With 3.6 million Explorer sold since March 1990, Ford has every reason to believe the public has been satisfied with its midsize SUV. Still, there was plenty of room for improvement. For much of the past decade, the Explorer’s ride was unimpressive, its power substandard, and its looks generic. For 2002, Ford mercilessly hunted down the vehicle’s niggling little faults and created a near super SUV in the process. The biggest improvement is in the Explorer’s ride and handling. A new independent rear suspension gets much of the credit, with the side benefit of freeing up room in the cargo area for a third row seat. The suspension has been mounted on the frame, increasing the Explorer’s ground clearance by an inch on 4-wheel-drive models. The Explorer now rides on a 2-in. longer wheelbase (although overall length remains same), and 2.5-in. wider track, further improving stability. Ford says it substantially increased the stiffness of the frame and bodyshell, and one quick trip around the block will verify that the company made considerable progress in this area. Many of the new changes can be seen in the Explorer’s more sharply defined bodywork.
The vehicle is obviously wider, but the taller hoodline and wider door openings make it look even larger than it is. The new model has 7 cu. ft. more cargo volume than the old Explorer, and Ford was able to enlarge the glovebox, center console, and other storage areas. There’s a welcome increase in the front seat travel, and optional power adjustable pedals should guarantee the Explorer will fit just about everyone.