Overview & Reviews
The Ford Explorer is widely regarded as the catalyst that started America's love affair with the SUV back in the early 1990s. Certainly there were SUVs before the Explorer, but they were mostly utilitarian in nature. The Explorer was the first go-to SUV for the Everyman. Throughout its life, the Ford Explorer has delivered versatility, a reasonable amount of comfort, affordability and, perhaps most importantly, more style than a station wagon or minivan. New or used, the justifiably popular Explorer should be part of any serious SUV search.
Current Ford Explorer
The Ford Explorer is a large three-row SUV that can accommodate up to seven passengers. There are four trim levels: base, XLT, Limited and Sport.
Though even the base version comes well-equipped, moving up the list provides luxuries such as leather seating, the Sync voice command system, a rearview camera, keyless ignition/entry and upgraded audio systems. In addition to its potent engine, the Sport trim features a sport-tuned suspension as well as unique interior/exterior trim details. Optional highlights (depending on trim level) include a navigation system, a rear-seat entertainment system, adaptive cruise control, a heated steering wheel and even an automatic parallel-parking system. Stability control and a multitude of airbags are standard, with blind spot and collision warning systems available on upper trims.
A 3.5-liter 290-horsepower V6 is standard on all but the Sport trim, which comes with a turbocharged version good for 365 hp. Optional on all but the Sport is a fuel-efficient 2.0-liter, 240-hp turbocharged four-cylinder. All engines are hooked up to a six-speed automatic. Front-wheel drive is standard on all but the Sport, which has all-wheel drive standard. The latter is optional for all other Explorers equipped with the 290-hp V6.
In reviews, we've found the Ford Explorer to be one of the best choices for a family-oriented SUV. It drives well, gets good fuel economy for its class and still retains the versatility that made people like SUVs in the first place. Fitted with most of its optional high-tech features, the Explorer is also one of the most advanced SUVs available, luxury brand or not. The Explorer's most notable downside is that it doesn't provide as much third-row and cargo space as some rival large crossover SUVs, and its MyFord Touch electronics interface can be finicky to use.
Used Ford Explorer Models
The current-generation Explorer bowed for 2011. Among the big changes was a switch from body-on-frame to unibody architecture for more carlike driving dynamics and improved space efficiency. Changes have been minimal since; the turbocharged four-cylinder engine wasn't offered until 2012, while the powerful Sport trim didn't debut until the following year.
The third-generation Explorer ran from 2002-'10. A longer wheelbase and an independent rear suspension allowed room for a fairly accommodating third-row seat while also improving ride and handling performance. A 210-hp V6 was joined by a new 4.6-liter 239-hp V8, and both were matched to a five-speed automatic transmission. Initial trim levels included the XLS, XLT and more upscale Limited and Eddie Bauer.
For 2003, a few new trim levels debuted, including XLS Sport and the NBX (no boundaries experience -- we're not making that up). The latter came with all-terrain tires, special trim and a Yakima roof rack. An off-road package became available as well, complete with a beefed-up suspension and skid plates. The following year, equipment levels were shuffled, stability control was made available on most trims (previously it could only be had on V8 models) and Limited and Eddie Bauer models got a quad bucket seating option. The stability control system was upgraded with roll stability control for 2005.
For 2006, a substantial update took place that included revised styling inside and out, an improved frame, enhanced safety systems and a more powerful V8. The latter made 292 hp (up from the previous 239 hp) though the 210-hp 4.0-liter V6 continued unchanged. The V8 came paired with a new six-speed automatic transmission. Safety equipment was upgraded, too, as front-seat side airbags and stability control were made standard on all Explorers. More recent Explorers benefited from the arrival of the voice-activated Sync music/phone interface (2008) and a revised navigation system (2009).
In general we liked this Explorer and found value in the excellent ride and handling characteristics, comfortable and roomy cabin and, on V8 models, strong power and high towing capacity. Though later outclassed by newer crossover SUVs in terms of comfort and design, this Explorer is a solid pick, particularly if you plan to use a V8 model for towing.
Model years 1995-2001 represent the second generation Explorer. Though neither as refined nor as powerful as the generation that followed, this group is still a respectable choice for an SUV. For most of this generation's run, three engines were available: a standard 160-hp V6, an optional 210-hp V6 ('97 and later) and a 210-hp 5.0-liter V8. The familiar XL, XLT, Eddie Bauer and Limited were the available trims, and there was a two-door Explorer known as the Sport. Editorial reviews of the time noted that the Explorer had a comfortable cabin and decent utility but fared poorly in terms of road handling and off-road ability.
The original Ford Explorer debuted in 1990 as a 1991 model, and it replaced the Bronco II in Ford's lineup. It achieved instant success in a market that it ultimately defined, if not created. Based on the Ford Ranger pickup, the original Explorer had the winning combination of size, style and utility that people wanted in an SUV. It came as the volume-selling four-door or a less popular two-door. Initially, just XLS and XLT trim levels were available. In 1992, an Eddie Bauer edition joined the lineup, and a Limited model followed shortly thereafter. For power, these Explorers had a 155-hp V6. Output went up slightly to 160 hp in 1993; this was also the year Ford made antilock brakes standard equipment.
User Reviews:Showing 1 through 10 of 2,828.00
Radiator/transmission repeated problems. - 2006 Ford Explorer
By Brenda B. - December 30 - 3:00 pm
My complaint is to Ford! Why after three (3) radiators being replaced in my 2006 EB Ford Explorer, they never told me they were having trouble with the replacement radiator company! So they kept putting the SAME brand radiator in and charging me labor each time. And AGAIN today, I am facing the same experience! I have been a loyal customer to them....this is the "thank"!
Great vehicle - 2006 Ford Explorer
By Evelyn - December 29 - 4:48 pm
Purchased it when it was 2 years old been a great suv. Nice styling overall great built like a tank
Instruments somewhat hard to read - 2007 Ford Explorer
By Richard Hedman - December 23 - 5:05 pm
the steering wheel somewhat blocks the gas gauge difficult to read the speedometer because of the way it's illuminated. The cruise controls are awkward to set (located on left spoke of the steering wheel).
WHAT I EXPECT FROM AN EXPLORER - 1996 Ford Explorer
By Kevin B - December 16 - 9:24 pm
I have owned a lot of Ford Explorers over the years from a 76 Ford Explorer Truck to a Camper Special to even owning a 92 Ford Explorer SUV with all them having accept for the camper special having V6 or inline 6 cylinder engines, but my latest is the AWD V8 which is a work of art to me. This truck in dependable and reliable. Of course I know it is not used to go rock climbing and is for normal to mid off road use, unlike most try to think it should be. In my opinion this SUV is what it should do an average to above average SUV
#explorergang - 2015 Ford Explorer
By faatimah ishmael - December 10 - 7:09 pm
I love my explorer! I love everything about it. It is definitely built Ford tough. The materials are superb and of good quality. The interior has a classy look to it and the seats are ridiculously comfortable. I do wish the entertainment screen was a big more interactive and big. Otherwise its the perfect car. Has lots of cargo/trunk space which is a bonus because I have young ones and need to carry a stroller and other goodies.
FORD EXPLORER IS THE BEST SUV FOR THE $$$ - 2014 Ford Explorer
By Ernest - December 2 - 6:19 pm
All these whiners on the reviews probably don't own one. I pulled the trigger and bought me one. I will agree to those that say that the modern control layout may be confusing at first, but after regular use its a breeze. (If you can't figure how to use touchscreen devices, well, stick to low tech layouts) Steering controls are easy and simple to use unless you have sausages for fingers. And for heaven's sake its a mid size vehicle...If you know your passangers are behemoths, get a van or large vehicle. 3rd row seats are tight for adults but my 5 feet tall kids fit perfectly. MPG are not too bad considering the size of the vehicle. 20/26 avg give or take city/hwy.
Fantastic Vehicle for Family Fun - 2000 Ford Explorer
By TrailThunder - December 1 - 11:58 am
I bought this vehicle used and currently have 130,000 miles on it. It needs a little front end work right now, but nothing that isn't expected at the 130,000 mile mark. The Explorer handles great in winter weather and also does surprisingly well off road for an AWD vehicle. I am an offroad hobbyist and use this to tow both a Jeep and a camper at various times. There is plenty of room for me, my wife and our three kids. I am most impressed with the ride quality while towing. It tows my 3000 lb camper like there is nothing there. We do have a class III towing hitch which helps. The 5.0 motor is awesome! Love that engine. Overall I love this vehicle and have been very impressed with its durability and reliability. Take care of it and it will take care of you. Every vehicle requires maintenance with aging. Just do the maintenance and you will drive an Explorer for a long time.
Reliable, and trustworthy 200K mile workhorse... - 1994 Ford Explorer
By Jose Rodriguez - November 23 - 8:20 pm
I bought mine with 186k miles, 5 speed stick shift and everything worked great on her, and it kept on going for the 14 months i owned her, i live in Las Vegas where most cars can overheat, she never did (except for the time in which a 21 year old hose broke, replaced the hose and refilled the antifreeze, good as ever). Only malfunction it had was a alternator gone bad, and it took me 3 belts to figure it out... my bad... We arrived in the US and owned absolutely nothing, except for her, so she pretty much hauled us and all of our belongings from our first apartment to the next one, she never left us hanging not even when the belts were broken because of the alternator's pulley getting stuck (bad bearings i was told). Parts were always available at any local auto shop, and they were also cheap, which is great too... We changed the oil every 3k miles, and i changed the spark plugs a couple of times, i also did the front brakes when i got her. Only problem was the famous ford power steering leak, and a couple of noises here and there. It did pass the smog check when i had to register for the first time, and guess what, it did it again the next year without any hiccups, i saw my neighbors having to spend money on their newer flashier cars, and i did nothing to her, she passed without any effort, and the last tune up had been like 15k miles before. A really comfortable ride, even for our family of four, of which 3 are taller than 6', a bit tight on the backseats but could easily go from Las Vegas to L.A. without having to stop and stretch the legs. The best part is that i sold her for a profit of a 50%, so i can say i'm a happy customer, and needless to say i'm getting another ford, i'm sure i'll continue to be a happy customer for the years to come. Glad to keep up buying american instead of imports.
bad headlights - 2013 Ford Explorer
By dan watts - November 20 - 8:56 pm
test drive it at night the headlights are horrible . had i test drove it at night it would of been a deal braker.i can only drive it in the day time.
I'm LOVEN-IT - 2015 Ford Explorer
By Karen Rouse - November 2 - 8:29 pm
It's a great car the ride is smooth comforable