The Ford Explorer was not the first mid-size sport utility to come along when it debuted in 1991; but it was the one that everybody paid attention to when it rolled off the assembly line-Ford just did it better. The Explorer quickly became the must-have SUV and it's still going strong today.
The Explorer offered families an option over the somewhat utilitarian sport-utes during that time, and it offered a roomier alternative than the family "Truckster." The SUV was still fairly new in 1991 and in order to compete, Ford manufactured two-door as well as four-door models, with the option of two-wheel or four-wheel drive. The two-door models targeted those wanting a sportier SUV and it was offered in base XL, Sport and Eddie Bauer. The four-door models were offered in base XL, XLT and Eddie Bauer.
The First Generation was between 1991 and 1994. The Ford Explorer became so popular within its first year that it placed third in overall truck sales. That's not too shabby for the first year out. This was due to its rugged, good-looking exterior and also the interior's numerous amenities that came standard with the models, and if you opted for Eddie Bauer, that was about as luxurious as you could get in an SUV at the time.
All of the first generation models offered a 4.0L V6 engine that was manufactured in Cologne, Germany and provided 155 hp. Since the Explorer was a derivative of the Ford Ranger pickup, it came standard with the Ranger's many optional features. Ahead of its time, the Explorer came with Touch Drive electronic push-button shifting or manual lever-operated shifting. In 1993, engine output changed from 155 hp to 160 hp.
The Second Generation was between 1995 and 2001. In 1995, the Ford Explorer became the first production vehicle that used a center high-mount neon brake light that really was a very unique feature. It was actually a ballasted neon light fixture that proved to be difficult to change, so it was discontinued a few years down the road.
In 1995, the Explorer underwent noteworthy changes inside and out. There were suspension updates made and the Twin Traction Beam front suspension was replaced with an Independent Front Suspension that offered a much smoother car-like ride.
This generation's lineup consisted of the three-door Explorer Sport and the five-door Explorer; The Limited remained as top of the line. Automatic ControlTrac four-wheel drive was introduced in 1995 and it offered a two-speed dual range transfer case that included two and four wheel automatic and four-wheel drive low. The 5.0 engine of this generation appealed to the weekend auto mechanic due to the aftermarket parts such as nitrous kits, headers and superchargers.
By 1998, the Explorer had reached the three million mark in sales, and remained America's best selling SUV. There were added safety features in this year that included antilock brakes and a standard "Securilock" system to keep would-be burglars at bay.
In 2001, The Explorer Sport Trac was introduced as an SUT (Sport Utility Truck) and it was based off the Explorer. The Explorer SUT had a small pickup bed and was similar to the design of the Ford F-150; the line was discontinued in 2010. Also important: The Explorer was the first SUV in its class that offered dual front airbags.
The Third Generation was between 2002 and 2005. The five-door Explorer was completely redesigned in 2002. It now offered larger back lights, rounded wheel sockets and its body offered softer, rounded edges. The Windsor V8 engine was replaced by the 4.6L V-6 that offered 205 hp and 242 ft-lb of torque. For the first time, a third row seat was now available, which upped the passenger capacity to seven. In 2003, the three-door Explorer Sport was discontinued.
This generation offered stability control as an option featuring Ford's Advance Trac with Roll Stability Control which went on to become standard beginning with the 2005 models. A fully independent rear suspension was added to the five-door Explorer that replaced the non-independent live axle rear suspension.
The Fourth Generation was between 2006 and 2010. This generation saw a few changes made to the Explorer such as a tighter frame, better shocks and better handling which all contributed to making it easier to navigate. A powertrain revision to the V-6 was made in order to lower emissions, and a new V8 and new transmission saw an increase of power that made 292 hp and offered greater fuel economy and better overall performance. And in 2006, improved safety features such as better stability control and side curtain air bags became standard.
In 2007, the Explorer offered some new updates such as standard AUX input and optional power running boards, heated windshield, Ironman Package, and XLT heated leather seats. In 2008, Ford's SYNC system was optional with voice commands for cell phones and onboard navigation system. The option of Sirius Travel Link became available in 2009 that offered traffic reports, weather forecasts, and local gas prices. In 2010, Ford's MyKey vehicle security system became standard on all models.
The Fifth Generation began in 2011 to present. Beginning in 2011, the Ford Explorer SUV became a large Crossover (CUV), but would continue to be marketed as an SUV. It became four inches longer and five inches wider, giving it more room and comfort. The well-thought-out cabin offered all of the latest technology including SYNC, MyKey, and MyFord Touch. Also in this year, and it was a first in the automotive industry, inflatable second-row seatbelts were added to upgrade the safety of smaller passengers.
Inspired by Land Rover, the 2011 Explorer was available with an automatic intelligent all-wheel drive system. When traveling off road, the Explorer offered Hill Descent Control and Hill Ascent Assist with four-wheel Electronic Traction Control and Terrain Management. Under the hood it now housed a 3.5L, 290 hp V-6 that offered better fuel economy. In this generation, the Ford Explorer earned the 2011 North American Truck of the Year award; the rear inflatable seat belts won the 2011 Best New Technology Award from the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada.
In 2014, the Explorer now offered standard automatic headlights on all models as well as second-row heated seats. The 2015 model offered numerous standard equipment such as 18-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, rear privacy glass, automatic headlights, full power accessories, roof rails, a 60/40-split second-row seat, 50/50-split third-row seat, a six-way power driver seat (manual recline), a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 4.2-inch display screen and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.
For 2016, the Explorer offered an Enhanced Parking System that can parallel park as well as providing perpendicular parking assistance. Now, that could come in handy! As far as safety, the Ford Explorer earned five stars out of five for overall crash protection for both frontal impact and side impact protection.
The Ford Explorer is the perfect vehicle for large families and it's a great vehicle if you love to take your pets with you everywhere you go. It has lots of room and it has great on-road driving manners, and impressive off-road power. In this vehicle, you should do as its name suggests- become an Explorer. And it's a given that you'll do it in complete comfort and style in this popular SUV.
Angela Krause Ford Lincoln of North Georgia is located near North Point Mall, GA 400, the Mansell Campus Atlanta Humane Society, and is near Milton, Sandy Springs, Roswell, and of course, Alpharetta. Come in and test drive a new or used Ford Explorer today. We have the best prices and deals around, and our state-of-the-art service department will keep your Explorer in the best possible condition for years to come. We have it all at Angela Krause Ford Lincoln.