2003 Ford Explorer Overview

     Product Information 


    New for 2003

    • AdvanceTrac electronic stability enhancement system (added mid-2002)
    • Rear Seat Entertainment System with DVD player
    • All-new NBX package (see sidebar)
    • Upgraded Explorer Limited package
    • AWD now offered on XLS, XLS Sport, XLT, XLT Sport, Eddie Bauer and Limited
    • Return of the Eddie Bauer, XLS and XLT Sport Group packages
    • Standard chrome grille and black-grained door handles on XLT
    • 17-inch satin nickel cast aluminum wheels and P245/65R17 all-terrain OWL tires on Eddie Bauer
    • Medium Dark Platinum wheel lip moldings replace Warm Gray and Cool Gray on XLS, XLT
    • New exterior colors: Red Fire, Zinc Yellow, Ceramic White Tri-Coat
    • AM/FM stereo clock/cassette/CD standard on XLS
    • Warm steel finish added to center cluster and door panels on XLT, NBX


    The 2003 Explorer continues to rewrite the rules for the popular sport-utility vehicle segment. New packages, such as the new NBX package, offers a Yakima roof basket and other upgrades and joins Eddie Bauer, Limited and Sport in providing customers even more choices and conveniences.

    Safety remains a cornerstone of Explorer for 2003. Explorer also brings Ford’s groundbreaking Safety CanopyTM, a side air curtain protection system for both first and second row passengers, and the Personal Safety SystemTM, a relatively new technology that bolsters the performance of front-seat safety belts with pretensioners and load-limiting retractors.

    Available AdvanceTracTM, an electronic stability enhancement system, helps to maintain the driver’s intended course in certain oversteer and understeer conditions.
    Explorer’s interior also sees improvements with a new optional rear seat entertainment system, which includes a DVD player and 7-inch pull-down color screen and
    wireless headphones.

    The Explorer had a tremendous year in 2002. Popular Science bestowed it its “Best of What’s New” award and MotorWeek named Explorer its Drivers’ Choice Award for “Best Family Sport-Utility Vehicle.” The Explorer also was recognized by IntelliChoice as “Best Overall Value of the Year” for 2002 in the Intermediate Sport Utility Class and by Trailer Boats magazine as Tow Vehicle of the Year. The Explorer is built in St. Louis, Missouri and in
    Louisville, Kentucky.


    Key exterior design elements include simple, rounded forms and sections, uncluttered body panels and a bold new grille featuring the familiar egg-crate insert of all Ford SUVs.

    High-quality, durable materials and finishes are used in all aspects of the exterior and interior design.

    Form follows function: Exterior door handles are more robust and easier to use. The new handles on the NBX, XLS and XLT are black grain. Available running boards provide a wide stepping area. Complex reflector headlamps provide better lighting. Body-side cladding serves as protection against
    stone chips.

    Explorer’s wide track gives the vehicle a confident, athletic stance, and the shorter front overhang makes the vehicle look more nimble, while improving its approach angle in rough or steep terrain.

    A fully integrated rear bumper with a wide shelf and a completely redesigned liftgate give the rear of the vehicle a cleaner, finished look. This look is enhanced with new Medium Dark Platinum on wheel lip moldings and bumper trim on the XLS, XLS Sport and XLT.

    The refined, versatile, understated design theme is carried through to the interior Ð consistent forms, functional detailing and clear, strong graphics on all instrumentation and controls. For 2003, XLT and NBX models add warm-steel-colored accents, while the Limited now features refined updated wood grain appliqués and a center armrest covered in leather.


    Explorer leads its class in third-row headroom and legroom. The optional rear seat offers the ability to seat two adults in comfort. These benefits were made possible by Explorer’s wider track and efficient packaging of its new independent rear suspension and patented porthole-in-frame design. This design is related to the way the rear half-shafts are packaged Ð literally via holes in the frame versus under the frame. A traditional truck or SUV frame is straight from front to back, with ladder-like braces across it for strength. The frame, however, cannot be completely straight because it would run into the rear axle assembly. That is why nearly every manufacturer puts a large semi-circular bend in the frame to follow the rear wheel well. The rear axle then runs beneath it, which limits interior space. For Explorer, using the traditional wisdom would have meant a narrow third-row seat.

    The rocker panels are positioned inboard, closer to the seats for improved ingress and egress. A one-handed control folds the second-row seat down and flips it forward, to offer wide access to the third row. The third-row seat folds down to create a flat-surfaced cargo area. The rear liftgate is designed to offer shopping cart-like access through the large liftglass section. A button on the key fob opens the glass in the rear hatch while leaving the doors locked.

    In seven-passenger models, the second-row seat is split 40/20/40 to offer ease of access to the third row, and the ability to customize the cargo area for long or odd-sized cargo.

    Clever storage features include water bottle holders in the front door pockets, and the Cargo Management System with two underfloor storage bins in the five-passenger model, one in the seven-passenger model, to keep small items out of sight.


    Explorer is powered by a choice of two engines.

    The optional 4.6L Triton V-8 uses aluminum block and heads and is an overhead-cam design. It delivers 239 horsepower and 282 foot-pounds of torque and will go 100,000 miles before its first scheduled tune-up.

    The standard 4.0 liter V-6 offers flexible fuel capability and exceptionally quiet operation. It produces 210 horsepower and 254 foot-pounds of torque. Explorer is the only SUV in its class to offer standard flexible-fuel capability.

    Towing capability comes built-in. The standard receiver hitch, which is part of the rear frame, offers Class II towing capability of 2,000 pounds to 3,500 pounds, depending on engine and drivetrain. An upgraded towing package provides Class
    III/IV towing capability of up to 7,300 pounds when
    properly equipped.

    Ride and Handling

    With its independent rear suspension and Ford-patented porthole-in-frame design, Explorer offers excellent ride qualities. The computer-engineered chassis package features a fully
    boxed frame for strength and durability, and unique porthole-in-frame design to maximize interior space without sacrificing
    frame strength.

    Independent rear suspension offers ride and handling benefits over a solid rear axle design because each wheel reacts independently to bumps in the road, moving both up and rearward to absorb the bumps and reduce impact harshness. The result is improved ride quality.

    Because each component performs very specific tasks, the suspension can be designed to be extremely stiff laterally, while offering more longitudinal compliance.
    These two important functions are more easily separated than in traditional solid-axle designs, which typically offer high longitudinal stiffness – because the axles are bolted to long leaf springs and, thus, offer imprecise lateral control.

    The IRS’s ability to soak up longitudinal forces, such as those imposed by potholes or sharp pavement bumps, translates directly into a more comfortable ride and reduced harshness. Maintaining lateral stiffness helps keep the rear of the vehicle from swaying side-to-side in bumps or maneuvers.

    Available on Explorer is ControlTrac’s “surface detection” predictive technology that anticipates and prevents wheel slippage in low-traction conditions by monitoring driver’s intent resulting in more seamless confidence and performance.

    The AdvanceTracTM system adds a sophisticated electronic traction control that regulates side-to-side torque distribution better than traditional mechanical systems. The system applies braking selectively when it detects wheelspin. By stopping the spinning wheel, the system sends torque to the wheel that has traction.


    The best-selling sport utility vehicle in the world, Ford Explorer leads the mid-size SUV segment in crash test performance as well as in new safety technology, with such advanced safety features as side-impact curtain air bags with rollover sensors, AdvanceTracTM electronic stability enhancement system and a patented ControlSlipTM rear driveshaft that helps manage energy during frontal impacts. Added to these firsts are improved safety belts, child seat tethers and a lower front bumper that is on par with many passenger cars to enhance SUV-to-car crash compatibility.

    The 2003 Explorer remains as one of safest SUVs on the road Ð and it has the test scores you’d expect from the safety leader. In U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration front crash ratings, the ’02 Explorer achieved a 4-star (driver)/5-star (front passenger) rating. And Explorer was named a “Best Pick” among mid-size SUVs by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in its offset frontal crash test evaluation. Some of the features that help it achieve these ratings are:

    • Safety CanopyTM system with industry-first side-impact curtain air bags and rollover protection
    • AdvanceTracTM electronic stability system combines the benefits of traction control and electronic stability (yaw) control
    • Ford Personal Safety Systemª, including driver and passenger dual-stage air bags with tailored deployment characteristics
    • Passenger seat-weight sensor detects objects or occupants and deactivates air bags when necessary
    • New pretensioners and energy-management retractors make safety belts even more effective
    • BeltMinderTM system helps remind drivers to buckle up
    • Child safety seat attachments help ensure proper child seat attachment in second and third rows
    • Lower front bumper enhances SUV compatibility with other vehicles on
    • the road
    • New patented ControlSlipTM rear driveshaft helps manage energy during frontal impacts
    • SecuriLockTM passive anti-theft system helps deter would-be thieves

    Explorer NBX: The No Boundaries eXperience

    The NBX package adds a healthy dose of attitude and aptitude to the 2003 Explorer.

    The heart of the NBX package is a Yakima multi-use LoadWarrior cargo basket. Highly versatile, the rack measures 44 inches by 39 inches and is 6.5 inches deep. Made of heavy-duty steel, the LoadWarrior is designed to handle extra cargo, and is especially adept at keeping messy gear out of the plush Explorer interior. The Explorer and Ford Outfitters logos appear on the left side of the front of the rack. Aerodynamic farings, locking brackets and LoadWarrior Extensions are sold separately through Yakima.

    The exterior of NBX features unique two-tone black front and rear bumpers that coordinate with the black side moldings, wheel lips, and step bars. The rolling stock, larger than that of the base Explorer, is a set of BFGoodrich Rugged Trail T/A P245/65R17 outline-white-letter tires mounted on 17-inch, 5-spoke machined aluminum wheels. The tires are designed for good performance on- and off-road, low noise and year-round traction.

    The Explorer NBX interior offers cloth low-back sport bucket seats with 6-way power driver and manual lumbar support, upholstered in Midnight Gray fabric. The Explorer NBX logo also is embossed into the raised rubber floormats. An additional unique feature is a soft-lined cargo area with storage bag.

    Explorer NBX is available in Zinc Yellow, Red Fire, Silver Birch, and Mineral Gray for 2003.