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Put a fork in this one, because it's done.
Strong standard V6 engine, rugged styling, more maneuverable than a four-door Explorer.
Not as versatile as a four-door Explorer, actual improvements in ride quality and interior quality are still an unknown.
The 2001 Ford Explorer Sport receives a few styling changes as well as minor mechanical and interior improvements.
For the 2001 model year, Ford has updated the two-door Ford Explorer Sport. Primarily, these changes are aimed at making the Sport model more distinctive within the Explorer lineup. But there are also some mechanical changes that should address some of the issues we had with the previous model.
Though the 2001 Sport still lacks the versatility of a four-door Explorer, it does offer even sportier looks. Every outer body panel except the liftgate has been updated. Styling cues from the 2000 model's Premium Sport Group -- an optional package that included side and wheel-lip moldings -- are now integrated into the sheetmetal of all 2001 models. The new Explorer Sport also features a more distinctive hood, grille and bumpers. There are also three new exterior colors: Mandarin Gold, Estate Green and Island Blue. Both two-wheel and four-wheel drive models are available.
Inside, the Explorer Sport's front seats feature a more durable fabric and new dual-density foam. Seat travel for the driver has been increased by 1 inch. Three seat choices are available in the Explorer Sport: standard cloth captain's chairs, power-adjustable cloth sport-bucket seats, or power-adjustable leather sport-bucket seats. The sport-bucket seats are exclusive to the Explorer Sport model. The 50/50-split rear bench seat can be folded flat to allow more space for cargo. Maximum cargo capacity is 71.4 cubic feet.
There are other improvements to the interior, including new trim, a standard CD player, deeper and larger cupholders, and a freshened instrument panel. The instrument panel features a new gauge cluster with white dial faces. There's also an optional Pioneer six-disc in-dash CD player and an optional overhead console.
One complaint we had with the previous Explorer Sport was the choppy ride. Hopefully, Ford has improved things with new two-stage variable-rate taper leaf springs for the rear suspension. The Explorer's shocks are also changed to better match the new spring rates. Ford says the end result is improved handling and ride quality. There are also new urethane body mounts and new sound-deadening material for a reduction in noise, vibration and harshness.
The 2001 Explorer Sport features a 4.0-liter SOHC V6 as standard equipment. The engine produces 205 horsepower at 5,250 rpm and 240 foot-pounds of torque at 3,750 rpm. It's mated to a five-speed automatic or a five-speed manual transmission.
For safety, the Sport comes equipped with front airbags, optional seat-mounted side airbags, and child safety seat-anchor brackets. The 2001 Sport also features bigger front brakes than the previous model for improved performance and durability.
While not a complete redesign, Ford's changes to the Explorer Sport are significant enough to make it worth a look. If the improvements to the suspension and interior work as advertised, this could be one of the better two-door SUVs available.
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