Following the positive response it saw after revealing images of four crazy Explorers Ford had custom built for SEMA last year, the Blue Oval has decided to offer buyers its own custom model. The new Explorer XLT Sport Appearance Package is the newest member of the brand’s full-size SUV lineup for 2017, making it the sixth model to emerge on the market, and adds a fresh spin on what many consider an already attractive vehicle.
According to Ford, “Explorer buyers are demonstrating an interest in unique models,” and since sales of top-tier versions of the Explorer Sport and Platinum have accounted for approximately 30% of the SUV’s sales in the U.S., the demand for something more flashy is gaining ground. Slated for release at the beginning of summer, Ford says the XLT Sport Appearance Package will be accompanied by the 2017 Ford Escape,which will also feature a unique Sport Appearance Package for buyers.
“Our Sport Appearance philosophy is rooted in the fact that we know exterior appearance is the No. 1 consideration in SUV purchase decisions,” said Omar Odeh, Explorer brand marketing manager, in a statement. “The XLT Sport Appearance Package is a dramatic offering that gives customers another attractive option. Across all our SUVs, customers are looking for unique colors, wheels and interior appointments.”
So, should you opt for this package? Sure, it makes the Explorer look sportier, but it doesn’t do anything for performance. While demand for custom appearance packages is on the rise like never before, we’re curious to see what all you get in this kit.
At a press conference at the Chicago Auto Show, Mark LaNeve, Ford Motor Company vice president of marketing, sales, and service, highlighted the reasoning behind why customized SUV demand is on the rise like never before, and it all has to do with demographics.
“As members of the 80-million-strong millennial age group enter their prime child-rearing years, a leading indicator of more SUV sales, nearly 80 million aging baby boomers continue to prefer their SUVs,” LaNeve said. “It’s a demographic double whammy and it all points to one thing – more SUVs for the foreseeable future.”
SUV sales have remained relatively robust in America, even though crossovers have stolen quite a bit of their thunder. But now that many millennials are settling down and having kids, their preference for standing out has helped guide Ford’s hand, as both this fresh demographic and a strong interest from baby boomers has proven to be a real goldmine in the limited release department. Hell, these are the two largest consumer groups in the U.S. market right now, so Ford’s hitting the piston right on the head when it proclaimed that “SUV performance is robust and is expected to continue through the end of the decade.”
So if you are one of those individuals who’s considering a new Ford Explorer, here are a few details on what you’ll get by upgrading to the Explorer XLT Sport Appearance Package:
- 20-inch Magnetic Gray wheels
- Magnetic Gray grille
- Magnetic Gray mirror caps
- Magnetic Gray rear appliqué
- Ebony Black body side cladding
- Black roof rack
- Explorer hood badge
- Dark Earth Gray leather for front seats, including outer bolsters by premium leather maker Salerno
- Dark Earth Gray Miko suede for seat back uppers and inserts with Umber scrim, and door trim inserts
- Umber contrast stitching
- Explorer logo floor mats
While this may not seem like a lot to brag about, and pricing still has yet to be released, after looking this upgrade over in person at the Chicago Auto Show, I can attest that it is a pretty fetching upgrade. If Ford is able to keep the additional cost competitive it shouldn’t have any issues moving this new model, because while it would be nice to see some different exhaust tip options and wheel colors, looking at this version side-by-side with a normal XLT makes it pretty obvious which of the two is more attractive.
But for us, one of the best things about the 2017 Explorer XLT Sport Appearance Package is what’s under the hood. While it does come standard with a simple 3.5-liter V6 engine, it’s the optional 2.3-liter turbo EcoBoost four-banger that gets our interest. Far more efficient than ever before, EcoBoost engines offer practical power gains in a small aluminum shell, and in the case of the XLT Explorer that translates to 280 horsepower and 310 foot-pounds of torque. Couple that with a towing capacity of 3,000 pounds when equipped with the optional “Class II Trailer Tow Package,” and you’ve got a strong SUV that features more than just push-button start, SYNC 3 infotainment, LED fog lamps, and some sporty appearance add-ons.