2013 Ford Explorer Sport Review

Can this hopped-up SUV live up to its name?

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June 10, 2013

2013 Ford Explorer Sport Review

All-out back-road blasting is best left to vehicles of similar power and lower weight.

Introduction
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?

2013 Ford Explorer Performance If straight-line performance is your forte, than the answer to the first question is in the affirmative. All that power helps the Explorer get moving with gusto, making freeway merging a breeze. The Sport's 4,697 lb curb weight does hold it back some, but not enough to kill the fun in around-town driving. All-out back-road blasting, though, is best left to vehicles of similar power and lower weight.

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.
2013 Ford Explorer Exterior The grille and the blacked-out wheels do lend the Explorer Sport a slightly more sinister look, but some observers were derisive toward the wheels, saying they didn't belong on a family SUV.

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.
2013 Ford Explorer Interior Interior changes are limited to two-tone leather seats with contrasting stitching. Otherwise, you get the typical Explorer experience, including the much-loathed MyFordTouch infotainment system, a roomy cabin, and a conveniently placed rotary knob for the Terrain Management System (allows drivers to change the drive mode based on road surface conditions). We like the overall control layout and design , and we were never lacking for room. The Explorer feels larger inside than it looks from the outside.
2013 Ford Explorer Conclusion Ford gave this Explorer steroids, but not in the right dosage, and it forgot to include a diet. We dig the acceleration, but there needs to be a tad more athleticism and a tad less weight in order for the Sport to truly live up to its name -- and the reputation hinted at by those street-punk black wheels.

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.
2013 Ford Explorer Specs, Features, and Prices Engine: 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V-6

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.

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