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High Performance SUV: 2013 Ford Explorer Sport

By Arv Voss, November 24th, 2012

Ford's immensely popular Explorer adds a new stable mate to the 2013 lineup with a high-performance 365-horspower V-6 Sport model.

Manufacturer photo: New for 2013, the Ford Explorer Sport combines high performance with fuel efficiency, thanks to EcoBoost technology
Manufacturer photo: New for 2013, the Ford Explorer Sport combines high performance with fuel efficiency, thanks to EcoBoost technology

The motive force for the new 2013 Explorer Sport is delivered by a 3.5-liter V-6, along with Ford's dynamic EcoBoost technology, featuring twin turbochargers and Gasoline Direct Injection. The EcoBoost V-6 cranks out 365 horsepower at 5,500 rpm, while delivering 350 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,500 rpm.

The engine mates to an electronically controlled six-speed SelectShift automatic transmission with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Power reaches all four wheels as standard via a specially calibrated 4WD system with Ford's Terrain Management System. The 2013 Explorer Sport achieves EPA mileage estimates of 16 miles per gallon city and 22 mpg highway -- and it's the only seven-passenger, high-performance SUV to do so. We have not official 0-to-60 mph times to report from Ford.

Starting at $40,720, trim levels include the base level Sport, XLT and Limited. I drove the 2013 Ford Explorer Sport with options such as Voice-Activated Navigation System; power liftgate, Blind Spot Warning System and Destination and Delivery Charge, bumping the final sticker to $47,815.

The 2013 Ford Explorer Sport performs well with added chassis reinforcements and a solid-mounted electric power-assisted steering rack for a better feedback both on-road and off. It comes standard with larger brakes for improved pedal feel and response for drivers, along with stronger resistance to fade and better performance while towing.

Manufacturer photo: New for 2013, the Ford Explorer Sport combines high performance with fuel efficiency, thanks to EcoBoost technology

We found that the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 delivers the power and acceleration of many V-8s, while also providing the efficiency of a V-6. The shifting is smooth, and the ride quality, though not plush, is comfortable.

As the name "Sport" implies, this new model takes the Explorer nameplate to a new level. Bill Gubing, chief engineer for Explorer, Taurus and Police Interceptor vehicles, describes it as "hitting a sweet spot combination of power, usable torque, 4WD capability, with class-leading fuel efficiency."

The Explorer Sport rolls on 5-spoke "can-opener shaped" 20-inch, black painted and machined alloy wheels stamped with the Sport name, and shod with performance tires. Springs and shocks are all-new, and the steering benefits from a unique sport calibration.

The grille showcases gloss Ebony horizontal accent bars with low-gloss Sterling Gray mesh inserts and Explorer is spelled out on the hood's leading edge. Headlamps and taillamps are darkened for a custom look. A gloss Ebony horizontal bar also appears across the rear, matching the front end styling. A lower flat black composite surround provides protection from road debris.

Moving to the interior, the design contrast was inspired by high fashion, mirroring two-tones, currently popular in leather accessories and apparel from design houses Balenciaga and Prada, where stitching is emphasized for a handcrafted appearance, while showcasing Explorer Sport's sculpted sport seats. The steering wheel features unique stitching, too.

Manufacturer photo: New for 2013, the Ford Explorer Sport combines high performance with fuel efficiency, thanks to EcoBoost technology

Other major accomplishments achieved in this new SUV include: specially calibrated suspension componentry, enhanced Terrain Management System, Hill Descent Control, a tow capacity of up to 5,000 pounds, rear inflatable seatbelts and Trailer Sway Control.

In the final analysis, the 2013 Ford Explorer Sport delivers a sporting experience indeed, and the sound from the polished "trumpet-tipped" dual exhaust is sweet and mellow -- not Mustang GT500 sweet mind you, but satisfying none-the-less.

Specifications

Base price $40,720 (as tested: $47,815)
Curb weight 4,921 lbs.
Displacement 3.5-liter
Epa mileage rating 16 mpg city, 22 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 18.6 gal.
Horsepower (net) 365 at 5500 rpm
Motor type 24-valve EcoBoost turbo V6 w/DI
Overall length 197.1 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 350 at 3500 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Vehicle type 7-passenger 4WD SUV
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