The Explorer Sport doesn’t drive so much as swagger. Even before you see it, you can almost sense the big Ford roll up beside you at a stoplight. Such is its presence. And while it looked sleek enough when it launched, this facelifted edition is a leap up in looks and positioning.
It certainly helps that the Explorer Sport bears an uncanny resemblance to a certain upscale British SUV brand. Who says only the Chinese can copy well? Only in this case, Ford’s homage is legitimate, as the former owner of Land Rover.
The Sport adds ’tude here, with blacked-out trim including the grille, mirrors, door handles, rear garnish, and even the front ‘Explorer’ badge.
Like The Rock swinging a machine gun under his arm, the Explorer Sport has the hardware to back up its bluster. Under the hood is the familiar Ford 3.5-liter V6. This one is boosted by twin-turbos, upping the power to 365hp. The V6 doles out smooth torque off the line, letting its displacement do the work. Then when the boost comes on--oh my lord. The big SUV is pulled forward with turbine-like thrust.
The on-boost acceleration is thrilling, but also dampened by the car’s mass. The delivery and timing of the thrust make this more of a highway warrior than a backroad bruiser. Long stretches of smooth, straight road are where the Explorer Sport does it best. Overtaking and ramping up to highway speed are effortless. All this is accompanied by a hungry growl whenever the engine hits its stride.
Ford had us at ‘twin-turbo,’ but fortunately, it didn’t stop there. The similarities to British automotive royalty continue inside. The cabin features upscale materials. The touchscreen interface is top notch. Then there are motorized controls for things that move. Which ones? Practically all of them: front seats, rear seats, rear door.
A unique feature is the power-adjustable pedals. The steering wheel, too, tilts and telescopes using motors. And all settings can be locked in memory, or even associated with a particular key. Every amenity is packed into the Ford. The rear seat folds and tucks into the floor at the touch of a button, and the rear hatch can automatically open with a wave of your foot.
The Explorer Sport can play school transport while switching to weekend warrior for a quick getaway from the city. The low-profile, highway-oriented tires may seem to limit this SUV to the pavement, but it is equipped with the sophisticated Terrain Management System. The lack of a low-range transfer case would limit its off-road abilities, but it can tackle the slippery driveway of a country estate with ease. All while keeping the occupants in a cocoon of sporty luxury.
SPECS: FORD EXPLORER 3.5L V6 SPORT AWD ECOBOOST
Engine: 3.5-liter DOHC V6
Power: 365hp @ 5,500rpm
Torque: 475Nm @ 3,500rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
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