By on October 2, 2012

Want a quick, agile, fun-to-drive vehicle you can stuff a bunch of kids into? Ford has what you’re looking for. Just one catch: you’ll have to move to Europe. Not that Ford sees no market here for a swift seven-seater. They do, just not for one like the S-Max. Instead, for 2013 we receive the Explorer Sport. CEO Alan Mulally’s “One Ford” vision apparently acknowledges that some models must remain regional. Here’s what real Americans want in a high-performance crossover…

Paint it black

You can slap “Sport” on just about anything. When you really mean it, you paint everything black: grille, mirrors, window trim, wheels, luggage rack. Though the wheels might be a bit much (more attractive dubs are available on the 2013 Limited), overall the sport treatment suits the Explorer’s clean, muscular shape. It’s a handsome beast.

But not so black on the inside

Ford didn’t go so black inside the Explorer Sport, aside from offering the interior only in charcoal (with optional brown seat inserts). Most of the trim is the same silver-painted plastic used in other Explorers, not the more fashion forward “piano black” sort. The touch-sensitive control panel for the 390-watt Sony audio system is piano black, but both the panel and the system are the same as in an Explorer Limited.

Materials are mostly worthy of the Explorer Sport’s price, with the doors and instrument panel squishy to the touch. Exceptions include switches and shift paddles on the steering wheel that feel insubstantial and obviously fake stitching on the doors’ armrests.

The interior forms are as tastefully clean as in any Audi, with none of the polarizing details common inside GM, Hyundai, and Toyota vehicles. Visual interest is provided by the MyFord Touch three-screen light show, with its vibrant multi-color graphics (and continued, if reduced, usability issues). A note to both GM and Ford: don’t recess touch screens that have “buttons” along the bottom edge.

Bigger is better

Both GM and Ford ran the numbers, then ran them again, and perhaps a third time after that. Each time they arrived at the same conclusion: Americans have no interest in Euro-style seven-seat MPVs. In adapting the Freestyle / Taurus X to create a crossover Americans were more likely to buy, Ford shaved three inches from the length (to yield 197.1) but added two to the height (70.4) and four to the width (78.9). You can’t buy a beamier Ford without a bed – even the gargantuan Expedition EL is a skosh narrower. The Explorer Sport’s driving position is sized for a giant. Everything appears massive. The second row isn’t quite as roomy, but unlike those in most competitors it is comfortably high off the floor. The third row? If you need it to be comfortable for adults, and everyone is toting a couple of bags, forget about sport entirely and get an Expedition EL. But if kids are going in the way back and everyone’s judicious in their packing, the Explorer will do.

Comfort is king

The pervasive black paint is about as hardcore as the Explorer Sport gets. The seats are no firmer than those in the regular Explorer. Nor are their bolsters better endowed. They’re the same seats. And they’re excellent, large and cushy but with proper support. After two hours behind the wheel, my troublesome back was no trouble at all.

The Explorer’s roof pillars might make even GM’s stoutest appear flimsy, but for Sport duty a little more structure was deemed necessary. A couple of cross-car braces have been added. In another sign that “Sport” might mean something this time, the 265/45R20 tires are available in Y-rated three-season form (for $995). And the suspension and steering have been firmed up. But, like the related Taurus SHO, the Explorer Sport is no track day special. Comfort remains a higher priority than handling, and aside from some tire patter and a touch of whine on concrete (with the optional tires, at least) the ride can hardly be faulted. Kick the speed up well past the legal limit and you still feel like you’re barely moving.

Safety is queen

With the firmed-up chassis the Explorer Sport behaves well when the road turns. It doesn’t have a choice. “Curve control” modulates the throttle and brakes to keep the crossover well within its limits. Requests from your right foot are treated as suggestions. The system isn’t terribly obtrusive. You don’t feel the yank in the chain. You just push down the go pedal post-apex, and nothing extra happens until the steering is unwound. I requested a “Sport” option on the standard “Terrain Management System” to disable or at least dial back the electronic overlord. The chief engineer’s muted response suggested that this isn’t going to happen. Do memories of the 2001 rollover debacle remain too fresh?

Granted, the curve control system still allows the Explorer Sport to be pitched through curves more aggressively than your significant other will like. When so pitched, lean is moderate, body motions are well controlled, and the electronics (torque vectoring in additional to the curve control system) effectively limit plow. But there’s just enough indecisiveness in the steering and not-quite-rightness to the axes of rotation (the electronics cannot entirely mask the inherent dynamics of the chassis) that my confidence was crimped. I knew the Explorer Sport would behave properly, but I didn’t feel it in my gut the way I do with a BMW X5 or even a Cadillac Escalade.

The all-wheel-drive system has been tweaked for the Sport, but the most it can do is lock the center differential and so shunt 50 percent of the torque aft. There’s nothing like an active rear differential to really make things interesting. This would be pointless without a way to get the Curve Control to back off.

Sport = moar powah

These days, the fastest European and Japanese cars also tend to be big and heavy. But in the postwar decades this was a very American formula. No matter how big or how heavy the vehicle, it could be made to accelerate quickly, and this was what driving enthusiasm was really about. With 365 horsepower to move its 2.5 tons, the Explorer Sport accelerates briskly. You can rev this engine with no ill effects, but it’s really in its element in the midrange. Need some speed to pass on a two-lane or hop onto the freeway? You’ll have it before you realize it, and once you realize it you’ll be scanning the rearview mirror for flashing lights.

Given its hefty curb weight and level of insulation, the Explorer Sport would need even more power to feel brutally quick in the manner of a BMW X5 M or Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8. This isn’t likely to happen. There’s only so much the transverse transmission can handle, and that amount seems to be 350 pound-feet (and this much only through extra protection afforded by special lubricants and sophisticated electronic controls). In the F-150 pickup, with a longitudinal transmission, the EcoBoost V6 peaks at 420 pound-feet, and even that number is likely well short of the engine’s potential. Aftermarket tuners could add 100 horsepower, easy. But how long would the transaxle then last?

Gas isn’t a buck a gallon anymore

Pitching a 365-horsepower engine as a solution for (rather than the source of) fuel efficiency concerns—brilliant! What will marketeers think of next, chocolate cookies and cakes as diet foods? (Oh, wait…) At least they come by the claim somewhat honestly. The boosted engine doesn’t quite match the EPA ratings of its naturally-aspirated 290-horsepower relation, but at 16 city and 22 highway the penalty is a single mile per gallon. The Dodge Durango’s 360-horsepower V8 lags far behind, with 13 city and 20 highway. This assumes you don’t push the V6 too hard. Turbos pump up power by forcing more air into an engine, making it inhale as much as a larger, unboosted engine. At which point it will also burn as much fuel as a larger, unboosted engine. After driving the related Taurus SHO hard around a winding loop, I observed “5.8 AVG MPG” on the trip computer.

Fords should be affordable

Back in the day, Ford NA built ‘em cheap and stacked ‘em deep. With a few rare, unsuccessful exceptions, this kept our shores safe from pricey FoE models. Lately, though, Ford has loftier aspirations. They’re largely leaving the cheap seats for others. If you want a 365-horsepower crossover with semi-premium trimmings, the bill starts at $41,545. You can get captain’s chairs, nav, and a panoramic sunroof as standalone options, but others are bundled into a $4,130 package. The tested vehicle included this package, the summer performance tires, and extra-cost red paint (which suits the shape well), but not the sunroof or captain’s, for a grand total of $47,065.

The Explorer Sport doesn’t come with quite as much standard as the Limited AWD. Its base price is only $865 higher, but adjusting for feature differences using TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool bumps this to $1,790. This seems beyond reasonable for a pair of turbos and the other tweaks.

When the Explorer Sport’s chief engineer was asked which vehicles most directly compete with his car, he suggested the Dodge Durango R/T and the Land Rover Ranger Rover Sport HSE. Noticing some head scratchers amongst the assembled media, he added that a large number of Land Rover owners have been trading down into the Explorer. Who knew there were even a large number of Land Rover owners? Looking at the comparison that makes some sense, a Durango R/T lists for $1,240 less before adjusting for feature differences, and $2,110 less afterwards.

Aside from the Durango, only premium European brands offer a seven-seat crossover with EcoBoost V6-level power. The Explorer Sport can’t match the X5 in terms of handling, but an ML550 is a different story. When both the Ford and Mercedes are loaded up, the latter is exactly $25,000 more before adjusting for feature differences, $23,000 more afterwards. So while the Explorer Sport isn’t exactly affordable, it is relatively affordable.

So, where do you want to live?

Many of us connected the dots a couple of years ago, when Ford introduced a new Explorer based on the same platform that underpins the Taurus and Flex, but without the option of the EcoBoost engine offered in those models. Apparently someone inside Ford thought it insufficient to add a pair of snails to the six and call it a day, as was done with the Flex and a pair of related Lincolns. Instead, they waited a couple of model years so they might offer a complete package along the lines of the Taurus SHO. The package still isn’t quite complete, as the Sport’s handling is overly hobbled, but it’s nevertheless well worth its additional cost.

Even if Curve Control could be disabled, the list of agile three-row vehicles is a short one, and this 4,921 pound beastie wouldn’t be on it. In the U.S., the list pretty much begins and ends with the Mazda5. In Europe, it’s a little longer.

On the other hand, the Explorer Sport offers a combination of power, space, and comfort that you simply cannot get from a non-premium brand in Europe. What is more needed in a three-row crossover, these things, or agile handling? Maybe fecund European driving enthusiasts should be moving here.

Ford provided the vehicle along with an excellent lunch at a media event.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta.com, an online source of car reliability and pricing information.

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65 Comments on “Review: 2013 Ford Explorer Sport...”


  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Impressive people hauler. Still give me a Flex Ecobost! (Except my wife would probably get so many tickets driving the sucker they’d take her license away.)

  • avatar
    86SN2001

    Just what we need. A Explorer that drinks fuel like a V8, but from a V6.

    And has Ford fixed the steering issue with the Explorers where they completely lose steering until you restart the appliance?

    And whatever happened to the Egoboost costing $700?

    What a boondoggle.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      Once again, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for yet another negative review from you on anything Ford makes. Can you show me where the the V6 gets worse mileage than a V8? If the engine dies on ANYTHING with power steering, that vehicle becomes difficult to drive.
      I have real life experience owning and running a small fleet of Ford trucks. I know their foibles and features. I sir have deep suspicions you a base fanboi who makes cheap shots and snarks about anything perceived wrong with any Ford product never failing to totally believe the wildest internet to support your mental masturbation.
      In the real world, not your mom’s basement/trailer court of your residence, faults are identified, fixed, and people go to work. Consistently coming unto a car blog and consistently talking negatively may make you want to rub your swollen nipples; but it impresses very few.

      • 0 avatar
        Loser

        +1
        Very well stated el scotto.

      • 0 avatar
        86SN2001

        A magazine tested TWO identical F-150s. One with the V8, one with the thirsty Egoboost V6.

        The Egoboost got WORSE mileage than the V8. So much for 20% better.

        And if you would educate yourself about the Explorer a bit, you would know that when you lose electric assist steering in a (Ford) vehicle, the force required to turn that when is drastically higher than a hydraulic unit. The wheel is almost impossibe to turn.

        And yet, Ford ignores the defect, as usual.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        From tests of the EB Taurus Interceptor and EB F-150, along with reports from owners, it seems to be that when towing/hauling or under heavy acceleration the Ford turbo gets the same or worse fuel economy than the comparable V8.

        However, when idling or moving around under less extreme conditions the 3.5EB does give better fuel economy.

        So if you drive like Baruth or are always hooked up to a trailer you might not be happy with the Ecoboost.

      • 0 avatar
        Hoser

        Relax and remain calm, it’s just P71, Matt, Z71_Silvey, etc.. back with another user name. Easy to spot, just look for “Egoboost”, and “V6 with the fuel economy of a V8″ in every post. He’s been banned before and certainly will be again.

      • 0 avatar
        igve2shtz

        86SN2001,

        Re-read the Motor Trend article, or any other article from MT or C&D – The EcoBoost should not be compared to the 5.0 but rather the 6.2L. So effectively, you are getting 6.2L power (hence why the towing cabacity of the EB equals the towing capacity of the 6.2) at 5.0L (or smaller) economy. You are dead set comparing horsepower to horsepower, but try comparing the torque of the EB to that of the 5.0 and the 6.2L.

        Given that 90% of the time my truck remains unloaded, and I am just cruising, I would rather a twin turbo V6 any day over the thirstier V8′s. If I were towing/hauling 90% of the time, I would own a Super Duty.

        All of Ford’s engines have a specific place, and a clientiele. If the owner is too dumb to to know his specific needs, and chooses the bad engine, then blame the owner. Don’t blame Ford for giving smart consumers options.

      • 0 avatar
        86SN2001

        Ford compares the Egoboost to the 5.3L from GM.

        FORD does. Therefore, I will continue to compare it to the 5.0.

    • 0 avatar

      The EPA ratings are actually a touch better than those for my 263-horsepower Taurus X. So it drinks gas like a V6, just a V6 in a tall, heavy, AWD vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      tuffjuff

      @86SN2001

      You have no idea what you’re talking about. Shut up and go away.

      • 0 avatar
        86SN2001

        That’s you’re only retort?

        How insightful.

        For the record, I know exactly what I’m talking about. Don’t ignore the truth.

      • 0 avatar
        cdakost

        “Dont ignore the truth.”

        Then why do you?

      • 0 avatar
        86SN2001

        I don’t. I’m just restating what’s already out there.

        http://www.motortrend.com/oftheyear/truck/1202_2012_truck_of_the_year_ford_f_150/specs.html?ti=v2

        Just look at the fuel economy. Don’t deny that this is a V6 that gets V8 mileage.

        Don’t you know that the EPA only requires one rear gear ratio to be tested per engine. Thus a 3.15 Egoboost may, with a tail wind get the EPA numbers (although I bet Ford tweaks their trucks juist for the EPA test). But in reality, lower geared Egoboost trucks will get SIGNIFICANTLY lower mileage.

        So, to recap:

        With Egoboost you get a far more complicated, high strung, gas guzzling V6 that is more expensive to repair and maintain. All for MORE money and in the real world, it costs more in fuel.

        And has Ford figured out all of the issues with the Egoboost 3.5 yet?

        Bold moves indeed.

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    After 5 years of front wheel drive CUV ownership, I’m apprehensive of regularly using either the current Explore or one of GM Lambas on unpaved roads. Ford also has a history of FWD automatic transmissions being problematic before 100K. So, it will be a Dakota for me, next time around.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      Do you mean a used Dodge or a DC-3 ;)

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      The weak point in all of these vehicles is the mechanism for transferring power to the rear wheels . . . clutch pack, viscous coupling, whatever. They fact is that none of them work very well and considering any of these as substitutes for a classic four-wheel drive vehicle is a mistake. Oddly, my AWD Toyota Previa (primarily a RWD vehicle) seemed more capable in snow than my Honda Pilot (primarily a FWD vehicle), and that’s with both vehicles equipped with true snow tires, not all-seasons. I recall some car mag doing a test of these faux 4wd “crossovers” in sand. In short order, every one of the transfer mechanisms failed.

      When I replace the Pilot, I will be sorely tempted to skip the extra cost (and fuel penalty) of the AWD system and just go FWD. Or if I think I really need 4wd, then go with a Jeep.

    • 0 avatar
      mikeg216

      You are worried about quality control, so you are buying a Chrysler product?! Your logic escapes me…..

      • 0 avatar
        Pinzgauer

        The Pilot has a different system than the RealTime 4WD in the CRV and Element. Its called VTM-4. It can deliver up to 53% power to the rear wheels.

        http://mypage.siu.edu/jeepster/vtm4.html

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Please tell me it has manual HVAC and radio controls.

  • avatar
    dolorean

    “In adapting the Freestyle / Taurus X to create a crossover Americans were more likely to buy, Ford shaved three inches from the length (to yield 197.1) but added two to the height (70.4) and four to the width (78.9). You can’t buy a befier Ford without a bed. – even the gargantuan Expedition EL is a skosh narrower.”

    Strange and awkward sentence. Had to read it several times to realize that you weren’t talking about the Freestyle/Taurus X but the Explorer being built for a giant.

    Can’t imagine owning a vehicle that is WIDER than an Expedition!! My two car garage barely fits the ’95 Cobra and ’10 Mazda 5 parked next to each other. And can imagine the FUN that Exploer will be to park at the crowded grocery store.

    • 0 avatar

      All fixed, thanks.

      It is only a tenth of an inch wider than the Expedition, so they’re virtually the same.

      FWIW, the legal limit before lights must be attached to the cab roof (or below the leading edge of the hood, if it’s high enough, e.g. the Raptor) is 80 inches.

    • 0 avatar
      cdakost

      We have a new Explorer that replaced a Freestyle. Putting the two inside the garage together was an interesting dance but not difficult once you got use to it.

      • 0 avatar
        dolorean

        I hope I haven’t belied an impression that I didn’t like the Explorer Sport. Dig the new look and the more solidness of a what was already a pretty solid package. However, I have to admit I thought it strange to see an Explorer Sport with four doors not the usual two-door setup. Kinda like seeing a new Camry wagon without the twin-rear windscreen wipers.

  • avatar
    Dan

    I like big sleepers and the Explorer cures the Taurus SHO’s only absolute deal breaker, its colossal center console.

    The Durango and JGC are cheaper with a better sounding engine and more comfortable interiors but Chrysler’s antique transmission remains a deal breaker for at least another 6 months until the 2014s get here.

    A 5000 lb, 365 hp tank that gets 6 mpg when you step on it and only just breaks 20 when you don’t really ought to hold more than 18.5 gallons. The Durango takes 25.

    • 0 avatar

      To get 6 MPG you’ve got to step on it hard a few times a mile…

      I didn’t compare the JGC because it lacks a third row. Until that new, much-needed transmission arrives, the Explorer Sport feels considerably quicker.

  • avatar
    Loser

    If I were in the market for one of these I’d take the Durango. Maybe I’m stuck in the stone ages but I’d rather have power made by a V-8 with none of the added complication the EcoBoost adds.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      Hmmm….40k-50k midsized Explorers with so-so fuel economy, bland everything inside and out (the singular theme of Ford’s awful mono-gauge is becoming a bad joke), and a spotty reliability record…

      Here’s a question: What does this vehicle do that many, many vehicles, with unquestionably better ones in the mix, not do, often at significantly lower prices?

      Ford is a blue collar car maker with a blue oval badge now trying premium pricing on the back of gimmicky on-board-gadgetry on a battlefield that hasn’t been this competitive since, well…ever.

      VW & Toyota have just begun to implement their quest for market share gains even if it means ramping up incentive spending in a manner no one could or did predict even 5 years ago.

      Ford had better cut even more jobs and balance its factory output towards lower units, and then hope fat margins on fewer sales can keep them from bleeding out (this has been tried by many, and if you lack a truly in vogue badge that carries prestige, it doesn’t work since automakers face massive capital cost structures requiring massive economies of scale), if they wish to survive the oncoming price wars from Toyota & VW (never mind the already ongoing one from Hyundai).

      Mullaly has positioned Ford to succeed under Mark Fields so long as Ford transforms the blue oval badge into one that any Audi-phile would warmingly embrace.

      I’ve seen this play before, and it always, inevitably ends as the same Greek tragedy.

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        You can get a base Explorer for mid to upper $20K range after incentives. The Durango, Highlander, Acadia, and Pilot all fall into a similar pricing range to the Explorer when similarly equipped. You can’t compare loaded models to base models when it comes to pricing – almost all of these full size CUVs tend to almost kiss the $50K mark fully loaded.

        Flexible assembly lines will certainly help Ford balance production. The Chicago Assembly where the Explorer is built also builds the Police Interceptor Utility, Taurus (and police version) and the Lincoln MKS. The vehicles built in that plant totaled over 20K sales this month.

        Ford isn’t transitioning to some boutique luxury brand – there is still major volume of production and sales across the brand. Focusing some on profit per sale instead of pure numbers makes sense. The old GM ‘we lose a little bit on every car but make it up in volume’ chestnut never really worked.

        Hyundai’s recent success has come from a similar strategy. Current Hyundai’s are quite a bit nicer and quite a bit pricier than the similar models available 5 years ago. It’s a strategy that can work no matter which way the economy turns – if things get better you get the buyers who want to splurge a bit on something nicer than what they have, and if things stay moribund it gives the buyers looking to reduce costs from traditional luxury brands a similar ownership experience at a substantially reduced cost.

      • 0 avatar
        86SN2001

        Deadweight, you NAILED it.

        Nice to see some refereshing logic around here.

      • 0 avatar
        Thinx

        nullomodo said: “It’s a strategy that can work no matter which way the economy turns – if things get better…”

        I don’t think anyone needs to worry about that “if the economy gets better” case, really. Everything is going to hell in a shitbasket, and mostly by design – so it is probably more important to shore up their downmarket strategy.

        The employed middle-class with some discretionary dollars – which is where this product is aimed – will be hit HARD by the tax increases in 2013, at the same time when the recession gets worse AND when QEInfinity is killing the purchasing power of their stagnant or declining wages.

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        “Ford had better cut even more jobs…”

        I’m neither a union member nor an assembly line worker, but I remain puzzled by this: Why are so many people on this board so hell-bent to exterminate American jobs and labor union rights?

        I swear, you’d think they all had an uncle who was a guest at Romney’s 47% luncheon.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        You’ve grossly miscomprehended what I wrote.

        I didn’t state nor even imply that I wished for Ford (or any other company, whether Ford or The Dutch East India Company [Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, VOC]) to lay more people off.

        I simply stated that Ford will almost inevitably do such a thing if their increasingly premium-esque pricing model crimps their unit volume sales (their sales are now flat YoY, by the way), and they can’t make up for the lack of revenue on lower volume with even more premium-er priced products being successfully sold.

        As I’ve said, automotive manufacturing probably has the highest capital cost structure of any type of business in the world.

      • 0 avatar
        chimoman

        Blah Blah Blah……..

  • avatar
    Manic

    Well, Europeans could buy S-Max, either 240 hp Ecoboost, 7,6/7,9 sec (man/aut)0-62 mph or 200 hp diesel aut., 8,9 sec. And Ford’s not premium brand here. Ford’s bean counters have also decided (quite rightly) that no-one would buy Explorer here esp. with that gas mileage.

  • avatar
    86er

    Michael,

    How is Ford explaining the presence of the Flex in their lineup with the revised Explorer?

    • 0 avatar

      They see the Explorer as an SUV and the Flex as a crossover. There’s also more room inside the Flex. But I can’t see the Flex going into a second generation. An extended length Explorer seems more likely.

      • 0 avatar
        SC5door

        You mean the Expedition EL?

        Ford sees the Explorer as a 4wd Wagon….hence the fancy Terrain Response dial….I mean traction control system.

      • 0 avatar

        Actually I meant an extended length Explorer. (Have edited my comment.) With Escape, Explorer, Expedition it’s to easy to type the wrong one.

        If the Flex were dropped I can see them offering a variant of the Explorer with 6-9 more inches of length, to expand the rear seat and cargo room. This is what Hyundai is doing with the 2013 Santa Fe, except the short one doesn’t have a third row.

      • 0 avatar
        mikeg216

        How bout a new excursion? So that way I can buy a reasonably used one. The prices on them are astronomical, I know Ford has to see this.

    • 0 avatar
      chimoman

      Why should they have to explain anything. They have awesome looking vehicles that people buy. Guess what. The consumers make or break a vehicle. More people buy ford vehicles. Ford is stepping up and providing hi tech vehicles for prices way below Acura and BMW. I have owned Acuras and BMW’s and Audi vehicles. I now own an Explorer Sport. It kicks ass with the turbo V6 and my MFT is working awesome. I much prefer it to the other vehicles. For all you bashers and GM Dodge Fan bois who come on here. Shove a sock in your mouth or bite the pillow. Ford has some winning vehicles that are outselling everyone. Bite down hard. It’s gonna be a long bumpy ride in your DURSTRANGEO.

  • avatar
    BlanketSlayer

    Michael if you had to choose between this and the Flex ecoboost, which is the better drive? They seem to be similarly priced but the Flex has much better 2nd and 3rd row space. I personally plan on replacing my Sienna with a Flex ecoboost as I love a sleeper and the Explorer makes me feel claustrophobic despite being such a large vehicle.

    • 0 avatar

      The Explorer handles a little better than the Flex and doesn’t feel as large, but I’d probably go with the Flex for the additional space and less massive pillars (which are likely the cause of your claustrophobia).

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        Overall I prefer the Flex as well. The seats are more comfortable, and I like the interior/exterior styling more.

        One area where the Explorer does do better is in the position of the dead pedal. I find the dead pedal in the Flex to be too intrusive, and it forces my left foot into an awkward angle. It’s not a complaint I’ve ever heard from a customer though, so for shorter drivers or those with smaller feet it might not be an issue.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      I’m with Mike as well. The Flex is a much more usable and comfortable vehicle with essentially the same powertrain.

      • 0 avatar
        dolorean

        Yeah but a Flex in Ford black livery looks funereal enough to pass as a hearse. You also lose a bit of ground clearance, though don’t know how much difference that really makes.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    “Kick the speed up well past the legal limit and you still feel like you’re barely moving.”

    Michael, you just hit my pet peeve with all these SUV/CUV/Trucks: They’re too easy to drive…FAST…and unsafely. Too many drivers don’t realize that when you lose perception of speed and handling ability, you can get into trouble ridiculously fast.

    I will admit that the technology makes these and other beasts easy and perhaps even a pleasure to drive, but at what cost? If you got it, flaunt it, I guess – as long as one is willing to pay the price. More power – literally and figuratively to you!

    These reviews just keep getting better and better.

  • avatar
    niky

    Sucks that you can’t turn off Curve Control on the Sport. That’s my biggest pet peeve with the Explorer. Sure, it really does work, and keeps things shiny side up no matter how incompetent the driver is, but it really adds a very palpable and omnipresent layer of nanny-ism…

    If you want a competent seven-seater that likes to be hustled, the Explorer’s Japanese cousin, the CX9, fits the bill better.

    -

    And really… that cabin. It’s sized for “pro” wrestlers and NBA centers. I can’t hang my elbow out the window!

  • avatar
    RobertRyan

    I wonder if someone has thought of why Europeans buy few SUV’s and a lot of Diesels at Ford’s HQ in Detroit? Europe is in financial meltdown and they bring out a Sports SUV? No wonder the Company is going backwards in Europe end now globally.

  • avatar
    Mr Nosy

    “Nor are their bolsters better endowed than the regular Explorer.”
    LOL? No,however I did CTM-Chuckle To Myself. Either way,this new unit will be a competitive addition to the market segment that delivers more rush hour,flip top,freeway traffic tie-ups per mile,than any other segment.*

    *Among those consumers surveyed who purchase vehicles based on the facts that they are,like, higher? So they’re,like, safer? And,like, because you can,like,tolly see upcoming obstacles and stuff easier? And like,be able to like,react way sooner and stuff.

  • avatar
    Coley

    I’ve ridden in the new Explorer (not the Sport) when it was our rental car. It was fine, but I don’t get it. Please forgive the excessively boring, practical, “if-you-have-to-ask-you-don’t-get-it” nature of this question, but could someone tell me why I, with a family of five, should have considered the Explorer Crossover over an Odyssey or Sienna for $10k less. We’ve got more interior space, more comfort, more practicality, and better fuel economy.

    What am I missing?

    • 0 avatar
      AKADriver

      Speaking as an Odyssey owner myself, I don’t see it either.

      This Sport model of course offers massive power and faux-sportiness in the form of a coal-bin interior and 265/45R-dubs. But the Explorer most people buy has about the same power as our vans, carrying around an extra 500lb or so, with a much smaller third row seat. My family consists of four adults and two small kids – a cramped third row isn’t an option. How is this preferable?

      In my experience, my Odyssey even handles better, on its 16″ steelies. I may have a skinny plastic steering wheel rim and mouse fur seats, but this van has honest steering feel and never feels tippy even when thrown hard enough to engage the stability control. I’d love to see what the actual center of gravity is, compared to the average 7-seat crossover.

      Toyota even now offers a Sienna SE with the requisite sporty black grille…

      All I’ve gathered from the constant assertion that Americans won’t drive an MPV is that I must secretly not be American.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re missing something if you think an Explorer costs $10k more than an Odyssey. 2012 Odysseys range from a base of $28k to $43,825 for Touring Elite. Explorers sticker from $28k to $39,855 for a Limited AWD.

      The rest of it is preference. It’s great that you prefer space or whatever the Odyssey offers you, but there is no $10,000 difference.

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      Well, the ugliness of the Odyssey is one reason not to buy one. The Sienna is a lot better looking, but I didn’t like it near as much as I did the Explorer a friend had as a loaner. No, it wasn’t a sport, but was loaded way up in options. I like it a lot. Never thought I would say that about an Explorer. I never liked the past ones at all.

    • 0 avatar
      niky

      Missing? The fact that you can’t recline an Odyssey seat to rest in while in traffic without cracking your spine? I don’t know who designed the reclining backrests on the Odyssey, but he can’t have been human.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    “But I can’t see the Flex going into a second generation.”

    That would be sad….

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    For 47 large that sure is one rather dull plebeian looking interior.

  • avatar
    sideshowtom98

    I think the price of the Explorer Sport is very hard to justify. Go to True Delta and look at the Explorer’s in general abysmal service record. That should be the end of your consideration of Explorer, it was mine.

    I finally ended up with a KIA Sorento SX AWD V6. It has almost every option, including heated and ventilated drivers seat, seat and mirror memory, panoramic sun roof, infinity sound, and leather interior. For this I paid $32K plus tax. The vehicle weighs 4200#’s, has VVT, a locking differential for off reading, hill descent control, and it drives great. It has given me about 27 MPG on highways, 19.5 around town, and 23 combined. I also get a 5/60 warranty, and a 10/100 power train warranty.

    I never thought I would own a KIA, but I as did test drives for 7 passenger SUV’s and crossovers, the process of quality, price, value, and reliability this is where the road led. After 3 months I am very pleased.


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