Text: Vince Pornelos / Photos: Vince Pornelos | posted July 10, 2015 15:27
The Athletic Heavyweight
For the last 4 years the Ford Explorer has become a common sight on metro streets, proving popular amongst the affluent of villages as a large, daily driven SUV.
Two variants were launched back in 2011, the first of which was the top-of-the-line model with a 3.5-liter V6 motor and all-wheel drive followed by a more affordable front-wheel drive with a 2.0-liter EcoBoost motor. Now Ford has decided to combine the best aspects of the two to create this: the 2015 Ford Explorer Sport with a 3.5-liter V6 with dual EcoBoost turbo power.
Style-wise, it's clear at first glance what's changed with the Explorer Sport, especially to those familiar with the now standard models. The body is still the same, though Ford gave the details a blacked out touch, one that amps up the look quite nicely. The grille, the chrome trim, the garnish on the tailgate, the wing mirrors and even the lettering on the leading edge of the hood are all in either black or dark gray. The doorhandles have also been de-chromed, as Ford replaced it with color keyed ones. Overall, the look of this Explorer really is worthy of the Sport moniker; aggressive yet simple and straightforward.
At first glance, I can spot the Sony audio system with the piano-black touch-sensitive panel, the panoramic glass roof and the comfort access key system with push start/stop. The Ford SYNC system that was developed with Microsoft's help has also been upgraded, significantly improving the response time between pressing the touchscreen LCD and the system carrying out the function. The voice command system is one of this SUV's (or CUV, rather) neatest party tricks, and can select any song, playlist or even call a person via Bluetooth just by saying so. Ford also installed a set of headrest monitors with individual USB and RCA video ports so the passengers in the back can enjoy their own movies.
It's still a three-row affair, allowing the Explorer to have 2 people in front, 3 in the middle and 2 in the back. The front seats are power adjustable and all the seats are wrapped in leather. Being a top spec model, this one comes with convenience of the motorized folding mechanism for the 3rd row, while the tailgate is also motorized. From the smart keyfob, the driver can open the tailgate or even start the engine as you walk up to the Explorer Sport.
For safety, this Explorer Sport comes with a blind spot warning system (lights on the wing mirrors to alert the driver to the presence of a vehicle in the blind spot) and adaptive cruise control (maintains a fixed distance to the car ahead on the highway). (Note: Review was corrected as Lane Departure Warning and Active Park Assist were not included in the Sport)
Prior variants of the Explorer had either the naturally aspirated 3.5L V6 or the turbocharged 2.0L Inline-4 EcoBoost. For the Sport, Ford put those two together, and the result was a very powerful twin-turbo intercooler 3.5L V6 EcoBoost motor. It's a massively powerful engine, making 365 PS of power at 5500 rpm and 475 Nm of torque at 3000 rpm. A 6-speed all-wheel drive transmission takes care of transferring the Explorer Sport's power to the road. Oh, and this one has four wheel drive with a Terrain Management system for many of the different driving surfaces most of us would encounter like sand or dirt. Somehow the “snow” mode might be a bit pointless here.
Acceleration is superb. Even though this Explorer Sport is the automotive equivalent of Wladimir Klitschko, it moves like it's Manny Pacquiao, being able to do naught to 100 km/h in just 7.3 seconds by our timer. There's a significant amount of torque steer if you activate the turbo a little too hard (i.e. foot to the floor), but other than that, it's a great powertrain to go fast in.
Straight line stability is good though keep in mind that this engine is sensitive to throttle input, so it's important to not mash the throttle so as not to get any torque steer on the highway. Visibility is a bit of a challenge given that the A-pillars are thick, but its easy to get used to; just be more careful when negotiating tricky parking lots. Handling is good thanks to the sportier suspension to better handle the power should you wish to have a bit of fun. It does stiffen up the ride a bit though.
Wondering about efficiency? Well, you might want to look elsewhere as the Explorer Sport does have a tendency to gargle fuel as expected of a big and powerful twin-turbo engine: 5.5 kilometers per liter in city traffic (19 km/h average). Fuel economy on the highway is decent at 10.6 kilometers to the liter (93 km/h average).