Ford's immensely popular Explorer adds a new stable mate to the 2013 lineup with a high-performance 365-horspower V-6 Sport model.

The motive force for the new 2013 Explorer Sport is delivered by a 3.5-liter V-6, along with Ford's dynamic EcoBoost technology, featuring twin turbochargers and Gasoline Direct Injection. The EcoBoost V-6 cranks out 365 horsepower at 5,500 rpm, while delivering 350 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,500 rpm.

The engine mates to an electronically controlled six-speed SelectShift automatic transmission with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Power reaches all four wheels as standard via a specially calibrated 4WD system with Ford's Terrain Management System. The 2013 Explorer Sport achieves EPA mileage estimates of 16 miles per gallon city and 22 mpg highway -- and it's the only seven-passenger, high-performance SUV to do so. We have not official 0-to-60 mph times to report from Ford.

Starting at $40,720, trim levels include the base level Sport, XLT and Limited. I drove the 2013 Ford Explorer Sport with options such as Voice-Activated Navigation System; power liftgate, Blind Spot Warning System and Destination and Delivery Charge, bumping the final sticker to $47,815.

The 2013 Ford Explorer Sport performs well with added chassis reinforcements and a solid-mounted electric power-assisted steering rack for a better feedback both on-road and off. It comes standard with larger brakes for improved pedal feel and response for drivers, along with stronger resistance to fade and better performance while towing.

We found that the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 delivers the power and acceleration of many V-8s, while also providing the efficiency of a V-6. The shifting is smooth, and the ride quality, though not plush, is comfortable.

As the name "Sport" implies, this new model takes the Explorer nameplate to a new level. Bill Gubing, chief engineer for Explorer, Taurus and Police Interceptor vehicles, describes it as "hitting a sweet spot combination of power, usable torque, 4WD capability, with class-leading fuel efficiency."

The Explorer Sport rolls on 5-spoke "can-opener shaped" 20-inch, black painted and machined alloy wheels stamped with the Sport name, and shod with performance tires. Springs and shocks are all-new, and the steering benefits from a unique sport calibration.

The grille showcases gloss Ebony horizontal accent bars with low-gloss Sterling Gray mesh inserts and Explorer is spelled out on the hood's leading edge. Headlamps and taillamps are darkened for a custom look. A gloss Ebony horizontal bar also appears across the rear, matching the front end styling. A lower flat black composite surround provides protection from road debris.

Moving to the interior, the design contrast was inspired by high fashion, mirroring two-tones, currently popular in leather accessories and apparel from design houses Balenciaga and Prada, where stitching is emphasized for a handcrafted appearance, while showcasing Explorer Sport's sculpted sport seats. The steering wheel features unique stitching, too.

Other major accomplishments achieved in this new SUV include: specially calibrated suspension componentry, enhanced Terrain Management System, Hill Descent Control, a tow capacity of up to 5,000 pounds, rear inflatable seatbelts and Trailer Sway Control.

In the final analysis, the 2013 Ford Explorer Sport delivers a sporting experience indeed, and the sound from the polished "trumpet-tipped" dual exhaust is sweet and mellow -- not Mustang GT500 sweet mind you, but satisfying none-the-less.

SPECIFICATIONS

2013 FORD EXPLORER SPORT

VEHICLE TYPE__________________ 7-passenger 4WD SUV

BASE PRICE_____________________ $40,720 (as tested: $47,815)

MOTOR TYPE___________________ 24-valve EcoBoost turbo V6 w/DI

DISPLACEMENT_________________3.5-liter

HORSEPOWER (net)______________365 at 5500 rpm

TORQUE (lb.-ft.)_________________ 350 at 3500 rpm

TRANSMISSION_________________ 6-speed automatic

OVERALL LENGTH_______________ 197.1 in.

TURNING CIRCLE (curb-to-curb):__ 39.8 ft.

CURB WEIGHT__________________ 4,921 lbs.

FUEL CAPACITY________________ 18.6 gal.

EPA MILEAGE RATING___________ 16 mpg city, 22 mpg highway