2013 Ford Explorer Sports – First Test Drive Impressions

What can you say about the new 2013 Ford Explorer?  In a nutshell it is the new redesigned Ford Explorer and is the synthesis of an American SUV with European styling and handling.  The interior was nice and well appointed which made me feel I was in a luxury Lincoln.  Makes you wonder what Ford will do with the Lincoln version of it.  The model I had was a beautiful black and pretty brown leather seats.  The 2013 Explorer Sport has some nice features but the re-engineering is what won me.

Ford's head engineer on the 2013 Ford Explorer emphasized that have improved to make a stiffer body with reinforcements in key structural areas.  Under the two fronts seats where they attached to the floor, there is a bar that stiffens the body, right across the transmission tunnel.  There is another stiffening bar behind the front shocks that is also behind the engine.

What was interesting to hear is that Ford Explorer weight split is 60/40 vehicle but the drivetrain can go into pure 50/50.  There is a convenient knob on the central console where you can select Desert, Forest and Ice mode, each giving you more or less torque if different driving conditions.

Although you sit high, as with any other SUV, it felt responsive and tight… at least tighter than any other SUV I've driven.  I would imagine the Porsche and Maserati could easily out handle the 2013 Ford Explorer, but not its price.  It's a SUV and has limits but more than a few BMWs on twisty roads were surprised by the powerful SUV keeping pace with their German vehicles.  Worse case handling scenario, the rear has a hard time understanding what the front is doing but obliges willingly and follows the curve.

Purist will hate the paddle shifting mounted on the steering wheel instead of the column, but I suspect 90% of its clientele won't know or care what paddle shifters are or even bother to use them.  I found myself a few times coming out of a curve wanting to shift but not being able to figure out which paddle was up or down.  One very nice touch are the good looking 20-inch wheels with “Sport” engraved in them.  The brakes have been generously upgraded for the Sport version for the extra power.

All in all, this is yet another Ford achievement as the company positions itself to compete with the more power and performance oriented SUV market, but at an affordable price.  I found the SUV easy to drive in traffic and even fun to bounce around canyon roads.  The engine comes alive at over 3,000 but not once will it intrude inside your plush felt cabin.  The only thing you will hate on the road if you own a Sport version is to see an older Explorer in front of you heavily braking at every curves.  This SUV is meant to go fast, cruise around town and everything in between.

Top Gear Unveils McLaren MP4-12C Spider

McLaren Spider MP4-12C

Attention all you high performance enthusiasts and exotic car aficionados, here’s a chance to evaluate the new 2012 McLaren MP4-12C Spider. This is particularly exciting given the number of these cars in the United States. By the time you're done with this, you'll be calling transport companies for bids on importing one of these.

Unveiling the New Model

Just over a year ago Ron Dennis of McLaren replaced the F1 with the newly designed MP4-12C. Sales had increased to over 1,000 units worldwide. Now Dennis has included a hardtop convertible dubbed the “Spider.”

Jeremey Clarkson of Top Gear was on hand in Geneva for the unveiling. Immediately it becomes evident that this car is the ultimate in eye candy. The aesthetics are such that it generates an “I have to have that” response right out of the box.

The car appears to sit low, but the 20-inch wheels fit perfectly high in the body giving the car ample ground clearance. It has huge intake vents just forward of the rear wheels which are functional because the engine uses two radiators — one on each side of the car.

A retractable spoiler adorns the rear hatch and forward of that is a killer-looking glass engine cover exposing the engine and turbo runners. It looks amazing with the Lambo doors open. And those are just a few of the high points — wait until you see the interior.

Going Inside

The interior is space-aged with a custom dash and console unlike any other car. A horseshoe-shaped panel runs vertically from the console up and around the steering wheel and down the door panel narrowing as it drops down. This contains the air vents on both sides at the top and all the switches as it continues down. Right away you will notice something missing — the gearshift. The MP4-12C has a 7-speed transmission with paddle shifters only. The color combinations accentuate the interior perfectly and the quality of the seats and panels are top notch.

What It Can Do

Now things are getting really interesting. The part that makes this dog hunt is a mid-engine 3.8-liter V8 with double overhead cams, port fuel injection and twin turbochargers. It produces an amazing 592 horsepower at 7,500 rpm and 443 pounds feet of torque. This was confirmed with a dyno test done by Straight Line.

Considering the size of the engine, it is quite an achievement. Anyone who builds racecars knows that all conventional engines have a fixed camshaft. The camshaft must be installed for either low-end torque or high rpm power. It requires a tradeoff. McLaren uses variable camshaft timing, however, to avoid trading anything. The camshafts run at low rpm to build torque. As the engine revs, a mechanism advances the camshaft to increase air and fuel flow.

The engine is also has a dry sump type oiling system. The oil is not contained in an oil pan but in an external oil tank. This allows the engine to sit lower in the cradle, effectively lowering the center of gravity. The MP4-12C goes from 0 to 60 in 3.1 seconds and back to 0 in a mere 100 feet. Top speed on the Spider is 204 mph, 3 mph slower than the hard top due to the weight. And good thing too – you can't get them everywhere, so if you're not going to use car transport companies, speeds like that will make your drive across the United States a lot more efficient.

Watch Top Gear's Jeremey Clarkson’s amazing video as he pits the McLaren MP4-12C against the Ferrari 458 in a road course. As you can see in the Top Gear segment the McLaren out-handles the Ferrari 458 in the tight course due to its computer-controlled stabilization.

If you purchase a McLaren be sure to use car transport companies that specialize in hauling exotic cars. The McLaren MP4-12C is a car that competes well with the highest profile exotic cars today, and is readily recognizable as the exotic that it is.