I remember not too long ago, every which way you turned you'd see a Ford Explorer. The SUV was parked in practically every driveway in America! Yet, I could not understand why.
Quite a few people I knew, including relatives, purchased Explorers. The year was 1993; my brother had purchased one of those first-generation ('91 to '94) Explorers. What a beaut! He had decked out his SUV, really went all-out with primo exterior and interior touches. I could not wait to hop into my brother's hot Explorer mobile and take it for a spin.
Now mind you, the first go-round of Explorers were replacements for the Ford Bronco. The SUV which many now refer to as "O.J.’s getaway mobile," (O.J. Simpson) rode like a truck and in my opinion, so did my brother's Explorer. Boy, did that big white truckity-like SUV leave a bad taste in my mouth and I pretty much steered clear of the Explorer for quite some time.
Ford began to make welcomed design overhauls to the SUV like significant suspension changes that made the vehicle not only more carlike in its ride quality but safer to drive. Ford also added such segment firsts to the Explorer as dual front airbags in 1995. Even though the automaker has staunchly stood by its hefty SUV against some pretty nasty industry and consumer back-in-the-day lawsuits, this latest incarnation Explorer is surely nothing like its predecessors.
The fifth generation 2013 Ford Explorer is hefty, yes, but if you have a brood then this could be just what you need to get your posse to and fro in comfort and style. The latest version of the people hauler lost some poundage which is a plus fuel-wise and as far as handling, it feels nimbler. But I'm stepping ahead of myself. Let's talk looks.
My test vehicle was the Ford Explorer Sport which was a combo of some exterior straight lines and sharp angles. Blacked out winged taillights and perforated grill; dark tinted headlights, smoke-colored 20-inch rims, and twin polished exhaust tips gives the overall look of the Explorer Sport a kind of menacing, aggressive but definitely appealing swagger. The SUV actually reminded me of the Range Rover Sport which could never be a bad thing in my book.
Inside the 2013 Explorer Sport certainly looks nothing like the plasticky back-in-the-day truck that was a complete eyesore. Ford kicked quality up several notches with the vehicle's interior touches which could be categorized as Lincoln-esque, really upscale and without a doubt, very attractive. The cabin is roomy and fits all body types comfortably front and back, although the third row should pretty much be reserved for children. The bolstered seats are road-trip comfy, especially the perforated, heated, cooled, ten-way driver’s seat. The steering wheel has a feel-good design and the equipped paddle shifters on it are small and offer no encumbrances when manually moving through the gears.
The MyFord Touch interface which has a really great high resolution display screen and sensitive-to-the-touch buttons was sometimes temperamental and this kind of made me use some words that aren't in Webster's. The interface feature itself is a marvel however when it’s utilized with the complementary SYNC voice-activation system.
Driving the Explorer Sport was better than I expected. At highway speeds, the 4WD SUV felt steady and handled twists and turns with total composure. The brawny 7-seater offered surprising power and then some and is much quicker than you'd expect from a 5,000 pound vehicle. Even hustling over hunks and chunks of broken pavement, the Explorer Sport felt completely solid. Though the vehicle is not offered in a V8, the 3.5 liter, 365 horsepower, V6 EcoBoost offers more than adequate power and torque (350 lb-ft) and is relatively quiet to boot as you move at high speeds. The Explorer Sport's braking system is such a HUGE departure from its ancestors of decades past with runway like stopping distances that made you yell, "Slow Your Roll," and squeal utterances of promises to a higher being about becoming a better person.
The fuel figures in the Sport were pretty disappointing though, 16 city/22 highway but SUVs in this category typically don't make you want to kick up your heels at the pumps, For folks who’d like to get a bit more bang for their buck at the pumps, Ford should consider offering a diesel engine for the Explorer.
Safety seems to be right at the top of Ford's 'musts' as all of the Explorers (four trims) come with such incredible safety features. On the automaker's safety front there is the world's first automotive production inflatable rear safety belts offered in the Sport version. There are other standard safety technologies in the Sport such as traction control, trailer sway control, blind-spot monitoring, cross-traffic alert, airbags all about including the Safety Canopy System and front passenger knee airbag and AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control and Curve Control. The much touted MyKey is standard across the trims and this allows mom and dad to impose their parental presence by specifying limits for vehicle speeds and how loud Bruno Mars should be played on the vehicle's stereo system. In government crash testing, the 2013 Explorer performed exceptionally well receiving five out of five stars for overall crash protection, with five stars for overall frontal and side protection.
Ford has managed to marry performance and SUV behaviors in a way that works. The 2013 Ford Explorer Sport is comprehensive, engaging and offers a pleasant driving experience that won't disappoint. Families certainly won't be in a hurry to get to where they're going in this big boy!
Prices start at $40,780. Need more info? www.ford.com
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