Another week, another snow storm. That seems to be our life out here in Québec now, but luckily we had a big heavy AWD SUV to boot around in. The 2018 Ford Explorer Sport is Ford's third full-size SUV offered in their vehicle lineup, including the older crossover Flex, and recently re-designed Expedition. The Explorer has quickly become the go-to choice for law enforcement across North America, and while you can't really buy a Police Interceptor from your local Ford store, this Spot trim gets you the performance you want for just under $60k.
In fact this vehicle was equipped with just over $5,600 worth of accessories, including the twin panel sunroof ($1,750), the second row captains chairs ($500), dual DVD players ($2,100), 20" painted aluminium rims ($650), and some extras like floor mats and roof rails. All-in the Explorer we're featuring has an MSRP of $59,829.00 Canadian.
First off lets talk about the exterior design, since it did receive a very light facelift for the 2018 model year. The front headlights and fog lamps are about the only real changes, giving this vehicle a slightly more streamlined look. The regular lighting up front is all LED but still uses a reflector-based halogen light for high beams. The rest of this full-size SUV doesn't seem to have changed on the outside, but does have a few features worth going over. The parking sensors on the front and back help when parking a behemoth such as this, but you also get a front and rear camera, no 360º system at this price point, but each camera can be cleaned remotely with washer nozzles, something we almost never see in the consumer segment.
Out back you get a power lift-gate and quad exhaust tips. The back end looks nice and refined, and has more of a unique look to it rather than the Xerox'd Land Rover hood and grille. In fact we like the look of this SUV quite a bit, it's sharp and handsome and has good proportions throughout, even if there is a bit of homework copying on the front-end.
Unfortunately the same cannot be said about the interior, which is the weakest point of this vehicle. We discuss in our episode of TestDrive Spotlight on this car that we noticed significant interior fit and finish issues, where the panels didn't meet up properly with the rest of the trim, along with insanely tight panel gaps in some area, with cavernous ones elsewhere. Quality control aside, the interior also felt rather uninspired, similar to the current generation Ford Flex (which we have not featured at this time).
You do have a lot of features, don't get me wrong! It's just the way the interior is presented feels very rushed. Everything's plastic aside from the leather seats and arm rest, and the centre console's layout is almost too symmetrical, feeling more like a mid 2000s Camry than a $60k SUV. Safety tech includes adaptive radar cruise control with emergency braking, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, and rain sensing wipers. The front seats have heat and ventilation, along with dual zone automatic climate control.
The driver had a heated steering wheel, but the control for it is hidden away in the Sync 3 media system. When you're on the home screen the button is front and centre, but if you're like me and use Apple CarPlay, it overrides Ford's built in navigation software, and there's no physical home button on the vehicle, making it cumbersome to get back to the Ford menu system to turn on/off the heated wheel. While we're on the subject of Sync 3, much like in the 2018 Ford F-150 XLT we featured, we liked the built-in navigation system Ford uses, but find it annoying that connecting your smartphone, whether it be Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, will disable the Ford system.
The centre row seat is configured with that $500 captain's chair setup, and you need to fork over another $500 if you want a centre console arm rest back there too. The centre seats get heat and their own manual control climate zone with roof vents for better airflow. The $2,100 DVD package also comes in handy if you have younger kids who get bored easily on any trips you make. The wireless headphones allow them to watch whatever they want without hearing the outside world, and we certainly put the system through it's paces during our week, and it worked flawlessly each time.
We also found those centre row seats to feel more comfortable than the ones up front, and they also have added padding around the lower parts of the belt so children like our 4 year old daughter don't get irritated by the belt along their neck. This is something we actually haven't seen on any other vehicle marketed today.
The very back row can be lifted or hidden automatically from buttons in the trunk, and we found the trunk space to be superb even with the seats fully open. In fact the hidden compartment where the seats fit into opens up to provide a large amount of extra space, more than we've found in some other three row SUVs we've featured. The centre row seats can also be flipped out of the way with the push of a button along the bottom of the C-Pillar.
Performance is likely going to be top-of-mind with a vehicle like this, considering it's a Sport trim, so it better have some power. And it does. The 3.5L Twin Turbo EcoBoost V6 engine produced 365 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque matted to a pretty standard 6 speed automatic transmission. We're actually surprised the Explorer Sport still comes with a 6 speed automatic over the larger transmissions Ford is now offering in the rest of their full-size offerings. Overall we had no issues getting onto the highway and passing other traffic with this vehicle, and we ended up averaging 12.7L/100km during our week.
The V6 engine should be suitable for anyone looking to tow trailers, boats, or other types of vehicles, but as always we recommend checking the manufacturer's specifications for towing capacity for the exact purpose you're planning on using it for.
Overall we had a mix of good and bad with this Explorer Sport. A light refresh isn't bad, but won't be enough to get existing Explorer customers to upgrade. We expect a full generation update within the next year or two, considering this Explorer has been around since 2011 making it one of Ford's older vehicles in their current lineup.
You can watch our full episode of TestDrive Spotlight on this 2018 Ford Explorer Sport below: