By Staff Contributor and edited by Christina Selter.
When you want to ramble on down the highway in comfort, style, and speed, the best vehicle for the task isn’t a sports car. It’s the opposite, in fact. The best choice is a powerful sport utility vehicle. There are a handful of choices in this category too. Porsche has the Cayenne while Jeep offers up the Grand Cherokee SRT8. Those are the obvious choices though; let’s take a look at two you might overlook.
When you hear 2013 Ford Explorer, you might think you’re in for something a bit on the dull side. Were it the plain Explorer, you’d be kind of correct. Add the word “SPORT” to the end, however, and you’re in for a delightful surprise. Ford engineers worked their magic on this big rig to churn out actual performance from the chassis. The Explorer Sport has slightly wider wheels, improved suspension tuning, and plenty of extra bracing. The result is a vehicle that handles far more nimbly than one would expect.
That’s a good thing because it means you can make use of every ounce of power from the 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6 engine mounted under the hood. This unit is good for 365 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque, and it’s paired with a six-speed automatic gearbox.
The 2013 Infiniti FX50S is no slouch either, however, and it boasts a 5.0-liter V8 engine under its shapely nose. This eight-cylinder mill is good for 390 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired with a seven-speed automatic than can be shifted via paddles mounted behind the steering wheel. You’d think with that extra gear that the Infiniti would be better about drinking fuel. You’re wrong though, as it is rated to achieve 20 miles per gallon on the highway compared to the 22 of the Explorer Sport. Plus it takes the relaxation and patience of Buddha himself to even hit that number.
The Infiniti is down a bit compared to the Explorer Sport in the handling department. The Ford corners surprisingly flat while the Infiniti corners, well, like a crossover utility vehicle. It is aided a bit by some massive wheels and tires and an ever-so-slight weight difference. What’s not so slight is the price difference. The Ford Explorer Sport will cost you $40,000. Should you prefer the Infiniti you’re going to need to part with… wait for it … at least $61,000. The FX50 we tested rang in at $67,000 and it’s possible to push even higher. Still, with the FX50 you’re definitely getting a luxury car. The interior, while not as roomy as that of the Ford, is far more comfortable and way more stylish. The exterior is far more stylish too, but the Explorer isn’t as far behind here. In fact, the Ford reminds us of a Range Rover in profile, and that’s one handsome shape to emulate.
So which is the preferred highway stormer? Despite the better looks, interior, and grunt, we have to go with the 2013 Ford Explorer Sport. It’s a ton cheaper, is way better when the road starts to twist, and just a hair better at the pump as well. Ford has created a hidden gem in its lineup… just look for the badge that says “SPORT”.