While the current Explorer is a vast improvement over its predecessor, it competed in a market with many more choices. Still, its steady ride and versatile, well-designed interior made for a well-rounded package. Its main drawbacks were an unrefined V6 engine and unimpressive performance on our off-road course.
Alerts
There are 7 recalls on this vehicle. Learn More.

Overall Owner Satisfaction

Consumer Reports’ Annual Owner Satisfaction Survey can improve the chances of finding a compatible car match. How? Our survey data reveals whether, all things considered, owners would buy the same car again. The answer to that question is what determines our owner-satisfaction rating, which is a powerful piece of intel because it predicts how well a particular model will satisfy other owners.

Overall Owner Satisfaction

Owner Satisfaction with:

Driving Experience

Includes acceleration and handling

What Owners Say

"Hands down the best turn radius of any SUV I've experienced. V8 did an outstanding job towing 6000 lbs 2100 miles across while climbing the mountain passes in Wyoming and Utah."

ROY C., VA (2003 Ford Explorer)

"The auto has excellent power and strong acceleration. It has the tightest turning radius I have ever seen in a vehicle this size."

JERRY S., MI (2003 Ford Explorer)

"It has a V8, 4 wheel drive for the winter."

MICHAEL B., ON (2003 Ford Explorer)

"I have loved the brakes since the day I bought it. At a stop sign I can put my foot on the brake and then let up on the brake so you never feel the forward and backward motion."

Anonymous, TX (2003 Ford Explorer)

"4.0L with the (dreaded) 5R55S transmission. The Explorer is very agile considering the weight of the vehicle. I replaced the coil over shocks and it rides like a dream for a 4WD vehicle."

RONALD H., PA (2003 Ford Explorer)

"Enjoy the ability to accelerate quickly if needed. Power and responsive handling are a definite plus. Better on gas mileage than one would expect from a large block V8 (depending on your driving habits."

EDWARD B., GA (2003 Ford Explorer)

"For an SUV, it has plenty of power. However, the car was manufactured with NO quality control. So many of the peripherals have gone bad even in the first few months we owned it. From after the first oil change by the dealer, the car developed a flutter, which the dealer and the manufacturer couldn't correct and both ended up stone walling us. I will not purchase another Ford product after that treatment."

Anonymous, PA (2003 Ford Explorer)

"Big solid ride"

Mark R., CA (2003 Ford Explorer)

"I've had a few instances of "sudden acceleration"."

Anonymous, NY (2003 Ford Explorer)

"Excellent for hauling camping trailer. Repairs to brakes transmission air condition suspension steering Makes this vehicle a definite do not buy."

Anonymous, ON (2003 Ford Explorer)

"When you step on the gas to get on the freeway it flys"

Debbie C., ID (2003 Ford Explorer)

"handles and accelerates nice"

Bruce B., VT (2003 Ford Explorer)

"Car has worked very well for us for the 100,000 miles and 8 years we have owned it. However, we had to replace the engine at 85,000 miles and just replaced the catalytic converters at 173,000 miles. We love this vehicle."

Glenn O., NC (2003 Ford Explorer)

"the acceleration with the 4.6L V8 is very robust. Handling is good for such a large vehicle. Brakes are just adequate and the automatic trans does get confused at times when up-shifting under full acceleration."

Jon C., VA (2003 Ford Explorer)

"It's a heavy vehicle. Have to brake early, and it doesn't stop quickly. Acceleration is not too quick."

Anonymous, CA (2003 Ford Explorer)

"Bet vehicle I have ever owned for handling and ease of driving. Steering is excellent and will turn on a dime which makes it great for parking. It has ALL the power I need when driving the freeways and handles beautifully at 70 mph and above!"

Sharon W., OH (2003 Ford Explorer)

"It has always provided a smooth quiet ride. It is a mid to large size SUV so its handling is certainly not sports car like but it certainly more than exceeds my expectations"

Eric O., BC (2003 Ford Explorer)

"Big V8 has plenty of get up and go, and as old as it is still drives smooth and handles the road great like it was new"

Anonymous, CO (2003 Ford Explorer)

Comfort

Includes seats, climate control, noise, and ride

What Owners Say

"The R/F seat is a back breaker over long distances."

Anonymous, DE (2003 Ford Explorer)

"Lots of road noise."

PAUL W., CA (2003 Ford Explorer)

"Leather seats are uncomfortable. Rides rough."

Anonymous, NC (2003 Ford Explorer)

"Road noise is excessive, drowns out the radio."

E P., AZ (2003 Ford Explorer)

"The automatic climate control is still by far the best I have used compared to the several cars a year I rent due to travel. I do wish the seats were more conforming as that would make long drives more comfortable."

ROY C., VA (2003 Ford Explorer)

"Seats are very firm and can add to fatigue on long trips. Otherwise, car is roomy and accommodates drivers of all sizes."

EDWARD B., GA (2003 Ford Explorer)

"Seating is good noise is okay"

James M., CT (2003 Ford Explorer)

"Excellent AC, comfortable seats, excellent room for passengers."

Anonymous, CA (2003 Ford Explorer)

"It's a solid workhorse with comfy seats and a quiet ride"

Mark R., CA (2003 Ford Explorer)

"quite and smooth ride"

Anonymous, VT (2003 Ford Explorer)

"seat is hard and doesn't fit my body"

Anonymous, WA (2003 Ford Explorer)

"Comfortable seating position and seats. Muffles road noise very well. Torsion bar front suspension is rough riding"

Anonymous, WA (2003 Ford Explorer)

"heating and cooling are not adequate. In winter, will fog up. In summer, AC can not cool enough. Has been to the dealer many times over the years on this issue and has not been fixed."

David P., WA (2003 Ford Explorer)

"The vehicle is very well appointed specially for a 2003 and I have been very happy with the way the vehicle has continued to serve me very reliably"

Eric O., BC (2003 Ford Explorer)

"Seats lack lumbar support."

Anonymous, CA (2003 Ford Explorer)

"comfortable seats, large cargo area, rides soft but handles well and is very quiet on the freeway. Visibility is excellent and with the electric seat, movable pedals and tilt wheel the driving position is very good."

Jon C., VA (2003 Ford Explorer)

"Noisy drivetrain & engine"

Debra P., OR (2003 Ford Explorer)

"quite ride, comfortable seating"

Bruce B., VT (2003 Ford Explorer)

Value

Did you get what you wanted relative to the price you paid?

What Owners Say

"Have owned this vehicle since 2005. Has been very reliable and dependable"

Anonymous, HI (2003 Ford Explorer)

"I have put nearly 150,000 miles on this vehicle, and my mechanic believes it will last me another 150,000 miles, with proper maintenance."

MARY M., WA (2003 Ford Explorer)

"Bought this vehicle used (80,000 miles) and the engine failed at 84,000 and had to be replaced. At 160,000 we are a little concerned about the transmission - a few times we couldn't get it out of park and we are feeling it shift more. Ford made it difficult to check the transmission fluid level on this model so that may be the problem. Otherwise we love this car."

GLENN O., NC (2003 Ford Explorer)

"When shopping for this vehicle we looked at other products, specifically the Honda Pilot. While the Pilot was a very good vehicle, it's cost was considerably more. I feel the Explorer has been a much better value over the years than the Pilot would have been."

Anonymous, GA (2003 Ford Explorer)

"There is an abundance of used Ford Explorers available so the prices for good ones with options is low. I have many friends with Explorers and our experience is that they are rugged. This 2003 is a V8 4x4 and replaces a 1993 Explorer with 226,000 driven miles plus 97,000 towed behind an RV miles which is still running fine."

JON C., VA (2003 Ford Explorer)

"I bought this vehicle used at an excellent price when it had low mileage. I have had absolutely no problems ever since and have logged many many miles!"

MIKE Y., VA (2003 Ford Explorer)

"Still going with only normal care, no rust. great ride"

Anonymous, NE (2003 Ford Explorer)

"Excellent value car is 14 yrs old"

James M., CT (2003 Ford Explorer)

"A bolt internal to the engine broke at 72,000 miles and the entire engine had to be replaced."

Anonymous, OR (2003 Ford Explorer)

"Solid workhorse SUV. Dependable"

Debra P., OR (2003 Ford Explorer)

"I bought this new and at the time i thought the price was well in line for this vehicle"

Anonymous, CO (2003 Ford Explorer)

"My Explorer is now 15 years old. I have had very few expensive problems with it while I have owned it. For that reason, and my comfort while driving it. It is probably the best vehicle I have ever owned."

Anonymous, IL (2003 Ford Explorer)

Styling

How it looks inside and out

What Owners Say

"Everything is great about the interior and exterior styling except the digital readout is so dim it can't be read in the daytime. Have even replaced the instrument cluster and still have the same problem. Otherwise the interior and exterior design is great."

GLENN O., NC (2003 Ford Explorer)

Would you buy this car again?

2003 vehicles
Ford Explorer
Honda Pilot
Toyota 4Runner
Percentage of owners who would definitely purchase that same vehicle again. Owner-satisfaction Ratings are determined by the percentage of those who answered "definitely yes" to the question asked by the Consumer Reports Annual Auto Survey "Considering all factors (price, performance, reliability, comfort, enjoyment, etc.), would you get this car if you had to do it all over again?". If we don’t have sufficient data, a similar model might be used to form the owner-satisfaction score.
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