2002 Ford Explorer Special Features

    Special Features


    “You could say we’ve designed the new Explorer from the inside out.
    Giving customers one of the most spacious and user-friendly
    interiors of any SUV was a key driver throughout the vehicle’s
    development. It led us to develop new and innovative ways to
    maximize space and utility.”
             – Gary Langner,
    Explorer Packaging Supervisor

    • 2.5-inch wider stance improves appearance, handling
      and roominess – while maintaining the same vehicle length and height
    • New independent rear suspension allows for a new
      optional third-row seat, seven-passenger seating capability and
      improved ride and handling
    • Larger door openings and lower step-in height aid
      ingress and egress
    • Front seats are located closer to the door openings
    • Grab-through handles make opening doors easier
    • Power adjustable pedals and tilting/telescoping steering
      wheel offer better driver comfort and convenience – and
      allow drivers to tailor the vehicle to their individual
    • Longer front-seat seat travel improves the seating
      position for taller and shorter customers
    • New 40/20/40 second-row seat adds flexibility for
      carrying cargo and people – and allows easy access to the
      third row
    • New lower liftover for rear glass makes loading
      groceries and cargo easier
    • Larger storage features throughout the vehicle enhance
      user friendliness
    • Relentless attention to details aids ergonomic, comfort,
      quality and convenience
    • 15-percent improved annual running costs thanks to
      easier serviceability and longer intervals between scheduled

    The 2002 Explorer’s design changes are obvious: bolder profile,
    wider stance, longer wheelbase, new front-end, grab-through door
    handles, bigger base wheels and tires, and additional ground
    clearance – to name a few. But the real design-and-engineering
    story is under the vehicle’s skin – and under the floor.

    Thanks to an all-new independent rear suspension (IRS) system and
    innovative packaging techniques, Explorer has one of the most
    spacious interior packages of any SUV. In addition to providing
    space for optional third-row seating – which can accommodate two
    adults and gives the vehicle capacity for up to seven passengers –
    Explorer leads the competition and has an inch more front-row leg
    room and 2.4 inches more shoulder room than the previous model.

    “Early in the development program, we decided an independent rear
    suspension would be necessary to achieve our package goals,” says
    Dave Rodgers, Explorer vehicle dynamics supervisor. “IRS not only
    provides ride and handling advantages, but it serves as a launching
    pad for a host of other improvements, including improved interior
    space for passengers and storage.”

    The IRS provides significant package advantages because engineers
    did not need to leave room beneath the floor _for a conventional
    differential to move up and down. In fact, the IRS configuration
    permits the rear floor of the vehicle to be lowered nearly 7 inches.
    This lower floor allows the new Explorer to offer a third-row seat
    with plenty of headroom, without compromising cargo space or
    utility. Even with the lower floor, overall ground clearance was
    able to be improved an inch – which strengthens the vehicle’s
    off-road capabilities.

    All-new Third-Row Seat

    Explorer’s optional third-row seat creates seating capacity for
    up to seven adults and cargo.

    Careful attention was paid to the ease of access to the third
    row. As a result, the second-row seats can be folded down with one
    hand. A pneumatic lifter flips the second-row seats up and out of
    the way. A one-hand operation returns the second row to its seating
    position. A lever on the back of the second row makes exiting easy
    for passengers sitting in the third row.

    Likewise, folding the third-row seat easily can be accomplished
    with one hand. When both the second and third rows are folded, they
    present a flat 45- by 80-inch cargo surface stretching from the
    front seats to the liftgate. The area can accommodate building
    materials, as well as ski gear and other items for active

    The second-row seat splits 40/20/40 for easy access to the third
    row from either side of the vehicle. For cargo carrying, the splits
    provide versatility to load long objects on the floor on either side
    or in the center.

    Regardless of the activity, Explorer’s fold-flat cargo area is
    designed for versatility without the struggle of removing seats.

    “People have told us over and over that they want the seat to
    disappear when it’s folded. They don’t want to have to remove the
    seats,” says Gary Langner, Explorer Packaging supervisor.
    “Customers also want simplicity and the ability to maneuver the
    seats with one hand.”

    To keep third-seat passengers comfortable, they have _their own
    juice and beverage holders and an optional auxiliary
    air-conditioning unit mounted in the ceiling panel.

    Third-row passengers aren’t the only beneficiaries of Explorer’s
    increased interior space. The driver has more room, thanks to a
    longer seat track.

    Power Adjustable Pedals, Safety Belts and Steering

    Power adjustable brake and accelerator pedals are available with
    automatic transmission models to further customize the driving
    position. The pedals can be moved up to 3 inches. Moving the
    pedals closer also allows shorter drivers to raise the seat height
    in powered-seat models, to improve forward visibility.

    Likewise, adjustable shoulder-belt D-rings in the front and
    second rows help to ensure that the safety belt crosses at the most
    comfortable point on the shoulder. Explorer’s steering wheel not
    only tilts, it also telescopes. The driver can move the wheel up or
    down and toward or away to create the optimum driving position.

    More Room All Around

    Between the front seats, the console is wider due to the driver
    and passenger seats being further apart. The glove box also is
    larger. The driveshaft tunnel is smaller in the second row to
    improve foot room. Third-row passengers have a completely flat
    floor underfoot.

    The standard overhead console holds sunglasses and a garage door
    opener, or the HomeLinkTM system, which can combine the functions of
    up to three remote control devices. Between the seats, the
    floor-mounted console offers a second-row power plug, along with
    heating and cooling vents and cupholders.

    All seats are easier to climb into, due to a new body design that
    moves the rocker panels inboard, behind the doors. The seats are a
    half-inch closer to the ground in Explorer, and closer to the door
    opening, which makes them easier to reach. The design also allows
    for a wider running board.

    Another benefit of Explorer’s roomy new interior is storage
    space. Overall cargo volume is increased 7 cubic feet compared with
    the previous model – and matches the best of the competition without
    added vehicle length.

    In addition, dramatically larger storage bins are located in the
    rear quarter panels, with plenty of room for flashlights and jumper

    Explorer also offers two under-floor cargo areas in the
    five-passenger configuration or one under-floor bin with the
    optional third-row seat. The lids for these bins are removable and
    waterproof, so they can be used as a ground cover if a driver is
    ever faced with changing a tire on muddy terrain.

    The new Explorer has 2 more cup and juice box holders than
    previously – 8 in total – including two compartments in the front
    doors designed specifically to hold water bottles or 20-ounce soft
    drinks. Front-door map pockets are larger – enough to hold a
    three-ring binder.

    New Rear Liftgate Passes ‘Shopping Cart Test’

    One feature that helps put the “utility” into the SUV is its
    new-design rear liftgate. When designing it, engineers studied how
    people use the liftgate and how it could be made to be more

    The result is a design with a larger liftglass and lower
    “liftover” height. The liftgate bottom is designed to serve as a
    wall to keep bottles and cans from rolling out onto the parking lot.
    The liftgate height is designed for easy loading of groceries. At
    43 inches, the load height between the shopping cart and the vehicle
    are virtually the same.

    “We researched the idea of a low liftover height with customers,”
    Langner recalls. “It was a runaway success. We’ve made it as low
    as we could while still being able to package the license

    An Audio System for Most Every Need

    Explorer is available with a variety of audio systems – up to a
    290-watt audiophile system, which includes a six-disc, in-dash CD
    changer with sound tuned to the interior acoustic environment.

    The system includes seven speakers, with a 90-watt subwoofer that is
    20 percent larger – made possible by packaging improvements – and
    two audio tweeters. Other audio options include single-CD and
    dual-media CD and cassette systems.

    Attention to Detail Aids Ergonomics, Comfort, Quality and

    In addition to being spacious, Explorer is designed with a
    pleasingly modern and ergonomic passenger compartment with high
    standards of comfort, quality and convenience.

    A full-time ergonomist worked with Explorer’s development team –
    ensuring that the layout of controls and displays is clear, logical
    and well ordered for maximum usability.

    The ergonomics efforts were combined with an analysis of how the
    vehicle’s various components relate to one another and contribute to
    the overall perception of quality inside and outside the vehicle.

    As part of the process, every control an occupant is likely to
    touch was tested and retested – and then modified as necessary. One
    example is the vehicle’s steering wheel.

    “A lot of work went into the steering wheel,” says Sue Maue,
    Explorer craftsmanship engineer. “We analyzed in detail its
    diameter, cross-section and the placement of the finger detents. As
    a result of our exhaustive study, we developed what we think is the
    perfect steering wheel for our Explorer customer.”

    Because the steering wheel felt so right, it was used as a model
    for how everything else in the vehicle should feel. This includes
    the grab handles above the doors, which were redesigned with the
    same finger grips as the steering wheel.

    Other examples of ergonomic improvements include the exterior
    door handles, which were changed to a full-grip design that is
    easier to grab and pull. Inside, the knobs, buttons and controls
    are logically laid out, and the most frequently used controls and
    displays – such as those on the audio system and message center –
    are located highest on the instrument panel. Graphics for climate
    controls are larger for easier readability, and the driver’s side
    lumbar adjustment knob is redesigned for easier operation.

    “Much of our focus on ergonomics seems like common sense,”
    explains Elizabeth Johnston, the development team’s full-time
    ergonomist. “Much of it is rather obvious – such as putting the fog
    lamp switch next to the headlamp switch or making sure the child
    seat tethers aren’t tucked away out of sight.”

    In all, Johnston and her team documented 350 areas of
    consideration. This included making sure that the liftgate, when
    raised, was high enough so tall people wouldn’t hit their heads, yet
    is low enough for shorter statured people to reach.

    The team made sure the driver would not catch a leg on the seat
    adjustment handle or have to look below an angle of 35 degrees to
    find instrument panel controls or displays.

    Redundant controls for the radio and climate control are located
    on the steering wheel and are lighted for easy access and
    readability. Tactile cues on the control buttons make it possible
    to use them without glancing down. Interior map and courtesy lights
    are placed and aimed to provide an even level of illumination from
    every seating position.

    The front-seat climate controls have optional dual-zone controls,
    which allow both the driver and passenger to specify separate
    temperature levels. An auxiliary climate control system is
    available for the rear seating area. Air ducts are shaped to speed
    the flow of heated or cooled air for faster response. Solar glass
    and privacy glass, including an available moon roof, help to shield
    the interior from the sun’s heat, while keeping possessions safe
    from prying eyes.

    The windshield washer reservoir is larger – enough to hold more
    than a gallon of fluid. Likewise, the fuel tank was relocated to
    the right side of the vehicle, which allowed it to be made larger
    and hold 1.5 more gallons of fuel. The fuel gauge sensor was moved
    to the middle of the tank to help ensure the most accurate readings.

    Auxiliary power points in the front console and second row
    seating area accommodate plug-in accessories, such as phones, games
    and air pumps. Devices such as the radio and power windows remain
    functional up to 10 minutes after the ignition is turned off, but
    accessory power is cut during starting to ease strain on the
    battery. Likewise, a battery saver function turns off interior
    lights approximately 10 minutes after the ignition is switched off
    to help prevent drain.

    A larger rear wiper offers better rear visibility in inclement
    weather. An approach lamp in the bottom of each side mirror
    illuminates the vehicle at night.

    Wider, more substantial optional running boards provide convenient
    access to the interior. A sturdy roof rack offers a place to carry
    bulky items that don’t fit in the fold-flat rear cargo area. The
    roof rack has adjustable crossbars and tie-downs and is rated to
    carry 200 pounds. With available accessories, it can carry
    bicycles, up to six pairs of skis or four snowboards, a kayak or

    Even the coat hooks were scrutinized and modified.

    “We had a big session one day on coat hooks,” Johnston explains.
    “Everyone was asked to bring in his or her cleaned laundry, and hang
    it in a vehicle. We noticed that the big, plastic hangers that are
    becoming so common don’t fit very well on traditional hooks. But
    they do now in Explorer.”

    Another small detail: the key fob. Most key fobs for cars have a
    button with a picture of a trunk popping open to label the trunk
    release button. For a while, most SUVs did not offer such a

    “We now have an SUV liftgate button,” Johnston says. “You push
    it, and the liftglass opens.”

    Low-Cost Ownership Drives Design for Serviceability

    Attention to detail doesn’t end with the Explorer’s development.
    Significant attention has been paid to the vehicle’s entire service
    life – especially keeping service requirements and ownership costs
    to a minimum.

    Serviceability was considered very early in the vehicle’s
    development. Engineers studied the vehicle’s scheduled maintenance,
    such as oil changes, and a market basket of the 22 top unscheduled
    repairs. The goal was to reduce overall ownership and maintenance

    The result is a nearly 15-percent – or $100 – reduction in
    service costs over five years. Explorer’s recommended service will
    cost an estimated $604 over five years, compared with more than $700
    for the previous model.

    The lower service costs are due to such changes as the
    elimination of transmission fluid changes at 30,000-mile intervals.
    The transmission is now sealed from the factory with 11 quarts of a
    semi-synthetic blend of specially formulated fluid that should not
    require changing for the first 150,000 miles.

    In addition, as part of Explorer’s new independent rear
    suspension system, a large inspection port has been installed in the
    differential, so the gearing can be inspected by putting the
    Explorer on a hoist. This will represent a major savings in
    diagnostic labor costs compared with removing the unit to a

    The steering gear also is now easier to service, reducing labor
    from 1.6 to 1.0 hour, which represents an estimated $36 repair
    savings to the customer. Headlamp service also is easier – and will
    cost $15 less at typical repair rates.

    # # #




    “We listened to every area of Explorer to make dramatic
    improvements in noise, vibration and harshness levels. We worked
    hard up front to prevent unwanted noise. By doing that, customers
    end up with a better quality vehicle and a more satisfying ownership

            – Ray Nicosia,
    Vehicle Engineering Manager

    • Improved rigidity via a fully boxed frame with a
      350-percent increase in torsional stiffness and 26-percent reduction
      in bending
    • Interior sound quality carefully studied to improve
      speech intelligibility
    • Body sculpted for less wind resistance with glass and
      door edges shifted out of the airflow
    • Improved inherent powertrain NVH, as well as revised
      engine, transmission and exhaust mounts
    • Additional and improved sound controls, including
      micro-cellular body mounts, more isolated muffler, new dual door
      seals, better sound insulation in the hood, wheel wells, fenders,
      pillars and driveshaft tunnel

    Developing an all-new SUV means worrying about the major
    innovations – including Explorer’s all-new suspension, exterior
    design and major safety upgrades. But the development team also
    worried extensively about the details – including many items that
    customers never will hear.
    Creating a quieter and more pleasant cabin environment, as well as
    reducing overall noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels, were
    major factors when developing the Explorer.

    “Explorer is more than just another sport-utility vehicle. It is
    a statement of excellence that continues to redefine the SUV
    experience,” explains Chief Program Engineer Steve von Foerster.
    “Our goal was to create one of the quietest cabins available in an
    SUV through an intense focus by engineers to reduce road, wind and
    powertrain noise.”

    Noise, Vibration and Harshness

    Movement is vibration, and vibration that reaches the passenger
    compartment in the right frequencies is noise. A vehicle contains
    moving parts, and, when the vehicle itself is in motion, new
    variables are introduced. The science of managing these factors in
    automobile design is called NVH – noise, vibration and

    “We had more than 1,000 NVH targets,” says Ray Nicosia. “The
    targets fall into three main categories: road noise, wind noise and
    powertrain noise. No area of the vehicle was immune from

    One of the areas the Explorer team focused on is the Articulation
    Index, which is a scientific measurement of the ability of people to
    understand sounds or speech within the cabin.

    Engineers placed artificial human heads, equipped with microphone
    “ears,” in the front and rear seating positions to measure the kinds
    of sounds that would interfere with occupants’ ability to hold a

    Named after a research center in Aachen, Germany, that developed
    the technology, the “Aachen head” was used to measure and then
    generate a speech intelligibility rating, expressed as a percentage.

    For example, a speech intelligibility rating of 85 would mean you
    could expect to hear and understand 85 percent of what someone else
    in the vehicle is saying to you.

    Measured at the driver’s ears, the Explorer is rated at roughly
    85 percent – which compares with a rating in the upper 70s for
    competitive and even luxury models.

    Cutting the Clatter

    To a driver and passengers, noise is subjective. It might _be
    loud, annoying or even pleasant. However, an engineer needs a more
    objective way of looking at noise – in order to reduce it.

    The solution is the color spectragraph. It’s a relatively new
    and sophisticated tool that sound engineers use to quantify their
    work. The three-dimensional graph uses color and brightness to fill
    in some of the noise picture that would be difficult to analyze on a
    traditional two-dimensional chart.

    When sound is tuned properly, the spectragraph shows brighter,
    straight lines rising at a constant rate as engine RPM increases.
    Using this tool, engineers can look at lines or dots of light and
    often tell what sounds they represent, and whether they will be
    objectionable to Explorer passengers.

    Optimizing NVH levels requires such rigorous attention to details –
    and a good ear. For example, road noise analysis of an early
    Explorer prototype turned up a low frequency “boom” at 37 Hz and 49
    Hz, which was traced to the rear roof panel, the rear frame rail and
    minute vibrations by the liftgate glass, door panels and windshield
    at speed. As a result, the team recommended revised body mounts,
    rear frame tuning and new rear roof adhesives.

    The revised body mounts alone reduced noise by 3.6 decibels on
    average. Combining all three modifications further reduced interior
    sound by another 3 decibels.

    In the science of sound measurements, a 6-decibel increase
    represents a doubling of overall pressure in the logarithmic scale
    used to measure sound. Even a single 3-decibel reduction is a
    noticeable improvement.

    Powertrain NVH

    The vehicle’s powertrain also came under scrutiny. Even when the
    vehicle is stopped at a traffic light, the engine is moving,
    generating potential noise. Usually, the bigger the engine, the
    more noise it makes.
    “We’ve quieted the engines down,” says Nicosia. “We’ve been able to
    match competitors’ 3.0-liter engine with our 4.0-liter in
    industry-standard engine sound measurements.”

    Engine sound is, perhaps, the most subjective of all vehicle
    noises. Some people, for example, are born and bred to like the
    sound of a hearty V-8 engine. Others have different ideas of what
    constitutes a pleasing engine sound.

    Explorer’s NVH team addressed this by making both the 4.0-liter
    V-6 and 4.6-liter V-8 engines quiet and as transparent as possible
    at idle. Then, to satisfy the different types of customers, the
    4.6-liter V-8 was tuned for a sportier, more powerful sound under
    spirited acceleration. Conversely, the 4.0-liter V-6 remains quiet,
    refined and graceful under pressure.

    Sound Design

    Making real improvements in sound quality and NVH works best when
    both are taken into account from the beginning of a vehicle’s design
    work. Explorer’s NVH reduction targets were identified early and
    plotted on computer – even as the body, chassis and powertrain were
    being “assembled” electronically. To achieve the aggressive
    targets, Explorer’s body was sculpted for less wind resistance.

    To further reduce wind noise, the vehicle’s glass and door edges
    were shifted out of the airflow. Micro-cellular body mounts also
    were used to better isolate vibration from the frame to the body.
    The new mounts are more effective in reducing NVH than the rubber
    mounts they replace.

    The engine’s intake system also was retuned. The engine’s
    composite intake is stiffer and tuned for engine performance, as
    well as sound reduction. The engine, transmission and exhaust
    system mounts also were redesigned, using advanced computer modeling
    techniques. By optimizing angles, rates and locations of the
    Explorer mounts, engineers were able to deliver a focalized mount
    system. Many mounting points that formerly were bolted to the frame
    now are welded in place, to eliminate potential rattles.

    Under the vehicle, engineers used computer modeling to locate the
    optimum nodal point or “dead spot” on the exhaust system to ensure
    exhaust hangers were placed in an area that wouldn’t transfer noise
    and vibration into the body structure. Packaging enhancements
    allowed use of a new muffler that better reduces exhaust noise.

    Other enhancements include new dual door seals that reduce air
    leakage by 50 percent and additional sound insulation in the hood,
    wheel wells, fenders, pillars and driveshaft tunnel to prevent
    drivetrain noise from entering the passenger area.

    Engineers also developed a new, lightweight magnesium transfer
    case that joins directly to the transmission. In the past, a 5-inch
    aluminum adapter was used to attach the heavy transfer case, which
    invited unwanted vibration.

    Non-noise vibrations came under scrutiny, as well. For example, the
    new Explorer’s steering wheel vibrates less than its predecessor’s.

    Similarly, the development team addressed a buzz in the
    accelerator pedal by using a longer cable and stiffer bracket.

    Body Stiffness

    A key to the improved sound quality is Explorer’s new, fully
    boxed frame, which provides a stiffer platform for the vehicle’s
    chassis and dynamics improvements – and also improves NVH levels.
    Explorer is 350 percent torsionally stiffer and 26 percent improved
    in vertical and lateral bending – which contribute to the improved

    In addition to a stiffer frame, the bodyshell of the new
    Mountaineer is torsionally 31-percent stiffer than the previous
    model providing further refinement in NVH levels. The body also
    exhibits a 61-percent improvement in lateral bending mode frequency.
    Inside, Mountaineer features a laminated steel dash and a magnesium
    cross beam.

    To further isolate vibration, a combination of urethane and
    rubber body mounts are employed to attach the body to the frame.