The 2003 Ford Explorer continues the tradition of being Ford’s classic sport utility vehicle (SUV). It occupies this place since it helped define the class back in the early 1990s and has taken some image bruising because of rollover issues and the Firestone tire debacle. Yet it survived these incidents thanks to continuous redesigns and upgrading, while continuing to be a class leader offering everything that an SUV should. Buyers looking for a four-door SUV should at least check out the Explorer.
Body Styles: SUV
Engines: 4.0-liter V-6, 4.6-liter V-6
Transmissions: five-speed automatic
Models: Ford Explorer XLS, Ford Explorer XLS Sport, Ford Explorer XLT, Ford Explorer XLT Sport, Ford Explorer NBX, Ford Explorer Eddie Bauer, Ford Explorer Limited
The 2003 Ford Explorer gets sport versions of the XLS and XLT, along with a new trim level called NBX (No Boundaries Experience). All-wheel drive is now available on all but the NBX model. XLS models now come standard with an automatic transmission and a CD player, while XLT models get a chrome grille and metallic interior accents. Eddie Bauer models upgrade to satin-finish 17-inch wheels. Limited models have new gear like chrome wheels, chromed exterior trim, a leather-upholstered center console cover, and new wood grain interior trim. A tire-pressure monitoring system is now an option for Limited models. An Off-Road Package has been added that includes underbody skid plates, suspension upgrades, front tow hooks, and unique wheels debuts. A rear seat DVD-based entertainment system is new on the options list.
The 2003 Ford Explorer four-door SUV is available in several trims: XLS, XLS Sport, XLT, XLT Sport, NBX, Eddie Bauer, and Limited. The XLS comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, roof rack, trailer hitch and wiring, rear wiper, rear defogger, and privacy glass. The XLS Sport includes alloy wheels, side step bars, and wheel lip moldings. The XLT models get a chrome grille, while the XLT Sport adds special platinum gloss exterior trim and 17-inch machine-finished alloy wheels. The new NBX model includes special exterior trim, unique 17-inch alloy wheels, all-terrain tires, and a Yakima roof rack. Eddie Bauer also receives 17-inch wheels this year, while Limited is upgraded with chromed exterior trim and chrome wheels.
The 2003 Ford Explorer XLS has the interior basics for an SUV. The various trim levels will add all the luxuries that are typically found in SUVs. The XLS Sport has an upgraded center console and floor mats. The NBX trim adds rubber floor mats and a cargo area liner. The Eddie Bauer trim adds a leather-upholstered center console cover and new wood grain interior trim. Major options include a six-disc 290-watt sound system, rear-seat climate control, a power moonroof and a rear-seat DVD-based entertainment system.
Performance & Handling
The 2003 Ford Explorer come standard with an SOHC V-6 engine producing 210 horsepower and 254 lb-ft of torque. A 4.6-liter, V-8 engine making 239 horsepower and 282 lb-ft of torque is optional on all models except the XLS. A five-speed automatic transmission and two-, four- or all-wheel drive is available with either engine. Two-wheel-drive models are rear drive, while four-wheel models have Ford's Control Trac system, a feature that automatically sends power to the front wheels when the rears slip. It can tow a maximum of 7300 pounds when properly equipped. It has a comfortable ride and is well-handling, especially for an SUV and offers an enjoyable driving experience.
The 2003 Ford Explorer has four-wheel-disc anti-lock brakes as standard gear. A Safety Canopy system of airbags that includes a rollover sensor is optional for all trims. Power adjustable pedals are optional on XLT, while a reverse sensing system can be added to all but XLS. Advance Trac stability control is optional on all trims except XLS, but is not available on all-wheel drive models. A tire-pressure monitoring system is optional on the Limited. In IIHS testing, the Explorer received the rating of ""good"" in offset crash testing and earned ""Best Pick"" in the SUV class. The NHTSA awarded five out of five stars for passenger and side-impact safety, four stars for driver safety, and two stars in rollover testing.
EPA Fuel Economy
Ford Explorer XLS: 14/19 mpg city/highway
New DVD-based entertainment system
- Independent rear suspension
- Seats up to seven comfortably
- Powerful engines
You Won't Like
- Inferior material quality in cabin
One of the best vehicles in the crowded midsize SUV segment.
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