2013 Ford Explorer Sport Review
Can this hopped-up SUV live up to its name?No Comments
All-out back-road blasting is best left to vehicles of similar power and lower weight.
The term 'sport' in 'sport utility' has always been somewhat of a misnomer. Most SUVs are far from 'sporty' in the traditional sense, although there always have been exceptions. One of the latest exceptions is the Ford Explorer Sport.
Ford bestowed this trim level of the popular Explorer seven-seat crossover with a twin-turbo V-6 that makes 365 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque, along with blacked-out 20-inch wheels, a unique grille, a stiffer suspension, and sport-tuned steering.
Does this tuning turn the family hauler into a hot-rod? Or is it just so much marketing blarney?
Ride is on the stiff side but not particularly punishing, while handling is somewhat improved over the standard Explorer. There's still typical SUV body lean and understeer, and we wouldn't make the Explorer our first choice for fast driving, but it's operating at a level slightly above your typical crossover.
That doesn't mean all is well -- a vehicle this large can only bend the laws of physics so much. The 'sportier' steering tune doesn't feel improved over the standard Explorer, and the brakes don't do much to bring this kid-and-cargo hauler to a stop in short fashion.
Other than the tweaks mentioned above, the overall look is standard Explorer. That look is of the rounded-edge boxy variety, but it's handsome in a classic sense, not boring. We like the raised bumps in the hood, and we think the styling is attractive overall.
Moms and Dads with heavy feet and a thirst for stoplight drag racing will feel at home in the Sport, but we can't bring ourselves to fully recommend it to satisfy enthusiast's cravings. It's sportier than the standard Explorer, and we're suckers for power, but this isn't quite a hot-rod SUV.
The good news is that the Sport moniker does deliver on some promises, making it more than just a marketing exercise. The bad news is, it doesn't deliver enough. We award Ford a solid grade for effort, and a needs improvement for execution.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Drive Wheels: All-wheel-drive
Fuel Economy: 16 mpg city/22 mpg highway
Base Price: $40,720
As-tested Price: $46,740 (includes $825 delivery charge)
Available Features: MyFordTouch infotainment system, navigation, USB port, satellite radio, rearview camera, Curve Control, hill descent control, hill start assist, remote start, push button start, rear inflatable seatbelts, blind spot monitoring system.