Used 2002 Ford Explorer Review

Edmunds expert review

A great truck that suffers a terrible rap. Completely new for 2002, this Ford Explorer shares only its name with its much-maligned predecessor.

What's new for 2002

The 2002 Ford Explorer has been overhauled in an attempt to make it more carlike than ever before. Among the improvements are a 2.5-inch-wider stance and 2-inch-longer wheelbase for improved handling and roominess, a new independent rear suspension that improves ride and handling, while at the same time accommodating an optional third row of seats, larger door openings with a lower step-in height, an optional side curtain airbag system and an optional Reverse Sensing System.

Vehicle overview

Ford's Explorer has dominated the SUV market since its introduction in 1990. Designed to appeal to the broadest spectrum of buyers possible, Explorer's proven to be a goldmine for the Blue Oval folks. Still, it was getting a bit long in the tooth during the last couple of years. Thus, a complete redesign for 2002.

There are four trim levels available: XLS, XLT, Eddie Bauer and Limited. The majority of Explorers sold are XLTs. If you want your Explorer to be as special as possible, step up to the Eddie Bauer or Limited. These models come standard with added luxury feature content like heated leather seats, automatic climate control and an in-dash six-disc CD changer. Standard safety features on all models include ABS with electronic brake distribution and a Securilock passive anti-theft system. Safety options worth considering are side curtain airbags and a Reverse Sensing System.

Explorer comes with either a 4.0-liter V6 making 210 horsepower or a new 4.6-liter V8 pumping out 240 ponies. Both engines are mated to a five-speed automatic transmission and the V8 offers copious, refined power delivery, but unimpressive mileage numbers.

Explorer has been made over inside and out, and the results are pleasing. Outside, it sports larger, clear lens headlights, integrated bumpers and blacked-out B- and D-pillars, giving it a cleaner look.

But the most significant changes are found inside and underneath. An all-new independent rear suspension featuring a unique porthole-in-frame design debuts this year. This setup allows the rear floor to drop 7 inches - thereby making room for an optional third-row seat - while increasing ground clearance to 9.2 inches. Cargo volume is 88 cubic feet with the five-passenger configuration and 81.3 cubes with the third-row seat installed.

The all-new suspension also pays off in improved ride and handling characteristics. The Explorer now feels more stable on the road and exhibits flatter cornering capabilities. A 2.5-inch wider stance and 2-inch longer wheelbase improve handling even more, while increasing interior room.

Other nifty improvements for 2002 include larger door openings with a lower step-in height for ease of entry and exit, a stiffer body shell and a lower front bumper for better crash compatibility with smaller vehicles. Later in the model year, rollover protection sensors and a new AdvanceTrac traction/stability control system will be available on Explorer.

Ford's bestseller may have fallen on hard times with the Firestone tire scandal in 2000, but this year's thorough redesign should go a long way in keeping America's favorite sport-ute at the top of its game.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.