Nearly everyone in the world is familiar with the Ford Explorer, one of the most iconic sport utility vehicles ever made.
Available in front- or all-wheel drive configurations — as well as a number of trim levels (Base, XLT and Limited), Ford also produces a very unique Explorer model specifically designed for those who want it all.
This week, I’m writing about the Ford Explorer Sport, powered by a 3.5-liter turbocharged EcoBoost V-6 engine that is absolutely outstanding.
But in order to tell the Explorer Sport story, we have to go back to the beginning.
You see, once upon a time in the not too distant past, Ford owned Land Rover. During this time, a lot of cross-pollination was going on between the company’s different divisions. Ford actually did a great job of taking the things that were “just right” with one division and sharing them with the others.
When the big bad economy came knocking on the door, Ford didn’t go knocking on the government’s door asking for magic apples. Instead, it took its core divisions (and all the “just right” things it gleaned from the companies it purchased during the good years and liquidated assets that weren’t vital to the core business — which included Land Rover and Jaguar. In the end, Ford was able to weather the economic storm.
A few years later, while other automakers were still trying to regroup, produce new products — and repay loans for all the magic apples they borrowed, Ford was turning out new products like crazy.
One of those new products happened to be the Explorer Sport, which believe it or not, has a lot of Land Rover DNA.
In fact, if you didn’t look at the distinct Ford exterior styling and just went on the way this four-wheel drive vehicle performs, you would swear you were driving a Land Rover.
Powered by an extremely responsive 365 horsepower turbo engine, it accelerates like a Land Rover. It tows like a Land Rover (up to 5,000 pounds). Like a Land Rover, it is opulent, can seat up to seven, is extremely well appointed on all three seating rows and features state-of-the-art amenities and connectivity. And, I might add, I think the interior is even more comfortable than a Land Rover. It also features the Terrain Management System (like a Land Rover), allowing the driver to simply turn a knob to achieve the best performance on a variety of road surfaces and driving conditions — no hubs to lock, no gears to shift, no having to think about what to do.
The part that I like best is that it costs a lot, lot less than a Land Rover — and gets better fuel economy.
Since I’m making this comparison, in fairness, the Land Rover does have more off-road capabilities than the Explorer Sport. But then again, I doubt very many Land Rover owners pay more than $80,000 for their vehicle and actually use it for off-roading. While the Explorer Sport may not climb boulders or near vertical rock cliffs, it will get you to your favorite out of the way fishing hole — and tow your boat — with style, comfort and safety.
For those who want it all, Ford found a smart, practical way to deliver with the Explorer Sport.
It’s absolutely worth a test drive.
Neal White has been covering the automotive industry for more than 20 years and is affiliated with the Texas Auto Writers Association.
The Nuts and Bolts
2013 Ford Explorer Sport
6- or 7-seat luxury sedan
(Specifications for Ford Explorer Sport model only — does not include specs for other Explorer trim levels)
Four-wheel drive with Terrain Management System
3.5L turbo EcoBoost V6
(365 hp/350 torque)
6-speed automatic with SelectShift
EPA: 16 mpg city, 22 mpg highway
FUEL: Regular unleaded
AdvanceTrac stability control with roll stability control and traction control systems
LENGTH: 197.1 inches
WHEELBASE: 112.6 in.
WIDTH: 78.9 inches
HEIGHT: 71 inches
WEIGHT: 4882 lbs.
FUEL TANK: 18.6 gallons
TOWING: 5,000 pounds.
CARGO: 21/43.8/80.7 cubic feet (behind 3rd/2nd/1st seating row).