2013 Ford Explorer Sport

Ford’s incredibly successful Explorer has just received the kind of upgrade that gets enthusiasts salivating: the addition of the awesome twin-turbo 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6. Here it produces 365hp and 350lb-ft, enabling the Sport to hit sixty in under six seconds. Expectations for some type of Jeep SRT-baiting, racetrack ready crossover are dashed as soon as you get behind the wheel, though. The Explorer is an entirely different experience, with refinement being one of its most prominent attributes.

Ride quality on the showy 20-inch rims remains generally excellent, despite the fitment of starchier suspension. The quick-ratio steering is numb yet precise, and brake feel and performance commensurate with the strait line performance but not otherwise noteworthy. The Explorer Sport is also quiet (too quiet in terms of evocative engine sounds) and quiet enough not to bother the kids when dad isn’t trying to set a new lap record on the Whole Foods run.

The Ford’s interior is still its biggest weakness, with materials unworthy of its price. It’s oddly shaped inside as well, with large, useless spaces between its too small, unsupportive seats and the doors. This is a legacy of it being based on a ten year-old platform that came as part of the Ford acquisition of Volvo. Finally, the MyFordTouch interface for nav/entertainment/phone is still glitch-prone and hard to use while moving.

But there’s genuine room for seven, all-season capability and the ability to tow 5000 pounds. Fuel economy isn’t too shabby either, especially for such a fast two and a half ton rig. The Explorer Sport’s combination of great looks, refined dynamics, excellent performance and true usability place it in comparison with more prestigious European competition, yet at a much more palatable price.

EPA ratings: 16/22; 18mpg combined
Price as tested: $47,390
Here is what Ford has to say about it.

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