A whole lotta SUV

2013 Ford Explorer Sport 4WD Review

By Miranda Lightstone
2013 Ford Explorer Sport 4WD Review

Summary Rating: 79%

Styling

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Accessories

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Space and Access

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Comfort

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Performance

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Driving Dynamics

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Safety

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General Appreciation

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Big everything
The glory days of the large SUV seem to be passing us by. As the crossover craze takes over and family sedans start offering up just as much room and comfort (and a boat-load better fuel economy), the SUV seems to be going the way of flip-phone; replace by smaller, sleeker, more efficient models.

However, all is not lost. The likes of the 2013 Ford Explorer Sport is proof that the SUV breed is still alive and kicking. Since its ’11 redesign, the Ford Explorer has forged an SUV-sized path in the marketplace, and with good reason. And if anyone is going to forge ahead in the big-vehicle market it’s going to be Ford, a leader in the segment for decades now.


What is the Ford Explorer?

First introduced in 1990, the Ford Explorer paved the way for the popularity of the SUV. For the first 20 years, Ford’s Explorer sported a traditional body-on-frame structure. It wasn’t until the fifth generation (2011 model year) that the crossover unibody construction emerged.

2013 Ford Explorer Sport
First introduced in 1990, the Ford Explorer paved the way for the popularity of the SUV. (Photo: Philippe Champoux)

2013 Ford Explorer Sport Price and Specs
Four models are available across the Ford Explorer lineup. In base trim, the starting price sits at $29,999. At the top of the spectrum sits my tester, the 2013 Ford Explorer Sport for $48,499.

There are also three engines available across the lineup: a 3.5L V6, a 2.0L inline-4 EcoBoost and a 3.5L V6 EcoBoost. We’ll focus on the last since that was the one nestled in my Sport tester.

This fabulous engine features twin turbochargers and direct injection good for 365 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque that is coupled to Ford’s 6-speed SelectShift Automatic transmission.

The Ford Explorer can also tow up to 2,268 kg, which means this can also be an ideal weekend country or camping warrior.

2013 Ford Explorer Sport 3/4 view
I was more than impressed with the amount of powered offered up from the EcoBoost V6 powerplant. (Photo: Philippe Champoux)

Driving the 2013 Ford Explorer Sport
If nothing else, the new Ford Explorer is big, and it drives just as large. However, despite that, I was more than impressed with the amount of powered offered up from the EcoBoost V6 powerplant. Truly, this thing’s got some kick. Fast off the line, the transmission is happy to play and quick to shift, the Sport is just that: sporty.

I have to mention the interior space in the drive section for a moment because it was just that cavernous. After finding my ideal driving position, I found I actually had to lean to one side or the other to place my elbow on either rest, so large was the space. Comfortable to say the least, it was almost too big.

The V6 sounds great, and the ride is comfortable. This is a great road-trip vehicle, or short-trip-to-the-store ride.

2013 Ford Explorer Sport interior
Comfortable to say the least, it was almost too big. (Photo: Philippe Champoux)

Inside and Out of the 2013 Ford Explorer Sport
As I said above, this thing is huge. Outside and in, it’s big-boned. From the massive, blacked-out front grille to the 20” machined aluminum wheels to the overall beefy look of the vehicle; the 2013 Ford Explorer Sport means business and has some serious presence on the road.

Here’s a vehicle that’s damn proud of being an SUV, and it’s showing it off. With three rows of seating, the Ford Explorer Sport is an ideal vehicle for multiple-child families. Space in the third row is limited, but not horrible. And the cargo space in the back (with the third row up) is a satisfactory 594 litres. Without the third row that number jumps to 1,240 litres.

Of note; it seems the second-row folding seats have caused some issues in the Ford Explorer. After trying to fold them forward myself to get into the third row without success (instead opting to crawl over the half-folded seat), I went online to search. There are forums where owners have complained about a stuck latch and/or inability to fold the seats forward at all. We suggest you visit your local Ford dealer to sort out the issue should you come across this problem.

Amenities abound in the 2013 Ford Explorer Sport, as does MyFord Touch and SYNC. While I’m still not a huge fan of the system (too many commands and way too many touch-sensitive buttons), the steering-wheel controls help sort out most of the issues and let you control a great deal.

2013 Ford Explorer Sport cargo area
The cargo space in the back (with the third row up) is a satisfactory 594 litres. Without the third row that number jumps to 1,240 litres. (Photo: Philippe Champoux)

Comparing the 2013 Ford Explorer Sport

As the Sport version of the 2013 Ford Explorer is at the top of the price bracket in the lineup, its competition lies in the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT-8 and even the Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG. Some may find the Sport pricey (the near $55k final price on my tester had some raising their eyebrows), but if you consider what you’re getting (which is quite a lot), I think it’s well worth the dollars.

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