Ford Performance is showing off a special edition Ford Explorer ST at the Woodward Dream Cruise. This isn’t a shocking debut because a “performance” Explorer exists. When the Explorer got a refresh, an ST version was also announced, just in case drivers shopping for a Mustang were suddenly struck by the realization that they needed an SUV.
This one-off Explorer ST dials up the performance with a safety cage, Recaro seats, Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires and window nets. It keeps the 3.0-liter twin turbo V6 engine, but it’s tuned so it makes more than the stock 400 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque. It also seems to sit lower than usual.
I audibly sighed when I saw this thing. Look, I get it. Performance SUVs are a thing. Like it or not, carmakers will keep lobbing these softballs because SUVs make money. I am perfectly OK with Aston Martin selling the DBX if that means the company will stick around to make the Valhalla. To quote my favorite TV dads, “Don’t judge, Teddy. Don’t Judge.” I won’t judge you, performance SUVs.
Except that I think this particular Explorer is just a little silly because it comes from the Ford Performance Racing School. Dan McKeever, the Racing School president praised the Explorer ST and explained why Ford felt compelled to take the ST further. Here’s what the scholars from the Blue Oval said:
...the Explorer ST is a phenomenal vehicle. Already fast and nimble, our goal with our modified vehicle is to take this already capable platform and turn up the volume a bit… further unleashing the beast into one capable of thrilling up to four people on the track - all in a safe and controlled manner. Working closely with Ford engineers and with our valued partners we are on our way to accomplishing just that – and this vehicle is scheduled to see plenty of track time starting shortly after the Woodward Dream Cruise.
I think it’s safe to say that drivers learning how to competently lap on a track don’t need to aspire to putting down shorter times in a heavy, cumbersome family car. The Racing School needs sharp instruments, and this ain’t it!
This isn’t a production car, so OK. It’s more like a proof of concept, instead. But what concept is it proving? Again, SUVs serve a purpose. Performance SUVs are a necessary evil, but performance SUVs for a track school are superfluous.