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2003 Ford Explorer Sport

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2003 Ford Explorer Sport Review

Not as outdated as a horse and buggy, but close enough to avoid.

Reviewed by Automotive on

Overview

The 2003 Ford Explorer Sport is a two-door version of the venerable Explorer sport utility vehicle (SUV). It is a very outdated design and is eclipsed by nearly every rival in this segment. It is hard to recommend an outdated vehicle like this one, so shop around.

The Range

Body Styles: SUV
Engines: 4.0-liter V-6
Transmissions: five-speed-automatic, five-speed-manual
Models: Ford Explorer Sport XLS, Ford Explorer Sport XLT, Ford Explorer Sport XLT Premium

What's New

For 2003 the Explorer Sport sees just a few changes: trim levels equipped with the Comfort Group now include power lumbar support. The power lumbar support and heated seats will be included when opting for the leather trim. Two coat hooks and a power point have been added to the cargo area. Red Fire Clearcoat Metallic replaces Toreador Red Clearcoat Metallic on the paint color chart.

Exterior

The 2003 Ford Explorer Sport two-door SUV comes in two-wheel- or four-wheel drive and is offered in three different trim levels: XLS, XLT and XLT Premium. The XLS trim includes 16-inch styled steel wheels, rear wiper, rear defogger, roof rack and privacy glass. The XLT trim then adds front tow hooks on four-wheel drive equipped models only, side steps, power mirrors and aluminum wheels. The top-line XLT Premium includes bright-finish aluminum wheels and automatic on-off headlamps. A Premium Sport Group options package for the XLT trim provides bright cast aluminum wheels, fog lights, front tow hooks on four-wheel drive models only, larger all-terrain tires and side step bars.

Call it classic or basic, but the Explorer Sport embodies the exact look that the SUV has had long before the SUV was actually called an SUV. This may be due to the fact that the Explorer platform hasn’t changed since the days of Reaganomics.

Interior

The XLS base trim has power windows and locks, and a single-CD audio system. The XLT adds a cassette/CD audio system, remote keyless entry, a tilting steering wheel and speed control. The XLT Premium throws in rear audio controls and rear climate vents, a premium floor console with a front power point, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a power-adjustable driver seat, and an overhead console.

Major options offered on the Explorer Sport include the Convenience Group for the XLS, the Premium Sport Group and Comfort Group for the XLT, and heated leather seating for the XLT Premium. You can also get a six-disc in-dash CD player, a power moonroof, front side airbags and a limited-slip differential.

The Convenience Group options package for the XLS includes many features found on the XLT, while The Comfort Group for the XLT trim offers a six-way power driver's seat, power lumbar support for driver and front passenger, rear climate and audio controls with special center console, overhead console with compass and exterior temperature display and an electrochromic rearview mirror. Heated leather seating can be added to the XLT Premium.

Performance & Handling

The Explorer Sport has only one engine available: a four-liter, single overhead cam V-6 producing 208 horsepower and 245 lb-ft of torque, although those numbers drop to 203 and 237 with the standard manual transmission. A five-speed manual is available for only the most basic XLS models while all of the other trims come equipped with a five-speed automatic transmission. Shift-on-the-fly ControlTrac II four-wheel drive is optional for all trims. This powertrain has decent acceleration and gets the job done in most of the basic traffic situations although it feels strained in hard duty situations like passing on the highway or going up steep, mountain grades.

The Explorer Sport handles like a fine European sports car that costs hundreds of thousands more. Naturally, we’re pulling your leg. It’s a truck. The steering is kind of accurate and to its credit, the Explorer Sport is reasonably balanced and confident on the road. Its off-road abilities are questionable at best so look elsewhere if that is a major need. The ride is unforgiving over bumps and much like… a truck. It offers a harsh ride on just about anything one can drive over save for a mat of velvet feather pillows.

Safety

Standard safety gear for the 2003 Explorer Sport includes dual front impact airbags, antilock brakes, child seat anchors, front seatbelt pretensioners and electronic brakeforce distribution. The IIHS has not performed any crash safety tests with the Explorer Sport. The NHTSA only performed a rollover safety test. The Explorer Sport received two out of five stars on that test.

EPA Fuel Economy

Ford Explorer Sport XLS: 15/20 mpg city/highway
Ford Explorer Sport XLT: 14/19 mpg city/highway
Ford Explorer Sport XLT Premium: 14/19 mpg city/highway

You'll Like

  • Sporty two-door
  • V-6 engine

You Won't Like

  • Lacks versatility of most SUVs
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  • Bouncy ride
  • Way outdated platform

Sum Up

Not as outdated as a horse and buggy, but close enough to avoid.

If You Like This Vehicle

  • Hyundai Santa Fe
  • Nissan Xterra
  • Jeep Liberty
  • Mitsubishi Montero Sport
  • Toyota 4Runner
  • Isuzu Rodeo Sport
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