Midsize SUV; Built in USA
  • 4-door wagon
  • longitudinal front-engine/rear- or all-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $3,200 – $9,200*

2002 Ford Explorer

2002 Ford Explorer

2002 Ford Explorer interior

2003 Ford Explorer

2004 Ford Explorer

  • Cargo room
  • Passenger room
  • Fuel economy

Ford’s Explorer is a more-than-competent overall performer, with an unmatched array of available useful features: V8 power, seven-passenger seating, adjustable pedals, curtain airbags, DVD entertainment, rear-obstacle detection and antiskid system. Naturally, many of these items are likely to be absent in a specific secondhand model. The Mountaineer’s higher price brings more-expressive styling and slightly sharper handling feel, but in all, Explorer is the better value.


America’s top-selling sport-utility vehicle was redesigned as an early 2002 model, placed on sale in spring 2001. Ranking as a midsize model, the Explorer retained its body-on-frame construction, but gained new styling, a wider stance, longer wheelbase, and an independent rear suspension. A newly available third-row seat permitted seven-passenger capacity.

Mercury’s upscale Mountaineer was similarly revamped, but with more differentiated styling. Explorers and Mountaineers were among the few midsize SUVs with an independent rear suspension.

Explorers came with a V6 or V8 engine. The V6 teamed with either a manual or automatic transmission, while the V8 was offered only with a five-speed automatic. Explorers could have either rear-wheel drive or Ford’s Control Trac four-wheel drive, which could be left engaged on dry pavement and included low-range gearing.

Antilock all-disc brakes were standard. Torso side airbags were not available, but curtain side airbags were optional. Later in the model year, Ford offered sensors that could deploy the curtain airbags in a rollover accident. Ford’s Advance Trac antiskid system also became available later.

Top-level Eddie Bauer and Limited models included a driver’s seat memory, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, and power-adjustable pedals. A rear-obstacle warning system was optional.

Ford continued to use the Explorer’s 1995-2001 vintage design for the Explorer Sport two-door wagon and the Sport Trac four-door crew cab.

Yearly Updates

2003 Explorer
All-wheel drive and a DVD entertainment system were newly available on America’s best-selling SUV for 2003. Explorers again were available with a third-row seat for seven-passenger capacity, and came with a V6 or V8 engine and a five-speed automatic transmission.
Either engine could work with rear-wheel drive, Ford’s Control Trac 4WD (which could be left engaged on dry pavement), or for 2003, all-wheel drive. The AWD system was shared with the similar Mercury Mountaineer, Unlike Control Trac, it did not include low-range gearing.
Torso side airbags remained unavailable, but the optional curtain side airbags covered the first and second seating rows, and were designed to deploy in side impacts and rollovers.
For 2003, XLT models got a chrome-finished grille and a steel-look interior trim. A new NBX model featured a roof-mounted cargo basket, unique paint and trim, and a soft-lined cargo area with a storage bag. The optional DVD rear-seat entertainment system was available only with the curtain side airbags.
2004 Explorer
Ford’s antiskid system gained wider availability this year, offered with V6 as well as V8 models. Eddie Bauer and Limited editions could have new optional second-row bucket seats.
2005 Explorer
A standard antiskid system, Ford’s AdvanceTrac antiskid system with Roll Stability Control, and the loss of AWD availability mark 2005 for Explorer.


longitudinal front-engine/rear- or all-wheel drive

Explorers could have either a V6 or V8 engine. The 4.0-liter V6 produced 210 horsepower, versus 240 for the 4.6-liter V8. Early V6 models could have a manual gearbox or a five-speed automatic transmission, but manual shift was dropped in 2003.

ohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 4.0/245
Engine HP 210
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 250-254
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
5-speed automatic
ohc V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 4.6/281
Engine HP 239-240
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 280-282
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
5-speed automatic

Road Test

Explorer acceleration is acceptable. When new, a V8 Eddie Bauer 4WD model did 0-60 mph in 8.4 seconds. Ford said V6 Explorers did it in 10.2 seconds.

In practice, both engines furnish modest acceleration from a stop, but build speed quickly. Surprisingly, there’s no great difference in throttle response between the two in the 40-55 mph range.

As for fuel economy, an extended-use 4WD V8 XLT averaged 15.1 mpg in mostly highway driving. Similar examples averaged 13.3 to 14.1 mpg with more city driving, while a 4WD V6 Eddie Bauer Explorer managed 17.1 mpg. Ford recommends regular-grade fuel for both engines.

Although the ride is somewhat trucky, an Explorer is reasonably compliant and laudably devoid of sloppy motions. The Mountaineer’s stiffer shock absorbers make it more stable than an Explorer on dips and swells, but slightly less absorbent on rough pavement.

Steering/handling is capable and confident overall, but typical of a truck-type SUV, with some body lean in turns and somewhat slow reactions in quick directional changes. Mountaineer has a sharper steering feel than Explorer, though each ranks near the top of its class. Both have a relatively compact turning circle, too, for good low-speed maneuverability.

Ford’s laudable Advance Trac antiskid system is designed to apply individual brakes to prevent sideways skids, which can lead to rollovers. Unfortunately, in 2002-2003 it was unavailable with the V6 engine. Explorers have strong stopping power, though brake-pedal effort is slightly high.

Wind and road noise are unobjectionable, and low for an SUV. Engines intrude only under full throttle, though the V8 is quieter than a V6.

Instruments have bold, clear markings. Most controls are illuminated and within easy reach. Cabin materials are of good quality.

Riders get plenty of room up front on comfortable seats. The standard tilt steering wheel, and available memory seat and adjustable pedals, custom-tailor the driving position.

Outward visibility is good. Available running boards are too narrow to provide a solid step when exiting the vehicle, but wide enough to require stretching over when getting out.

Three adults can squeeze across in the second row, enjoying generous head room and better knee and foot clearance than in most midsize SUVs. However, the seat is divided into three segments, and each can feel narrow and confining.

The third-row seat cushion is low to the floor, and pancake-flat, but head room is expansive and leg space surprisingly good. Second-row seats tip forward in a single easy motion, but access to the third row is still for the young and agile.

A large hatch glass opens separately and dips low into the tailgate for easier loading, though the glass releases only via a keyfob and lacks its own pulldown handle. The tailgate itself is weighty to open or close.

Cargo room is tight behind the third-row seat, which folds almost flat with the floor for more space, but the process can be awkward. The rear bay is wide and tall.


Model Tested: 2002 Ford Explorer XLT 4WD, V6

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 4
Fuel Economy - 3
Ride Quality - 4
Steering/Handling - 4
Quietness - 4


Controls/Materials - 7
Room/Comfort Front - 7
Room/Comfort Rear - 7
Cargo Room - 8


Value - 6

Total: 54


4-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
113.8 189.5 72.1 71.4
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
88.0 22.5 7
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
39.9 38.9 42.4 35.9
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: N/A


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Front Passenger Injury - N/A

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Coolant leak
Description: Coolant may leak at the intake manifold crossover due to a crack in the manifold on 4.2L engines. (2002)
Engine noise
Description: A ticking noise on 4.6L engines may have problems with the valve guides requiring possible replacement of the cylinder head(s). (2001-04)
Fuel gauge
Description: Fuel gauge may suddenly drop to empty on vehicle with 4.0L engine due to an electrical problem with the flex fuel module. (2002)
Fuel pump
Description: Stumbling or hesitation when making aggressive right turns caused by cavitation in the fuel tank as fuel sloshes to one side requiring a redesigned fuel pump. (2002)
Oil leak
Description: Oil leak from right side axle may be caused by the seal coming loose and spinning in the housing requiring complete axle assembly replacement. (2003-04)
Spark plugs
Description: Spark plug hole threads in cylinder heads are easily damaged or stripped out when removing plugs because carbon builds up on them. (2004-05)
Timing belt
Description: Rattling noise from front of engine caused by timing chain slop requiring a redesigned primary chain tensioner. (1999-2002)
Description: The rear window (liftgate) glass supports may come loose and cause the window to break on some vehicles, and dealers were repositioning the brackets and tightening the screws. (2002)

Recall History

Description: Tires on the right side of the vehicle may have horizontal slashes on them, increasing the risk of tire failure over time. Dealers will inspect and replace affected parts.
2002 vehicles equipped with the Texas Instruments speed control deactivation switch (SCDS)
Description: The SCDS may leak internally and then overheat, smoke, or burn. A vehicle fire could occur. Ford will notify owners and dealers will install a fused wiring harness for the SCDS. Dealers will also inspect the abs control connector and repair as necessary. Repairs will be completed free of charge.
Description: The courtesy lights inside the running boards may overheat when exposed to excessive moisture or road salt. Dealers will inspect and replace affected parts.
Description: Liftgate glass strut may disengage or hinge may fracture, allowing glass to fall and possibly break.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.

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