The 2013 Ford Explorer Sport answers a question not a lot of people will ask.
Ford changed the new Explorer from a truck-based SUV to a more efficient unibody crossover to reduce weight and increase fuel economy. An optional 4-cylinder EcoBoost engine helps meet that goal and gives the Explorer a gas mileage rating of 20 mpg city, 28 highway, which is pretty good considering the size of the vehicle. Why Ford would go and morph the Explorer back into a gas-guzzling SUV is beyond me.
In theory, the new Explorer Sport makes sense, but there are two important factors I think will keep it from becoming a major success.
On sale this fall, the Explorer Sport will come packing a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6, premium interior features and some sporty exterior design elements. Ford says this top-of-the-line Explorer will churn out 365 hp and 360 pound-feet of torque, which happen to be the same numbers produced by the same engine in the Taurus SHO.
But here’s problem number one: fuel economy.
I acknowledge that the 365 hp is a very welcome improvement over the 290 hp in the naturally aspirated V6 model. Gas mileage in the Sport edition, while not dropping significantly from the 17/23 in the standard V6, is officially rated at 16/22. To actually use and enjoy those 365 ponies, though, drivers will need a heavy right foot, which will drop those numbers significantly. Ford does point out that the Explorer Sport is more efficient than the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8, Dodge Durango R/T and supercharged Land Rover Ranger Rover Sport, but that’s kind of like saying an alligator’s bite will hurt less than a crocodile’s. They’re both going to take a chunk out of you!
Problem number two is price.
When it hits dealerships, the 2013 Explorer Sport will carry an MSRP of $40,720, plus $825 for destination. I really do like the new Explorer, but crossing the $40K mark puts it in a new territory filled with more upscale names. This’ll be a tough sell for Ford.
Do we really need another gas-guzzling SUV on the market?