Quick, Practical and High-Tech. Could such a thing exist?
If you get to combine all three, you have a recipe for a nicely-packaged automobile albeit carrying a premium price. Or perhaps not.
In today's fast-paced world, vehicles today are forced to become a jack of all trades. They have to fulfill multiple roles, come with cutting-edge technologies, be relatively spacious and they have to be fast on their feet too.
So what is Ford's answer to this conundrum? Enter the 2018 Explorer Sport. It packs a twin-turbo V6, has acres of interior space and comes fully loaded off the showroom floor. Does it have what it takes to satisfy the car buyer that wants everything? Let's find out.
See anything different? If you failed to recognize any particular changes don't worry. Both the Limited and the Sport have, more or less, the same exterior design. Sure it's still big and brawny like most American SUVs, but compared to designs nearly a decade ago the new Explorer now has a hint of elegance and maturity while still keeping its utilitarian image.
To make this stand out more than the mild-mannered Limited, Ford gave the Explorer Sport pre-dominantly blacked-out trim. For starters, the front grill is painted gloss black while the LED headlights come with black tinting. Also getting a black finish are the side mirror caps, door handles, roof rails and rear bumper garnish. Paired with the unique gray hue called Magnetic Metallic, the Explorer Sport always looks mean and ready for action.
All in all, the fifth-generation Explorer now looks modern and more upscale.
Climb aboard the Explorer and you are greeted by heaps of leather, soft-touch materials and array of high-tech equipment. The dashboard is particularly eye-catching thanks to its unique wraparound design. In fact, it's one of my favorite portions of the cabin. The upright center console may look bland but it does show every button needed to control the dual-zone climate control system, window defoggers, front camera, front and rear parking sensors and the audio system. Did I mention the Explorer also comes with heated / cooled seats?
Both the front seats, including the steering rack and pedals are electronically adjustable, nice touches if I do say so myself. Those that fancy a sunroof will be glad to know the Explorer has one and that it extends all the way to the second row. The third-row seats also benefit from a power function which makes them easier to deploy or stow away. Last but not the least, the tailgate can be opened remotely and can even be closed automatically too.
New on the Explorer Sport is the introduction of SYNC 3. It replaces the older SYNC 2 system and features a tablet-like interface along with quicker processing speeds. The system supports AM/FM radio, CD, USB, Aux and also Bluetooth. Should you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, fret not as SYNC 3 comes equipped with navigation. Beside operating the 12-speaker sound system, SYNC 3 also allows drivers to manage the climate control system, rear air-conditioning and the Explorer's security features as such.
Looking for acres of space? The Explorer has plenty available and then some. Occupants that are over 6 foot tall will not have any problems getting comfy at the back. There is also generous legroom and elbowroom for all three passengers at the second row. Need to charge your smartphone or laptop? The Explorer comes equipped with two USB charging ports as well as a 230V power socket.
As for the third-row seats, there is space still but they're mostly for young adults, kids or people with short stature. In case you need more legroom at the very back, the second row seats can be slid forward to provide additional space.
Under the hood is a twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 that displaces 3.5-liters. Peak power of 370 PS is achieved at 5500 rpm while torque is rated at 475 Nm at 3500 rpm. Compared to the 2.3-liter inline-four EcoBoost, the V6 churns out 96 PS and 67 Nm more than its four-cylinder brethren. All that power is then routed through an all-wheel drive system and six-speed SelectShift automatic transmission.
So what is it like to drive a crossover with nearly 400 PS and more than 450 Nm of pulling power? Well despite weighing more than 2250 kg, it's quick on its feet. Put the pedal to the floor and gobs of power are sent immediately to all four wheels. Overtaking other cars on the highway proved to be a cinch for the Explorer Sport thanks to the twin-turbo engine and quick-shifting transmission.
The automatic gearbox does come with manual-select (by throwing the transmission to Sport Mode), but it was doing a nice job of going about its business that I left it in 'Drive' most of the time. But should the driver want to take control of each gear, the Explorer comes standard with paddle shifters.
When you're done driving spiritedly, the Explorer Sport actually makes for a great long-distance cruiser. At a steady 95 km/h, the engine was just turning over at around 2000 rpm. Coupled to a unibody platform, the Explorer simply wafts along highways and expressways with ease.
While fuel economy is not exactly the Explorer Sport's forte, the AWD Explorer was able to average 12.0 – 13.0 km/l on the highway. Around the city, expect fuel figures to hover around 6.0 – 8.0 km/l. Should you be stuck in traffic most of the time, the Explorer will only be able to return about 4.0 km/l.
Given its hefty size, manuevering the Explorer around narrow streets can be rather unnerving. The Explorer does make up for this with generous outside visibility and a relatively light steering courtesy of an electronic-power assisted system. Compared to the pre-facelift Explorer, driving the updated model gave me more confidence taking on corners and sweeping bends. Sure it's not the type of vehicle you'd want to carve a mountain road with, but it is capable nonetheless.
With the help of all-wheel drive, the Explorer Sport actually felt planted wherever it went. Torque steer is still quite evident but it's not as bad compared to the front-wheel drive Limited. But then again, the Explorer does come with a myriad of safety tech like traction control, roll-stability control, anti-lock brakes and hill-launch assist. The Explorer Sport even comes with Ford's intelligent Terrain Management System. This meant the Explorer can take on muddy landscapes, rocky roads and even sandy dunes. The system can also be set for snow should you find yourself in cold winter in the Philippines.
As far as ride quality is concerned, the Explorer Sport rode slightly bumpier compared to the Limited which had a softer ride. That's because the V6 Sport comes with a stiffer suspension setup which allows it to take on corners better. While riding comfort could have been better, the Explorer Sport still delivered a somewhat admirable ride quality thanks to its unibody crossover construction.
Some might say the 20-inch wheels are why the Explorer Sport has a stiffer ride. But do remember the Limited version also rolls on 20-inch alloys albeit sporting a different design altogether. Both even have the same kind of rubber, Hankook Ventus S1 Noble tires.
So much how will this piece of Americana set you back? Php 3,118,000. Sure, it carries a premium price but considering the level of equipment it has, along with its very potent powertrain, the Ford Explorer Sport is still a value-packed seven-seater.
Beside the other features that I've already mentioned earlier, the Explorer Sport also comes with the following: automatic LED headlights, front and rear cameras, adaptive cruise control, remote engine start, memory seat function for the driver, dual headrest-mounted DVD entertainment displays, keyless smart entry, multi-info display with tripmeter and fuel economy meter, blind-spot monitoring system, rear cross traffic alert, tire pressure monitoring system and a host of airbags.
If you're the kind that wants to go fast, have every kind of amenity or feature except for the kitchen sink and still have enough room for the wife and kids, I highly recommend you check out the Ford Explorer Sport.