The 2013 Ford Explorer, with its dramatic looks and somewhat less inspiring performance, has been due a truly potent version, some might say, since the V-8 of the last model died with it. As Ford's solution to the V-8 power requirement while delivering (slightly) better fuel economy, the V-6 EcoBoost engine makes good sense.
But does it make sense in the Explorer? Dynamically, it's uninspiring--particularly when compared to the likes of the Flex, or even the Edge. But more power means more towing, better highway passing, and more overall flexibility, as well as more money at the pump--the Explorer Sport only yields 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway. Ford says it's the most efficient high-performance SUV on the market.
Those with an eye to minimizing the Explorer's thirst already have a good option, however: the smaller EcoBoost brother, the 2.0-liter four-cylinder. Rated at 28 mpg highway, that smaller EcoBoost engine is on the very efficient end of the spectrum for conventional crossover SUVs.
The larger direct-injection 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 won't deliver such friendly figures, but those with a taste for power will find the tradeoff sweet: 350 horsepower in place of 240. Driving all four wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission, it's basically an Explorer SHO--especially since the Explorer and Taurus share some of their architecture as well. It's two full seconds quicker to 60 mph than the fastest non-Sport Explorer.
Billed as the first-ever performance version of the Explorer, the Explorer Sport also packages Terrain Management system to maintain its existing off-road capability. Or, as Carl Widmann, vehicle engineering manager puts it, "Explorer Sport makes no compromises. By carefully beefing the chassis and suspension, precisely calibrating the Terrain Management System and adding comfort and convenience features, we’ve delivered an SUV that delivers great dynamics and performance--while towing up to 5,000 pounds.”
Some of the "beefing" Widmann mentions includes chassis bracing, a solid-mount electric power steering system, and an upgraded suspension and brakes--all to better handle the Explorer Sport's higher performance.
The Explorer Sport also offers new styling details, including the Explorer name written across the front of the vehicle, new wheels, and polished tips on the high-performance exhaust.
Some of the features of the new Sport include:
- 4WD with Terrain Management System
- Dual-Zone Electronic Automatic Temperature Control
- 10-way power driver’s seat with power recline and lumbar
- Six-way power passenger seat with recline and lumbar
- First-row heated seats
- Compass and exterior temperature display
- Rear view camera
- SYNC® with MyFord Touch® driver connect technology
- Sony® Premium Audio System with HD Radio™ and 12 speakers
Explorer Sport can be tailored to individual preferences with the following options as well:
- Active park assist
- Blind Spot Information System (BLIS®) with cross-traffic alert
- Inflatable rear seat belts
- 110-volt outlet
- PowerFold mirrors
- Intelligent access with Push-Button Start
- Remote Start
- Adjustable pedals with memory
- Dual-panel moonroof
- Power liftgate
- Class III trailer-towing package
The new Explorer Sport will launch later this year after production kicks off at the company's Chicago facility.