When I heard that Ford would introduce a new Explorer Sport at the New York Auto Show, I immediately had flashbacks to the Explorer Sport Trac of yore. The Sport Trac was like the mullet of cars: SUV in the front, pickup truck in the back. It was ugly and not really good at being an SUV or a pickup.
Why would Ford bring back this abomination and ruin the fantastic new Explorer?
Well, naturally, I misunderstood. The Sport Trac remains firmly lodged in the pages of history. The Explorer Sport is something else entirely. In fact, it probably should have been called the Explorer SHO.
Sitting on top of the Explorer lineup, the Sport “sports” the same twin-turbo 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 found in the Taurus SHO AWD. In this application, the mill produces 350 hp, compared with the SHO’s 365. Torque will be around 350 lb-ft.
Ford projects fuel economy numbers in the neighborhood of 16 mpg in the city and 22 highway. An Explorer with the 240-hp 2.0-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder gets 20/28. But the Explorer Sport can tow up to 5,000 pounds and cuts at least 2 seconds off the 0-60 time.
If you’re thinking that Ford has stepped up to compete with the 6.4-liter $60,000 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 AWD, don’t get too excited. The super-Jeep is still in a class of its own, as Ford is going after the 5.7-liter Grand Cherokee and the Dodge Durango R/T. That said, the Sport is more than just an engine upgrade and blacked-out lights. Changes include a new 3.16:1 final drive ratio, a water-cooled Power Take Off faceplate cooler that keeps the standard all-wheel-drive system cool as it deals with the extra torque, paddles to shift the 6-speed automatic transmission and special settings for the Explorer’s Terrain Management System.
There’s no official pricing just yet, but I’d venture to guess this one will top $40K.
Even north of $40,000 the Explorer Sport should be a great buy and find plenty of customers. Would you be one of them, or would the Cherokee or Durango be more your style?