A quick drive this week in the 2013 Ford Explorer Sport opened our world to a fun to drive, but thirsty alternative to the garden variety XLT model. The Sport of course while once the base model Explorer is now a high-performance variant priced much closer to the top of the range.’

Starting out at $40,720, the Explorer Sport is all but fully loaded at the outset. The most important and defining equipment however is the 3.5 liter EcoBoost twin turbo V6 from the Ford Taurus SHO which churns out some 365 horsepower through all four tires.

This sport persona is accentuated on the outside by blacked out grille and headlamp trims, big 20” black accent wheels with aggressive rubber and sizable dual outlets out the back. The wheels and tires work well with a sport tuned suspension which is tighter and more responsive than the standard model.

Inside you get leather trimmed seating for up to seven, though our tester came with the optional second row captain’s chairs which limits you to only six. Our tester also came with the top of the line MyFord Touch system.

We panned this driver interface last time we test drove the Explorer and we don’t like it any better this time. It took us minutes when getting behind the wheel to simply figure out how to turn off the radio and the HVAC.

The system is simply frustratingly difficult tech for tech’s sake which adds nothing positive if safe to the driving experience. To many other brands we drive do this better and offer up all the same features in a way that is intuitive, safe and easy.

Other than that the cabin was plenty comfortable and the ride very mature despite our constant prodding of the accelerator. The chassis is sublimely tight yet supple on the highway, feeling very competent to handle the power this SUV has.

Overall we came away impressed with the Sport version of the Explorer. It transforms this car-like SUV from a soccer-mom’s wagon to a vehicle dad can drive to the gym with pride. It has the nuts and bolts to deliver a lot more than groceries.

For a full report and photo galleries, see our review at ActivityVehicle.com