Ford is projecting fuel economy numbers in the neighborhood of 16 miles per gallon in the city and 22 mpg highway, and says the Explorer Sport can also tow up to 5,000 pounds. Other tweaks to get this three-row crossover dancing include reinforcements to the chassis, a faster ratio for its electric steering system, a unique 3.16:1 final drive ratio and larger brakes. There are also paddles to shift the six-speed automatic transmission and special settings for the Explorer's Terrain Management System.
When treating the Explorer Sport to a few exterior changes, Ford designers went with a dark theme, blacking out the lighting elements, roof rails and sideview mirrors, as well as the grille, lower front fascia and wheel faces. Inside the Explorer Sport gets Charcoal Black leather seating, with or without contrasting inserts, and special stitching on the seats and steering wheel.
No pricing was given, but the new Sport model will sit atop the Explorer line, which means a base price north of the Explorer Limited's at $38,180. Ford is showing the Explorer Sport at a media event near its headquarters in Dearborn as we speak, so stay tuned for the first live images of the Explorer Sport as we get them.
*UPDATE: Video added after the break.
- Ford Explorer Sport is a new addition for the 2013 model year, featuring EcoBoost® 3.5-liter V6 engine for greater performance feel and projected top fuel economy among gasoline-powered, high-performance sport utility vehicles
- Explorer Sport gives customers an interior inspired by designer accessory fashions, sporty exterior design cues and specially tuned suspension components
DEARBORN, Mich., March 28, 2012 – The first-ever performance version of the Ford Explorer arrives this year with the highest projected fuel economy among gasoline-engine-powered, high- performance SUVs.
With a twin-turbocharged EcoBoost® V6 engine making at least 350 horsepower and four-wheel drive with a Terrain Management SystemTM, Explorer Sport delivers enhanced on-road dynamics with sporty design cues inside and out.
"Adding an EcoBoost drivetrain to Explorer Sport delivers even more fuel efficiency and performance to the lineup," said Bill Gubing, Explorer chief engineer. "This is our highest- performance, most capable Ford Explorer ever."
Power, capability, fuel efficiency
Completely new for 2011, the Ford Explorer has been winning over customers with its improved on-road handling, impressive comfort and convenience technologies, and fuel economy never before delivered by an SUV.
For the 2013 model year, Explorer Sport brings high-performance SUV power and projected fuel economy of up to 16 mpg in city driving and 22 mpg on the highway – anticipating 3 mpg better in the city and 2 mpg on the highway than the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango R/T 5.7-liter Hemi engines. It scores 3 mpg higher in the city and 4 mpg higher on the highway than the Land Rover Range Rover Sport.
"Explorer Sport makes no compromises," said Carl Widmann, vehicle engineering manager. "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."
The Explorer Sport features a paddle-shifted six-speed SelectShift AutomaticTM transmission with a unique 3.16 to 1 final drive ratio to provide the balance of responsive acceleration and economical low-rpm cruising for better fuel efficiency.
The chassis also has been specially reinforced, making Explorer Sport stiffer and improving its handling.
Explorer Sport also brings a solid-mounted electric power-assisted steering (EPAS) rack with a faster ratio, providing more responsiveness to drivers both on-road and off.
Ford's newest SUV comes standard with larger brakes for shorter stopping distances and better performance while towing.
Explorer Sport also has received special terrain management settings for tackling sandy, snowy, rutted mud and hill descent.
"Upgrading to Sport specification enabled us to maintain the standards of traditional Explorer capability plus delivering the highest highway fuel efficiency among gasoline-engine-powered, high-performance, three-row SUVs," Widmann said.
Subtle, sporty design elements
Sport builds on Explorer's muscular, sculpted form with subtle cues to differentiate it from other models in the lineup. Available in four exterior colors – Ruby Red Metallic Clearcoat, White Platinum Metallic Tri-Coat, Tuxedo Black Metallic and Ingot Silver Metallic – Explorer Sport has unique 20-inch painted and machined wheels, features blacked-out headlamp and taillamp treatments, black roof rack rails, sideview mirror skull caps and a liftgate appliqué.
The Explorer Sport's special grille is a low-gloss Sterling Gray mesh, with contrasting ebony high-gloss bars. The black front lower fascia features a functional opening for additional cooling. Explorer logotype in billet-like black adds a bold identity statement. Subtle Sport and EcoBoost badges at the rear finish the liftgate.
Inside, the high-end feel continues. Charcoal Black leather-trimmed seating is available with and without contrasting Sienna inserts.
The interior design contrast was inspired by fashion, mirroring two-tones that are currently seen in leather accessories and apparel from design houses Balenciaga and Prada. Stitching is emphasized to lend a handcrafted appearance while highlighting Explorer Sport's sculptured seats.
Explorer Sport also has unique steering wheel stitching, a technical look to instrument and door panel appliqués, unique Sport-logo floor mats and illuminated scuff plates.
Comfort, convenience, connectivity
As the top of the Explorer line, Sport offers a robust array of standard and optional customer- focused technologies that make driving more comfortable, convenient and connected. These 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 RadioTM 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
Explorer Sport is manufactured at Ford's Chicago production facility. It will arrive in dealerships later this year.