2013 Ford Explorer Sport
Ford has had nothing but great success with its latest, three-row iteration of the Explorer SUV, with buyers finding it a suitably good driving tool for the jobs demanded by family living. And while I've never found the naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6 that inhabits the engine bay to be anything less than well-suited to this large SUV/CUV class - it wasn't so very long ago that a 290-horsepower, 24-mile-per-gallon-highway six-cylinder would have seemed like a real tough guy - it has never been a particularly exciting powerplant, either.
Enter the 2013 Explorer Sport, with an EcoBoost twin-turbocharged version of that 3.5-liter six, and 365 horsepower with 350 pound-feet of torque to show for it. I should add that the extra shove only comes at the expense of one highway mpg and one city mpg, relative to the four-wheel-drive iteration of the non-turbo Explorer, which is nice, too. Ford was kind enough to invite me to take a taste of this hotted-up Explorer recently; an experience that I found generally pleasant, if not entirely satisfying.
We eat with the eyes first. If your particular set of peepers isn't enamored by piano black accents, then you may not get close enough to even test drive the new Sport, as this model is slathered with shiny black highlights. The big black grille dominates the Explorer, and I think does a good job of making the large vehicle look a bit more compact - lower and meaner. The matching black on the 21-inch wheels, body cladding, roof rails and mirror caps, along with smoked covers for the front and rear lighting, seems like overkill to me. To many it'll just make the Explorer look cooler than ever. Some of us like Original Recipe, some like Extra Crispy.
There's no question in my mind that the Sport version of the Explorer feels fleet-of-foot for a vehicle of this size and weight. Ford was coy about official 0-60 times for the model, saying only that it had found it to be "two seconds faster" than the 3.5-liter non-turbo model.
Floored from a standstill, the EcoBoost six will hesitate to deliver full thrust for a heartbeat or two, then offer a fairly strong torque pop once the engine is spinning at about 2000 rpm. Middle revs are where this engine eats, however, and I found passing maneuvers on the highway to be easy to execute briskly in the 70-90 mph zone. A decent little exhaust growl is in evidence at high rpm, too.
So the Explorer Sport is fairly quick on its feet and looks mean (at least to some), but it doesn't actually go so far as to acquit itself as a full-on performance model, à la a Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8, or BMW X5 M, for instance. That's not just because the Ford isn't as quick, but also because the chassis and suspension tuning is still balanced more toward highway comfort than aimed at outright handling performance. The Sport is stiffer laterally than the standard SUV, where an added tower brace makes itself felt, but there is still a fairly high amount of vertical movement through the suspension when the Gs pile on.
The retuned electric power steering is quicker to turn in (again, that stiffer front section helps here), and accurate when holding a fast line, but it's absolutely lifeless in terms of feel and feedback from the road.
The Sport is equipped with paddle shifters to modulate the six-speed automatic, but response time is slow and the physical feel of the paddles is pretty unsatisfying.
All-in, the Explorer Sport is kind of a performance middle child; more like a motored-up version of the original than a full sporting variant.
I have mixed feelings about that last bullet, in terms of my own conclusion about the Sport. On one hand, starting at $40,720 (including destination and delivery), the Sport is only about $2,600 more than the high-content Limited trim, with a much more powerful engine, similar EPA fuel economy and many of the same standard options. (The Sport comes standard with 4WD, leather, MyFord Touch, SYNC, etc.) On the other hand, the Sport doesn't use its extra go-juice to push many of my "enthusiast driver" buttons, I get no extra towing capacity from the increased power and torque (5,000-pound max), and once the options sheet starts coming into play, a $50,000-Explorer can be a reality. The MSRP for our tester was a heady $48,385.
I think Ford is counting on just enough incremental sales from the Sport to make the variant worthwhile in a model that is just killing the rest of its segment. Plenty of former Mustang-owning Dads should be willing to pony up a slightly bigger lease payment for the payoff of winning a stoplight grand prixs here and there. Plus, you know, cool wheels.
2013 Ford Explorer Limited AWD
The popularity of crossovers and SUVs as daily transportation often eludes me, but it's tough to argue with their functionality if you've got a sizable brood and a vacation ahead of you. I drove this 2013 Ford Explorer Limited from the greater Detroit area to the Outer Banks of North Carolina with a quick stop in Cleveland to pick up additional family. Overall impression? After driving 1,900+ miles in a single week, it's hard to imagine there are many vehicles better suited to the task than this Ford.
I drove 11+ hours straight twice in one week, with absolutely zero backaches to report from anyone - impressive.
Interior fit-and-finish and material choices shade those of most rivals, and options like cooled seats, second-row seatbelt airbags and power-folding third row are impressive.
Loaded with four people and a cargo hold full of beach gear, the 3.5-liter V6 had enough muscle (290 horsepower, 255 pound-feet of torque) through the mountains of Pennsylvania, but I can't help but wonder how it'd feel if we were towing something.
Ride and handling balance is very well judged, electric power steering accurate
MyFord Touch is powerful and offers serious configurability, but a slow touchscreen and overly complex interface hurts usability.
Kodiak Brown paint is great - very rich. Can look black or root beer depending on light.
Terrain Management is killer - when it works. We bombed around in Sand Mode along the Atlantic ocean dunes full-up with seven people for over an hour (we were one of the only unibodies we saw out of perhaps a hundred vehicles). Then the all-wheel-drive system unexpectedly turned itself off and we ground to a halt, nearly axle-deep. No sign of overheating, the system simply displayed that all-wheel drive was off, and rotating the knob wouldn't coax it back on. After turning the Explorer off and letting it sit for a few minutes, I restarted it and we were back in business. It never malfunctioned again.
Sand gets everywhere - even atop the engine and caked in the door sills. Two hours of cleaning and all is well.
Aside from the Honda Odyssey, the Ford Explorer appears to be the Outer Banks' Official Family Vacation Vehicle. They're everywhere.
Overall fuel efficiency for 1,900+ miles was 20.2 miles per gallon - bang on with what the cluster display indicated. EPA ratings call for 17 city/23 highway/19 combined. Considering a full load, PA's mountains, traffic, a couple of hours throwing sand around and the fact that the driver gave absolutely zero consideration to efficiency, we were quite pleased.
Ford shows off Mustang Shelby GT500's new launch control
Listen to the sage words of the late Carroll Shelby: "650 horsepower? Nobody else has it." We're guessing this footage was recorded a little while back, before the final certified rating of the 5.8-liter supercharged engine in the 2013 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 came in at 662 horsepower and 631 pound-feet of torque.
Indeed, there isn't a single car anywhere near the sticker price of the 2013 GT500 - not even the stupid-fast Chevy Corvette ZR1 - that offers as many horses under the hood as the most powerful production Mustang in history. Suffice it to say, reeling in 662 galloping ponies and sending them to the rear tires isn't an easy conundrum to solve.
And that's where launch control comes into play. It's a cool system, allowing the driver to alter the RPM held by the engine with the clutch depressed. Drop the clutch and, instead of watching your Goodyear F1 Supercar tires go the way of the Dodo, you hook up and take off down the drag strip.
Or, ya know, you could turn the system off and smoke bomb your neighborhood. See examples of both launch techniques in the video below, because whenever a video starts off with a prominent disclaimer, you know it's going to be good.Permalink | Email this | Comments
Ford Taurus adds 32-mpg EcoBoost option for 2013
Smaller with engines, bigger with fuel economy.
That's what Ford is doing by adding its 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder to its Taurus lineup that the automaker says will give the model the best highway mileage of any large sedan.
On the strength of its EPA ratings, the new turbo four will beat out the Chevrolet Impala, Chrysler 300 and Toyota Avalon (non-hybrid) in highway fuel economy and deliver 26 miles per gallon combined. On the power front, the Valencia, Spain-assembled engine delivers 240 horses at 5,500 rpm and 270 pound-feet of torque at 3,000 revs.
Ford has also tweaked the Taurus' base 3.5-liter V6, adding 25 horsepower as well as one mile per gallon city and two miles per gallon highway for a rating of 19 city and 29 highway in front-wheel drive trim. The refreshed powerplant churns out 288 hp (@ 6,500 rpm) and 254 lb-ft (@ 4,000 rpm), where last year's model made do with 263/249. For comparison's sake, the 2012 model year Taurus 3.5-liter V6 was rated 28 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined.
The 2.0-liter EcoBoost is quickly becoming ubiquitous in the Blue Oval's stables, as it's already slotted in vehicles including the Edge, Escape and Explorer, not to mention the Focus ST and Fusion.Permalink | Email this | Comments