Gen-X doesn’t always get the love it deserves from big companies. Sandwiched between the larger Baby Boomer and Millennial Generations, Gen-X is often misunderstood or ignored by manufacturers and marketers. That’s a huge mistake, as members of Gen-X are now reaching their prime earning years.
Ford is one company that’s not dropping the ball with Gen-X. The Detroit automaker may be one of the few companies that truly understand the wants and needs of this hard-to-peg generation. Recent reports show that Ford’s Explorer Sport SUV is incredibly popular with Gen-Xers. That’s paying big dividends for Ford, as it provides them with a loyal, affluent customer base for one of its higher-end products.
MartizCX performed the study, which identified the Explorer Sport, now available at Indianapolis Ford dealerships, as the best-selling non-luxury SUV among Gen-X auto consumers in the U.S. The study found that the Ford Explorer Sport is attracting 40 percent of midsize SUV consumers born between 1965 and 1978, years commonly agreed to be the birth years of Gen-Xers.
The study also found that Explorer Sport buyers have an average household income of around $175,000, compared to $112,000 for average buyers of midsize SUVs. This gives the Explorer Sport an affluent customer base—a good sign for Ford, as the company seeks to sell newer vehicles with more bells and whistles.
Gen-Xers are generally considered to be less status-conscious and more practical than Boomers and less impressed with flash-in-the-pan trendy marketing than Millennials. Ford appears to have hit the sweet spot with Gen-Xers, with the Explorer Sport, creating a vehicle that offers solid performance and value without the exorbitant price tag attached to luxury models. For around $45,000, consumers can get the same comfort, performance, and whiz-bang technology offered by a similar luxury brand model for $10,000 to $20,000 more.
2017 Ford Explorer Sport
The 2017 Ford Explorer Sport—sold at Bloomington Ford dealers and dealers around the U.S.— is one of the top trim levels of the Ford Explorer, and it offers a variety of features not found in standard Explorers. Perhaps the most significant difference between the Sport and lower trim levels is the twin-turbo V6 engine available in the Ford Explorer Sport. This more powerful engine vastly outperforms the base Explorer engine, making the Sport version more exciting to drive.
The Explorer Sport’s twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 packs quite a punch. The engine generates 365 horsepower and 350 ft-lbs of torque. That gives the Explorer Sport plenty of get up and go for traveling in the city or the highway. Power is delivered to the wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. Drivers can coax superior performance from the vehicle with the transmission’s Sport mode.
The extra power in the Sport version of the Explorer helps it overcome one of the few complaints drivers have about the lower trim levels of the vehicle—a lumbering, sluggish driving experience. The twin turbo engine provides a more nimble and responsive driving experience. The Explorer Sport can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just 6.3 seconds—an excellent number for a three-row SUV.
The Explorer is unusually quiet for an SUV its size. Wind noise is minimal and tire noise is also pretty quiet. Even at full acceleration, the Explorer’s engine doesn’t make a lot of noise.
In addition to the more powerful engine, the Explorer Sport also offers all-wheel drive, a terrain management system, suspension improvements, hill descent control, and improved towing ability. The Explorer’s maximum towing capacity is 5,000 lbs., allowing owners to tow most watercraft or travel trailers.
The Ford Explorer Sport gets high marks for the comfort and quality of its cabin. The vehicle can easily seat seven people comfortably with room to spare. The spacious three-row vehicle provides high-quality, plush seats that make long trips easy. Leg and head room are generous throughout the vehicle. Owners with young families will be pleased with the two sets of LATCH connectors on the second-row seats. The third row also has LATCH seats.
The Ford Explorer offers good cargo space, with 21 feet available when all seats are in use and 82 feet when the full cargo capacity of the vehicle is utilized. The second and third rows of the Explorer fold completely flat, allowing owners to get maximum cargo room from the space available.
One of the most significant updates Ford made for the Explorer for 2017 was the addition of the SYNC 3 infotainment system. The SYNC 3 is a huge improvement over Ford’s previous infotainment system—it’s more intuitive and responsive. Motions used to control the SYNC 3 system are similar to those used to control most smartphones, adding an element of familiarity that will make the system easier for new owners to master. New Explorer Sports also offer the ability to sync with your smartphone, reducing instances of distracted driving.
Gen-Xers getting ready to hand over the keys to teen drivers will be happy to know the Explorer Sport has the Ford MyKey system as a standard feature. Ford MyKey allows owners to set speed and audio volume limits for teen drivers.
The Explorer gets pretty good reliability numbers for a large vehicle. J.D. Power and Associates gave the Explorer a three out of five score for reliability—about average for its market segment. Owners can largely avoid any mechanical issues with the vehicle by following the suggested maintenance schedule in the owner’s manual. New Explorer Sports come with a three-year, 36,000-mile warranty, and a five-year, 60,000-mile powertrain warranty.
The 2017 Explorer Sport is a very safe vehicle, which may explain its popularity with high-income Gen-Xers with families. The vehicle earns an overall five-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety also gives the Explorer Sport its highest rating. The vehicle comes standard with a rearview camera, and buyers can also opt for features such as adaptive cruise control, lane assistance, blind spot monitoring, parking sensors, and more.
The Sport starts at around $45,355, which is a bit more than the price of a base Explorer at $31,660. The price of the Sport is significantly cheaper than luxury mid-sized SUVs that offer the same or even fewer amenities as the Explorer Sport.
It’s easy to see why Gen-Xers, particularly those with families, have embraced the Ford Explorer Sport. It offers excellent on-the-road performance, a comfortable cabin, and great tech features, and it costs much less than many comparable vehicles. For a generation that prides itself on being more practical than the Boomers or Millennials, the Ford Explorer Sport is a good spirit animal.
Overall sales of the Ford Explorer have been strong in recent years. In 2016 the Explorer sold more than 248,500 vehicles in the U.S. That’s up significantly from the 179,229 Explorers sold a decade ago, and a remarkable recovery from the 52,190 vehicles sold in 2009 during the depths of the Great Recession.
Ford’s success with the Explorer Sport is promising for the automaker’s future as the 66 million strong Gen-X is now entering its prime earning years. By continuing to focus on practicality and value, Ford can capture this demographic’s loyalty for years to come.
Gen-Xers looking for a car dealership that truly understands them and their automotive needs should visit Indianapolis Ford dealer Community Ford Lincoln. A well-established Ford dealer, Community Ford serves customers from Bloomington, Indianapolis, Columbus, Spencer, Terre Haute, and surrounding communities. Stop by today to test drive a new Explorer Sport or browse Community Ford Lincoln’s wide selection of other great Ford and Lincoln vehicles.