display that projects speed and other key instrumentation readouts in front of the driver’s line of sight, allowing drivers to view information without diverting their eyes from the road. The Explorer doesn’t offer a heads-up display.

The XC90’s rain-sensitive wipers adjust their speed and turn on and off automatically based on the amount of rainfall on the windshield. This allows the driver to concentrate on driving without constantly adjusting the wipers. The Explorer’s standard intermittent wipers change speed with vehicle speed, but can’t turn on and off or change speed based on changing rainfall.

Heated windshield washer nozzles are optional on the XC90 to prevent washer fluid and nozzles from freezing and help continue to keep the windshield clear in sub-freezing temperatures. The Explorer doesn’t offer heated windshield washer nozzles.

In poor weather, headlights can lose their effectiveness as grime builds up on their lenses. This can reduce visibility without the driver realizing. The XC90 has standard headlight washers to keep headlight output high. The Explorer doesn’t offer headlight washers.

A manual rear sunshade and rear side window sunshades are optional in the XC90 to help block heat and glare for the rear passengers. The Explorer doesn’t offer a rear sunshade.

When the XC90 is put in reverse, both rearview mirrors tilt from their original position. This gives the driver a better view of the curb during parallel parking maneuvers. Shifting out of reverse puts the mirrors into their original positions. The Explorer’s mirrors don’t automatically adjust for backing.

Economic Advantages

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According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the XC90 is less expensive to operate than the Explorer because typical repairs cost much less on the XC90 than the Explorer, including $264 less for a muffler and $315 less for a timing belt/chain.

Recommendations

© 1999 - 2020 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved. This vehicle comparison and all of the content in it are provided only by license from Advanta-STAR Automotive Research Corporation of America. If you are not a legally licensed user of this vehicle comparison, it is against federal law to access it, copy it, forward it or use it in any manner whatsoever. Any unauthorized use of this vehicle comparison is a violation of U.S. and international law and is punishable criminally and civilly. 6IUEX-0KENZ 45.55.47.189 2020/10/29

The Car Book by Jack Gillis recommends the Volvo XC90, based on economy, maintenance, safety and complaint levels. The Ford Explorer isn't recommended.

Motor Trend selected the XC90 as their 2016 Sport Utility of the Year. The Explorer has never been chosen.

The XC90 was chosen as one of Automobile Magazine’s “All Stars” in 2016. The Explorer has never been an “All Star.”

A group of representative automotive journalists from North America selected the XC90 as the 2016 North American Truck of the Year. The Explorer has never been chosen.

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

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