The 2014 Ford Explorer Sport is a welcome addition to the TopSpeed Garage with its racy 20-inch wheels and twin-turbocharged V-6 engine. Taurus SHO enhancements transform the Explorer package from just a family-friendly AWD seven-seater into a taut performance machine that is both fun to drive and luxurious on the road.
The $40,000 Sport comes in as the top Explorer trim level, and the only one to get the 365-horsepower 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine. Dozens of performance and luxury enhancements join the potent powerplant: a sport-tuned suspension, huge vented disc brakes with front and rear performance calipers, dark-tinted headlights and a gloss-black grille round out the exterior mods for this performance variant.
The changes extend indoors as well, where the Explorer Sport is the pick of the range with leather-trimmed, heated sports buckets up front. Standard MyFord Touch by Sony and a powerful stereo join the fun, as do illuminated scuff plates and custom Sport badging.
As one of the best-known Ford nameplates, the Explorer lost its coveted spot as the default midsize SUV over the early 2000s following the introduction of the BMW X5 and a host of other truly premium models.
This latest all-new generation of Explorer has evolutionary styling but a sophisticated unibody design to replace the old Explorer’s body-on-frame construction.
After years in the doldrums, the Explorer Sport’s engine brings the magic back with a globally-competitive crossover package that can comfortably seat seven people and deliver 22 mpg on the highway.
The turbo power of the Explorer Sport trim helps the Ford stand apart from the segment-leading Buick Enclave and Nissan Pathfinder – but is the Ford’s fun-to-drive nature enough to reclaim buyers seeking a premium seven-passenger crossover?
Click past the jump for the full review of the 2014 Ford Explorer Sport, including a video walkthrough of the car’s interior at start up and during the 0-60 sprint.
The Explorer Sport and its cheaper XLT and Limited siblings are all quite handsome in this generation, with looks that draw in praise from previous Explorer owners and strangers alike. The Explorer even fooled a neighbor, who asked if this was the new Range Rover Sport .
The Ford and Land Rover comparisons are quite accurate, actually, with numerous advanced styling themes shared across the previous sister companies. Under Ford’s previous stewardship of Jaguar , Land Rover and Aston Martin , competitive cannibalization was a real concern. Protecting Aston and Range Rover from in-house imitators was always part of the Ford plan.
The Explorer was designed right after Ford divested in Jaguar Land Rover, and the new-found freedom of the styling teams to borrow the Range Rover Sport ’s high-dollar design cues is apparent.
From the clamshell hood with wide-spaced Explorer letters just above the grille, Ford’s respect for Range Rover is clear. Imitation means flattery, in this case.
The production Explorer design sees large, bevel-faced panels form distinct horizontal bars in the grille. The Explorer Sport’s gloss-black finish adds some extra emphasis to the car’s performance stance versus the less-aggressive chrome treatments on the XLT and body-color grille on the Limited trim.
The overall look is enhanced by the trimmed headlamp design and deep grille shape, which helps the Explorer look a bit like a futuristic Ford F-150 truck model from the front.
Softer surfaces dominate the body sides but some tasteful horizontal shoulder lines add strength to the flowing shape. The way the corner of the headlights and taillights extends laterally onto the car in profile is one area where the Explorer beat the Range Rover to market: the new Land Rovers will all use this styling concept to pass U.S. road safety legislation with their blocky lighting designs.
Numerous other style features help keep the Explorer (and Explorer Sport) interesting when viewed up close: Explorer script logos appear inside the headlights, on the side mirror housings and in the gloss black tailgate trims out back. AS a final treat, the Explorer Sport’s massive dual exhaust hardware peaks out from below the back bumper (just like... you guessed it: the Range Rover Sport.)
2014 Ford Explorer Sport – Exterior Dimensions:
|Track - Front (in.)||67|
|Track - Rear (in.)||67|
|Max Towing Capacity (Pounds)||5000|
2014 Ford Explorer Sport – Standard Exterior Features:
- Black lower front and rear bumpers, wheellip moldings and bodyside cladding
- Chrome exterior door handles
- Grille, unique sport-style, painted
- Unique sport-style twin chrome exhaust tips
- Black liftgate appliqué with embossed Explorer Sport badge
- Unique EXPLORER badge on hood
- Gloss black mirrors, heated, with security approach lamps and turn signal indicators
- Fog lamps
- Headlamps, bi-functional projector beam halogen with unique blackout treatment
- Unique blackout treatment on head/taillamps
- Roof side rails, black with black end caps
- Body-color liftgate spoiler
- Manual, one-piece liftgate
- Battery Management System
- Privacy glass, second and third rows
- Solar tinted front door and windshield glass
- Acoustic-laminate windshield glass
The interior of the Explorer Sport strikes a great balance between performance, technology and hauling space. The front cabin shares much of its high-quality materials and overall layout with the Taurus SHO , but feels unique from the driver’s seat, thanks to a higher seating position and a better view from all around.
The Explorer’s cabin instantly feels wide and luxuriously roomy, with interior measurements that back up the huge perceived should and hip room for the first two rows. The Sport comes standard with power-operated, heated and leather-trimmed seats that offer additional support during fast drives. They are comfortable seats but lack the under-leg support offered by some competitors, such as the BMW X5 .
The lowest possible driving position still provides a commanding view forward and is customizable via the tilt/telescoping steering column and optional power-adjustable pedals. The Explorer Sport feels airy and expensive up front with wide center console packing a pair of jumbo cup holders. Shift paddles make an appearance behind the Sport’s leather-wrapped wheel, but the additional audio, climate and phone controls for the steering wheel are an optional extra.
Sync with Sony MyFord Touch comes as standard on the Explorer Sport but adding navigation functionality is a cost extra, as is the rear cross-traffic assist. A backup camera and rear proximity sensors mean parking the Explorer is a piece of cake.
The Sony MyFord Touch system is intuitive and responsive across its four main operating functions, selected by choosing from each corner of the touchscreen unit: Phone, Entertainment, Nav and Climate. Most complaints about MyFord Touch seem totally unfounded.
Gripes about the system are largely absent in the Explorer Sport, with redundant controls for nearly all climate functions right on the center stack. During testing, SYNC was even able to input an address for the navigation system by voice on the first try – a rare feat.
Other major options include the 401A package, which despite the dull name, actually brings navigation and dozens of other features for an extra $4,130.
Other 401A bundled options include a power tailgate that works reliably and quickly based on keyfob blips, and a remote starter that does just what it says and even brings the car’s cabin temp up (or down) to a comfy 72 degrees.
The Explorer Sport majors in family versatility with up to seven seats and a flat load bay with all back seats folded down. The car can be optioned with twin middle-row buckets instead of the standard middle bench, but either setup is roomy and relaxing. A new second-row center console is available for 2014.
The second row flips forward without having to remove the head rests – proof that there is plenty of lounge area in the second row.
The third row has real seats with thick cushions for both the base and the seat back, improving comfort for young passengers who will be the most able to get in and fit their legs. Yes, the third row is tight but can fit adults in a pinch.
All the back seats are exceptionally easy to tumble and stow, with handy straps to unlock and tug them back into position.
2014 Ford Explorer Sport – Interior Dimensions:
|Front Seating Capacity||2|
|Middle Seating Capacity||3|
|Rear Seating Capacity||2|
|Headroom - Front (in.)||39.8|
|Headroom - Middle (in.)||39.3|
|Headroom - Rear (in.)||37.9|
|Legroom - Front (in.)||40.7|
|Legroom - Middle (in.)||36.5|
|Legroom - Rear (in.)||32.7|
|Shoulder Room - Front (in.)||63.7|
|Shoulder Room - Middle (in.)||64.1|
|Shoulder Room - Rear (in.)||62|
|Hip Room - Front (in.)||58.4|
|Hip Room - Middle (in.)||65|
|Hip Room - Rear (in.)||48.7|
|EPA Cargo Volume - All Seats Up (cubic-feet)||33|
|EPA Cargo Volume - 3rd-Row Seat Folded (cubic-feet)||83.3|
|EPA Cargo Volume - All Rear Seats Down (cubic-feet)||143.8|
2014 Ford Explorer Sport – Standard Interior Features:
- Dual-zone electronic automatic temperature control with Air filtration system
- 10-way power driver’s seat with power recline and lumbar
- Six-way power passenger seat with recline and lumbar
- First-row heated seats
- Sony Premium Audio System with HD Radio and 12 speakers; Media hub, SYNC, SYNC with MyFord Touch, SiriusXM Satellite Radio
- Unique sport-styled, perforated leather-trimmed seating surfaces
- Rear auxiliary climate control
- MyKey with Intelligent Push Button Start
- Auto-dimming rearview mirror
- Four total 12V powerpoints (2 first row, 1 second row and 1 cargo area)
- Manual tilt/telescoping steering column
- Leather-wrapped shift knob
- Reverse Sensing System, Rear View Camera
2014 Ford Explorer Sport – Optional Interior Features:
- Adaptive cruise control
- BLIS (blind spot information system) with cross-traffic alert
- Cooled seats
- Inflatable rear seat belts
- 110-volt outlet
- PowerFold mirrors
- Rain-sensing wipers
- Intelligent access with Push-Button Start
- Remote Start
- Power tilt and telescoping steering column
- Adjustable pedals with memory
- Dual-panel moonroof
- Power liftgate
- Class III trailer-towing package
401A Equipment Group ($4,130):
- Voice-Activated Navigation System with SiriusXM Travel Link
- BLIS (Blind Spot Information System) with Cross-Traffic Alert
- Inflatable rear safety belts
- Power liftgate
- Adjustable pedals with memory
- Power tilt/telescoping steering wheel
- Heated and cooled front seats
- 10-way power adjustable passenger’s seat with power lumbar
- Intelligent Access with Push-Button Start
- Remote start
- Ambient lighting
- Universal garage door opener
- Memory driver’s seat
- PowerFold mirrors with memory
- 110-volt, in-car plug outlet
Drivetrain, Suspension and Brakes
As seen in the TopSpeed Garage video above, the Explorer is quite the rapid and growling animal in this EcoBoost specification. The twin-turbo engine brings a quick and direct electric power steering setup to aid the Explorer Sport’s performance suspension, transmission and brakes.
The Explorer Sport’s EPS system is one of the better designs in terms of steering feel and lack of wandering on the road at highway speeds. The quick 2.7 turns from lock to lock feels good with the steering’s heft and makes the Explorer a fun companion to drive.
The EcoBoost 3.5-liter V-6 engine from this flagship Explorer Sport produces 365 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque for a 0-to-60 mph time of 6.2 seconds. The Explorer Sport tops out at a limited 122 mph and brings confident levels of power from all over the speedo range.
The Explorer Sport feels fast both around town and on the highway, where its six-speed automatic is happy to kick down and rocket the Ford past any slower traffic. With cruise engaged, the Explorer Sport is a docile ride with good noise suppression but some light chop from the 20-inch wheels over bumps and ruts.
Uprated brakes for the Explorer Sport come from the Ford Taurus SHO Performance Pack. They feel firm under pressure and offer peace of mind with brake assist, curve assist, EBD, trailer sway control and even hill descent control.
A centrally-mounted terrain selector knob provides custom stability control and AWD settings for snow, sand or rocks – but does without the Range Rover’s mighty air suspension.
2014 Ford Explorer Sport – Mechanical Details:
|Engine Size and Type||3.5-liter Twin-Turbocharged 24-valve V-6 With DOHC And Intake VVT|
|Peak power (Horsepower)||365 @ 5500|
|Peak torque (Pound-feet)||350 @ 3500|
|0-to-60 mph||6.5 seconds|
|Top Speed (mph)||122 mph, limited|
|EPA Fuel Economy MPG (City/Combined/Highway)||16/NA/22|
All 2013 and 2014 Ford Explorers are five-star vehicles from the NHTSA with top marks in all critical categories. The Explorer Sport innovates with optional inflatable safety belts in the second row, in a package that is paired with the helpful BLIS blind-spot alerts. BLIS is nice in a the Explorer Sport because it confirms no small vehicles are hiding in the blind spots – something that can be missed by even a careful driver in city traffic scenarios.
Optional adaptive cruise control makes the options list is as well, helping put the Explorer Sport ahead of the Buick Enclave ’s optional forward collision alerts.
2014 Ford Explorer Sport – Standard Safety Features:
- AdvanceTrac with RSC
- Safety Canopy System
- Front Passenger Knee Airbag
- LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tether Anchors for Children)
- S O S Post-Crash Alert System
- Traction control
- SecuriCode keyless entry keypad
- SecuriLock Passive Anti-Theft System
- Tire Pressure Monitoring System
- Battery-saver feature
- Remote keyless/illuminated entry
- Perimeter alarm
The 2014 Explorer Sport is priced from $40,780 and runs up to about $47,000 with navigation and other optional extras included. The non-turbo Explorer also comes in XLT and Limited trim levels, with pricing starting at $30,495.
The Enclave is a much softer interpretation of a seven-seat crossover, with a smooth ride and quiet cabin taking precedence over performance engines and mechanicals.
The Buick offers pricing that is a few thousand above Explorers at the base level, and its lack of an engine or performance trim upgrade means the Enclave is much slower and less cool than the Explorer Sport.
Gallery Buick Enclave
The Pathfinder took a big step toward the Enclave for 2014, and a giant leap away from its previous 4Runner-style truck frame construction. The latest model seats seven people in an ultra-plush cabin that the Pathfinder shares almost wholesale with the pricier Infiniti QX70 (formerly JX35).
A hybrid option for the 2014 Pathfinder brings mileage that trumps the Explorer Sport by quite a bit, but also drops the Nissan’s cargo capacity due to a trunk-mounted battery pack.
Gallery Nissan Pathfinder
The Explorer Sport is charged with fighting off everything from the Hyundai Sante Fe to the Audi Q7 for the blue oval brand – which is a tough challenge for any single vehicle. The Explorer Sport represents the best of the current Explorer package. It brings back the old Explorer lust for revs and handling verve via the two turbochargers and full performance kit elsewhere.
Making the Explorer fun again for drivers is a huge achievement, notably because the current car is packing a third row of seats and two decades worth of additional safety technology. When the car’s plucky personality really starts to appeal is after some time in the tech-infused cabin.
The Explorer Sport’s numerous luxury and active safety touches soon become second nature – with neck-straining blind spot checks and the manual tailgates of other cars instantly feeling obsolete. The optional cooled seats also won friends while testing in July weather.
Sporty and quick to drive, the Explorer Sport’s exterior styling adds intrigue and rarity on the road – its dark-tinted lights, black grille and giant exhaust pipes are a rarity versus the cheaper XLT version’s chrome smile.
The Explorer Sport nails the three major buying criteria for most people via its smooth engine power, styling boldness and interior amenities.
Among practical shoppers seeking a cutting-edge AWD crossover with seating for seven, the Explorer Sport is therefore a smart and practical addition to any family’s fleet. The Ford’s 365 horsepower helps make the Explorer Sport the pick of the driveway... especially when the kids are left at home.
|Driving||B+||Comfortable Cabin Is Quiet And Roomy; AWD Confidence|
|Performance||A-||Instant Power From EcoBoost And Six-Speed Auto|
|Look||A-||Elegant Grille And Range Rover-inspired Lights|
|Value||B||Explorer Sport By Far The Quickest 7-Seater From Blue Oval, But Not Most Expensive|
|Overall||B+||A Quick And Roomy X5 Alternative For Fast-Lane Dads|
- Great power and responsiveness from 365-horsepower twin-turbo engine
- Looks cool on road with dark 20-inch alloy wheels that have machined surface finish
- Meaty and direct steering brings confidence; great ride/handling balance
- Front end lighting a bit dated without LEDs or even HID option
- Some painted sills and lower bumpers would look more premium
- Last on the wish list: a hybrid powertrain
2014 Explorer Sport Overview
The 2014 Ford Explorer Sport high-performance full-size SUV delivers outstanding power and fuel efficiency through its 3.5-liter EcoBoost® V6 engine. The performance feel is heightened by paddle shifters that precisely control the six-speed SelectShift® automatic transmission.
The Terrain Management System adjusts on the fly to various road, surface or weather conditions. A second-row console is now available.
Key features include:
- Performance tuning includes a stiffer chassis, sport-tuned electric power-assisted steering (EPAS), larger brakes and paddle-shifted six-speed SelectShift automatic transmission
- Terrain Management System offers settings for sand, snow, rutted mud and hill descent
- Latest-generation SYNC® system with MyFord Touch® features Wi-Fi® capability, text-to-voice, HD Radio™ with iTunes® Tagging and voice-activated navigation
- Two-toned leather-trimmed seats deliver unique Sport interior design elements
The 2014 Explorer Sport includes Ford’s leading safety and security features:
- AdvanceTrac® with RSC® (Roll Stability Control™)
- Safety Canopy® System, a side air curtain technology offering protection for the first and second seating rows
- SOS Post-Crash Alert System™
- MyKey® programmable vehicle key allows parental controls on driving speed
- Hill Start Assist for more confidence on uphill grades
- Curve Control, which can slow the vehicle by up to 10 mph if it senses a curve is being taken too fast
2014 Ford Explorer Sport MSRP: Starting at $40,780 plus $895 destination and delivery charges