Ford is adding a new, sportier model to the 2013 Explorer lineup called, appropriately, the Sport. (Blue Oval utility freaks should note that this is still based on the regular four-door, three-row body style, and isn’t a revival of the old two-door Explorer of the ’90s and 2000s.) After scanning the Sport’s particulars, however, we’re thinking a SHO badge might have been appropriate, as this marks the first application of Ford’s twin-turbocharged, 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 in an Explorer—it’s the engine used in the Taurus SHO. The crossover also gets SHO-like exterior and chassis upgrades. For its part, Ford says the name was chosen to parallel that of the Edge Sport. The spicy Explorer will debut at the 2012 New York auto show.
Ford says the twin-turbo motor produces “at least” 350 hp in the Explorer Sport; we’d wager that final output will be somewhere near the 365 horses of the 2013 Taurus SHO. Either way, the Explorer Sport’s motor will handily outmuscle either of the Explorer’s current engines, a 240-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter EcoBoost four and 290-hp, 3.5-liter V-6. The additional power brings a slight fuel-economy penalty versus the other models, although the sacrifice isn’t great: Ford predicts the Sport will be rated at 16 mpg in the city and 22 on the highway, a drop of 1 mpg on both cycles from the AWD V-6 Explorer. The Sport’s brawnier six is backed by a six-speed automatic transmission, which can be manually shifted via steering-wheel-mounted paddles. All-wheel-drive is standard, as is the normal Explorer’s Terrain Management system.
To increase chassis stiffness—a key concern among owners of three-row crossovers—the Sport’s upgrades include a beefier strut-tower brace and a new cross-tunnel brace ahead of the rear subframe. The suspension incorporates new shocks, anti-roll bars, and bushings. The electrically assisted steering is quicker than that of lesser models, and the Sport adopts the new solidly mounted rack common to all ’13 Explorers. The brakes are upsized as well, and the Sport is cleared to tow the same 5000-pound maximum of its naturally aspirated V-6 brethren. In a recent comparison test, a V-6 AWD Explorer failed to impress in the dynamics department, so we’re interested to see what improvements might come from the chassis work; unfortunately, the changes made to create the Sport won’t do anything to help the Explorer’s substantial curb weight.
Thanks to: Car and Driver