Pros: Solid and good looking. A tight and well equipped 4x4.
Cons: Short wheelbase and tall stance means care must be taken at higher speeds.
The Explorer Sport is a 2-door model assembled in Louisville, Kentucky. Although a 2-door version of Ford's venerable Explorer has been around since the Bronco/Bronco II days this particular body style was only made from 2001 to 2003 after which the 2-door was dropped. It is quite different from the 4-door Explorer which ran from 2002 to 2005 (the '06 is a new generation and again has some significant differences).
My "Estate green" truck is equipped with a (made in Cologne, Germany) 4.0L SOHC V6. In 2003 this engine had its torque peak increased to 240 foot-pounds and lowered from 3750 to 3000rpm. Various sources quote the horsepower for this year at between 203 and 210hp. The transmission is Ford's very smooth 5R55E electronically controlled 5-speed automatic. Overdrive can be locked out via a switch in the shifter stalk. I have the XLT premium package which includes pretty much every option available.
Driving this small truck is a pleasure. It is very quiet at any speed. The steering is immediate and tight and it tracks straight and true. The truck is quite short and fairly tall. There are inherent advantages to this such as tight parking and turning circles and a commanding view but care must be taken with extreme steering manuevers on the highway (makes sense). The undercarriage is a full-frame truck style with a solid rear axle and a full transfer case with an electric 4x2 and 4x4 High/Low settings. Rear differential is a 3.73 (4.10 was available). In overdrive on the highway I am seeing a consistent 27 mpg (Imperial) or 22 mpg (USA). With carefull driving over an entire tankful I've seen 30 mpg (Imperial). The tank is fairly small though as it only holds about 64 litres (17 USG).
The power is good and with the 5-speed about all this truck needs. All options still work as they should after 40,000 miles in spite of a large number of gravel miles here in Beautiful British Columbia. As an aside: lowering the tire pressure to about 24-26 psi makes a world of difference on off-road washboards with much less rear axle hop. Back on the asphalt take the time to refill to 32-34psi for better mileage and handling.
Brakes are 4-wheel disc ABS and stop hard when needed. The seats are all-day comfortable and feature electric airbag lumber support on both fronts. I won't go into all the interior features. Suffice to say there are a lot and they all come in handy in one way or another - love the moonroof.
I like this truck and hope to keep it for a long time yet.