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Ford has just revealed its Explorer Sport to the assembled media in Dearborn ahead of its New York Auto Show debut. And while the 350-horsepower, 350-pound-foot-of-torque crossover will be the performance capstone for the nameplate, Autoblog has learned that the Sport also previews a number of subtle performance updates that will roll out throughout the entire Explorer range for the new model year.

The Sport isn't just an engine upgrade and appearance modifications – there are meaningful tweaks across the entire vehicle.

Among those changes is a new solid mount for its electric power steering rack, a move designed to take some of the slop out of the system and deliver more accurate direction changes (the Sport also receives its own unique boost tuning to add both quickness and heft). In addition, engineers have gone over the Explorer's suspension and steering, fitting new ball- and steering joints, with the goal of increased stiffness so that shock and bushing tuning can be more finely adjusted. The result, say Ford officials, is a better controlled vehicle – one that allows for greater performance differentiation model to model (Sport versus XLT, say) through simple tuning of the vehicle's compliant bits.

To be clear, the Explorer Sport stops well short of a full-on performance model like the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 – Ford itself suggests likely competitors include the 5.7-liter Grand Cherokee and its Dodge Durango R/T. Even so, the Sport isn't just an engine upgrade and appearance modifications – there are meaningful tweaks across the entire vehicle, including everything from a 3.16:1 final drive ratio to a water-cooled Power Take Off faceplate cooler that keeps the standard all-wheel-drive system at proper operating temps when it's being worked harder by those 350 pound-feet.

Ford says the Sport knocks a full two seconds off the 0-60 time of other models.

Apparently Ford has learned its lesson based on feedback it received from the launch of the 2010 Taurus SHO (a vehicle that shares much of this CUV's architecture and drivetrain). Like the updated-for-2013 SHO, the Explorer Sport has received a brake upgrade, moving from 13.1-inch rotors to 13.8 inches. In addition, the discs themselves are thicker, leading to a 22-percent increase in stopping power. That's good news, because Ford says the Sport knocks a full two seconds off the 0-60 time of other models, but it declined to cite a hard number.

Other Sport-specific hardware changes include a throatier dual exhaust with large polished tips, a reworked Terrain Management System to take advantage of the 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine's extra torque in all conditions, as well as larger shock tower braces and a new cross tunnel brace for added rigidity.

Ford says it sold 135,000 Explorers last year, and fully 50 percent of those were conquest buyers. Of that percentage, 12 percent were luxury brand converts, so Ford is clearly betting that the 2013 Sport's augmented performance and style can yield even more higher-end transaction prices.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 51 Comments
      RodRAEG
      • 2 Years Ago
      Horray for fast fatties. Now you can go fast on the highway!
      Ace Convoy
      • 2 Years Ago
      ... I like my folks Explorer sport... 4.0 ltr V6 and two less doors :p
        Camaroman101
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Ace Convoy
        those look great especially with a lift kit and bigger tires
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Ace Convoy
        [blocked]
        jtav2002
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Ace Convoy
        Why would the 4.0L be a selling point? Old engine and and 210hp out of 4.0L of displacement. Sure the 2 doors could be a valid argument for one who prefers that.
      NY EVO X MR GUY
      • 2 Years Ago
      I kinda saw this coming between the eco-boost being in alot of their cars. I am waiting for the sticker-shock. I am guessing.....mid 50ish. That is kind of in Grand Cherokee SRT8 territory. This could get ugly.
      Spotted Cow
      • 2 Years Ago
      I'm so utterly, entirely sold by Fords new design language. Jesus, I could really care less for SUVs (I'm more of a hatch/wagon guy) but this looks gorgeous.
      That Guy
      • 2 Years Ago
      File this one under 'what the hell were they thinking'. Rasther than make meaningful changes to the frumpy Explorer (like fixing the styling and that terrible MFT), Ford just goes ahead and proves that even twin turbos can't polish a turd. So what we have now is a V6 SUV with V8 mileage.......but with V6 SUV capabilities...and a soon to be announced outrageous pricetag. A higher price tag for lower MPGs, higher maintenance costs, higher repair costs, etc. This only puts the Durango and Grand Cherokee further above the faux Explorer.
        Dean Hammond
        • 2 Years Ago
        @That Guy
        so you are saying 135000 people were wrong obviously....sorry Matt, Im sure Ford is chuckling all the way to the bank....
          Jesus!
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dean Hammond
          Not like they used to just last decade. It's a far cry from what they used to sell. Granted it is bigger than before, however, just with the last Mustang the styling issues are going to keep this from going further. WAAAAYYY too much unpainted plastic...looks like a freakin xl model from the 90's!
        Dean Hammond
        • 2 Years Ago
        @That Guy
        oh, an PS, Im not a huge Explorer fan myself, but it sure has been embraced.....I say put the engine in the Edge......
        • 2 Years Ago
        @That Guy
        [blocked]
      regionrat
      • 2 Years Ago
      They sold 135,000 of these things? The Flex is FAR more of a well-rounded vehicle. People are morons.
        Your Highness
        • 2 Years Ago
        @regionrat
        Yeah, but the Flex has polarizing style and the Explorer is an older, familiar nameplate. The Explorer is a great vehicle. The Flex is too, but it just comes down to people sense.
          BG
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Your Highness
          People sense? You mean people with no sense?
        Polly Prissy Pants
        • 2 Years Ago
        @regionrat
        The problem with the Flex is you have to look at it every time you go to get in it.
          That Guy
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Polly Prissy Pants
          And the faux Explorer looks like a Freestyle. Styling have NEVER been one of Ford's strong suits....and ever since around 2008, it seems as if Ford have given up completely on trying to come up with a vehicle that looks good from all angles. Even the Mustang has the excitement of a bowl of cold oatmeal.
          Justin
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Polly Prissy Pants
          I have that problem with the Edge myself. Looks too bloated and tall for something that's supposed to be a sporty 5 seater.
      JEO
      • 2 Years Ago
      Horrible choice on wheels, and vehicle color (in my opinion).
        Jesus!
        • 2 Years Ago
        @JEO
        Agree on the rims they are ugly. Bright red is always nice tho!
      DougShep
      • 2 Years Ago
      i just...don't think this thing will reach 60MPH in ~ 6 seconds...
        Josh
        • 2 Years Ago
        @DougShep
        Yeah... I'd definitely see more seconds than that... Even though - this is the exact direction Ford's product people should be going. People want upgraded/special/unique stuff, and I'm glad Ford is listening. And a lot of times, their recent hits have been questions people have been asking for a while - like a V6 Performance Package for the Mustang. A sport explorer makes sense if I'm dropping in the 40-50 range. Used to be able to get an MDX at this price but Honda has taken that bloatmobile to Grey-hair buick town @ +$60, I say so long. Don't want the 4-cyl RDX and don't want the CR-Valike new RDX either. With a lesser entry price, features Nissan, Toyota, Mazda, Honda, and Chevy can't match - It ain't a SRT8, but at least its more than a sticker package and gets better gas mileage.
          That Guy
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Josh
          I don't think there is a large market out there of people who are begging for a V6 SUV that gets the mileage of a much bigger V8 SUV while at the same time retaining the capabilities of a true softroader.
          Dean Hammond
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Josh
          niche market, just like the Flex Titanium....
        XT6Wagon
        • 2 Years Ago
        @DougShep
        look at the crazy times the larger and heavier Ford Flex gets. Traction from the AWD does wonders for 0-60.
          Tyler Benshoof
          • 2 Years Ago
          @XT6Wagon
          The Flex does it in 6 seconds..... so why wouldn't this?
      Sgt Beavis
      • 2 Years Ago
      Certainly some significant improvements, but at what price? Something tells me the base price for this is going to be north of $45K..
        brunswick90210
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Sgt Beavis
        I don't think it would be that high. I would guess the base price starting below or just at $40k. I think with all the bells and whistles though it may be close to $50k.
        That Guy
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Sgt Beavis
        "Certainly some significant improvements, but at what price? Something tells me the base price for this is going to be north of $45K.." Probably, Ford has a very arrogant pricing strategry lately. They think their Sh!t don't stink...
          Micheals
          • 2 Years Ago
          @That Guy
          Kind of like you with your expert opinion and multiple handles you have used.
          Dean Hammond
          • 2 Years Ago
          @That Guy
          list MSRPS of the direct competition , then lets talk......till then sleep on the success of 135000, AND it could have been more but for limited supply....although in a way Im glad as ATPs due to availability have helped dealers bottom line....
        XT6Wagon
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Sgt Beavis
        The 3.5L Ecoboost is $3,000 extra over its 3.7L AWD brother in the Flex line. I'd assume something comparable here.
          JP
          • 2 Years Ago
          @XT6Wagon
          I figure it'll be more than the $3K figure. The Flex Ecoboost is practically an engine upgrade over the base 3.5L, not much more to it. This Sport edition Explorer has a beefed up suspension and chassis, larger brakes and a few other aspects. So add in those items on top of the motor and we're looking for a significant jump in price.
      Benny90
      • 2 Years Ago
      Where is the SPORT they speak of>?? Looks like an XLT with some ugly rims to me, not even kidding.
      thePeterN
      • 2 Years Ago
      I wonder how many of these changes came as a result of developing the Police package.
        Noonz
        • 2 Years Ago
        @thePeterN
        More than a few, I think. The police package has the cross-tunnel bracing, and that car handles remarkably well. I drove it last week. Legitimately fun on the autocross setup they had for it.
      Polly Prissy Pants
      • 2 Years Ago
      Nice idea but those wheels are nasty.
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