North Georgia Ford Compares 2003 Ford Explorer VS 2003 Dodge Durango Near Ellijay, GA

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2003 Ford Explorer

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2003 Dodge Durango

Safety Comparison

The Ford Explorer has shoulder harnesses for all seating positions. A shoulder harness better protects the passenger from head injury and prevents internal injuries that are possible with lap belts alone. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration lap and shoulder belts are 10% safer than lap belts alone. The Dodge Durango has only a lap belt in the middle center seating position.

Using vehicle speed sensors and seat sensors, smart airbags in the Explorer deploy with different levels of force or don’t deploy at all to help better protect passengers of all sizes in different collisions. The Durango’s airbags don’t have smart features and will always deploy full force.

The Explorer has standard four wheel antilock disc brakes for quicker stops and controlled steering ability, especially under poor traction conditions. Four wheel antilock brakes cost extra on the Durango.

The Explorer offers optional AdvanceTrac™, which uses the antilock brake hardware along with powerful software and additional sensors to detect the beginning of a skid. AdvanceTrac™ then intervenes by automatically applying the brake at one appropriate wheel, preventing a skid. The Durango doesn’t offer skid prevention.

The Explorer (except XLS) offers an optional Reverse Sensing System to help warn drivers about vehicles, pedestrians or other obstacles behind their vehicle. This collision warning system uses radar to detect obstacles behind the rear bumper. The Durango doesn’t offer a rear collision sensor.

Both the Explorer and the Durango have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, height adjustable front shoulder belts, plastic fuel tanks, available head airbags and all wheel drive.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does 35 MPH front crash tests on new cars. In this test, results indicate that the Ford Explorer 4dr is safer than the Durango:





4 Stars

4 Stars

Head Injury Index



Leg injuries (L/R)

1306 / 1200

966 / 1689



5 Stars

4 Stars

Head Injury Index



Chest forces

41 g’s

48 g’s

Leg injuries (L/R)

856 / 687

1739 / 1458

More stars indicate a better overall result. Lower numbers indicate better individual test results.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety does 40 MPH front offset crash tests on new cars. In this test, results indicate that the Ford Explorer (which the IIHS chose as “A Best Pick”) is safer than the Durango:



Overall Evaluation









Head injury index



Peak Head G-forces

no hit

21 G’s

Tibia index



(This test is not comparable to the NHTSA NCAP 35 MPH front crash test.)

Warranty Comparison

The Explorer’s 5 year corrosion warranty has no mileage limitations, but the corrosion warranty on the Durango runs out after 100,000 miles.

There are over 33 percent more Ford dealers than there are Dodge dealers, which makes it easier to get service under the Explorer’s warranty.

Reliability Comparison

For smoother operation, better efficiency and fewer moving parts, the engines in the Explorer have an overhead cam design, rather than the old pushrod design of some of the engines in the Durango.

The Explorer V8 has a standard “limp home system” to keep drivers from being stranded if most or all of the engine’s coolant is lost. The engine will run on only half of its cylinders at a time, reduce its power and light a warning lamp on the dashboard so the driver can get to a service station for repairs. The Durango doesn’t offer a lost coolant limp home mode, so a coolant leak could strand you or seriously damage the truck’s engine.

Fuel Economy and Range Comparison

The Ford Explorer gets better fuel mileage than the Durango:





16 city/21 hwy



14 city/19 hwy

14 city/19 hwy



15 city/20 hwy



14 city/19 hwy

13 city/18 hwy

To lower fuel costs and make buying fuel easier, the Ford Explorer uses 87 octane gasoline. The Durango with the 5.9 V8 engine requires premium, which can cost 25 to 50 cents more per gallon.

Tires and Wheels Comparison

The Explorer offers an optional tire pressure monitoring system, which will alert the driver to a drop in tire pressure before damage to the tire or an accident might occur. The Durango doesn’t offer a low tire pressure warning system.

Suspension and Handling Comparison

For superior ride and handling, the Ford Explorer has fully independent front and rear suspensions. An independent suspension allows the wheels to follow the road at the best angle for gripping the pavement, without compromising ride comfort. The Dodge Durango has a solid rear axle, with a non-independent rear suspension.

The front and rear suspension of the Explorer uses coil springs for better ride, handling and control than the Durango 4x4, which uses torsion bars in the front and leaf springs in the rear. Coil springs compress more progressively and offer more suspension travel for a smoother ride with less bottoming out.

For greater off-road capability the Explorer 4dr w/245 tires has a greater minimum ground clearance than the Durango (9.2 vs. 8.5 inches), allowing the Explorer to travel over rougher terrain without being stopped or damaged.

Chassis Comparison

The design of the Ford Explorer amounts to more than styling. The Explorer has an aerodynamic coefficient of drag of .41 Cd. That is significantly lower than the Durango (.45). A more efficient exterior helps keep the interior quieter and helps the Explorer get better fuel mileage.

As tested by Popular Mechanics, the interior of the Explorer Eddie Bauer 4dr 4x4 is quieter than the Durango R/T 4x4:



At idle

48.3 dB

53.5 dB


72.1 dB

78.5 dB

60 MPH Cruising

79.7 dB

80.4 dB

Passenger Space Comparison

The Explorer has .1 inches more front headroom, .5 inches more front legroom, 1.5 inches more front shoulder room, .5 inches more rear legroom, 1 inch more rear shoulder room, 1.3 inches more third row headroom, 4.1 inches more third row legroom and .1 inches more third row hip room than the Durango.

Ergonomics Comparison

To help each driver find a more comfortable driving position, the Explorer Eddie Bauer/Limited has a telescoping steering wheel. Much better than just a tilt steering wheel or adjustable seat, this allows a short driver to sit further from the steering wheel while maintaining contact with the pedals. The Durango doesn’t offer a telescoping steering wheel.

When two different drivers share the Explorer Eddie Bauer/Limited, the memory seats make it convenient for both. Each setting activates different, customized memories for the seat position. The Durango doesn’t offer memory seats.

The Explorer’s standard speed sensitive intermittent wipers speed up as the car does, so that the driver doesn’t have to continually adjust the speed of the wipers. The Durango’s intermittent wipers have to be constantly adjusted.

The Explorer Eddie Bauer/Limited has a standard automatic headlight on/off feature. When the ignition is on, the headlights automatically turn on at dusk and off after dawn. The Durango doesn’t offer automatic headlights.

The Explorer Eddie Bauer/Limited’s standard automatic temperature control maintains the temperature you set, automatically controlling fan speed, vents and temperature to maintain a consistent, comfortable environment. The Durango doesn’t offer automatic air conditioning.

To help keep rear passengers entertained, the Explorer offers optional rear seat controls for the radio which can play a separate independent station or source. The Durango doesn’t offer rear seat audio controls.

Economic Advantages Comparison

Insurance will cost less for the Explorer owner. The Complete Car Cost Guide estimates that insurance for the Explorer will cost $165 to $1085 less than the Durango over a five year period.

The Explorer is less expensive to operate than the Durango because of its lower insurance rate. It also costs $214 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost less on the Explorer than the Durango, including $152 less for an alternator, $6 less for front brake pads, $32 less for a fuel pump, $22 less for front struts, $22 less for a timing belt/chain and $162 less for a power steering pump.

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