Vital Stats

Engine:
Twin-turbo 3.5L V6
Power:
365 HP / 350 LB-FT
Transmission:
6-Speed Auto
0-60 Time:
7.0 Seconds (est.)
Drivetrain:
All-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
4,921 LBS
Seating:
2+3+2
Cargo:
80.7 CU-FT
MPG:
16 City / 22 HWY
Base Price:
$40,780
When one speaks of sporty and fun-to-drive utility vehicles, few would put the Ford Explorer in the same category as the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8, BMW X5 or Porsche Cayenne. Yet, with just a few reservations, I'd toss the new-for-2013 Ford Explorer Sport close to that arena for consideration.

As a recap, the sportiest of Explorers is fitted with Ford's twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter Ecoboost V6, making 365 horsepower and 350 pound feet of torque. Acceleration is brisk (figure about 7 seconds to 60 miles per hour), as power goes to all four wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. Contributing to its more athletic demeanor are larger front brakes, a sport-tuned suspension, chassis upgrades, quicker steering ratio and a more aggressive wheel/tire package. Cosmetically, the Sport is distinguished by its blacked-out lights, black trim and noticeable lack of chrome (with the exception of the door handles).

Ford recently handed me the keys to a Ruby Red Metallic Explorer Sport. Rather than mindlessly drive the big seven-passenger all-wheel drive hauler in soccer mom circles around Los Angeles, I loaded up my family and embarked on a long weekend road trip to Yosemite National Park.

Driving Notes
  • Despite a passenger load of four and a hotel suite worth of associated luggage and travel paraphernalia (pillows, blankets, iPads, Nintendo DS, etc...) there was still plenty of room remaining within the Explorer's cabin. Nobody complained about a lack of shoulder room, legroom or a need for more personal space. Acknowledging today's digital needs, an assortment of outlets (including lighter plugs, USB and 110v household) meant everyone was able to keep their electronic devices charged while on the road.
  • Power from the 3.5-liter Ecoboost was strong under nearly every driving condition, but I came to loath the significant torque steer off the line. If the throttle was floored while pulling away at a corner, the inside front wheel would briefly spin – absolutely maddening – revealing the Achilles Heel of its front-biased "Terrain Management" all-wheel drive system.
  • Fuel economy was surprisingly good. Total trip distance was 691 miles. During the highway portions, where I cruised mostly between 70-75 mph, the Ford averaged 22.6 miles per gallon. During the climb into Yosemite, driving the scenic valley and climbing back out, the onboard computer registered 20.4 mpg. We never dropped into the teens.
  • The Explorer Sport drove like a big front-wheel drive sedan. Even with the firmer suspension matching European touring levels, there was nary a complaint about harshness or ride quality from my family. Straight-line stability at high speed was excellent, and the cabin was acoustically quiet, making long-distance travel effortless. The tight route into Yosemite, on twisty California 41, was a pleasure thanks to the Sport's accurate (but lifeless) steering, lack of body roll and high level of grip – no squealing tires. Much to the dismay of my passengers, I enjoyed mile-after-mile of this slalom exercise.
  • Everyone found the MyFord Touch interface infuriating. Aside from the unattractive finger prints on its screen and its unintuitive interface (why does it require a series of inputs for even the most basic of functions?) the touchscreen was difficult to use while driving and it didn't always immediately respond. The capacitive-touch interface controlling the audio and HVAC was even more frustrating. My radar detector and iPhone cable kept brushing against the buttons and eerily changing the cabin settings. To circumvent the annoyance, I wrapped the cords awkwardly around the wiper stalk.
  • In the category of other gripes, I found the exterior mirrors were too small for a vehicle of this size. Even with the assistance of Ford's Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), I was constantly moving my upper torso around in the seat to double-check blind spots and surrounding traffic. Plus, the halogen projector-beam headlights were inadequate and dim, especially at higher speeds. My thumbs were too big for the steering wheel controls (causing a few accidental phone calls) and the vents don't allow the air to be deflected upward.
  • Nevertheless, the good greatly outweighed the gripes during our trip, and it left us all with a new appreciation for Ford's unibody utility. While its doesn't possess the Olympic muscle or agility of an SRT8, X5 or Cayenne – I never assumed it would – the Explorer Sport is as comfortable, competent and athletic as any family will ever need on public roads. It goes on my recommended list.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 93 Comments
      pholocity
      • 1 Year Ago
      i do love the twin turbo powerplant, i have the same in my 2013 Flex and it's a treat to drive. I agree w/ the MyFordTouch, it needs a complete overhaul and MS given the boot for something more intuitive and responsive, it's nothing but frustrations when i try to use it
      Drakkon
      • 1 Year Ago
      I'm not a likely target for this vehicle, but I'm soooooo glad that this time Ford gave the name 'SPORT' to the Explorer that it really means something. The last Explorer should have been called the 'Coupe' instead.
      John Cocktoastin
      • 1 Year Ago
      I\'m sooooo tired of hearing the automotive press pissing and moaning about MyFordTouch. I think the problem may be that in a typical brief review situation, you don\'t have time to really learn it or get used to using it. I bought a new Fusion Titanium last month and have had ZERO problems using MFT. There are redundant controls on the steering wheel and most features can also be accessed by voice command (both options prevent you from taking eyes off of the road).
        Jess
        • 1 Year Ago
        @John Cocktoastin
        The system is great when it works. I agree, you need to learn it, but that didn't take me long (I have a 2012 Explorer Limited). The complaints come from serious flaws in the system. I gather yours works well. You're fortunate! Mine, on the other hand, has crashed many, many times. They've tried to fix it and blame various conflicts with the cell phone or iPod--things my Infiniti never had a problem with--but the problems persist. And from all I've seen online from other owners, I'm far from alone! So I'd say the system is great... when it works. But Ford needs to do a lot to remedy the issues some of its owners are experiencing!
      gloriamcclurkan
      • 1 Year Ago
      Wow, so much to say, so little time. We own a 2013 Explorer Sport in Ruby Red. It is loaded, short of the adaptive cruise and rear seat DVD\'s. We currently have 6700 miles on it. Frankly, there is no other 3-row SUV that you can get, that competes with this vehicle. None have the combination of luxury, comfort, speed, mileage, features, and sportiness, for anywhere near the price. We LOVE this vehicle. MFT is a non issue. I am 48, and my husband is 52. We are far from techies. Within the first 200 miles we had paired our phones, set our radio stations, adjusted our climate control, adjusted the rear climate control, adjusted the stereo details, and used the navigation. The vast majority of things you do, YOU NEVER HAVE TO LOOK AT THE SCREEN. What part of that do some of you not get?? You push the button on the steering wheel (it is on the right side, on the bottom, in the middle, which is easy to find without looking), and tell Flo (that\'s what we call her) what you want. It really is that simple. Yes, for the navigation you have to actually listen to what she is asking you, until you are used to the prompts. After that, it is easy. Want to adjust the volume?? It is the bottom right button. This is no different than learning the cruise buttons on any vehicle................ you just learn more than 4 buttons. Plus, you can see everything you need on the binnacles that flank the speedo. There have been no freeze ups, no rebooting, and no weird quirks at all. The capacitive controls are a non issue, for the few times we use them. You push the button, it dinks (the sound) and you know you have done what you want to. If you can operate a smart phone, you can figure this out. The biggest mistake people make is hitting too many buttons too quickly. In most modern vehicles, the outside sight lines are poor. If you have your mirrors set properly, and look, you will have no problems with visibility. Frankly, for me, one of the hardest thing to learn was just how short the hood is. I can stand in front and clean it all the way up to the cowl, and I am not tall. Thus, going from my SD to this, I have a tendency to not pull in far enough. You want a big hood, look at the one on my SD. The features are amazing, for a non luxury vehicle. I love the cooled seats (and heated of course). The cross traffic alert is great when you are backing up. The blind spot warning takes away a lot of guesswork. The back-up camera with guide lines is fantastic for hooking up a trailer, and I really miss it when I am in the SD. The giant double moonroof is a favorite with the 11-year-old at night. This is one of the most comfortable vehicles I have ever been in. You can drive hundreds of miles and feel like you just left. The brakes are great, the ride and handling is great, and the terrain management rocks. The engine is amazing. I love the EB, and love the fuel economy. However, the most fun part is the absolute effortless acceleration under any circumstances.
        roryn44
        • 1 Year Ago
        @gloriamcclurkan
        Lame
        ebn.hahn
        • 1 Year Ago
        @gloriamcclurkan
        I agree... Great SUV
        riserburn99andre
        • 1 Year Ago
        @gloriamcclurkan
        Let\'s see what competes with this vehicle, The Traverse, Acadia, Encore, Pilot, Minivans, anything with emasculating in the same vein. Why not get a wagon.... mmmmm CTS-V Wagon... mmmmm DOWN VOTE ME HAHAHA
      waetherman
      • 1 Year Ago
      The "new" Explorer seems like it's doubling-down on the old Big SUV formula. Compared to something like the Jeep GC, I suppose it's a fine competitor, but there are many other choices out there that beat the Explorer on price, luxury, performance, reliability or efficiency - or even in multiple categories. I mean, I guess it sells, but it's not something I would ever buy.
        fragmit50
        • 1 Year Ago
        @waetherman
        Cool story, bro.
        merlot066
        • 1 Year Ago
        @waetherman
        Would you care to list any? You say the Explorer might compare decently to the Grand Cherokee as though neither the Explorer or GC are good cars. The Explorer and GC are among the best in class. What do you think is better? The Traverse? Santa Fe? No and NO.
        The Wasp
        • 1 Year Ago
        @waetherman
        Name one that does better for less or equal money.
        gloriamcclurkan
        • 1 Year Ago
        @waetherman
        You are wrong. I did the shopping. I did the test drives. If you want a \"leatherette\" X5 with the 6 cylinder (non TT), and the tiny ugly wheels, you will still pay thousands more. Want leather, and some of the same features that the Sport has.................. but no big power or sporty wheels............... be prepared to spend $10K more. Sorry, but a BMW badge means nothing to me. I\'m too old to be that shallow.
      • 1 Year Ago
      [blocked]
      ebn.hahn
      • 1 Year Ago
      ""When one speaks of sporty and fun-to-drive utility vehicles, few would put the Ford Explorer in the same category as the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8, BMW X5 or Porsche Cayenne"" OOh REALLY!!!. Speak for self Pal.. I will take the EXP over any of these overprised boat anchers........ more usabilty anytime of the year, much better fuel economy and better quality.... And it gives me everything the lugs do..
      • 1 Year Ago
      [blocked]
      Andrew
      • 1 Year Ago
      0-60 in 7 seconds and 365 HP????? you outdid yourself again FORD
        merlot066
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Andrew
        Car and Driver clocked it in 5.9 seconds. I've driven this powertrain in the Flex, it's really fast and surprisingly smooth.
      AddLightness
      • 1 Year Ago
      I just cross shopped this with the 2013 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring AWD. Before driving either of them I was leaning heavily towards the Explorer Sport (I\'m a Ford guy who was trading in his 2010 F-150 for a family vehicle) not just because I like Ford but because its more performance oriented than the CX-9. With that said I also read several reviews raving about the handling and driveability of the CX-9, including Motortrends 2011 3 row SUV comparison that it won largely for those reasons. First we test drove the CX-9, great responsiveness, great handling, great visability, and was a loaded Grand Touring AWD model for $40k msrp. I loved the drive and could not think of anything missing from the package including heated leather seats, nav, blind spot detection, sunroof, power lift gate etc. I left from the Mazda dealership pleasantly surprised and a little worried because the Explorer was going to have to be a lot better to be worth the extra $5,000-$10,000. First thing I noticed when I sat in it was the huge hood in front of me. It looked bigger than my F-150s because you\'re sitting lower in it. Visibility elsewhere was less than ideal as well. The handling was great as well but again it felt like I was driving a big truck, rather than a sporty car like in the CX-9. I did notice that the seats were more comfortable in the Ford and while the styling of the exterior was very sporty, I decided I liked the clean, smooth, and mature look of the updated 2013 CX-9 after seeing it in person. Its been a week and I couldn\'t be happier with the Mazda that I drove off the lot for $36k, compared to the $45k+ they wanted for the Explorer Sport. I expect it will be even better after receiving a skyactive engine for the 2014 model year, but I\'m very satisfied with the current (Ford) engine :)
        mbukukanyau
        • 1 Year Ago
        @AddLightness
        You know, I am looking into these CUV's and I was very pleased with the Mazda pricing.
          Dean Hammond
          • 1 Year Ago
          @mbukukanyau
          then you should also look at the REGULAR Explorer...to compare the CX9 with the Sport is not a valid comparison.....
          AddLightness
          • 1 Year Ago
          @mbukukanyau
          A comparable Explorer Limited with the same options as a loaded CX-9 still rings up as several thousands more and loses its performance edge as well because its not a Sport. And good luck finding a high trim Explorer on the lot without a bunch of other options that you don't want added which boosts the price even more. I considered the Sport because I wanted the performance, but the CX-9 Grand Touring AWD was just fantastic all around for much less.
          mbukukanyau
          • 1 Year Ago
          @mbukukanyau
          Dean, you have a valid point
      yjbeach
      • 1 Year Ago
      At least they tried. Oh well.
        merlot066
        • 1 Year Ago
        @yjbeach
        They tried to make a sportier Explorer and wound up with a car that Harley says can hang with big dogs like the Grand Cherokee SRT8 and X5. Swing and a home-run.
      maverick_02
      • 1 Year Ago
      Oh no.... You had to move your upper torso to check blond spots! Practically every new vehicle out today, especially SUVs, have huge blind spots. If you haven't been checking your blind spots before now start practicing!
        Mazdaspeed6
        • 1 Year Ago
        @maverick_02
        Leave him alone lol. At least it wasn't the usual wrong information or grammatical errors.
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