There are few joys like unexpected performance. The new Ford Explorer ST delivers that joy liberally, with just a touch of the accelerator pedal. There is no other SUV anywhere near the Explorer ST’s price point that delivers as much power and performance, especially considering the Explorer ST loses none of its practicality. In fact, all you need to do to experience this unique blend of performance and practicality for yourself is visit your local Ford Explorer dealer.
What makes this SUV special are the engine and chassis upgrades that make it perform and corner better than many sports cars and muscle cars of the past couple of decades. What makes this SUV a truly winning combination, however, is that it still comes with a full array of interior amenities and enormous amounts of both passenger and cargo space. Few vehicles make better jacks of all trades than the Explorer ST.
The heart of the most serious Ford performance SUV is the 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged Ecoboost V6. This engine produces 400 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque. This is more than enough to make the Explorer ST lurch off the line with impressive immediacy and continue to provide significant torque up through the rev range. The turbochargers themselves are sized and tuned to provide most of their boost low in the rev range, contributing not just to acceleration but the feeling of immense grunt that smashes the Explorer’s occupants forward when the throttle is opened up.
Many of the engine’s features are similar to those found in modified performance engines. The 3.0-liter Ecoboost features forged connecting rods to improve strength and reduce weight, while the crankshaft itself is also forged steel. The twin-turbo layout itself is commonly used by aftermarket shops to dramatically increase the power of exotic cars, and it is utilized here to do the same for a factory family SUV. That substantial amount of horsepower is delivered to the wheels through a 10-speed quick-shifting automatic transmission and a computer-aided four-wheel drive system. The automatic’s gears can be individually selected by the driver, adding to the sport experience through better engagement with the experience of going fast.
The four-wheel drive system delivers enormous grip compared to two-wheel drive SUVs. This is especially true of front-wheel drive crossovers, which lose grip under hard acceleration because of the rearward weight shift that said acceleration creates. While rear-wheel drive vehicles can exploit this weight shift to enable much harder acceleration, the Explorer’s four-wheel drive system effectively combines the best of both worlds. It is benign for amateurs to control and lacks the potentially sketchy dynamics of rear-wheel drive, yet maintains the ability to put all its power to the ground.
The Explorer ST features the same basic construction layout as its more mundane siblings in the Explorer range, with a highly optimized unibody platform. Unlike the overly heavy body-on-frame architecture of SUVs past, the unibody backbone provides both improved rigidity and lessened weight. This lack of extraneous weight makes an even more considerable difference in the ST version of the Explorer than the less performance-focused versions.
Building on this platform are several chassis tweaks and upgrades, which allow the Explorer ST to stop and turn as impressively as it goes. First off, the suspension has been firmed up to promote confidence in cornering while eschewing body roll. Wider wheels and tires are available to maximize the Explorer’s grip, as are multiple levels of brake upgrades. These offer significantly beefier brake components in general, which are capable of stopping the Explorer’s still SUV-sized heft from significant speeds multiple times in a row without breaking a sweat.
While the Explorer ST’s main points of interest are definitely under the hood, the interior remains full of creature comforts and amenities. A heating steering wheel is standard, and heated rear seats are available. Tri-zone climate control is also standard, allowing everyone to get exactly the environment they want while cruising.
The Explorer ST also boasts a 12 speaker Bang and Olufsen sound system, with an available 14 speaker upgrade. Speed and high-quality sound have rarely gone together in a vehicle that can bring the whole family along for the ride. Further standard infotainment features include the Ford SYNC 3 system, as well as a voice-activated navigation system. SYNC 3 is accessed through an 8-inch color touchscreen that also integrates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability. The Explorer has the ability to link to apps on your phone for certain functions and provides multiple USB ports for charging.
Passenger space is expansive, with three rows of seating installed as standard. That means that the Explorer gives you the ability to seat up to 7. Legroom, headroom, and general comfort exist in abundance in the 2021 Explorer in general, and this remains true with the Explorer ST. In the front row, there are 40.7 inches of headroom and 43 inches of legroom, allowing just about anyone to comfortably motor along without being cramped. Total passenger volume is a jaw-dropping 152.7 cubic feet. Cargo space remains the same as the standard Explorer as well, with 87.8 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the first row. The interior of the Explorer ST is ready for just about anything.
All of these standard features make the Explorer ST an excellent choice as a family hauler, especially for those who want to make the school run way more fun than it should be. From a standing start, the largest of Ford’s ST vehicles can scoot to 60 miles per hour in just over five seconds. Merely a decade ago, numbers like that were reserved for muscle cars and serious sports cars, and in the 2000s, there were even some supercars that had trouble matching that kind of off-the-line acceleration.
For example, the superlative Ferrari Testarossa, poster child of the late ’80s, is not any faster to the highway speed limit than the Explorer ST. What’s more, the Testarossa requires a perfect launch and a skilled driver to get anywhere near that kind of performance. Meanwhile, the Explorer can do the same all day, with just a heavy right foot. This is thanks to the Explorer’s four-wheel drive system and automatic transmission, which puts the power down better than even a professional driver could in the Testarossa. Other high-performance hero cars would be similarly embarrassed by the Explorer, thanks to its Ecoboost power and intelligent four-wheel drive system.
More Than You Bargained for: The 2021 Ford Explorer ST
The 2021 Ford Explorer ST is the ultimate combination of utilitarian practicality and impressive speed. This especially true given the truck’s starting price roughly 10,000 dollars under the nearest competition. With a 400 horsepower 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 hooked up to an intelligent four-wheel drive system, the Explorer ST is genuinely fast and worthy of the ST badge. So worthy, in fact, that one can bring six other people along for the ride while surprising older sports cars at the stoplights. All the comfort, technology, safety, and cargo space of the standard Explorer become all the more compelling when combined with a set of turbochargers. However, if you don’t believe this vehicle is really all we say it is, test drive it for yourself at your local Ford Explorer dealer now.