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The Ultimate Ford Explorer Page

Ford Motor Company has a reputation of excellence and quality in the automotive industry that extends to its trucks and sport-utility vehicles. The Explorer, which debuted with a 1991 model released in 1990, is the car-maker's contribution to the midsize SUV market. Its release came at a time when SUVs were becoming increasingly common due to their comfort, utility, and stylish design. The Explorer, which has enjoyed great popularity as one of the top SUV choices, continues to evolve and attract drivers who appreciate Ford quality and engineering.

First Generation: 1991-94

In 1990, the Ford Explorer made its debut, serving as a replacement for the Bronco II, which the car-maker discontinued that same year. The Explorer was based on a popular pickup truck, the Ford Ranger. Consumers had the option of either two- or four-door models of Explorer, and it came in standard rear-wheel or four-wheel drive. These options made the Explorer a good choice for a wide range of consumers and their needs. At the time, a two-door, two-wheel-drive Explorer had a curb weight of 3,700 pounds and a 102.1-inch wheelbase. The four-door, four-wheel-drive models were designed with shift-on-the-fly capabilities, with a curb weight of 4,000 pounds and an 111.9-inch wheelbase. In addition, these popular first-generation Explorers had a towing capacity of more than 5,600 pounds. The Explorer had the necessary power to do the job, too, sporting a 4-liter V6 engine with 155 horsepower and a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual transmission.

The first Explorers were available in three trim levels, which differed slightly depending on whether it was a two- or four-door model. Two-door models were available in the base XL, Sport, or Eddie Bauer trims. Consumers interested in four-door Explorers had the option of selecting either the base XL, XLT, or the Eddie Bauer. In terms of price, the 1991 Explorer ranged from $16,375 to close to $22,000.

The 1992 Explorer had few updates other than improved gas mileage due to a change in the rear axle ratio, which was lowered from 3.55:1 to 3.27:1. The 1993 model, however, came with several safety improvements, such as adding four-wheel anti-lock brakes, and an increase in horsepower that took it from 155 to 160 horsepower. The range of features and improvements during the Explorer's first generation helped make it one of the top-selling SUVs at the time.

Second Generation: 1995-2001

The second generation of the Explorer came with many changes that further increased its popularity, both mechanical and cosmetic. It gained independent front and long-arm suspension and rack-and-pinion steering. Cosmetically, the Explorer became more streamlined and was given new lights. A sloping front and the addition of a new bumper also made the car 4 inches longer. Additional features included driver and passenger airbags and the Control Trac system that allowed the vehicle to use four-wheel drive full-time.

The second-generation Explorer also introduced more powerful engines. The 1996 Explorer added a 5-liter V8 engine with 210 horsepower to its XLT trim package and increased its towing capacity to 6,500 pounds. By the following model year, all four-door models would have this option, and other Explorers were presented with the option for a 4-liter, V6, 205-horsepower OHC engine. By 2001, this would also become a standard in all four-door models. Another major change to the Explorer brand in this time period was the discontinuation of the two-door XL in 1998, although consumers were still able to purchase the two-door Sport model. Ford would also make an early eco-friendly move when the Explorer became a low-emissions vehicle (LEV) in 1999.

Third Generation: 2002-05

Ford took its Explorer through a major redesign in 2002. The car-maker offered an additional third row to accommodate up to seven people. The vehicle's track was designed to be 2.5 inches wider, coming in at 72.1 inches, and the wheelbase had an extra 2 inches. The rear floor of the vehicle was also lower by 7 inches courtesy of an independent rear suspension, which was also new. Available trim packages were changed to the XLS, XLT, the luxury Eddie Bauer, and the Limited. The manual transmission was dropped with the exception of the XLS, which was the only version to feature a five-speed manual option. All others included a five-speed automatic transmission. The 5-liter V8 was replaced with a 4.6-liter SOHC V8 with 240 horsepower and 285 pound-feet of torque plus an AdvanceTrac stability control option. Even with all of these changes, the two-door Explorer Sport remained the same.

By the 2003 model, Ford released Sport versions of the XLS and XLT; however, they stopped production of the Explorer Sport the following year to officially only manufacture four-door models.

The 2004 model also made the AdvanceTrac stability control an available option for Explorers with a V6 engine with the exception of the XLS and the XLS Sport. Roll Stability Control would also be added to the AdvanceTrac in 2005.

Fourth Generation: 2006 to 2010

As with the start of the previous generation, the Explorer underwent numerous changes in 2006, which heralded the start of its fourth generation. The 4.6-liter V8 was updated with a three-valve head, getting 292 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. This six-speed automatic was the same engine used for the Ford Mustang. The new V8 also increased its towing capacity up to 7,300 pounds. Cosmetic changes to the exterior included alterations to the lights, a stiffer body, and an increase in its overall length from 189.5 to 193.4 inches. The 2006 model also added a standard tire pressure monitoring system, optional Safety Canopy side curtain airbag, and the Reverse Sensing System.

Fourth-generation changes were mostly minimal, although some were significant in terms of safety. The 2007 Explorer was released with only three trim options: XLT, Eddie Bauer, and Limited. The following year, Safety Canopy side curtain airbags became standard on all models. The 2009 and 2010 model years added safety features such as Trailer Sway Control and made the SOS Post-Crash Alert system standard. This system was designed to take certain actions when airbags are deployed, such as flashing the emergency lights, unlocking the vehicle's doors, and activating the horn.

Fifth Generation: 2011 to Present

By 2011, crossover vehicles were growing increasingly popular. To better embrace the changes and meet the needs of the consumer, Ford redesigned the Explorer so that it had a car-based platform, which it shared with the Ford Taurus. This change resulted in improved fuel economy; however, it lost its V8 option, which decreased its towing capacity to roughly 5,000 pounds. The vehicle now had a longer but wider design, with an overall length of 197.1 inches and a width of 78 inches. Available trim packages for the 2011 Explorer now included the base or standard trim, XLT, and Limited and included a 3.5-liter V6 engine with 290 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque.

An optional turbocharged 2-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine with 240 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque would become available for 2012 front-wheel-drive models. In 2013, the high-performing Explorer Sport returned. This newer version came with more responsive, sport-tuned steering, a 3.5-liter V6 engine with 365 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque, a six-speed automatic transmission, standard all-wheel drive, and a stiffer chassis.

Changes in 2015 were trim-specific to the base, Sport, and XLT models. Some of the changes included standard 18-inch aluminum wheels on the base model, while a Class III trailer hitch became a standard feature of the Explorer Sport. The XLT received a new appearance package with features including front seat heaters, auto-dimming rearview mirrors, and seating with suede inserts and leather trim. The 2016 model year, however, saw numerous changes that were both cosmetic and functional. Appearance-wise, the vehicle features a higher grille, redesigned spoiler and roof rack, and LED headlamps. Functional changes include grille shutters to improve freeway performance and reduce drag, a power lift-gate option, a standard self-cleaning backup camera, and semi-automatic parallel parking. Other features of the 2016 model include optional EcoBoost engines for all drives and an available turbocharged V6 with 365 horsepower. Buyers would also find a new high-end trim called Platinum, which offered luxury features such as ash wood accents and leather seats.

With the 2017 model year, consumers can expect a new XLT Sport Appearance package update that brings changes such as 20-inch Magnetic Gray wheels. The new SYNC 3 voice-activated control system is a standard option for the Limited, Sport, and Platinum trim models and an optional feature with the XLT.

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