Ford debuts 350-horsepower 2013 Explorer Sport

By Al Vinikour

(March 30, 2012) DEARBORN, Mich. — In advance of its world debut at the New York Auto Show, Ford has unveiled its 2013 Explorer Sport. The Sport is a new addition to the Explorer family and is its first-ever performance version. Unlike the previous generation’s Explorer Sport that was a trim level fairly near the bottom the 2013 Sport is the top-of-the-line in the current version.

Identifying it from the crowd is relatively easy because it has a spate of Sport-only cues. For instance, it’s the first Explorer to have the name stretched across the hood; it sits on 20-inch premium painted aluminum wheels (embossed with the Sport name) and all-season BSW tires; blacked-out headlamp and taillamp treatments; black roof rack rails; sideview mirror skull caps; a special grille of low-gloss Sterling Gray mesh with contrasting ebony high-gloss bars; a liftgate appliqué and subtle Sport and EcoBoost badges at the rear. It’s available in four exterior colors – Ruby Red Metallic Clearcoat, White Platinum Metallic Tri-coat, Tuxedo Black Metallic and Ingot Silver Metallic.

Speaking of EcoBoost, Explorer’s beauty goes beyond skin deep. It’s powered by 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6 that puts out 350 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque. It’s mated to a six-speed SelectShift Automatic transmission with paddle activation.

With the new EcoBoost engine it gives the Sport the power of a V8 but the fuel economy of a much-smaller V6 (16 mpg city/22 mpg highway). Final drive ratio is a unique 3.16:1. The vehicle is four-wheel-drive with Terrain Management System (with settings for sandy, snowy, rutted mud and hill descent). It has a 5,000-pound towing capacity. Furthermore, total cargo volume (behind the first row) is 80.7 cubic feet. Curb weight is 4,859 pounds.

It’s living in a rough neighborhood. Its chief competition is the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Dodge Durango R/T & Hemi engines and Land Rover Range Rover Sport. It bests them all in mpg.  

Handling on the new Explorer Sport was designed to be first-rate. The chassis has been specially reinforced making the vehicle stiffer and improving its road feel. It also brings a solid-mounted electric power-assisted steering (EPAS) rack with improved feel that provides more responsiveness to on-road AND off-road. Larger brakes beget shorter stopping distances and better performance while driving.

The interior might as well come out of fashion stores on Rodeo Drive. It’s inspired by designer accessory fashions. Charcoal Black leather-trimmed seating is available with and without contrasting Sienna inserts. Stitching is emphasized to lend a handcrafted appearance while highlighting Explorer Sport’s sculptured seats. It also has unique steering wheel stitching, a technical look to instrument and door panel appliques, unique Sport-logo floor mats and illuminated scuff plates.

It contains 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, rear view camera, SYNC with MyFord Touch driver connect technology and Sony Premium Audio System with HD  Radio and 12 speakers. 

The new Explorer Sport has a wide array of options as well including Active park assist, Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) with cross-traffic alert, inflatable rear seat belts, PowerFold mirrors, Dual-Panel moonroof, Power Liftgate and a host of other individual preferences. Pricing is not yet available. The Explorer Sport is manufactured at Chicago’s production facility and will arrive in dealerships later this year.

Explorer is about as true an American Icon as you can get. It boasts a brand awareness of 93% and is third in the industry, after the Ford F-150 and Ford Mustang. Sales of Explorer are up 42% since 2009 and 123% over 2010. (The current all-new generation was released on 2011.) Also, it has a 50% conquest rate meaning people who buy one are coming from other manufacturers. To coin a phrase, the 2013 Ford Explorer Sport is not your father’s Explorer!