Ford Needs a High Performance SUV

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2016 Ford Explorer Platinum Review - 20150901_185027

If I were to ask you what is the best-selling SRT product from the folks over at Fiat Chrysler, what would you answer? If you answered Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, you’d be correct. Like the Raptor in many ways, the GC SRT doesn’t make a lot of sense. But they sell a bunch of them. We’re supposed to be getting a bunch of new Ford Performance products over the coming years, and a performance SUV needs to be one of them.

The reality is, it wouldn’t be difficult to make a high-performance Explorer. The 2016 Explorer already has the 3.5L EcoBoost as an available option, and a tuned variant of that is in the new 2017 Raptor as well as the Ford GT. It wouldn’t be hard for Ford to turn up the wick on the Explorer.

They also have the performance hardware to make it handle well. The Explorer Sport and Platinum already have all-wheel drive as standard, which can send 100% of the power to the rear wheels if required. Changing some computer code would really be all that’s needed to give the Explorer an even more sporty feel.

Shelby Configurator

If they wanted to go all-out, they could even incorporate MagneRide magnetorheological ride control dampers in the Explorer. Now that Ford has teased us with it in the Shelby GT350 and GT350 R Mustangs, it’s possible we’ll see the technology on other vehicles (especially the performance ones).

When it comes to fuel economy, they’ll already be a leg up against the competition. The EcoBoost engines score well on the EPA fuel economy testing cycle, so a high-performance Explorer wouldn’t necessarily kill the company’s CAFE. Compare that to what FCA, who is rumored to be killing all HEMI V8 engines due to CAFE.

So what would a high performance Explorer look like?

17FordRaptor_05_HR - Copy

Well, it’d have a 3.5L EcoBoost in basically Raptor tune. It seems like 450 horsepower is a solid number prediction for the Raptor. The GC SRT makes 485 horsepower, but we know the EcoBoost can handle well into the 600 range without problems (because racecar).

Ford is working on a new performance all-wheel drive system that will first debut in the Ford Focus RS, but is something Ford plans on adapting to other vehicles. If, for some reason, the system currently in the Explorer couldn’t handle the task, the new system surely could.

2016 Ford Focus RS

Adjustable dampers, especially MagneRide magnetorheological ride control dampers, would help eliminate body dive and roll. With the right programming, they can adjust the viscosity of the damping fluid per damper hundreds of times per second. Ferrari uses it. Chevrolet uses it. It works.

Just slap on a set of brakes from the Shelby GT350 and some optional Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, and you’d have a high-performance Explorer from parts that Ford is already using. How much could it possibly cost to make that happen?

Also, a set of Recaro seats in an Explorer would be awesome!

What do you think? Does Ford need a high-performance street SUV to be competitive? It seems to work well for other brands. Let us know your thoughts in the forums!

Chad Kirchner is a regular contributor to Corvette Forum and Ford Truck Enthusiasts, among other auto sites.

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