7. February 2013
The Ford Explorer Sport is a sport version of a sport utility vehicle.
What does that mean?
I don’t know.
Arguably, I shouldn’t admit that. But the whole phenomenon of “sport” vis-à-vis large vehicles—the Explorer Sport has a base curb weight of 4,921 lb.—is a little mysterious to me, unless that sport has something to do with sumos. Sure, this vehicle has a 365-hp twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6 engine, but what sportiness is one going to achieve in a vehicle that is big enough to accommodate three rows of seating?
Of course, if the car was described as a “going-to-a-sport-utility vehicle,” which is presumably what you can do with the Explorer Sport, it would be a bit unwieldy. Which sort of brings the vehicle to mind, especially when maneuvering between gas pumps, because that’s what you’re going to be doing. The vehicle is rated at 16/22 mpg, which is a set of numbers that you’re likely to find only if you drive on rollers in a lab surrounded by people in white coats and clipboards. Out of curiosity, I checked the EPA numbers for the last-generation Explorer—one with body-on-frame, not the unibody construction of this one—and when equipped with a 292-hp V8, the 4,807-lb. seven-seater was rated at 14/19 mpg.
So the new one is heavier and more powerful (both models are 4WD), yet provides a modicum of fuel efficiency improvement. Isn’t lighter better?
The Sport cues for the Explorer Sport include 20-inch wheels and a grille that has shiny black bars set off by a low-gloss gray mesh. The seats have contrasting stitching.
There are paddles on the steering column to allow the six-speed automatic to be manually shifted. Seriously: is someone going to be driving this vehicle because they want to have an exhilarating driving experience? Isn’t this really an analogue for a minivan, and who pretends that they’re ripping across Mulholland Drive when behind the wheel of a Freestar?
2007 Ford Freestar
The vehicle does have an electric power steering (EPS), which is exceedingly nice, especially when trying to maneuver in what become tight places, like Costco parking lots. Ford gets full marks for its rearward sensors, which can help prevent untoward events when piloting the Explorer.
The SUV does have a “Terrain Management System” that allows adjustment to the power to each of the wheels, depending on conditions (snow, sand, mud, downhill descent). So that would pretty much be (1) winter in the Midwest; (2) summer trip to the beach; (3) spring on a rained-on soccer field; (4) going down a hill to the cider mill.
Here’s the thing: If you’re looking for a people-mover, is something like the Explorer Sport the right choice because if you’re looking for something that is large and capable, isn’t something from the Ford Truck lineup that has a name written with alphanumerics starting with an “F”?
While Ford has exited the minivan market because “consumers don’t want minivans,” it is worthwhile noting that while there were a respectably 158,344 Explorers sold in 2012, Chrysler sold 253,392 minivans, so it’s not like there is a dearth of customers.
But apparently minivans just aren’t sporty enough.
Engine: 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6
Material: Aluminum block and heads
Horsepower: 365 @ 5,500 rpm
Torque: 350 lb-ft @ 3,500 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed SelectShift Automatic
Steering: Electric power-assisted
Wheelbase: 112.6 in.
Length: 197.1 in.
Width (with mirrors): 90.2 in.
Height: 71.0 in.
Curb weight: 4,921 lb.
EPA: 16/22 mpg city/highway