The Ford Explorer is a three-row midsize SUV. First introduced in the early ‘90s, the Explorer has evolved from a truck-based SUV to a more carlike crossover. With a capable engine lineup, a long list of technology features and comfortable ride, the Ford Explorer makes a strong case in the midsize crossover class.
2011 to Present: Ford Explorer
First introduced as a 2011 model, the current Ford Explorer looks somewhat similar to the discontinued Taurus X crossover in terms of overall shape. However, the Explorer sets itself apart with a large grille and a wide range of wheel choices.
Inside, the current Ford Explorer looks more premium than the outgoing model, thanks in part to more soft-touch plastics and piano black trim. When it debuted, the 2011 Explorer was also one the first Ford vehicles to have the MyFord Touch infotainment system as an option.
Power came from a 3.5-liter V6 with 290 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic and front-wheel drive come standard. A four-wheel drive system is available and paired with Ford's Terrain Management system, which optimizes traction for different conditions via a control knob.
Standard equipment for the Explorer includes cruise control, a six-way power-adjustable driver’s seat and a six-speaker audio system. Higher trims get leather upholstery, a power-adjustable passenger seat, heated and ventilated front seats, rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, adaptive cruise control, satellite radio, Bluetooth and USB connectivity and the MyFord Touch infotainment system.
For 2012, Ford introduced an optional turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 240 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. Available only on front-wheel drive models, this engine offers better fuel economy than the standard V6.
The Explorer Sport was introduced for the 2013 model year, bringing in standard four-wheel drive and a turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 with 365 horsepower and 360 pound-feet of torque. A sport-tuned suspension and new trim pieces for the exterior and interior are also included. Ford also increased the safety quotient with the introduction of a front passenger knee air bag as standard equipment. The next two years were quiet for the Explorer, as minor changes such as an appearance package on the XLT trim and standard automatic headlights were introduced.
For 2016, Ford has given the Explorer a massive refresh that includes revamped exterior styling and new wheel choices. A new 270-horsepower, turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine was also introduced, which replaces the 2.0-liter engine and is available with all-wheel drive.
Earlier Ford Explorer Models
The Ford Explorer was first introduced for the 1991 model year as a replacement for the long-standing Ford Bronco II. Offered in two- and four-door configurations, the Explorer came with a 4.0-liter V6 with 155 horsepower. A five-speed manual transmission was standard, while a four-speed automatic was optional. Engine output increased to 160 horsepower for the 1993 model year.
The second-generation Ford Explorer was introduced for the 1995 model year. Ford smoothed out the Explorer’s boxy shape to improve aerodynamics and continued to offer two- and four-door models. The 4.0-liter V6 was the sole engine for the first year of production, while a 5.0-liter V8 with 210 horsepower became available as an option in 1996. More powertrain changes came in 1997, when the V8 saw an increase in output to 215 horsepower and a new 4.0-liter V6 was added to the options list. This would also be the year when the Explorer’s sister model, the Mercury Mountaineer was introduced.
The third-generation Ford Explorer debuted for the 2002 model year, sharing a similar design to the larger Ford Expedition. Powertrains for the third-generation model included a 4.0-liter V6 and a 4.6-liter V8 engine. The four-door Explorer also boasted a new independent rear suspension to improve its ride and stability.
In 2006, Ford gave the Explorer a major revision with updated interior and exterior styling. The V6 got a number of improvements to cut down on emissions, while a new V8 engine was introduced. Standard equipment included full power accessories, air conditioning and cruise control. For 2007, a navigation system and a heated windshield became available on all trims. A year later, all Explorers got side-curtain air bags as standard equipment and Ford’s Sync voice command system became available.