Ford gives Explorer sporty treatment
Photo credit: BRADFORD WERNLE
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The Ford Explorer Sport will take its place at the top of the Explorer line as a performance model, much as the SHO occupies that space for the Taurus.
The Explorer Sport, already at dealerships, has sporty graphics that include black wheels and a gray mesh grille with horizontal black bars to set it apart from the rest of the line.
Most significantly, it gets the 3.5-liter, twin-turbo EcoBoost six-cylinder engine that powers the SHO. Cranking out 365 hp, it's the most powerful in the EcoBoost lineup and gets 22 mpg on the highway. The engine is teamed with a paddle-shift six-speed SelectShift automatic transmission.
Ford engineers used some of the lessons they learned designing their Police Interceptor vehicle to give the Explorer Sport its performance-oriented driving dynamics, chief engineer Bill Gubing said at a media event here. Those include a beefed-up chassis stiffened by bolstered tunnel braces, wider wheels and an electric power-assisted steering gear that's bolted to the frame to give the vehicle its connected-to-the-road feel.
Ford also recalibrated its Terrain Management four-wheel-drive system to make the Explorer Sport more responsive in a variety of driving environments.
The Explorer Sport comes standard with seven seats in three rows, including a second-row folding bench seat with a 60-40 split. Optional second-row captain's chairs would turn it into a six-seater.
Ford designers made liberal use of black to set the Explorer Sport apart. Black wheels with the Sport logo engraved are standard, along with a black roof rack, blacked-out headlamp and taillamp treatments, black side mirrors and the blackened grille and lower front fascia.
Jacques Brent, Ford marketing manager for the utility segment, said the Explorer Sport will compete with vehicles such as the Dodge Durango RT and Jeep Grand Cherokee and will even draw customers trading in sporty luxury SUVs such as the Range Rover Sport. Ford estimates the Explorer Sport could account for 10 to12 percent of the Explorer mix.
The 3.5-liter EcoBoost is the third engine in the Explorer line. Ford also offers a 2.0-liter four-cylinder EcoBoost and a 3.5-liter normally aspirated V-6.
Prices start at $41,545, including shipping. Explorer prices start at $29,950.
You can reach Bradford Wernle at email@example.com.