The Ford Explorer is one of the SUVs that sparked the SUV craze of the 1990s in the USA. For the better part of its existence, this mainstream 3-row, midsize SUV has been Ford’s top-selling SUV and one of America’s most iconic large SUVs. The Explorer replaced the two-door Bronco II compact SUV and became Ford’s 1st 4-door SUV. It is loved for its generous utility, its roomy and comfortable interior, its versatility and practicality, its impressive capability and performance, and its proven reliability. Alongside the Explorer, Ford also produced Explorer variations like the smaller 2-door Explorer Sport SUV that lasted for the first two Explorer generations and the Explorer Sport Trac midsize pickup truck available between 2001 and 2010.
The Explorer came on to the scene in 1990 for the 1991 model year. Most newly introduced vehicle models take time to gather sales momentum, but this was not the case with the Explorer. It shot up to a sales high of 250,059 units by the end of 1991, and it recorded even higher sales figures over the rest of the 1st generation model years. Like the Bronco II SUV, the 1st-generation Explorer (1991-1994) was based on the underpinnings of the Ford Ranger pickup truck. It had a high ride height and robust suspension system so it performed well on dirt rails, and it also delivered outstanding hauling and towing capability. The 1st-generation Explorer was available with RWD or 4WD, and it came equipped with a 4.0 L V6 gas engine.
The Explorer did even better in its second generation (1995-2001) with total annual sales of even over 400,000 units. This generation was also based on the Ford Ranger pickup truck, but it was sleeker and more aerodynamic. It also added a fully independent front suspension and a rack-and-pinion steering system, so its handling was better than that of the prior generation. It also featured more powerful V6 and V8 engines.
With the 3rd-generation Explorer (2002-2005), Ford used a purpose-built rear-wheel-drive platform and also incorporated a four-wheel independent suspension system for improved driving dynamics. Also, the 3rd-generation Explorer added a substantially roomy third row. This generation’s towing capability and off-road capability was also good.
The 4th-generation Explorer (2006-2010) was an enhanced version of the 3rd-generation Explorer. It had a stiffer frame, a revised suspension system, more contemporary exterior and interior styling, and safety technologies like a tire pressure monitoring system, an electronic stability control system, and canopy airbags. This generation also featured more powerful V6 and V8 engine options.
With the fifth-generation Explorer (2011-2019), instead of using a traditional body-on-frame structure as it had done with the prior generations, Ford used a car-like unibody structure on the Explorer that was lighter yet sufficiently strong. The 5th-generation Explorer was also larger and roomier. With this new platform also came new powertrains that included ‘Ecoboost’ turbo 4-cylinder/V6 engines and a naturally aspirated V6 engine; the V8 engines were dropped.
The latest 6th-generation Explorer (2020-present) is the most advanced Explorer generation yet. Its list of high-tech technologies includes the latest Sync 3 interface, an electronic parking brake, Intelligent 4WD with Terrain Management System, AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control, a trailer sway control system, a lane-keeping system, an intelligent adaptive cruise control system, and much more. This generation also features the most powerful Explorer yet–the 400-horsepower Explorer ST that is driven by a 3.0-liter EcoBoost twin-turbocharged V6 engine.
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