2003 Ford Explorer SUV Review | Edmunds.com

2003 Ford Explorer SUV

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Ford Explorer Features and Specs

Features & Specs

  • Engine 4.0 L V 6-cylinder
  • Drivetrain All Wheel Drive
  • Transmission 5-speed Automatic
  • Horse Power 210 hp @ 5100 rpm
  • Fuel Economy 14/19 mpg
  • Bluetooth No
  • Navigation No
  • Heated Seats No

Review of the 2003 Ford Explorer

  • Ford's Explorer is one of the best midsize SUVs on the market, made even better for 2003 with the addition of a DVD-based entertainment system and a dedicated Off-Road Package.

  • Safety
  • Pros

    Independent rear suspension, comfortable seating for up to seven, strong powertrains, foolproof Control Trac 4WD, available rollover protection system, optional stability control system, DVD-based entertainment system.

  • Cons

    Low-grade interior materials, quirky ergonomics.

  • What's New for 2003

    For the 2003 Ford Explorer, sport versions of the XLS and XLT debut, along with a new trim level called NBX (No Boundaries Experience). The NBX includes special exterior trim, unique 17-inch alloy wheels, all-terrain tires, a Yakima roof rack, rubber floormats and a cargo area liner. All-wheel drive is newly available on all but the NBX model. XLS models come standard with an automatic transmission and a CD player for 2003, while XLT models get a chrome grille and metallic interior accents. Eddie Bauer models have satin-finish 17-inch wheels this year. Limited models get upgrades such as chromed exterior trim, chrome wheels, a leather-upholstered center console cover and new woodgrain interior trim. A tire-pressure monitoring system is available on Limited models. An Off-Road Package including underbody skid plates, suspension upgrades, front tow hooks and unique wheels debuts. Finally, a rear seat DVD-based entertainment system will be available later in the year.

What Others Are Saying

Customer Reviews

  Average Consumer Rating (21 total reviews)  |  Write a Review


Do not buy this vehicle

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Vehicle: 2003 Ford Explorer XLT AWD 4dr SUV (4.0L 6cyl 5A)

safe vehicle but not reliable,have electricle gremlens that come and go,the rear end goes,(clucth pack),replaced twice still no good.not cheap.have only 60000k on it.




Troubles in ky

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Vehicle: 2003 Ford Explorer XLT AWD 4dr SUV (4.0L 6cyl 5A)

I have always been a Ford Fan. I refused to buy any other model for close to 40 years, but that is about to change. I purchased a 2003 Ford Explorer XLT and it has been one problem after the other. I have replaced the rearend, the motor, and now the Transmission has gone out. Before all of this I also had the heater control swith to mess up. This was $800.00 to replace. The gas hand is going out and works only part time. As you can see one headache after another.




Transmission problems--cracked rear panel (2

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Vehicle: 2003 Ford Explorer XLT AWD 4dr SUV (4.0L 6cyl 5A)

I have replaced TWO transmissions in the past 2 years--there are 2 cracks on the rear panel door--I have seen soo many other vehicles(Ford Explorers) with the same cracks!! WHAT IS FORD DOING ABOUT THIS..I CALLED AND COMPLAINED TO FORD AND THEY SAID THEY HAVE NO RECALLS OR ISSUES ON THIS.[violative content deleted]




Best suv

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Vehicle: 2003 Ford Explorer XLT AWD 4dr SUV (4.0L 6cyl 5A)

Haven't had it long, but was able to review repair history. Basic maintenance only. Rear plastic cracked, but happens to everyone. Extremely solid ride, just as comfortable. Love the car, although too soon to report any big problems I don't know about yet. Would suggest the car to anyone looking into one as of now. Opening up the sunroof and windows makes for a pleasant ride on a cool day. Paint looks great for it's age, and the interior is totally clean. A best buy!




Mixed

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Vehicle: 2003 Ford Explorer XLT AWD 4dr SUV (4.0L 6cyl 5A)

Before 36K ran out Ford fixed trans three times and put in a new one, finally. Replaced total rear end after Differential gears went NG twice. Ford than replaced bearings in their new rear end. Brakes are typical Ford truck and don't last. I have had Fords for 40 years. Mileage is terrible, 15 mpg. Electric sensors are typical made in China junk and have failures galore. This is my last Ford. Too bad, Ford just buys crappy parts from the lowest bidder and the consumer pays the price. I hear their new small cars are decent. Stick with Toyota or if you like Ford explorer stick with the V8 Eddie Bauer It is a better all around quality version of the other explorers but you pay or that.




2003 explorer

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Vehicle: 2003 Ford Explorer XLT AWD 4dr SUV (4.0L 6cyl 5A)

Purchased pre-owned with 47000 miles. AC problems within first six months. Had to replace entire AC system due to metal throughout. Driver's door handle broke off when it was cold. Back panel beneath the liftgate window cracked when it was cold. A coat hook in rear compartment snapped off first time I used it. It just seemed that something was breaking or needed repairs. I am planning on trading this vehicle within the next week or so. Enough of "Quality is Job 1." Lots of positive reviews from this model as it was one of the reasons I purchased the Explorer. Maybe I just had a lemon but I will never buy a Ford again.



Full 2003 Ford Explorer Review

What's New for 2003

For the 2003 Ford Explorer, sport versions of the XLS and XLT debut, along with a new trim level called NBX (No Boundaries Experience). The NBX includes special exterior trim, unique 17-inch alloy wheels, all-terrain tires, a Yakima roof rack, rubber floormats and a cargo area liner. All-wheel drive is newly available on all but the NBX model. XLS models come standard with an automatic transmission and a CD player for 2003, while XLT models get a chrome grille and metallic interior accents. Eddie Bauer models have satin-finish 17-inch wheels this year. Limited models get upgrades such as chromed exterior trim, chrome wheels, a leather-upholstered center console cover and new woodgrain interior trim. A tire-pressure monitoring system is available on Limited models. An Off-Road Package including underbody skid plates, suspension upgrades, front tow hooks and unique wheels debuts. Finally, a rear seat DVD-based entertainment system will be available later in the year.

Introduction

The Explorer debuted in 1990 as a 1991 model, and achieved instant success in a market that it ultimately defined, if not created. At the time, the trend toward functional, compact, four-door SUVs was in full swing: Jeep Cherokee was first to offer this kind of vehicle in 1984, but Ford, GM, Nissan and Toyota all followed suit at this time. Based on the Ford Ranger pickup, the original Explorer had the winning combination of size, style and utility that people wanted in an SUV. It came as the volume-selling four-door or a less popular two-door, and replaced the Bronco II in Ford's lineup. Initially, just XLS and XLT trim levels were available. In 1992, an Eddie Bauer edition joined the lineup, and a Limited model followed shortly thereafter. Explorer's first major revision occurred in 1995, when it received a new front suspension, revised styling and a new interior. This iteration soldiered on through 2001 with few changes, but by then accusations that the Explorer suffered a high incidence of tire failures and subsequent rollover accidents had tarnished the brand. Ford blamed tire supplier Firestone for equipping the Explorer with flawed Wilderness AT tires, and initiated a massive recall to replace the original equipment rubber. Firestone blamed the Explorer's design and Ford's recommendation that the tires be inflated to a relatively low 26 psi. Neither company publicly pointed fingers at consumers indifferent to the dangers of overloading vehicles, expecting a truck to handle like a car, failing to monitor tire pressures or dismissing the importance of seatbelts as possible contributors to blowouts and deaths. For 2002, just as the Explorer rollover debacle was winding down, Ford debuted the completely redesigned Explorer. A substantial improvement over the original, the new truck had a wider track, longer wheelbase, independent rear suspension and seating for up to seven adults. It should have been a runaway success, but the Ford-Firestone media fight kept buyers away from showrooms and forced Ford to offer cash rebates and low-interest financing to keep sales afloat. Notably, the two-door model, the Explorer Sport, and a four-door pickup version, the Explorer Sport Trac, are based on the aged first-generation platform. The new Explorer platform is used by the four-door model only. The 2003 Ford Explorer is little different from the 2002. Minor trim revisions have been made to the core model lineup: XLS, XLT, Eddie Bauer and Limited. Sport versions of the XLS and XL debut, and a new NBX model is introduced with special trim and equipment designed to appeal to active outdoorsy types.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

The 2003 Ford Explorer is available only as a four-door model in XLS, XLS Sport, XLT, XLT Sport, NBX, Eddie Bauer and Limited trims. The XLS comes standard with an automatic transmission and a CD player for 2003. The XLS Sport includes alloy wheels, side step bars, wheel lip moldings, an upgraded center console and floor mats. XLT models get a chrome grille and metallic interior accents, while 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, a Yakima roof rack, rubber floor mats and a cargo area liner. Eddie Bauer also receives 17-inch wheels this year, while Limiteds are upgraded with chromed exterior trim, chrome wheels, a leather-upholstered center console cover and new wood grain interior trim. Major options on the Explorer include a six-disc 290-watt sound system, rear-seat climate control, a power moonroof and a rear-seat DVD-based entertainment system. There are also a number of safety-related options available.

Powertrains and Performance

Standard on all Explorers is an SOHC V6 engine making 210 horsepower and 254 pound-feet of torque. Optional on all models except the XLS is a 4.6-liter V8 engine good for 239 horsepower and 282 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic transmission and two-, four- or all-wheel drive is available with either engine. The rear wheels propel 2WD models, while 4WD models have Ford's Control Trac system, which automatically sends power to the front wheels when the rears slip. Properly equipped, an Explorer can tow a maximum of 7,300 pounds.

Safety

Four-wheel-disc ABS is standard. The Explorer can also be outfitted with a Safety Canopy system of airbags that includes a rollover sensor. 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 AWD models. A tire-pressure monitoring system is optional on the Limited. In government crash testing, the 2003 Ford Explorer received a four-star protection rating for the driver and a five-star rating for the front passenger. Side-impact testing has not been conducted, but the NHTSA gave the Explorer three-star rollover rating, good for an SUV. In offset crash testing, the IIHS gave the Explorer a "Good" rating and called it a "Best Pick" in the SUV class.

Interior Design and Special Features

Depending on the model you choose, the interior trim of the Explorer can range from bland to close-to-plush. All the controls are neatly arranged, and the gauges are clear and readable, but it's function over form. It's feasible to carry two adults in the third-row seats, but choosing the third-row option also reduces available cargo space. Seven-passenger Explorers max out at 81.3 cubic feet of cargo space, while five-passenger versions offer a more competitive 88 cubic feet. The folded seat also makes for a slightly sloped load floor, so if you value cargo-carrying capacity over people-moving ability, stick with the five-passenger version.

Driving Impressions

Any Explorer is a joy to drive, as far as SUVs go. Taking much of the credit for this praise is the rear independent suspension, which provides a smooth ride and nicely planted wheels on rough pavement. Power from either the V6 or V8 engine is acceptable. Though a true all-wheel-drive system is newly available for 2003, we see little need for it; the Control Trac 4WD system works transparently to distribute power to all four wheels as conditions warrant. The Explorer is also comfortable, with space for up to seven passengers.

Talk About The 2003 Explorer

Gas Mileage

EPA-Rated MPG

  • 14
  • cty
/
  • 19
  • highway
Calculate Yearly Fuel Costs