What's New for 2002
Sixteen-inch aluminum wheels are made standard, along with an AM/FM/CD/cassette stereo. You now have a choice between an automatic or manual transmission with the base model.
Last year, Ford updated the two-door Explorer Sport with minor suspension and moderate styling changes. But an update wasn't enough. The Sport rides on the old Explorer's platform, which dates to 1990 and might become the subject of an intense NHTSA investigation. As we wrote after driving the revised 2001 Sport, "put a fork in this one." In other words, it's done.
Two-wheel- and four-wheel-drive models in a single two-door bodystyle are available, powered by a stout 4.0-liter SOHC V6 engine that generates 208 horsepower and 245 pound-feet of torque (203 and 237 with the standard manual transmission). This translates to decent, if unrefined, acceleration. A five-speed automatic is available.
Ford designers went for a rugged "No Boundaries" style for the Explorer Sport, blending the chiseled front fascia of the Sport Trac SUV/pickup thingy with flared fenders and lower body cladding. For 2002, 16-inch alloy wheels are standard. The Sport's short wheelbase, narrow track and high center of gravity mean that you'd better not take its name too seriously. This truck is ungainly, at best, under most driving conditions.
Buyers can outfit a Sport with four primary option groups: Convenience, Comfort, Leather and Premium Sport. Convenience includes cruise control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, remote keyless entry and a cargo shade. Comfort adds a six-way power driver seat, cloth low-back bucket seats with an upgraded center console, rear climate and audio controls and an overhead console with compass and exterior temperature readout. Leather adds just that: leather upholstery. Go whole hog (and really, who wouldn't?), and the Premium Sport group gives you foglights, bright aluminum wheels, meatier tires (4WD only), tow hooks and the all-important side step rails for the maximum machismo look.
Inside, the Explorer Sport's front seats are surprisingly comfortable perches from which to while away time. The 50/50-split rear bench seat accommodates adults, but is a hassle to crawl into and out of. It can be folded flat to allow more space for cargo. Maximum cargo capacity is 71.4 cubic feet.
For safety, the Sport comes equipped with second-generation front airbags, and child safety seat-anchor brackets. The instrument panel features a snazzy gauge cluster with white dial faces and metallic plastic trim, but otherwise is identical to what's been installed in the Explorer since 1995. This year, Ford makes a stereo with both CD and cassette players standard. Optionally there's a Pioneer six-disc in-dash CD player, power moonroof, front side airbags and a limited-slip differential.
Logic and the law of product cycling dictate that Explorer Sport's days must be numbered. But as long as consumers buy them, Ford will keep building them. The Jeep Cherokee lasted 18 years. We don't think the Explorer Sport sports that kind of staying power.