Like the magic word ?abracadabra? which often triggers a magician?s feat, Ford has invoked ?EcoBoost? to conjure success for the company. It is a strange made-up word, which by definition, is almost a dichotomy in mechanical terms. Nevertheless, EcoBoost has become ?magic? for Ford and every product that gets it becomes more successful.
EcoBoost is the name given to a family of direct injection, turbocharged engines. It started with the V-6, then a four-cylinder and it?s coming soon in a three-cylinder engine. The most successful application to date is the 365-hp, 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 with twin turbochargers. What it offers is V-8 performance with V-6 fuel economy. So far, it has magically found its way into the Flex crossover, the Taurus sedan, the F-150 truck and most recently in the 2013 Explorer Sport SUV.
We took the 2013 Ford Explorer Sport on a road trip through the Cascade Mountains to checkout the EcoBoost magic. We drove from Portland, Oregon to the Crater Lake area and Klamath Falls in southern Oregon and the Explorer Sport performed brilliantly. With an abundance of slow moving trailers and campers on the two lane roads, the Sport made quick passes. We were surprised by the fuel economy, too, which averaged 21.3 mpg in mostly highway driving and traversing the Willamette Highway (Oregon Route 59) over the Cascades, twice.
The three-row Explorer Sport has some slightly different cosmetic touches than other Explorer models including its blacked out grill (Ford says it?s Ebony) with sterling gray mesh background, and attractive two-tone leather sport seats. The seats are comfortable and provided good support during our long drive.
The main difference between the Sport and other Explorer models lies mostly under the hood, in the suspension and with the good-looking 20-inch gray and silver ?Sport? wheels and 255/50R20 tires.
By the numbers, the 2013 Explorer Sport sprints to 60 mph in just 5.9 seconds according to buff magazine testing. That?s an impressive number for a two and one-half ton SUV with a V-6 engine.
The 2013 Ford Explorer Sport rides on a stiffer chassis than the standard Explorer models and utilizes a sport-tuned electric steering system, larger brakes, and a six-speed Select Shift automatic transmission with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters (YEA!).
This won?t be the kind of vehicle most people will use too far off the beaten track, but when conditions require a little extra traction, a simple twist of the Terrain Management dial, located just behind the shifter and it instantly configures the drivetrain for a variety of road, surface and weather conditions. It also has a handy Hill Descent control with off-road mode; Hill Start Assist and a trailer sway control that?s a big plus for pulling those adult toys (up to 5,000 pounds) behind.
As the top model in the Explorer lineup, the Sport includes most of the available luxury appointments as standard equipment ? features like leather seating and SYNC? with My Ford Touch. Ford has been busy improving the SYNC system, and it seems a little easier to use each time we drive a newer model, but it still has a way to go before we can actually call it ?user friendly.?
The Sport sports abundant safety equipment including AdvanceTrac? with Roll Stability Control, Safety Canopy? System, SOS Post Crash Alert System?, Curve Control, reverse sensing camera and all the other normal safety features we expect to find on vehicles of this caliber.
Base model Explorer pricing starts at $30,495, including the destination charge. The 2013 Ford Explorer Sport starts at $41,675. Our test vehicle with the optional 402A Equipment Group ($4,130) added navigation, inflatable rear seat belts, blind spot monitoring, power liftgate and several other power and convenience features. It also had an optional White Platinum metallic paint ($495) and trailer tow package ($570) taking the price to $46,870.
We like the looks of the latest generation Explorer; it?s distinctive and quite stylish. Although we?ve never thought of Explorer it as being very sporty or overly fun to drive, this new model fits its name and puts the Explorer into a different category altogether, thanks to the magic of ?EcoBoost.?