HEELS ON WHEELS: 2013 FORD EXPLORER SPORT REVIEW


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2013 Ford Explorer Sport


HEELS ON WHEELS
By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

INTRO TO THE EXPLORER SPORT VEHICLE
The mid-size Ford Explorer SUV is no stranger to consumers, generating more appeal just a couple model years ago with a redesign that adapted design cues from the Land Rover brand. The all-new Sport edition is another highly strategized move by Ford looking to remain noticed in a saturated segment: offer consumers a performance-minded trim big on advanced technology and sportier looks.

I drove a 2013 Ford Explorer Sport with the standard 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 engine coupled to a six-speed SelectShift automatic transmission with paddle shifters, sport-tuned suspension, and Ford’s Intelligent 4WD System with Terrain Management. Standard equipment on the Explorer Sport is as follows: leather upholstery; ten-way power driver’s seat; heated and cooled front seats; leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls; upgraded Sony audio system; SYNC and MyFord Touch infotainment systems; XM Radio; the programmable MyKey system; dual-zone climate control; fold-flat third row; illuminated scuff plates; fog lamps; roof rack; rear spoiler; chrome exhaust tips; and a reverse sensing system. Price as described starts at $40,780.

The Sport edition is new for 2013 and sits at the top of the Ford Explorer lineup in performance and price. Main competitors in size and power are the Dodge Durango, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Chevrolet Tahoe and Toyota Highlander – all of which now need to focus on featuring a sportier trim edition as well.

HEELS ON WHEELS REVIEW CRITERIA

Stylish But Comfortable Results: The Explorer Sport boasts a classy, quality-oriented cabin with minor dings for using faux-chrome accents. The third row is unexpectedly savvy, but a size best suited for children. In terms of comfort, Ford delivers first-class seating to both the front and second rows with some difficulty maneuvering into the fold-flat third row. My test drive featured a $4,130 optional equipment group that included navigation, blind spot mirrors, rear inflatable belts, a power liftgate, push-button start, and remote start. Ford’s SYNC and MyTouch infotainment system for accessing voice-activated commands to calls and music through your smartphone features dynamic touchscreen graphics, but the system itself difficult to master. The center stack uses unique touch-sensitive buttons but they are slow to respond.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The Ford Explorer Sport is a Top Safety Pick with ratings of “Good” in all crash-test areas with The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives it an overall recommendation of 5-Stars. Standard safety equipment includes AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control, traction control, an advanced airbag system, SOS post-crash alert system, and the programmable MyKey that control speed and volume for younger drivers.

Cost Issues: A base Ford Explorer starts at $29,100 and doesn’t feature much in terms of comfort and connectivity technology. An XLT with a few more basics like XM Radio, steering wheel mounted controls and nicer clothe upholstery costs $32,680; with a Limited trim adding SYNC and MyFord Touch phone connectivity, a Sony radio, push-button start and dual-zone climate control at $38,100. My test drive with added features came in at $45,815.

Activity & Performance Ability: The Explorer Sport is the only model that features the twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine that delivers immediate throttle satisfaction, giving this weighty-looking SUV the wings to fly forward with grace. Ford’s Terrain Management four-wheel drive system takes the guess work out of operating under tricky conditions with a simple dial in the lower console. Yet visibility doesn’t work in the driver’s favor, and the Explorer often feels bulky and much bigger than it actually is when parking in the simplest of spaces.

The Green Concern: While the EcoBoost is a smart alternative to a V8 engine, fuel economy is still a big number at 16 miles-per-gallon city and 22 highway for a combined 18.

FINAL PARTING WORDS
Ford keeps this popular SUV fresh by offering a savvier, more performance-oriented version with the Explorer Sport, boasting twin-turbocharged EcoBoost power and a refined interior – all in a gallant effort to draw consumers from other similarly equipped and priced mid-sized utility vehicles.

2013 Katrina Ramser

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