Ford, Road Test Reviews

2019 Ford Explorer Sport – Road Test

2019 Ford Explorer Sport, Iain Shankland,

Time waits for no one and in the automotive world 7 years is a lifetime. That’s the last time I drove a Ford Explorer. Back in 2012 I came away impressed with the SUV but appalled with the fuel consumption – that was with the 3.5 L V6 and during its initial ground-up re-design (2011-2015). Now, in phase 3 of the current model, have Ford made any improvements not only to the fuel economy but also the Explorer overall? Let’s find out before the new 2020 hits the streets…

What Is It?   

  • Full-size SUV
  • Three-Row seating
  • 5L Twin-Scroll EcoBoost engine producing 365 hp and 350 lb.-ft. of torque
  • Sport gets a 400-hp engine along with a sport-tuned suspension
  • 6-Speed SelectShift Automatic Transmission with Paddle Shift
  • Intelligent 4WD
  • Four available models: XLT, Limited, Sport and Platinum
  • Base model comes with a 2.3L EcoBoost I-4, 6-speed SelectShift automatic with Paddle Shift and 4WD

2019 Ford Explorer Sport, Iain Shankland, Road-Test.orgHow Does It Look?                              

  • I’ve always liked the look of the Explorer and this model and phase is very attractive
  • The test vehicle had the 20” Premium Painted Wheels ($700) which I thought were hideous and looked like cheap steel rims the Police Explorers have
  • Black Door handles come standard and looked rather odd on the white Explorer

 What’s It Like Inside?       

  • Nice thick steering wheel – noticed right away how comfortable it is – it’s right up there with the best BMW has to offer
  • I love the way Ford have pushed the entire dashboard down, giving you a great view out the front window. Gone are the days when the top of the steering wheel dominated your line of sight!
  • The seats are very comfortable, very easy to set and forget
  • 10-way power front seats
  • Leather 3-stage Heated and Cooled seats
  • 3-Person Driver’s Seat & Mirror Memory – a bonus for when more than one person drives it regularly
  • Centre console is attractive, but it’s exactly the same as the Edge and has the same issues with being a little hard to figure out while driving
  • Power tilt/telescoping steering wheel
  • Huge moonroof covers the entire roof – only the front opens for ventilation
  • Storage compartments are everywhere in the Explorer and other than the actual glove box every one of them are extremely useful
  • In the second row there’s an abundance of legroom along with rear auxiliary climate control
  • Optional, second -row, heated dual bucket seats with Power-Assist Fold – The rear seating is unique with the very comfortable captain’s chairs – they even have their own climate adjustments. This is an incredibly luxurious and comfortable place for 4 people, and with tonnes of luggage room behind the second row…or another 2 or 3 people if you use the 3rd row bench.
  • Sony Audio System with 10 speakers – sound is really good, much better than in other Fords I’ve driven recently – not as good as the B&O unit though
  • Cargo Capacity: Behind 3rd Row 21 cu.ft / Behind 2nd Row: 43.9 cu.ft / all seats folded: 81.7 cu.ft

2019 Ford Explorer Sport, Iain Shankland, So How Quick Is It & How Does It Handle?                    

  • It’s fairly quick – it’ll never flatten your eyeballs, but brisk is probably the word I’d use to describe it’s prowess off the line
  • The 3.5L Twin-Scroll EcoBoost engine feels more athletic in the F-150 than the Explorer
  • Switch to Sport, pull one of the paddles and automatically the tachometer pops up in the left screen
  • Very quiet and hushed interior – a great place to spend long distances on the highway
  • Steering input is very good – almost sporty
  • Maximum Towing Capacity – 5,000 lbs
  • Note: Class III Trailer Tow Package is standard on Sport and Platinum series, but does require a weight-distribution hitch

Horsepower:          365 (93 Octane Fuel)
Torque:                  350 (93 Octane Fuel)
Top Speed:            238 km/h / 148 mph
0 -100 km/h (sec): 6.4
0-60 mph (sec):      6.1

What Does It Cost?

For up-to-date pricing visit:   or

To Buy…
The Ford Explorer base (XLT) pricing starts at $43,099
Test Vehicle: Sport (base price): $54,599 // As Tested: $59,449

To Operate…

  • Rated at (L/100 km): City – 15.2 / Highway – 10.9
  • I averaged 10.3 L/100 km on mixed highway/country/town driving and improved that to 9.3 L/100 km when I used the cruise control for an extended period of time at a constant 100 km/h
  • The Explorer only had 67 kilometres on it when I started the journey, so these numbers should improve as the engine breaks in


  • Basic: 3 years/60,000 km
  • Powertrain: 5 years/100,000 km
  • Roadside Assistance: 5 years/100,000 km

Vehicle’s features, options…

 Noteworthy Standard Features

  • SecuriCode keyless entry keypad – the best thing since sliced bread! Once you have it you’ll always want it on your vehicle
  • Perforated Leather Seating Surfaces with Red Accent Stitching
  • 20-inch Machined Aluminum Wheels with Painted Pockets
  • (included) Safe and Smart Package
  • Lane-Keeping System helps detect and alert you to vehicle drift
  • Adaptive Cruise Control and Forward Collision Warning with Brake Support
  • Rain-sensing wipers
  • Auto high-beam headlights
  • Hill start assist
  • Hill Descent Control
  • Terrain Management System – Normal (Intelligent 4WD) Mud/Rut (limits upshifting to allow the wheels to spin as needed) Sand (keeps the transmission in its lowest gear to allow the wheels to spin aggressively) Grass/Gravel/Snow (faster upshifts and adjusts the engine torque to improve traction and control on hard and loose surfaces)
  • Trailer sway control
  • Unique sport-tuned independent front and rear suspension
  • Premium Audio System from Sony with Clear Phase and Live Acoustics
  • Third-row PowerFold 50/50 split-folding bench seat 2019 Ford Explorer Sport, Iain Shankland,
  • Power tilt/telescoping steering column
  • Front 180-degree Camera with Washer
  • Remote Start
  • Class III Trailer Tow Package with 4 and 7 pin trailer connectors
  • Foot-Activated, Hands-Free Power Liftgate – this is different from other systems. You don’t swipe your floor left/right, you do a kicking motion – for opening or closing the rear gate. I really liked it – less chance of knocking yourself off-balance while carrying something heavy
  • Heated Steering wheel
  • Voice-Activated Touchscreen Navigation System with SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link
  • Engine Block Heater

Safety Features (Standard)

  • Reverse Sensing System
  • Forward Sensing System
  • BLIS (Blind Spot Information System) with Cross-Traffic Alert
  • Lane-Keeping System, which includes Lane-Keeping Alert, Lane-Keeping Aid and Driver Alert System – I liked this safety feature. The steering vibrates when you leave your lane, but not too much to make it annoying
  • Adaptive Cruise Control and Forward Collision Warning with Brake Support
  • Rear view camera with washer
  • Auto High Beams
  • Automatic LED Low-Beam Headlights
  • LED Fog Lamps
  • Industry-first Inflatable rear outboard safety belts
  • Front Passenger Knee Airbag
  • Traction control
  • AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control
  • Intelligent 4WD System
  • Rain-Sensing Wipers

2019 Ford Explorer Sport, Iain Shankland,


  • SYNC3 AppLink links your favorite compatible mobile apps with your voice, giving you convenient control
  • FordPass Connect’s 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot lets passengers connect tablets, laptops and smartphones. It includes a complimentary 3-month or 3GB data trial
  • FordPass Connect allows you to remotely lock and unlock your vehicle, start your vehicle, remote start your vehicle on a schedule, and operate the climate control system using your smartphone or iPhone. Additionally, you can locate your vehicle, check for recalls, call roadside assistance and check approximate fuel range. FordPass also helps you find fuel and compare prices. Find, reserve and pre-pay for parking in select locations. Plus, get help 24/7 from trained team of Ford Guides
  • iPhone – Apple CarPlay compatibility displays the iPhone interface on your vehicle’s touchscreen. Send and receive text messages by voice. Get directions. Access playlists from Apple Music. iPhone users can view the Waze app’s community-based navigation and traffic features
  • Android Auto compatibility displays the Android interface on your vehicle’s touchscreen. Get voice-guided navigation from Google Maps and Waze. Access your favorite music from your apps. Make calls. Send and receive messages. Just talk to Google Assistant and go. Amazon Alexa users can enjoy their Amazon Echo with the Ford+Alexa app
  • MyKey technology

Noteworthy Options On Test Vehicle
2nd Row Heated Captain Chairs – $500
Twin-Panel Moonroof – $1,750
2nd Row Console – $150
20” Premium Painted Wheels – $700

The Competition
Acura MDX, Chevrolet Suburban, Land Rover Discovery

 The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

  • The Good: Looks good, drives well – a great all-round highway cruiser than can tow 5,000 lbs
  • The Bad: Feels like its pulling around a lot of weight and it is – 2218 kg / 4890 lbs
  • The Ugly: Those black rims
  • Really Ugly: Once again the very bad Ford navigation reared its ugly head. It took us 50 kms out of our way to a gas station that didn’t actually exist! I had already punched in our destination – why didn’t it take us to a gas station on our route?! Fortunately we had plenty of gas to get us to the non-existent station and then to the next destination station I chose, but it was close, only 30kms till empty

What’s The Verdict? 
Great fuel economy, especially on the highway, but even with stop and stop driving on the highway in Ontario it still had way better fuel mileage than I would have thought possible. I always set a target of 10 L/100 km as a good fuel indicator, regardless of the vehicle. Anything less than that is a bonus, except for small vehicles. Anything worse than that had better have a good excuse, and to be honest, I was thinking that if the Explorer got 11.5 it would be acceptable based on its size.

As much as I love the Range Rover, the Explorer is one third to half the price and just as good… seriously. Now that the Explorer has essentially the same running gear (Terrain Management System) as the Land Rover (sand, mud, snow, etc.) it should be just as capable in all situations. Explorer’s have never been the cheapest SUV in the Ford line-up, but the 2019 is worth every penny when you compare it to any vehicle at any price point, at $58,000 I’d quite honestly consider it a bargain.

The new 2020 version isn’t much different as to looks, but the safety features and options will make it a worthy contender – including a hybrid option for the first time.

Copyright © 2019 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text: Iain Shankland / Images: Iain Shankland