Driving the Ford Explorer, particularly the Sport, feels like meeting an old friend. After driving it extensively at the height of Michigan winter, I feel like I’ve known its ins and outs quite well. So when Ford Philippines offered me an Explorer Sport for a week, one single question popped in my head: what new story can it tell? What more can I discover with this giant 7-seater luxury crossover with the heart of a muscle car?
As the Magnetic Metallic-colored Explorer Sport arrived at my doorstep, I can’t help but smile once more; it’s still quite the looker. In the US, Ford says that one in five Explorer customers also owns another luxury vehicle, so it’s been a challenge to give this vehicle a more premium feel. Compared to when I first saw the refresh, I’m now warming up to the new front-end. The larger headlights and squared off grille create a visually cohesive look while still keeping its proportions that’ll keep a top-league baller happy. The rear-end has been generally cleaned up as well, though it takes a back-to-back comparison to notice. And since I’m not a big fan of chrome, I love the blacked out look that’s standard on the Sport.
Inside is where the Explorer starts to feel dated. Though I feel the build quality is still generally good, the P 2,870,000 is now looking like a high price to pay for this cabin experience. The configurable instrument cluster, the large 8-inch touchscreen, and numerous voice commands all felt like science fiction in 2012, but now, everyone’s got it de rigueur. Still fitted with MyFord Touch, the entire infotainment experience is still laggy, but I do commend the new physical buttons on the center console; they work way better than the old Star Trek-style touch sensitive ones.
While the infotainment system is still something left to be desired, there’s no problem with the overall ergonomics. With every aspect of the Explorer Sport electrically adjustable (steering wheel, seats, pedals), finding a comfortable driving position is easy. Plus, I find the seats to be quite comfy; though those with bigger builds may say otherwise.
Differences to the US-spec model that I drove are fairly minimal. In fact, it can be narrowed down to the second row seats. While you can spec up the Explorer Sport with outboard Captain’s Seats in America, you get bench seating in ours. Don’t fret though; this configuration is perfectly comfortable with seats which are plush and wide enough for spending hours of traffic in. It also adds one more soul to its maximum capacity (7 as opposed to 6). Oddly enough, only one side: the 40 percent in the 60/40 split, slides fore and aft. Though the intended use of this feature is for mounting child seats, it also means the third-row occupants will have to live with a surprisingly small amount of leg room.
Time and time again, I’ve summarized the Explorer Sport as a 7-seater muscle car and it still pretty much is. With 370 horsepower and 475 Nm of torque on tap, it’s got copious amounts of power for just about any occasion. Whether it’s for that quick overtaking pass on EDSA or cruising leisurely on the expressway, the twin-turbocharged V6 obliges with a hint of roartiness mixed in. It’s also mighty high on refinement with impeccably smooth acceleration. Sadly, it also has the thirst of a muscle car. In the wide-open Michigan and Illinois roads, it barely eked out 6 km/L. That figure is cut down to 3.84 km/L when stuck in the confines of Manila. Add to that a 70-liter tank, and I found myself filling up with petrol every four days or so. A fuel loyalty membership card is a must with this vehicle.
In the handling department, the Explorer Sport does receive its own unique steering and suspension tune, but it still pretty much behaves as its size suggests. Yes, you can push it with a bit more confidence through a series of winding roads (the Intelligent AWD is very transparent), but it’s clearly not built for that. It’s more for the relaxing drive when you endlessly soak up the scenery and the potholes while enjoying some Taylor Swift tunes on the radio. That is, until you run out of gas, which you quickly will.
The Explorer’s five-meter long frame and two-meter wide girth feel perfectly suited for American roads, but for our streets, it does take some getting used to. Generally though, the sightlines are all quite good (better than the Everest’s even) and this makes it easy enough to maneuver around in all but the smallest of side streets. During those times, it’s got cameras front and back which even have their own washers as not to get the lens obstructed. If there’s one thing I’m missing, it’s Active Park Assist. Though my parallel parking skills are fine for a compact crossover, but once I’m dealing with an Explorer, it can be challenging. Besides, if the P 1.2-million Focus has it, why not the P 2.8-million Explorer Sport?
Although the Explorer Sport hasn’t told me a new story this time, it still makes for pretty good company. Like meeting a close friend for the first time in almost a year, there’s no need to get reacquainted and there are no uncomfortable silences too. It’s all about reminiscing about the good times and looking forward to even better ones. The Explorer has become such a huge hit for Ford Philippines, and I think it’s down to how the formula translates well for our roads. It may have been designed and engineered originally for American roads, but it’s also quite at home here in all but the fuel economy aspect.
2016 Ford Explorer Sport V6 EcoBoost
|Ownership||2016 Ford Explorer Sport V6 EcoBoost AWD|
|Year Introduced||2012 (Refreshed: 2016)|
|Vehicle Classification||Mid-sized Crossover|
|Body Type||5-door SUV|
|Engine / Drive||F/AWD|
|Under the Hood|
|Fuel Delivery||Direct Injection|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||V6|
|BHP @ rpm||370 @ 5,000|
|Nm @ rpm||475 @ 3,000|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Gasoline / 91~|
|Cruise Control||Yes, Adaptive|
|Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed||3.84 km/L @ 10 km/h|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||2,218|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, MacPherson Strut, Sport Tuned|
|Rear Suspension||Independent, Multi-link, Sport Tuned|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Tires||Hankook Ventus S1 Noble2 255/50 R 20 H (f & r)|
|Airbags||7 + 2nd row seatbelt airbags|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||Yes|
|Parking Sensors||Yes, Front and Rear, with Front and Rear Camera|
|Other Safety Features||Hill Descent Control
Tire Pressure Monitoring System
Blind Spot Information System with Cross-Traffic Alert
|Fog Lamps||Yes, Front|
|Steering Wheel Adjust||Tilt/Telescopic, Electric|
|Steering Wheel Material||Leather|
|Seating Adjustment||Electric (front, driver w/ memory)|
|Folding Rear Seat||Yes, 60/40 (2nd row); 50/50 (3rd row, electric)|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|Power Mirrors||Yes, with Fold|
|Climate Control||Front, Dual Zone; Rear, Manual|
|# of Speakers||12, Sony|