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From the Bronco II to the Explorer

One of America's most beloved family vehicles, the Ford Explorer began as an expanded and more luxurious version of the Bronco II. Using the same mechanics as the Ford Ranger, the Explorer aimed to be a mid-size SUV that could handle off-roading and would appeal to both large and small families. It was first sold in 1991, and due to its unprecedented success, it's credited by some as the reason why SUVs entered mainstream markets. Originally one of the most popular SUVs on the market, today it's the bestselling SUV of all time.

This top-seller debuted as a two-door or four-door model with optional two-wheel or four-wheel drive. It could be owned in several trim options depending on the model. Two-door models were offered with XL, Sport, and Eddie Bauer trim levels; four-door models were offered with XL, XLT, and also an Eddie Bauer trim level. Each had its own perks, such as specific trim styling or illuminated visor mirrors, in order to attract different kinds of buyers. It came with a 4.0L V6 that could run 155 horsepower with a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. Depending on the transmission type and drive-axle ratio, the Explorer could haul between 2,000 and 5,000 pounds.

Exploring a New Vehicle: The SUV

One of the best improvements the Explorer received throughout its lifespan was the upgrade from a V6 to a V8. Available on the high trims, it improved the horsepower by 60 and the towing capacity to 1,500 pounds. Not long after, the six-cylinder was introduced, which was upgraded to a modern overhead cam design with horsepower bumped up to 205. Keeping customers in mind, the Explorer also enhanced its safety features with airbags, anti-lock brakes, and an upgraded coded lock system. The Explorer had been so popular and influential that by the end of the ‘90s Ford's subsidiaries almost all had identical copies in the Mercury Mountaineer, Mazda Navajo, and Lincoln Navigator.

The early 2000s was a period of highs and lows for the Explorer. It appeared practically brand new with a newly designed body and cabin, new trims (XLS, XLT, Eddie Bauer, Limited, NBX), and a 240 horsepower V8. On the other hand, it was notorious for its dangerous rollover and tire blowout problems. Ford and Firestone had to spend the first half of this decade recalling tires and cars - which were mainly Explorers. In fact, Firestone recalled 14.4 million tires and would end its longtime partnership with Ford.  Despite its history, the Explorer was still the most desired SUV and would continue to create an affordable and safe vehicle for families by adding features like its AdvanceTrac stability control system.


Today, the Explorer has abandoned its tough ruggedness by deserting the pickup platform for a unibody design in an effort to make the vehicle more fuel efficient and to provide better handling. But, despite that, it still retains some old school features, like the ability to tow 5,000+ lbs. It now features a 3.5L V6, 2.0L EcoBoost, and 3.5L EcoBoost V6 engine. The EcoBoost V6 has twin turbocharging, direct injection, and 365 horsepower. Trims are available in Explorer-Base, Sport, XLT, and Limited. It's improved to a remote control start-up, driver's settings depending on the terrain (like snow, mud, sand, grass, etc.), and easy seat-folding with simple stowing buttons. Despite its long and rocky road, the Explorer continues to improve with the inviting comfort, looks, and luxury of a high class sedan. This combination yields one of the most beloved SUV/CUVs on the market, and since 1991, has recreated the idea of what a typical American family vehicle should be.

Ford is a registered trademark of Ford Motor Company. 1A Auto is not affiliated with or sponsored by Ford or Ford Motor Company. See all trademarks.

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