Ford adds a new appearance package to the Explorer XLT to make a sixth trim level in the Explorer lineup

It wasn’t that long ago that that increasing gas prices almost killed off the SUV market. We traded in our Ford Explorers and Dodge Durangos for more fuel efficient cars like the Honda Civic or the Ford Focus. Just a few years later, the SUV market has rebounded with a vengeance. As the interest in SUVs continue to grow, manufacturers are starting to offer more and more variants of the SUVs in their lineups. Today, the manufacturer in the spotlight is Ford and its release of a new trim level for the Ford Explorer.

Currently, the Explorer is offered in five trims – Base, XLT, Limited, Sport, and Platinum. According to Ford, Explorer buyers are interesting in unique models, with the Explorer Sport and Explorer Platinum accounting for 30 percent of Explorer sales in the U.S. market. Due to that interest, Ford will now be offering the Ford Explorer Sport Appearance Package.

Ford’s Explorer brand marketing manager, Omar Odeh, says, “Our Sport Appearance philosophy is rooted in the fact that we know exterior appearance is the No. 1 consideration in SUV purchase decisions. The XLT Sport Appearance Package is a dramatic offering that gives customers another attractive option.”

The XLT Sport Appearance trim is set to join the Explorer lineup sometime this summer, with its little brother – the 2017 Ford Escape – also receiving a similar addition to its lineup. So, now that Ford has spilled the beans, let’s take a look at what the Explorer XLT Sport Appearance Package brings to the lineup.

Updated 02/12/2016: We added a series of new images of the new Explorer XLT Sport Appearance Package taken during its official unveiling at the 2016 Chicago Auto Show. Check them out in the "Pictures" tab.

Continue reading to learn more about the Ford Explorer XLT Sport Appearance Package.

What makes the Ford Explorer XLT Sport Appearance Package special

2017 Ford Explorer XLT Sport Appearance Package High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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First off, let’s not beat around the bush here. Ford says this offering adds a whole new model to the current Explorer lineup, but really, it’s nothing more than a package applied to the Explorer XLT. Outside, Ford started by adding 20-inch Magnetic Gray wheels to go with the Magnetic Gray mirror caps on the side view mirror and the Ebony Black body side cladding.

Up front, you’ll find a Magnetic Gray grille and the addition the “Explorer” moniker spelled out across the hood. A black roof rack has been added to the roof, and out back, the strip between the two taillights has been replaced with a Magnetic Gray strip. There are no other updates to speak of, so if you were hoping for a sportier bumper or other aerodynamic features, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

2017 Ford Explorer XLT Sport Appearance Package High Resolution Interior
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In addition to the exterior changes, Ford also brings some new livery to the inside of the Explorer XLT as well. The front seats are wrapped in Earth Gray leather, with the out bolsters wrapped in premium leather from Salerno. When it comes to the rear seats, the seat back uppers are wrapped in Dark Earth Gray Miko suede, with inserts in Umber scrim. Umber scrim is also applied to the door trim inserts, and Umber contrast stitching is used all the way around. And, to top it all off, Ford is also throwing in a set of floor mats with the Explorer logo on them. As you can see from the images, these somewhat small and subtle changes really do a lot for the interior of the cabin. I specifically like the placement and color of the door trim inserts. The whole color scheme works really well.

2017 Ford Explorer XLT Sport Appearance Package High Resolution Exterior
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Since this model is based off the XLT trim, the SUV is power by a 3.5-liter V-6 that puts out 290 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque. It comes with Ford’s Intelligent Access system with push-button start, 10-way power driver’s seat, Sync 3 infotainment system, and LED fog lamps, among other standard features. With that said, the standard XLT retails for $33,400. I see XLT Sport Appearance sitting between the XLT and the Limited, so expect pricing to fall somewhere in the $37,000 range.

Ford Explorer

2016 Ford Explorer High Resolution Exterior
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The Explorer debuted in 1991 as a replacement for the small and boxy Ford Bronco II. Since then, the Explorer has seen five generational changes, with the latest debuting at the L.A. Auto Show in 2014. In current form, the Explorer competes against models like the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Dodge Durango. The Explorer is priced anywhere between $30,700 and $52,600. For comparison purposes, the Grand Cherokee starts out a couple grand less, but can start as high as $50,995 for the range-topping model.
Read our full review on the Ford Explorer here.

Press Release

Giving SUV buyers a fresh option for a sportier-looking ride, Ford adds the new Explorer XLT Sport Appearance Package to its popular full-size SUV lineup for 2017. The addition of the package expands Explorer offerings to six models. Other versions include base, XLT, Limited, Sport and the Platinum edition.

2017 Ford Explorer XLT Sport Appearance Package High Resolution Exterior
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Explorer buyers are demonstrating an interest in unique models. Sales of Explorer Sport and Platinum, the two top models, account for approximately 30 percent of Explorer sales in the U.S. market. The new XLT Sport Appearance Package joins the Explorer family beginning this summer.

The 2017 Ford Escape, launching in the coming months, will feature a unique Sport Appearance Package as well.

“Our Sport Appearance philosophy is rooted in the fact that we know exterior appearance is the No. 1 consideration in SUV purchase decisions,” said Omar Odeh, Explorer brand marketing manager. “The XLT Sport Appearance Package is a dramatic offering that gives customers another attractive option.”

The Explorer XLT Sport Appearance Package features updates both inside and out:

2017 Ford Explorer XLT Sport Appearance Package High Resolution Exterior
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20-inch Magnetic Gray wheels
Magnetic Gray grille
Magnetic Gray mirror caps
Magnetic Gray rear appliqué
Ebony Black body side cladding
Black roof rack
Explorer hood badge
Dark Earth Gray leather for front seats, including outer bolsters by premium leather maker Salerno; Dark Earth Gray Miko® suede for seat back uppers and inserts with Umber scrim, and door trim inserts; Umber contrast stitching
Explorer logo floor mats

The 2017 Explorer XLT Sport Appearance Package comes equipped with standard XLT features including a 3.5-liter V6 engine, Intelligent Access with push-button start, 10-way power driver’s seat with lumbar support, SYNC® 3, LED fog lamps and much more.

“In the market right now, across all our SUVs, customers are looking for unique colors, wheels and interior appointments,” said Odeh. “We’ve worked closely with Ford Design to deliver a unique look that will resonate with customers.”

Beginning this spring, Escape buyers can consider the Sport Appearance Package for 2017 as well – available for Escape SE and Titanium models. The package includes premium 19-inch Ebony Black aluminum wheels and high-gloss upper grille; black beltline molding and front fenders; partial leather sport seats with contrast stitching, and more.

2017 Ford Explorer XLT Sport Appearance Package High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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SUV sales remain robust in U.S. market
Driven in part by increased sales to maturing millennials and continued interest from baby boomers – the two largest consumer groups in the U.S. market – SUV performance is robust and is expected to continue through the end of the decade.

More efficient than ever, with EcoBoost® engines available for every nameplate, Ford-brand SUV sales totaled more than 740,000 vehicles in 2015 – an increase of nearly 7 percent versus a year earlier. Escape sales in 2015 reached 306,492 vehicles – an all-time record. Sales of the new Edge grew 14 percent, with Explorer sales increasing more than 18 percent.

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