2013 Ford Explorer Sport
2013 Ford Explorer Sport. Click image to enlarge

First Drive: 2013 Nissan Pathfinder
Test Drive: 2011 Ford Explorer XLT 4WD
Quick Spin: 2012 Honda Pilot Touring
Test Drive: 2013 Ford Flex Limited AWD EcoBoost

Manufacturer’s web site
Ford Motor Company of Canada

Review and photos by Paul Williams

Photo Gallery:
2013 Ford Explorer

Ford Explorer fans will remember the last “Sport” version as basically a previous-generation, truck-based Explorer with two doors. My barber bought two in succession, thought they were the bee’s knees, and was disappointed to find that he couldn’t buy a new one at trade-in time. He liked that it was a two-door, and bought the idea that this made the Explorer sporty.

My barber knows hair. Sporty trucks, not so much.

That Explorer Sport died in 2003, and it’s unlikely that a two-door Explorer will ever return. But here we are, a decade later, and a new four-door 2013 Ford Explorer Sport debuts at a starting price of $48,299. Rather than being entry level like the old Sport, this one’s a top-of-the-line model, nothing like its older namesake.

2013 Ford Explorer Sport
2013 Ford Explorer Sport
2013 Ford Explorer Sport. Click image to enlarge

For a start, it’s genuinely sporty, featuring Ford’s 3.5L “Ecoboost” direct-injected and twin-turbocharged V6 engine that makes 365 hp at 5,500 rpm and 350 lb-ft or torque at between 1,500 and 5,500 rpm. Straight out of the Taurus SHO and specially tuned for the Explorer Sport, it’s mated to a six-speed “SelectShift” automatic transmission with paddle activation.

Complementing the drivetrain, the 2013 Explorer Sport features a true dual exhaust, a structurally reinforced chassis with sport-tuned electric power-assisted steering, larger brakes, a unique 3.16:1 final drive ratio and special 20-inch wheels of 9-inch width. Four-wheel drive with “Curve Control” and a sport-calibrated version of Ford’s “Terrain Management” with driver-selectable Normal, Snow, Sand, and Offroad modes are standard, and with a Class 3 trailer towing package ($500), you’re good to tow 2,272 kilograms (5,000 lb.).

The 2013 Explorer Sport also boasts good fuel economy for a vehicle of its power and size. Transport Canada official numbers are 13.2/8.8 L/100km, city/highway, while the US EPA rates it at 14.7/10.7 L/100km (we got 13 L/100km on our test loop). The old Explorer Sport (not that we’re making a direct comparison, but just for interest) generated a wheezy 210 hp from its V6 and delivered 15.6/11.1 L/100km on a good day, so you can see how far the Explorer Sport and the Explorer in general have come.

Exterior design follows that of the current Explorer, but a high gloss grille with contrasting low-gloss grey mesh inserts, various “blacked-out” exterior trim treatments and the unique black/polished wheels serve to easily identify the Sport model. Four metallic colours are available: red, white, silver, and black.

2013 Ford Explorer Sport
2013 Ford Explorer Sport. Click image to enlarge

Inside, black leather seating with contrasting stitching designed to suggest a handcrafted look is standard, but the same upholstery with “Sienna” brown inserts is a no-charge option. Unique steering wheel stitching, special appliqués to the instrument and doors, Sport-logo floormats, and illuminated scuff plates comprise the differences between the Explorer Sport and other Explorer models.

Although the 2013 Ford Explorer Sport isn’t comparable to something like the raucous Dodge Grand Cherokee SRT, one supposes Ford could legitimately have called this vehicle an Explorer SHO (it shares its platform with the Taurus and mimics some SHO design elements). According to the Bill Gubing, Chief Engineer for the 2013 Explorer Sport, this was discussed, although the nod went to “Sport,” rather than SHO, as this designation, along with similar performance upgrades, will migrate to other Ford truck models in the future.

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