New Car/Review

1998 FORD EXPLORER 4X4 2DR SPORT

by Matt/Bob Hagin

ford

SEE ALSO: Ford Buyer's Guide


SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 22,725
Price As Tested                                    $ 28,400
Engine Type               SOHC 2-valve 4.0 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
Engine Size                                 245 cid/4015 cc
Horsepower                                   205 @ 5000 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               250 @ 3000 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  101.7"/70.2"/178.6"
Transmission                           Five-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     3969 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  17.5 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     P225/70R16
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train                   Front-engine/four-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                        Four-passenger/two-door
Domestic Content                                 80 percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            15/19/18
0-60 MPH                                          9 seconds
Payload                                         4860 pounds
Max. towing capacity                            1025 pounds
     * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

(The two-door version of the Ford Explorer is cheaper than the four door models, but Matt Hagin says the extra doors are needed for most family buyers. Father Bob says two-doors are just fine for old timers.)

MATT - Until I had a couple of infants of my own, I didn't realize how inconvenient it is to have only two-doors on a vehicle, Dad. Wrestling two wriggling kids into their car seats and then out again is almost painful, especially when they're tired and cranky.

BOB - Ford is targeting its marketing thrust for this two-door Sport version of the Explorer towards youthful entry-level buyers who are going into their first new sport/utility vehicle. And simply put, couples with kids should go for the four-door Explorer. Ford has put an emphasis here on accessories and options that appeal to a young buyers and you don't quite fall into this segment anymore, Matt. Standard stuff on the Explorer Sport we drove included air conditioning as well as polished aluminum wheels and a radio/cassette stereo combination which was upgraded to carry a CD player. The version we tried carried the optional 4.0 liter single-overhead-cam V6 engine and optional automatic four-speed automatic rather than the standard pushrod V6 of the same displacement that comes standard with a five-speed stick shift.

MATT - It's a welcome addition too, Dad. The more sophisticated engine puts out 205 horsepower, which is a gain of 45 extra ponies over the push-rod powerplant. It also has 25 more pound/feet of torque. Most of these vehicles will never be exposed to true down-and-dirty off-road use, but extra torque and horsepower comes in handy for the outdoor SUV use. Our Explorer was also equipped with what Ford calls Control Trac four-wheel drive, a 4X4 system that has a neat slippery-condition feature. In situations where the rear wheels begin to lose traction because the road is slick, additional power is directed to the front-wheel-drive system to negate the slippage in the rear. And since all Explorers are equipped with anti-lock brakes, it's hard to get into rough-weather trouble when you're driving one of them.

BOB - Matt, I know some guys that can get into rough-weather trouble no matter how much safety equipment has been built into the drive system. A couple of years ago Ford abandoned its antiquated Twin-I Beam front suspension on the Explorer so the engine bay would accept a V8, but it's only available on the four-door model. This two-door Sport seems more agile and nimble than the four-door because it's 11 inches shorter in wheelbase and a couple of hundred pounds lighter. It has a three-foot tighter turning circle, too. I think perhaps the heavier, more powerful V8 engine might upset the balance of the Sport two-door. It's no world-beater in the area of fuel economy, however, only averaging 15 MPG around town and 18 on the highway.

MATT - Our tester had disc brakes both front and rear, and the ABS contributed to our fairly short stopping distance of 128 feet on dry pavement. Its a bit harder to climb up into than some of its competition, but good ground clearance is a necessity if an SUV is ever used for serious trail driving. And because it's built on a true truck "ladder" frame and has a fairly short wheelbase, buyers who are looking for a cushy boulevard ride are going to be disappointed. The interior is comfortable enough sitting in the front bucket seats, but room and comfort in back are a bit on the sparse side. The rear seat folds down to provide extra cargo space, and our tester also came with a roof rack that looks sturdy enough for a couple of sets of skis at least.

BOB - Ford was one of the first American auto makers to get into what has become the burgeoning sport/utility market. Its Bronco first appeared in '66 and maybe you remember that even then it could be had with a V8 or a six-cylinder engine, just like today's Explorer. It was beefy and brawny, and now they're all collector's items fetching far more than the original retail price.

MATT - Dad, I've said this before about other cars you sold for scrap, but I knew you should have kept that old basket-case '69 Bronco someone gave you back in the late 70's.

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