All new for 2002, the Ford Explorer is better than the previous version in every respect. Handling and ride quality are improved with a new frame and an independent rear suspension. Performance is quicker with new or improved overhead-cam engines. It's a quieter, more refined vehicle with an all-new interior. New safety features are being introduced.
But the biggest news for the Explorer is the availability of third-row seating, allowing it to carry up to seven passengers. It's roomier and more comfortable, benefits of its longer wheelbase, wider track and some clever engineering.
In spite of all this, the new Explorer looks familiar inside and out. It seems the more things change, the more they stay the same. In all likelihood, the Ford Explorer will continue to be America's most popular station wagon.
No one should have any trouble identifying the new Ford Explorer. Everything on it is new, but the styling is an evolutionary design. It still looks like an Explorer, just fresher and more contemporary. Ford didn't want to take any risks with the Explorer's design after the styling of the previous Taurus was so roundly criticized. It's a handsome vehicle and it looks contemporary. Just don't expect people to stop, turn and stare when you drive by.
Modern integrated front and rear fascia replace the previous bumper treatments. New jeweled headlamps and tail lamps improve safety. Better perimeter lighting from approach lights mounted on the bottoms of the outside mirrors enhances security. Uplevel models come standard with an illuminated keypad on the door for keyless entry. Ford says it's a popular feature among loyal owners. A beefed up roof rack was designed to support up to 200 pounds.
While the new Explorer attracted little attention, the new Mountaineer caused people in parking lots to stop and point; people on the highway would look at it as they passed by, then stare in their mirrors.
The new Explorer is the same overall length and the previous model, but it sits on a (two-inch) longer wheelbase and a much wider track, making it more stable and more comfortable. Lowered frame rails mean the front and rear of the Explorer matches up to a Taurus bumper for improved safety for those around you.
Though everything inside the Explorer is new, our Eddie Bauer felt familiar, with the familiar beige steering wheel, the familiar pinhole leather seating material. Light-colored trim on the inside A-pillars and grab handle add to a light, airy atmosphere. It's a successful execution, though the mouse fur roof liner is nothing to write home about. Leather on the Eddie Bauer model is attractive, but it seems like they could have put leather on the visible inside edge of the seat bottom. We've only glimpsed the cloth and weren't overly impressed, but it may have been a base XLS model.
Handsome gray wood accents, adjustable pedals, a telescoping steering wheel (CY2002), and increased seat travel make the Explorer fit a wider variety of body types. Big coat hooks accommodate thick hangers and big loads of dry cleaning. Nicely designed cubby holes with rubber mats and a relatively large center console help keep odds and ends in check. Interior door handles seem a bit awkward, though, especially on the driver's door; I found myself fumbling around for it at night. Map pockets on the insides of the doors are handy and swell at the end to hold water bottles, but they wouldn't accommodate my one-liter Poland Springs water bottle.
The front seats are comfortable. They are wider and offer more fore-and-aft travel than before. Seat heaters are part of the Eddie Bauer way of living. They keep you warm while the truck is still heating up. The buttons for them are mounted on the sides of seats, which is a bit awkward. Reaching down the side of the driver's seat, the left hand is confronted with an array of seat adjusters. Finding and pressing the seat heater button illuminates a small indicator for each seat on the climate control display. Your passenger will fumble around a bit the first time he or she tries to turn it on. Likewise, it isn't always easy to find the height adjuster. Rake is easy to adjust and there's a knob on the uplevel seats for cranking in some lumbar support.
The decision to add a third row of seating drove much of the design and engineering of the 2002 Explorer. As a result, Ford has done an excellent job of making the third row as roomy as possible, while enabling the driver to quickly flip it out of the way when it isn't needed.
The third row offers as much headroom as the second row, but legroom, shoulder room and hip room are significantly compromised. After flipping the second-row seat neatly out of the way, you can climb back there, fold the second-row seat back into position and slide your feet underneath, which provides somewhat tolerable legroom. It isn't comfortable for an adult, however. There's little shoulder room, and the third-row bench is a bit hard on the outboard edge; it pushes you away from the outboard side toward the center. It'll work okay for small children, but if you need six- or seven-passenger seating on a regular basis you may want to consider a Windstar.
Also, there's not much room in back for groceries or other items when the third row is in place. When cargo space is needed, simply squeeze a lever and lightly push the third row forward. With some practice, it's possible to unlock the rear hatch, open it, and flip the third row out of the way with one hand, which is important when juggling an armload of groceries. The third-row bench folds neatly into the foot well. Well, maybe not so neatly.
The downside here is that the cargo floor is not flat in seven-passenger Explorers. Neither the second nor the third rows fold perfectly flat. So the floor slopes back toward the rear hatch. A sliding cover bridges the gap between the two folded seats, but you could still lose small items through the cracks. The sloping floor took Caesar, the 140-pound English mastiff, aback at first, but he quickly adjusted to it; the sliding panel made a popping noise when he stood on it, but that may have been because it wasn't fully deployed. (Be sure to fold all the seats down to see what we're
Our first impression of the new Explorer was that it offers substantial refinement over the previous version, which feels like a buckboard wagon by comparison. Ride quality and handling are greatly improved, benefits of the Explorer's new frame, chassis and suspension system. New engines give it more power for acceleration and towing, and the four-wheel-drive system gets more refined every year. It's still a truck, though. Tire whir is heard; road vibration is felt.
Technical stuff: While the previous Explorer used an independent front suspension with torsion bars and a live rear axle, the new one benefits from a four-wheel independent suspension with coil springs at all four corners. But it goes well beyond that. When Ford redesigned the Explorer, its first decision was to add the third row. There wasn't enough room in the previous model for the seats and there wasn't enough space below the cargo floor to fold them down. Stretching the wheelbase provided some space for the seats. (The overall length of the Explorer remains the same.) Replacing the old live rear axle with an independent rear suspension provided room to lower the floor. A clever porthole designed into the frame allows the half shafts to pass through the frame rails instead of beneath them. While these changes allowed Ford to add the third row, a big side benefit is improved handling and ride quality. The new frame is fully boxed front to rear, providing a far more rigid platform, which allows the engineers to more precisely tune the suspension. The independent rear suspension offers better lateral stiffness, yet more fore/aft compliance than a live rear axle. Up front, Coil springs replace the old torsion bars for better bump absorption.
As a result, the Explorer delivers a smoother ride on rough roads, and it handles better on winding roads. It's very stable at high speeds and feels comfortably secure in bad weather. Running over bumpy surfaces in the middle of a corner doesn't upset the handling, though it is still a truck.
One thing Ford learned from the massive Firestone tire recall was to offer a selection of tires. Depending on trim level, Explorer buyers can now choose among Goodyears, Michelins, and Firestones. Sixteen-inch wheels are now standard with P235/70R16 tires standard, slightly wider P245/70R16s on Eddie Bauer and Limited models.
Off road, the Ford Explorer has never measured up to the competition and the 2002 model doesn't really change that. There are improvements, however. Ground clearance is increased by an inch and shorter front and rear overhangs provide better approach and departure angles, which means you don't scrape the ground as much as before.
About 60 percent of Explorer buyers will opt for 4WD. Explorer's optional Control Trac four-wheel-drive system works great. Our 2002 Explorer offered surprisingly good grip on a muddy, snow-covered two-track in the Arizona high country near Sedona. Ford has refined this system to make it more transparent to the driver, while improving its abilities in limited traction situations. The normal driving mode is Auto 4WD (there is no two-wheel-drive mode.) In Auto 4WD, Control Trac directs the power front to rear according to input from sensors that compare grip between front and rear wheels. If the rear wheels lose traction, the optimal amount of torque is transferred to the front. Using a new, dedicated controller, the system checks for slipping tires 50 times a second and can anticipate situations that are likely to cause the wheels to spin, such as hard acceleration.
Pressing a button shifts the system into 4WD Hi, which effectively locks the front and rear drive shafts together. This can be useful for severe off-road or winter conditions, though Auto 4WD does such a great job of transferring torque that it may be irrelevant in practical terms. Driving on a muddy, primitive trail, I couldn't tell the difference between Auto 4WD and 4WD Hi. It may be possible to detect subtle s
Ford's 2002 Explorer is a vast improvement over the previous model in every respect. Whether it's the best vehicle in this crowded class is subject to debate, but it's a well-engineered vehicle. It handles well, rides smoothly and the interior packaging is well thought out and, for the most part, well executed.
Dodge Durango is the only other SUV in this class with third-row seating. We find the optional third rows in both of these vehicles to be uncomfortable. Regardless, the Explorer is the more refined of the two.
Build and price your dream Ford Explorer in just a few easy steps.
|Build & Price|
2013 Ford Explorer$25,295 | 53,600 mi
2013 FORD EXPLORER$26,799 | 37,060 mi
2013 Ford Explorer$26,986 | 28,928 mi
2013 Ford Explorer$27,688 | 38,097 mi
2013 Ford Explorer$28,958 | 37,198 mi
2013 FORD EXPLORER$29,921 | 42,807 mi
2013 FORD EXPLORER$29,975 | 19,931 mi
2013 Ford Explorer$29,995 | 37,394 mi
2013 FORD EXPLORER$30,926 | 40,313 mi
2013 Ford Explorer$30,971 | 45,000 mi
2013 FORD EXPLORER$30,984 | 37,630 mi
2013 Ford Explorer$32,450 | 36,905 mi
2013 Ford Explorer$35,995 | 37,504 mi
2013 FORD EXPLORER$39,890 | 7,760 mi
2011 Ford Explorer$26,823 | 62,207 mi
2010 Ford Explorer$14,971 | 77,327 mi
2010 FORD EXPLORER$23,887 | 65,013 mi
2008 Ford Explorer Sport Trac$21,999 | 91,175 mi
2007 Ford Explorer Sport Trac$16,488 | 87,440 mi
2006 Ford Explorer$8,674 | 128,529 mi
2005 Ford Explorer$7,999 | 119,180 mi
2005 Ford Explorer$8,995 | 127,258 mi
2003 Ford Explorer Sport Trac$8,720 | 128,058 mi
2002 Ford Explorer$7,774 | 115,018 mi
2001 Ford Explorer Sport$6,990 | 137,052 mi
1999 Ford Explorer$4,988 | no mileage
1997 Ford Explorer$1,999 | 209,048 mi
1996 Ford Explorer$2,888 | 271,628 mi