The new performance-tuned Ford Explorer gets its growl from a unique dual exhaust system and its power from an EcoBoost 3.5-L V6 engine.
"It's the most capable Explorer that we've ever designed and built," Bill Gubing, Ford Explorer Chief Engineer, said during the March unveiling of the 2013 Explorer Sport. The media reveal also was streamed live over the Internet to the automaker's Facebook followers.
The Sport model's 3.5-L EcoBoost V6 will produce an estimated 350 hp (261 kW) at 5500 rpm and an estimated 350 lb·ft (475 N·m) between 1500 and 5000 rpm, a beefy performance upgrade from the 2012 Explorer's 3.5-L DOHC V6 with its 290 hp (216 kW) at 6500 rpm and 255 lb·ft (346 N·m) at 4000 rpm.
A six-speed automatic transmission, the 6F55, provides the 4WD Sport with a final drive of 3.16:1—the same gear ratio as the 2012 FWD Explorer. (The AWD 2012 Explorer's final gear ratio is 3.39:1.)
"We went with a 3.16:1 final drive ratio to help balance the performance and optimize the fuel economy," said Gubing, noting that the estimated mpg will be up to 16 city and 22 highway.
Explorer Sport's twin-turbocharged V6 EcoBoost engine is similar to offerings for the Ford F-150 pickup, Ford Flex and Lincoln MKT crossover utilities, Ford Taurus SHO, and Lincoln MKS sedans.
"The base engine block is a carryover from those vehicles, but the air induction system and the exhaust system are unique," Gubing told AEI.
Development of the exhaust system for the three-row SUV lasted about three months, and the resulting version was one of three that underwent vehicle test track evaluations.
According to Carl Widmann, Explorer Sport's Vehicle Engineering Manager, "the cold end exhaust system is a true dual exhaust with pipe diameters and packaging optimized to minimize back pressure."
To handle the stopping demands of a performance SUV, the Sport model's brake rotors are the same as Ford's Police Interceptor Utility, which is based on the Explorer platform. The Sport and police vehicle's front brake rotors are 13.9 in (353 mm) in diameter vs. the current Explorer's 12.8 in (325 mm). Compared to the 2012 Explorer's 12.9-in (328-mm) rear brake rotor, the Sport and police vehicle's rear rotor is 13.6 in (345 mm).
"All brake control calibration related to ABS, the traction control system, and electronic stability control are specifically tuned to maximize the Explorer Sport's performance," explained Widmann.
Engineers for the high-performance SUV also recalibrated the 4WD system's terrain management settings for sand, snow, mud, and hill descent in addition to retuning the chassis and the suspension.
Explorer Sport's tunnel brace is a closed section box with a four-point attachment that increases tunnel lateral stiffness "to make the subframe isolation more effective for steering and noise abatement. The brace connecting the front shock towers increased by roughly 25% through increased sectional properties," Widmann explained to AEI.
A solid-mounted electric power assisted steering rack is used on the Sport instead of the 2012 Explorer's isolated mounted system.
To help manage the heat in the 4WD system, a water-cooled PTU (power takeoff unit) faceplate is used.
Said Gubing, "The PTU pulls water from the main radiator system's cooling loop. It's something we developed for the police vehicles, and we knew it would be a great fit for the Explorer Sport."