In it’s American homeland, the Ford Explorer counts as a mid-size SUV. On this side of the Atlantic, it’s ginormous. Which surely makes a sporty version a total oxymoron. The just-launched Ford Explorer ST aims to prove otherwise.
The sixth generation Explorer was launched earlier this year, using an all-new monocoque chassis. At five metres long, two metres wide and weighing over two tons, it’s a bit of a brute. Adding the storied ST badge is a punchy move but, on paper at least, it looks promising.
Power comes from a 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 motor serving up 400hp and 415lb/ft of torque, sent to a rear-biased four-wheel-drive system via a 10-speed automatic gearbox.
Performance is pretty sprightly, with a 0-60mph time of 5.5secs.
Underneath, the suspension and brakes have been beefed up to cope, and Michelin Latitude Sport 3 tires are available as an option.
Early reports suggest the Explorer ST just about justifies the badge, being as sporty as a huge ‘three-row’ SUV can be. Which, relatively speaking, probably isn’t all that sporty. Still, it seems able to cover ground reasonably rapidly, getting round corners more athletically than you’d think a car this size could.
The Explorer is an excellent family car, too. Inside, there’s room for six in plush armchairs and the boot is huge. It comes well stocked with gadgets including heated and cooled seats and a 360-degree top-view camera.
The only black mark against it as a practical proposition is the oddly low 2.5 ton towing capacity. Perhaps Ford is playing it safe as the Explorer is its first big, monocoque SUV. But the Land Rover Discovery – an aluminium monocoque – can tow 3.5 tons, so Ford could lose some customers there.
The Discovery comparison is apt, here. The Explorer ST costs $55,835, only a few grand less than the admittedly-less-powerful Discovery. But the Disco is at least as capable on-road, unstoppable off-road, more flexible inside and made from much nicer materials.
The way Americans buy cars is bewildering, but the Explorer ST and Discovery could run each very close on monthly payments. We’d go with the Landy, but will the Yanks?
Europeans aren’t entirely left out in this one, as a hybrid version of the Explorer with 450hp is due to go on sale soon. But that won’t be coming to the UK, either.