2002 Ford Explorer XLT: Still Top of Its Class
A much-improved Explorer keeps its best-selling spot
Available third row
THE 2002 FORD EXPLORER SITS HEAD AND shoulders above the previous Explorer. It has more room, more safety features and is a more stable and versatile vehicle overall. It's also the best-selling sport/utility vehicle in America, a title it is trying to hold on to in the face of sales that are a little off target, and in an ever more crowded midsize SUV segment.
So there's pressure here, and expectations are running high. But based on what we've heard from Explorer owners, those expectations have mostly been met. Many wrote to say they're pleased with their vehicles, pointing out fit-and-finish, ride, passenger capacity and reliability as reasons.
We agree. And that Explorer is available with a 240-hp, 280-lb-ft V8 engine that has a 7300-pound tow capacity is another big plus. Its most obvious competitor, the inline six-equipped-only Chevrolet TrailBlazer, will pull 6300 pounds.
At the track, our 4099-pound V8 Explorer posted a 9.63-second 0-to-60-mph run, a little off the 9.41 seconds we recorded for the heavier TrailBlazer. In the quarter-mile, the Explorer did 17.0 seconds at 78.5 mph, again slightly bested by the TrailBlazer's 16.97 seconds at 82.8 mph. The Ford truck, however, beats the Chevy in braking ability, not surprising given its roughly 500-pound weight advantage. Using 141 feet to stop from 60 mph, the Explorer exhibited little to moderate brake dive. On the skidpad it was mild-mannered, plowing just a little.
In passing tests, we found the transmission was sometimes reluctant to kick down. On our 40-to-60-mph runs, it did not kick down to second as we would have expected. It popped out of third on our last 60- to-80-mph run, but couldn't decide whether to engage fourth, even though the engine revs dropped to idle as we floored the throttle. The transmission tended to hunt and seek way more than we would have liked.
Interior materials in our test vehicle appeared to be of good quality, with high-grade vinyls and plastics covering the panels, dash and door inlays. The interior was better than what you find in a pickup, but then you expect that in an SUV. Where Explorer shines is in its offering of a third-row seat, which-thanks to its independent rear-means seven people can fit.
But it's not cheap. Our XLT with cloth seats stickered at $33,640, almost a grand more than the leather-wrapped TrailBlazer.
Owners considered a variety of both domestic and imported SUVs, and they even looked at cars (Crown Vic), minivans (Town & Country) and crossovers (Rendezvous) before settling on the Explorer. Many cited positive dealer experiences as motivation for their purchase.
We could do without all the Explorer's electro-nannies. The constant beeping when you're trying to maneuver a boat in tow, sans seatbelt, is an annoyance.
We also wish Explorer had gotten a snazzier exterior. Next to the more muscular TrailBlazer, it looks bland. But as with any bestseller, shooting for the middle ground is key to its success. As things stand, Ford is getting it right.
ROAD TEST DATA SPECIFICATIONS
Body-on-frame four-door sport/ute
Wheelbase (in): 113.7
Length/width (in): 189.5/72.1
Curb weight (lbs): 4099
Front: Unequal-length control
arms with coil-over shocks
Rear: Unequal-length control
arms with coil-over shocks
F/R: Discs/discs; ABS
WHEELS AND TIRES
BFGoodrich Rugged Trak T/A
Fuel (gal): 22.5
Cargo (cu ft): 46.6
Horsepower: 240 @ 4750 rpm
Torque (lb-ft): 280 @ 4000 rpm
Compression ratio: 9.4:1
Fuel delivery: Electronic
Fuel requirement: 87 octane
EPA combined: 16.38 mpg
AW overall: 22.39 mpg
Transmission: Five-speed automatic
Final drive ratio: 3.73:1
0-30 mph: 2.71 sec
0-40 mph: 4.32 sec
0-50 mph: 6.51 sec
0-60 mph: 9.63 sec
0-100 km/h (62.1 mph): 10.15 sec
0-quarter-mile: 78.5 mph,
20-40 mph (first gear): 3.6 sec
40-60 mph (third gear): 5.6 sec
60-80 mph (third gear): 8.0 sec
80 mph-0: 269 ft
60 mph-0: 141 ft
30 mph-0: 35 ft
490-foot slalom: 40.0 mph
(200-foot skidpad): 0.71 g
INTERIOR NOISE (dBA)
Full throttle: 72
Steady 60 mph: 64
My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.
My next Ford.....