Vital Stats

Engine:
Turbo 3.5L V6
Power:
365 HP / 350 LB-FT
Transmission:
6-Speed Auto
Drivetrain:
All-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
4,921 LBS
Seating:
2+2+2
Cargo:
80.7 CU-FT (max)
MPG:
16 City / 22 HWY
Ford has had nothing but great success with its latest, three-row iteration of the Explorer SUV, with buyers finding it a suitably good driving tool for the jobs demanded by family living. And while I've never found the naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6 that inhabits the engine bay to be anything less than well-suited to this large SUV/CUV class – it wasn't so very long ago that a 290-horsepower, 24-mile-per-gallon-highway six-cylinder would have seemed like a real tough guy – it has never been a particularly exciting powerplant, either.

Enter the 2013 Explorer Sport, with an EcoBoost twin-turbocharged version of that 3.5-liter six, and 365 horsepower with 350 pound-feet of torque to show for it. I should add that the extra shove only comes at the expense of one highway mpg and one city mpg, relative to the four-wheel-drive iteration of the non-turbo Explorer, which is nice, too. Ford was kind enough to invite me to take a taste of this hotted-up Explorer recently; an experience that I found generally pleasant, if not entirely satisfying.

Driving Notes
  • We eat with the eyes first. If your particular set of peepers isn't enamored by piano black accents, then you may not get close enough to even test drive the new Sport, as this model is slathered with shiny black highlights. The big black grille dominates the Explorer, and I think does a good job of making the large vehicle look a bit more compact – lower and meaner. The matching black on the 21-inch wheels, body cladding, roof rails and mirror caps, along with smoked covers for the front and rear lighting, seems like overkill to me. To many it'll just make the Explorer look cooler than ever. Some of us like Original Recipe, some like Extra Crispy.
  • There's no question in my mind that the Sport version of the Explorer feels fleet-of-foot for a vehicle of this size and weight. Ford was coy about official 0-60 times for the model, saying only that it had found it to be "two seconds faster" than the 3.5-liter non-turbo model.
  • Floored from a standstill, the EcoBoost six will hesitate to deliver full thrust for a heartbeat or two, then offer a fairly strong torque pop once the engine is spinning at about 2000 rpm. Middle revs are where this engine eats, however, and I found passing maneuvers on the highway to be easy to execute briskly in the 70-90 mph zone. A decent little exhaust growl is in evidence at high rpm, too.
  • So the Explorer Sport is fairly quick on its feet and looks mean (at least to some), but it doesn't actually go so far as to acquit itself as a full-on performance model, à la a Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8, or BMW X5 M, for instance. That's not just because the Ford isn't as quick, but also because the chassis and suspension tuning is still balanced more toward highway comfort than aimed at outright handling performance. The Sport is stiffer laterally than the standard SUV, where an added tower brace makes itself felt, but there is still a fairly high amount of vertical movement through the suspension when the Gs pile on.
  • The retuned electric power steering is quicker to turn in (again, that stiffer front section helps here), and accurate when holding a fast line, but it's absolutely lifeless in terms of feel and feedback from the road.
  • The Sport is equipped with paddle shifters to modulate the six-speed automatic, but response time is slow and the physical feel of the paddles is pretty unsatisfying.
  • All-in, the Explorer Sport is kind of a performance middle child; more like a motored-up version of the original than a full sporting variant.
  • I have mixed feelings about that last bullet, in terms of my own conclusion about the Sport. On one hand, starting at $40,720 (including destination and delivery), the Sport is only about $2,600 more than the high-content Limited trim, with a much more powerful engine, similar EPA fuel economy and many of the same standard options. (The Sport comes standard with 4WD, leather, MyFord Touch, SYNC, etc.) On the other hand, the Sport doesn't use its extra go-juice to push many of my "enthusiast driver" buttons, I get no extra towing capacity from the increased power and torque (5,000-pound max), and once the options sheet starts coming into play, a $50,000-Explorer can be a reality. The MSRP for our tester was a heady $48,385.
  • I think Ford is counting on just enough incremental sales from the Sport to make the variant worthwhile in a model that is just killing the rest of its segment. Plenty of former Mustang-owning Dads should be willing to pony up a slightly bigger lease payment for the payoff of winning a stoplight grand prixs here and there. Plus, you know, cool wheels.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 86 Comments
      atvman
      • 2 Years Ago
      Low hanging fruit, Ford was able to add the sport model with minimal investment. They probably just need to sell a few hundred of them to break even on the project.
      merlot066
      • 2 Years Ago
      I personally love the look of the Sport (although the chrome handles are very out of place, and *something* could be done to the interior, red stitching on the seats? anything) but I don't see why the EcoBoost isn't an option on the Limited model as well.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @merlot066
        If you study the spec sheet you'll see that the Sport basically is a Limited with the EB 3.5, honestly. Pretty sure with the top-spec Sport you're getting all of the Limited kit (don't quote me on that, I haven't done an option-by-option deep-dive of it yet).
          jtav2002
          • 2 Years Ago
          Bizarre they don't offer HID's on this if that's the case as I view this as being just above the Limited IMO.
      Daibom
      • 2 Years Ago
      The Explorer Limited that I got here in Manila is about $US 65k (its fully optioned though with self-parking, power lift gate, power 3rd row, Blind spot warning, adaptive cruise control and HID, Touch). I'd be happy if I could get this Sport version for $48K!!!!! You guys are lucky.
      Travis Miles
      • 2 Years Ago
      If it wasn't for the recession all they people talking would be mortgaging their house to get an Explorer. Now they just sit around and subject us all to their platitude because they have to mortgage their self-esteem on Hyundai and the like.
      GFB
      • 2 Years Ago
      Ford's design mistake was the use of a glossy black finish. They should have used a matte finish. Otherwise the black looks good. Ford's other mistake is pricing the truck in the stratosphere but if they're moving off the showroom floor ...
        jtav2002
        • 2 Years Ago
        @GFB
        While it's certainly not cheap, I don't find the price out of line relative to the competition. You can price out a Grand Cherokee Overland with the Hemi over $50k.
      rmkensington
      • 2 Years Ago
      You can build a loaded X1 with the turbo straight 6 for the kind of cash the explorer is asking for.
        scriber72
        • 2 Years Ago
        @rmkensington
        Different animal in several ways, starting with no third row.
        The Wasp
        • 2 Years Ago
        @rmkensington
        Sorry, I accidentally up-voted you. Why would anyone want an X1?
        • 2 Years Ago
        @rmkensington
        [blocked]
        SheldonRoss
        • 2 Years Ago
        @rmkensington
        And you can get an Escape for cheaper than that? Seriously though, why do these idiots always want to compare vehicles in different segments? X1 is a compact CUV ala Escape X3 is the midsize CUV to compare to Explorer, and I doubt the prices are comparable.
        SheldonRoss
        • 2 Years Ago
        @rmkensington
        And you can get an Escape for cheaper than that? Seriously though, why do these idiots always want to compare vehicles in different segments? X1 is a compact CUV ala Escape X3 is the midsize CUV to compare to Explorer, and I doubt the prices are comparable.
      That Guy
      • 2 Years Ago
      Oh goody, a mediocre and boring SUV that will drink fuel like a V8 from it's V6 and no increase in towing ability. Bold moves indeed. And has Ford acknowledged all the issues F-150 owners are having with the Egoboost V6? Or the lostt of steering in the Explorers? Nah, that kind of minimal stuff just gets swept under the rug.
        Dean Hammond
        • 2 Years Ago
        @That Guy
        good to see you back matt, and the hatred hasnt quelled one iota. Do take note though that the two vehicles mentioned in your most recent tirade are selling better than the others in their classes and the take rate on the 3.5 eco boost gave cause to a shortage. And once again you have misse dthe boat on the true purpose of the twin turbo, of course you could bring up a competitors example that can tow upwards of 11300 in the truck application that comes close in mileage and refinement. Until then alas I think your complaints are falling on deaf ears....
          Dean Hammond
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dean Hammond
          Matt, if one gos looking for negativity on any make and model its pretty easy to find, although in this case its a hell of a lot easier to find positive blurbage and sales leadership reflects that. Seems as of late everyone has a small % of issues, pretty easy to find too, just put a make and a model in google with the word recall or issue....bam!, and even the Prom queens arent safe....Toyota sludge anyone?......
          That Guy
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dean Hammond
          There are countless threads all over the Explorer and F-150 forums where people are having major issues with Egoboost (F-150, limp mode, etc) and the Explorer losing steering ability (20+ page thread on www.seriousexplorations.com) It's the internet dude, this shouldn't be that hard for you.
        vulnox
        • 2 Years Ago
        @That Guy
        I have an EcoBoost F-150, got it after turning in our 2011 Explorer. Did not have a single issue with the Explorer in over a year and 13k miles. F-150 is at 4000 miles with two big road trips, and have not had any Ecoboost issues either. Tons of power, great gas mileage, fun to drive. Pretty sure my next vehicle is going to be an Explorer Sport since the F-150 is bigger than needed, just wanted a truck for a bit, and I loved our Explorer. So yeah, you are pretty much an idiot on all fronts, congrats.
          That Guy
          • 2 Years Ago
          @vulnox
          You should change your name to "blind sheep".
        XJ Yamaha
        • 2 Years Ago
        @That Guy
        Stating opinion as well as facts given in the article already shows how stupid you are. Acknowledging issues which may or may not have arisen in very limited numbers shows how pathetic you are. "And has Ford acknowledged all the issues F-150 owners are having with the Egoboost V6? Or the lostt of steering in the Explorers?" - Just saying this means nothing. You have nothing to prove this, it's just the same ignorant and subjective crap you spout off whenever a Ford article is posted.
          XJ Yamaha
          • 2 Years Ago
          @XJ Yamaha
          Countless threads implies infinite numbers. Sorry, just not true chief. And as perfectly stated below: "internet forums do not equal facts." You do realize every vehicle released has some issues in limited numbers. Just because you spend your pathetic days trolling websites looking for Ford information to gripe about doesn't mean it's some sort of legitimate business catastrophe. Your posts are nothing but trolling garbage.
        F'nBrower
        • 2 Years Ago
        @That Guy
        Ding ding ding! Justin wins a prize!
      carguy1701
      • 2 Years Ago
      A jacked-up Taurus SHO is still a piece of ****.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @carguy1701
        [blocked]
          carguy1701
          • 2 Years Ago
          What the hell does profit have to do with this discussion? This is a stupid vehicle, intended only to pad out the balance sheet in case the reborn SHO flopped (which it hasn't, sadly).
      DrWardBondTV
      • 2 Years Ago
      If you spend $50K, you do want people to know it, right? Get rid of the unions and it could be $30K. Nice looking, but you'll lose half it's value the moment you take the keys.
        NightFlight
        • 2 Years Ago
        @DrWardBondTV
        Wow, obviously you haven't been car shopping recently. There is NO way that this thing would ever be in the $30's with the amount of options it has.
        GoSpeedRacerGo
        • 2 Years Ago
        @DrWardBondTV
        Perhaps you were hoping for gold emblems, wire hubcaps and a fake convertible top?
      superchan7
      • 2 Years Ago
      Meh, just an appearance package for a bloated parentmobile. A rather good-looking one, I will admit.
      MAX
      • 2 Years Ago
      Grand Cherokee/Durango Hemi kills this thing and when the ZF 8 speed come out it will be a rout.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @MAX
        [blocked]
        Jeff
        • 2 Years Ago
        @MAX
        This competes with Durango.
      i.own.your.ass
      • 2 Years Ago
      Just because you gave it a high MRSP, does not make it a luxury car.... Facepalm..... Who would want to drive a ford for 50k??
        Dean Hammond
        • 2 Years Ago
        @i.own.your.ass
        ask owners of the Number one selling lineup IN THE WORLD.......F-series......( PS, YOU just got owned. )
          SpacemanSpiff
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dean Hammond
          Hey west, we know the Explorer is a crossover, it's based on the Taurus. Yes there's better values out there, you could get an Explorer under 30k. A $60k "real" truck is not going to last any longer doing what it's MEANT to do (haul stuff, towing, maybe some off-roading, you know, work) than a crossover is going to last doing what it's MEANT to do (hauling people, some groceries, mostly on pavement). This is no big secret.
          i.own.your.ass
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dean Hammond
          Those are pickups..... Facepalm
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