Pros: Good gas mileage, adaptable to changing weather conditions, affordable
Cons: 2 door configuration not so great with families
After killing two Dodge trucks (long, sad story of replaced transmissions, bad injectors, malfunctioning fuel pumps, dropped drive shafts and missing parts from the factory!) I convinced my spouse to buy a Ford next time 'round. That was back in '96 and we purchased a big honkin' F250 4X4 that hasn't let us down yet. However, making the move to buy something in Ford clothing other than a Built Tough Ford truck, and after suffering through the drudgery of what seemed like hundreds of trips to the service bay for our Windstar, we sat on the fence and mulled the options for quite awhile.
We looked at all manner of compact SUVs, all makes that were within our budget. When we looked at the Explorer Sport, my ever-the-mechanic spouse, crawled under it to check out to see if it was strongly built as it's big brother truck in our driveway. He was impressed by what he saw and also more by the Explorer than by the other SUVs we drove, including its cousin, the Escape. This was to be his work/play car and so he chose it, albeit a 2-door, even though we have 2 kids that have to be stuffed in the back every morning to get to school.
The Sport has been reliable and road-worthy now for over two years, save sticky seat slider mechanisms that worsened as the car aged. In true car salesman form, the guy convinced my spouse that those stiff seats would loosen up with time. Seemed a reasonable assumption. In reality, they became so bound up that it took all the force of an adult's shoulder thrown into the seat back just to get it to move. As happens in everyone's busy lives, it was hard to make the time to get the car in for service, but finally we managed to get it in for repair while the warranty was still intact. The sliders on both front seats were replaced and again are a bit stiff, but hopefully the stiffness will be caused from newness and not from poorly aligned brackets or bad runners or whatever caused the problem in the first place. The car also had a poorly aligned headlight out of the factory, causing drivers to flash brights thinking the hi beams were on when in fact it was aimed far off to the left. That has been fixed too. We will need to test the lights in the next snowstorm or fog bank to be absolutely sure of that. So far we have had no mechanical or electrical problems at all (knock on wood).
The back seat folds down to a fairly large storage area, however since we also have a full-sized truck, we haven't taken the opportunity to see just how much can be packed into it. We simply use the larger vehicle to carry large cargo.
We thought we'd give it a good rock-crawling test in our nearby Rockies. The short wheel base and more than adequate ground clearance allows for a lot of agility and nimbleness on narrow four-wheel drive trails. Care still had to be taken since there are no factory skid plates underneath, but it did better than we thought it would with its V6 and 5 speed manual transmission. And all while, the air conditioning was running and the CD player rocking out some tunes. Could never have done that with our old Jeep! And it plows through snow very well also. We live on a half-mile long strip of private road that serves as a driveway for nearly a dozen neighbors. Often it is not plowed, since it is up to those of us who live on the road to keep it clear. Snowbanks pile up pretty deep due to the open terrain where we live. So far it has done very well crashing through snowbanks, just like in the commercials!
We would recommend this compact Explorer SUV to anyone that is looking for a smaller multipurpose vehicle that is easy on gas, handles well and suits most purposes. We are very pleased with our little Sport.