Ford Explorer

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For the Explorer-based pickup truck, see Ford Explorer Sport Trac.
Ford Explorer
2011 Ford Explorer XLT -- 05-18-2011.jpg
Manufacturer Ford
Production 1990–present
Model years 1991–present
Body and chassis
Class Mid-size sport utility vehicle (1991–2010)
Full-size crossover (2011–present)
Predecessor Ford Bronco II

The Ford Explorer is a mid-size sport utility vehicle produced by the American manufacturer Ford since 1988, but in 2012 it was redesigned as a Crossover, or 'CUV'. The Ford Explorer became one of the most popular sport utility vehicles on the road. The model years 1991 through 2010 were traditional body-on-frame, mid-size SUVs. For the 2011 model year, Ford moved the Explorer to a more modern unibody, full-size crossover SUV/crossover utility vehicle platform, the same Volvo-derived platform the Ford Flex and Ford Taurus use. It is slotted between the traditional body-on-frame, full-size Ford Expedition and the mid-size CUV Ford Edge. Although outwardly similar, the fifth generation Explorer, Ford Edge and Ford Escape do not share platforms. The fifth generation Explorer does, however, share platforms with the Ford Flex and Lincoln MKT.

The original Explorer has also been involved in controversy, after a spate of fatal rollover accidents in the 1990s involving Explorers fitted with Firestone tires.

Both two-door Explorer Sport and four-door models of Explorer have been sold. Part-time four-wheel drive is an available option, and since 1995 this has been a 'shift on the fly' system with full protection against being engaged at high speed. A specially modified Special Service Vehicle version is also available from Ford Fleet for law enforcement agencies, fire departments, and EMS agencies. Explorer was also the name of a trim package offered on the Ford F-Series trucks from 1968 to 1986. The 2011 Ford Explorer was named North American Truck of the Year.[1]

First generation (1991–1994)[edit]

First generation (UN46)
'91-'94 Ford Explorer.jpg
First-generation Ford Explorer
Production February 1990 – November 1994[2][3]
Model years 1991–1994
Assembly Louisville, Kentucky, United States (Louisville Assembly Plant)
St. Louis, Missouri, United States(St. Louis Assembly)
Valencia, Venezuela (Valencia Assembly)
Body and chassis
Body style 3-door SUV
5-door SUV
Layout Front engine, rear-wheel drive / four-wheel drive
Related Mazda Navajo
Ford Ranger
Ford Bronco II
Engine 4.0 L Cologne V-6
Transmission 5-speed M5OD-R1 manual
4-speed A4LD automatic
Wheelbase 3-Door: 102.1 in (2593 mm)
5-Door: 111.9 in (2842 mm)
Length 3-Door: 174.5 in (4419 mm)
5-Door: 184.3 in (4673 mm)
Width 70.2 in (1778 mm)
Height 3-Door: 67.5 in (1714 mm)
5-Door: 67.3 in (1709 mm)
Eddie Bauer 4-Door 4WD: 68.3 in (1735 mm)

The Ford Explorer was introduced in March 1990 for the 1991 model year. First generation Explorers were equipped with the then new 155 hp (116 kW) 4.0 L Cologne V-6, manufactured in Cologne, Germany. Vehicles came with either Ford's own 4-speed A4LD automatic transmission, built in France, or Mazda's 5-speed M5OD manual transmission. Like the Bronco II it replaced, it was an SUV derivative of the Ranger pickup, thus Explorers came equipped with many of the Ranger's optional features. Like its direct competitor, the Chevrolet S-10 Blazer, Explorers were available in both 3-door and 5-door body styles and with either rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. The four-wheel drive versions were equipped with a Borg Warner 13–54 part-time four-wheel drive transfer case. The 13–54 was available with either "Touch Drive" electronic push-button shifting or manual lever-operated shifting. Both were "shift-on-the-fly" designs that allowed the SUVs to be shifted from two-wheel drive to "four-high" at any speed and into "four-low" when the vehicle was stopped. All Explorers were equipped with the Ford 8.8 axle in either a limited slip or open version with a variety of available gear ratios. Four-wheel-drive front axles were the TTB ("Twin Traction Beam") Dana 35 with some Dana 44-spec components.

Interior of First Generation Ford Explorer 3-door Sport with cloth seats

Explorers initially came in 4 trim levels: the base model XL (which was later replaced with the XLS trim package as the base trim), XLT, Sport (which was what the 3-door version was called), and the upscale Eddie Bauer edition. For the 1993 model year, engine output was increased by 5 hp (4 kW) for a total of 160 hp (119 kW). The Limited edition, added for the 1993 model year, was available only in the 5-door body style and was positioned at the top of the lineup above the Eddie Bauer edition. It featured automatic headlights, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, foglamps, a center roof console with compass and outside thermometer, unique wheels and grille, and an automatic transmission as standard equipment. The grill and headlight trims on the Limited edition were paint-matched to the body color, unlike the chrome (XLT) or black plastic (XL) versions on other trim levels.

Similar to the 5-door Ford Explorer, the 3-door Explorer Sport model came in both rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive variants. It replaced the Ford Bronco II as Ford's 3-door mid-size SUV. A variant of the Explorer Sport was sold by Mazda as the Navajo, which won Motor Trend Truck of the Year award, until it was discontinued in 1994.

A common complaint about the first generation models is that the light-duty A4LD automatic transmission, which was basically the 3-speed Ford C3 transmission with an overdrive gear, was not well-suited for towing and was unable to cope with higher power output from modified engines. The A4LD was also known to suffer premature failure of the overdrive gear (or 4th gear) when used to frequently tow or haul heavy loads. Improved fluid cooling using aftermarket transmission coolers can alleviate these issues. Also, the automatic locking front hubs on four-wheel drive vehicles tended to fail prematurely; the manual versions, made for Ford by Warn, suffered from fewer reliability problems.

Second generation (1995–2001)[edit]

Second generation (UN105/UN150)
95-98 Ford Explorer.jpg
Also called Ford Explorer Sport (3-door)
Production November 1994 – November 13, 2000[4]
November 1994–2003 for Sport
Model years 1995–2001 (5-door)
1995–2003 (3-door)
Assembly Louisville, Kentucky, United States (Louisville Assembly Plant)
St. Louis, Missouri, United States (
Valencia, Venezuela (Valencia Assembly)
Body and chassis
Body style 3-door SUV(1995–2003)
5-door SUV(1995–2001)
Layout Front engine, rear-wheel drive / four-wheel drive
4.0 L Cologne OHV V-6 (1995–2000)
4.0 L Cologne SOHC V-6 (1997–2003)
5.0 L Windsor OHV V-8 (1996–2001)
5-speed M5OD-R1 manual (4.0 L OHV)
5-speed M5OD-R1HD (2001–2003 Explorer Sport)
4R55E automatic (4.0 L 1995–1996)
4R70W automatic (V-8 models)
5R55E automatic (4.0 L 1997–2001)

1995–97 5-door: 111.5 in (2831 mm)
1998–2001 5-door: 111.6 in (2834 mm)
1995–99 3-door: 101.7 in (2565 mm)
2000–03 3-door: 101.8 in (2568 mm)

1995–2001 5-door: 190.7 in (4826 mm)
1995–97 3-door: 178.6in (4536 mm)
1998–99 3-door: 180.8 in (4572 mm)
2000–03 3-door: 180.4 in (4562 mm)
Width 70.2 in (1778 mm)
Height 67.0–68.3 in (1702–1735 mm)
2000 Ford Explorer XLT (Australia)

The Explorer saw significant exterior, interior, and suspension updates for the 1995 model year. The 4.0 L Cologne V-6 from the previous generation carries over. The "Twin Traction Beam" (TTB) front suspension was replaced with a more carlike independent front suspension. The Ford Explorer lineup now consisted of two models, the 3-door Explorer Sport and the 5-door Explorer. The Limited was once again the top of the line model. The selectable automatic ControlTrac four wheel drive system debuted with a two-speed dual range transfer case featuring three drive modes: 2WD, 4WD auto, and 4WD low. The 1995 Ford Explorer was the first production vehicle to use a neon center high-mount stop lamp.[5] It was also the first vehicle in its segment to have dual front airbags. Like the Explorer 5-door, the Explorer Sport was significantly redesigned for 1995. The Eddie Bauer trim level was replaced with Expedition on 3-door Explorers for the 1995 model year, but the Expedition trim was removed from the lineup for the 1996 model year, as the name was being reused for the new 1997 Ford Expedition.

Explorers have become favored in the engine tuning crowd, with many performance parts available. The 5.0 engine is popular due to the fact that many aftermarket 5.0 (302) Ford Mustang parts are interchangeable with the 5.0 variant in the Explorer. Aftermarket parts available for second generation Explorers include, but are not limited to superchargers, nitrous kits, and headers.

2001 saw the introduction of the Explorer Sport Trac, which put a small pickup bed behind four normal SUV doors, on the same 126" wheelbase as the Ranger SuperCab model. The Sport Trac was similar in design to the Ford F-150 SuperCrew, except the F-150 was a full-size pickup truck.

In 2009, this generation Ford Explorer had five of the top seven spots for vehicles traded in under the "cash for clunkers" program, with the 1998 model topping the list.[6] The 1994 model from the previous generation had the eighth spot on the list.

The Explorer was sold outside of North America to export markets in a right hand drive configuration. Today countries like Japan export used right hand drive models of the Ford Explorer to other countries such as Australia and New Zealand where there is demand for quality used right hand drive SUV's. Due to Japan's strict Shaken Laws, used vehicles tend to have low milage with detailed repair histories.[7]

Significant year-to-year changes[edit]



  • Saddle Tan interior is discontinued and replaced with Medium Prairie Tan, a lighter color.
  • An updated, more powerful version of the current pushrod V-6 is added as an option on all models (except Eddie Bauer and Limited, on which this engine was standard), the 4.0 L Cologne SOHC V-6.[8]
  • A new 5-speed automatic transmission, the 5R55E, replaces the 4R55E for V-6 powered Explorers. It's the first 5-speed automatic transmission in any North American automobile.[9]
  • Four wheel drive V-6 powered Explorers receive a new electronic transfer case. The transfer case selection knob on the dash no longer has a "2WD" option, being replaced with "Auto".
  • The Ford Explorer's twin, the Mercury Mountaineer debuts.
  • In early 1997, the 5.0 L V-8 received new cylinder heads (GT-40P series), which upped power to 215 hp (160 kW).


  • Lift-gate redesigned.
  • Rear bumper redesigned.
  • Tail lights redesigned.
  • Seats are redesigned.
  • Dashboard's back-lighting is changed from blue to green.
  • Eddie Bauer and Limited models get a new steering wheel with integrated audio controls.
  • The neon center high-mount stop lamp is replaced with a more conventional LED lamp.
  • Rear privacy glass color is changed from bronze to black.
  • New 16" aluminum alloy wheels are now optional on XLT models and standard on Eddie Bauer models.
  • All models get a standard security system.
  • Explorers are upgraded to second generation airbags.


  • Fog lights redesigned.
  • Side airbags made available as an option.
  • Reverse-Sensing System made available as an option
  • Front bumper redesigned.
  • Quarter panels are slightly redesigned.
  • An XLS appearance package is offered on the base XL models.
  • Limited models get new 5-spoke 16" alloy wheels.
  • Limited models no longer have their own unique grille.
  • A new interior color, Dark Graphite, is added to the option list.


  • XLS replaces XL as the base model.
  • Flex-fuel version introduced


  • The Cologne OHV V-6 is discontinued, making the Cologne SOHC V6 the standard engine.
  • Last model year for 5 door Second Generation Explorers.
  • Sport model receives a new tailgate, new front end, as well as other cosmetic changes.[10]


  • Sport model continues as a second generation model. Gauges now have a white face and new wheels.


  • Final year for the 2-door sport model.

Engine specifications[edit]

Ford Cologne 4.0 L OHV V-6
Model years 1995–2000
Power (SAE net) 160 hp (119 kW)
Torque (SAE net) 220 ft·lbf (300 N·m)
Ford Cologne 4.0 L SOHC V-6
Model years 1997–2003
Power (SAE net) 205 hp (153 kW)
Torque (SAE net) 245 ft·lbf (332 N·m)
Ford Windsor 5.0 L OHV V-8
Model years 1996–2001
Power (SAE net) 210 hp (157 kW)
Torque (SAE net) 280 ft·lbf (380 N·m)

Third generation (2002–2005)[edit]

Third generation (U152)
2002 Ford Explorer (UT) XLT wagon (2015-06-25) 01.jpg
Production November 2000–2005 (up to 2006 in the Philippines)[11]
Model years 2002–2005
Assembly Louisville, Kentucky, U.S. (Louisville Assembly Plant)
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S. (St. Louis Assembly)
Valencia, Venezuela (Valencia Assembly)
Body and chassis
Body style 5-door SUV
Layout Front engine, rear-wheel drive / four-wheel drive / all-wheel drive
Related Ford Explorer Sport
Ford Explorer Sport Trac
Lincoln Aviator
Mercury Mountaineer
Engine 4.0 L Cologne V6
4.6 L 16-valve Modular V8
Transmission 5-speed M5OD-R1HD manual
5-speed 5R55W automatic
5-speed 5R55S automatic
Wheelbase 2002–03: 113.7 in (2888 mm)
2004–05: 113.8 in (2890 mm)
Length 189.5 in (4800 mm)
Width 72.1 in (1828 mm)
Height 71.4  in (1803 mm)
2002 Ford Explorer XLT (Australia)

The 5-door Explorer and its companion the Mercury Mountaineer were redesigned entirely for the 2002 model year, gaining a similar appearance to its big brother, the Ford Expedition. The new design is frequently mistaken for the later second generation Expedition, having rounded wheel sockets and larger back lights along with a more rounded appearance overall. The previous generation's 4.0 L SOHC 12 valve V-6 engine carried over, however the Windsor V8 was replaced by the 4.6 L 2V SOHC 16 valve V-8. Though in the Sport Trac variant, the 4.0 L SOHC 12 valve V-6 was rated at just 205 hp (153 kW), 242 ft·lbf (328 N·m) of torque.[12] The Explorer, Sport Trac, and Mountaineer all use the code U6 for rear-wheel drive, U7 for four-wheel drive, and U8 for all-wheel drive in the 5th and 6th positions of the VIN.

A third row seat became available for the first time, bringing total passenger capacity to seven. The Mazda 5-speed manual and the 5-speed Ford C3-derived automatic transmissions were available, but the 2002 model year was the last year the larger 5-door variant could be ordered with a manual transmission. Trim packages were now the base Sport Value, Sport Choice, XLS, Sport Premium, XLT, Eddie Bauer, and Limited, in order of luxury trim-offerings. The 2002–2004 models also saw stability control as an option, Ford's AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control system. The stability control system became standard for the 2005 model year.

For the third generation, Ford installed fully independent rear suspension in the 5-door Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer – but not in the 3-door Sport model. This replaced the non-independent "live axle" rear suspension used in previous model year Explorers. With a fully independent rear suspension, each rear wheel connects to the rear differential via a half-shaft drive axle. This design offers increased ride comfort, on-road handling, and vehicle stability. Other vehicles have used this setup on both rear and four-wheel drive vehicles for many years. For example, the Hummer H1 and the Mercedes-Benz ML-Class use independent front and rear suspension. One reason for Ford's switch to independent rear suspension in the Explorer was due to the well-publicized vehicle rollovers[13] and resulting fatalities that occurred with the previous generations of Ford Explorer. All of the Explorers involved in the rollovers had non-independent rear suspension and most of the vehicles had Firestone tires which Ford judged to be defective (see below).[14]

The suspension change drew some displeasure amongst fans of live-axle rear suspensions. One reason is that live axles offer the most efficient power delivery.[citation needed] Another complaint was of lower load handling capabilities. Also, the move to independent systems was not company wide. For example, the larger Ford F-Series still uses a non-independent rear suspension, due mostly to its power and load handling capabilities, most useful when towing large loads. Furthermore, it appears there is no evidence that the rollovers were caused by the use of a live axle setup.[citation needed] The larger Ford Expedition used non-independent rear suspension (2003 and up Ford Expeditions use independent rear suspension) and didn't have the same magnitude of rollover complaints as the previous model year Explorers .[citation needed] Many, including Firestone felt the tire failures were due to under-inflation of tires, likely due to Ford's specified pressure being too near to the low pressure fail point of the tire. However, the Firestone tires were in Fords view defective and to this day the Ford Motor Company refuses to use Firestone tires on Explorers or any vehicle it sells.

Third generation Ford Explorers, Mercury Mountaineers and Lincoln Aviators often acquire a single crack visible vertically on the plastic panel between the window and the rest of the lift gate, close to the center respective badge. This led to Ford switching to a more conventional one-piece lift gate design on the following generation.

The 3-Door Explorer Sport was redesigned in 2001 to a similar body style as that of the 5-door 2002 Explorer. Due to the decline in popularity of 3-door smaller SUVs, the Explorer Sport was discontinued after 2003. The Sport-marque was reintroduced as a performance variant of the 5-door fifth generation Explorer, which is actually now a full-size crossover utility vehicle. The U152 development program began in 1995, with the final design being chosen in 1997 and frozen for production in February 1998.[15] Production began in November 2000 for a January 2001 launch.

On the automotive consumer review website, the 2002 Ford Explorer is ranked as the "Worst Vehicle on Record", largely due to widespread transmission failure at under 100,000 miles of drive time. It is trailed by the 2004 model at #3, the 2003 at #6 and the 2005 at #18.[16][17]

Fourth generation (2006–2010)[edit]

Fourth generation (U251)
2006-2010 Ford Explorer -- 01-07-2012.jpg
Production 2005 – December 2, 2010
Model years 2006–2010
Assembly Louisville, Kentucky, U.S. (Louisville Assembly Plant)
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S. (St. Louis Assembly)
Valencia, Venezuela (Valencia Assembly)
Designer Jeff Nowak (2003)
Body and chassis
Body style 5-door SUV
Layout Front engine, rear-wheel drive / four-wheel drive
Related Ford Explorer Sport Trac
Mercury Mountaineer
Engine 4.0 L Cologne SOHC V-6
4.6 L Modular 24-valve V-8
Transmission 5-speed 5R55S automatic
6-speed 6R automatic
Wheelbase 113.7 in (2890 mm)
Length 193.4 in (4902 mm)
Width 73.7 in (1854 mm)
Height 2006–07: 71.2 in (1803 mm)
2008: 72.8 in (1,849 mm)
2009–10: 71.9 in (1,826 mm)
2006–2010 Ford Explorer

The Ford Explorer and the Mercury Mountaineer were both updated for the 2006 model year on a new frame, produced by Magna International rather than Tower Automotive. It was upsized slightly because a then-brand new crossover utility vehicle was added to Ford's SUV/CUV lineup, the Ford Freestyle, in between the Explorer SUV and the compact Ford Escape CUV. Along with this new, stronger[citation needed] chassis, Ford updated the interior, redesigned the rear suspension and added power-folding third-row seats. Also, a tire pressure monitoring system and electronic stability control became standard equipment. Power running boards, like the ones from the Lincoln Navigator, were also made available on the Explorer and Mountaineer; the running boards lower to allow easier access when entering the vehicle, then retract upon door closure. Unlike previous generations, there was no right hand drive option available for order, causing Ford to market Explorers in Japan in left hand drive configuration. The LHD Explorers were desirable there because LHD vehicles are considered prestigious in Japan. Moreover, Ford switched to a one-piece rear liftgate design due to the problems associated with the previous generation's design.

The 210 hp (157 kW) 4.0L 12-valve SOHC V-6 was once again the standard engine. A more powerful 292 hp (218 kW) 4.6L 24-valve SOHC V-8, similar to the Fifth-generation Ford Mustang's engine, was available as an option. The 6-speed 6R automatic transmission, built by Ford and based on a ZF design, was made standard equipment with the V-8 engine as well. The five-speed 5R55W automatic transmission was advanced. It was the only transmission available for the V-6 engine, because the Mazda five-speed manual transmission was dropped in the previous generation.

The 2006 Ford Explorer was nominated for the North American Truck of the Year award for 2006.

Model year changes[edit]

In 2007 Ford Explorer received a few minor updates including standard AUX input on all stereos and optional power running boards, heated windshield, Ironman Package, and XLT heated leather seat package.

For 2008, Ford added side curtain airbags across the Explorer range. Also, the optional satellite navigation system was also upgraded with voice control.[18] This year also marked the end of the optional power running boards due to issues with retracting as well as the optional Ironman package.

For 2009, the Explorer received a trailer sway control system as standard equipment, and the navigation system received traffic flow monitoring with updated gas prices from nearby stations.[19]

For the 2010 model year, Ford's MyKey became standard on all Explorer trims.

Ford Explorer Sport Trac[edit]

The second generation Sport Trac came out in early 2006 for the 2007 model year. Unlike its predecessor sold through 2005, it featured the V-8 engine as an option and was based on this generation Explorer's platform. AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control was made standard on the Sport Trac.

Sport Trac Adrenalin[edit]

For the 2007 model year, the Ford Special Vehicle Team built the Sport Trac Adrenalin concept with a supercharged version of the 4.6 L Modular V-8, with 390 hp (291 kW), and featuring 21-inch (530 mm) wheels. Ford SVT said then it was the successor to the F-150 Lightning sports pickup truck. However, the Adrenalin was cancelled in a cost-cutting move as part of The Way Forward.[20]

Explorer America concept[edit]

Ford Explorer America concept

Ford unveiled an Explorer America concept vehicle at the 2008 North American International Auto Show.[21][22][23] The Explorer America concept is built on a unibody platform to reduce weight and improve driveability, migrating from the body-on-frame platform of the fourth generation Explorer. It is designed for up to six passengers while improving fuel economy by 20 to 30 percent relative to the current V6 Explorer. The powertrain packages in the concept vehicle include a two-liter four-cylinder turbocharged direct injection EcoBoost gas engine with 275 hp (205 kW) and 280 ft·lbf (380 N·m) of torque, and a 3.5L V6 version EcoBoost with 340 hp (254 kW) and up to 340 ft·lbf (460 N·m) of torque.[24]

Fifth generation (2011–present)[edit]

Fifth generation (U502)
2011 Ford Explorer Limited -- 02-07-2011.jpg
Production December 3, 2010–present
Model years 2011–present
Assembly Chicago, Illinois, U.S. (Chicago Assembly)
Valencia, Venezuela (Valencia Assembly)
Yelabuga, Tatarstan, Russia[25]
Designer Brian Izard, George Bucher (2007)
Mike Arbaugh (face-lift: 2013)[26]
Body and chassis
Body style 5-door Crossover/CUV
Layout Front engine, front-wheel drive / all-wheel drive
Platform Ford D4 platform
Related Ford Flex
Lincoln MKT
Engine 2.0 L EcoBoost turbocharged I-4 (front-wheel drive only)
3.5 L Duratec Ti-VCT V-6
3.5 L EcoBoost twin-turbocharged V-6 (Sport model, all-wheel drive only)
3.7 L Cyclone Ti-VCT V-6 (Police Interceptor Utility, all-wheel drive only)[1]
Transmission 6-speed Ford 6F automatic w/ overdrive (EcoBoost I-4 model)
6-speed 6F SelectShift automatic (3.5L)
6-speed 6F SelectShift automatic with paddle shifters (Sport model)[27]
Wheelbase 112.6 in (2,860 mm)[28]
Length 197.1 in (5,010 mm)
Width 78.9 in (2,000 mm)
Height 70.4 in (1,790 mm)
2011–present Ford Explorer

The fifth generation 2011 Explorer bore similarity to the Explorer America concept's construction, and includes a unibody structure based on the D4 platform, a modified version of the D3 platform.[29][30] The fifth generation Explorer features blacked-out A, B, and D-pillars to produce a floating roof effect similar to Land Rover’s floating roof design used on its sport utility vehicles; a design which Ford previously used on the Ford Flex. The fifth generation Explorer features sculpted body work with stepped style headlamps similar to the Flex, Edge, Escape, Expedition and F-150, as well as new stepped style tail lamps. The grille features Ford's corporate three-bar design with upper and lower perforated mesh work, similar to that of the sixth-generation Ford Taurus.

The development of the fifth generation Explorer was led by chief engineer Jim Holland, who was also a chief engineer for Land Rover;heading development of the Land Rover Range Rover (L322) 2005 face-lift. Holland also worked on the Ford Expedition (U324) during its initial development.[31]

The fifth generation Explorer made its debut online on July 26, 2010. Ford had set up a Ford Explorer Facebook page ahead of its debut.[32] Assembly of the fifth-generation Explorer moved to Ford's Chicago Assembly plant, where it is built alongside the Ford Taurus and Lincoln MKS. The Louisville plant, where the previous generation was built, was converted to produce cars based on Ford's global C platform (potentially including the Ford Focus, Ford C-Max, and Ford Kuga).[33] Like the Escape, the Explorer will continue to be marketed as an "SUV" rather than a "crossover SUV". It went on sale in early 2011; pre-launch sales had by the end of November 2010 totaled around 15,000.[34] The EPA rated fuel economy of 20/28 mpg city/highway for the four-cylinder EcoBoost engine option.


Available features on the fifth generation Explorer include intelligent access with push button start, remote engine start, power liftgate, power adjustable pedals with memory, premium leather trimmed seating, heated and cooled front seats, dual headrest DVD entertainment system, adaptive cruise control, active park assist, SIRIUS Travel Link, MyFord Touch, Ford SYNC by Microsoft, Sony audio system with HD radio and Apple iTunes tagging, in-dash advanced navigation system, SoundScreen laminated acoustic and solar tinted windshield with rain-sensing wipers, 20-inch polished V-spoke aluminium wheels, and High-intensity discharge headlamps (HID) and LED tail lamps.

Unlike the Explorer America concept vehicle which only seats five occupants, the production Explorer holds two rows of seating with available PowerFold fold flat third row seating (like the previous generation) and accommodates up to seven occupants.[35]


The Explorer is available in either front-wheel drive or full-time all-wheel drive. At first only one engine was available: the 290 hp (216 kW) (255 lb·ft (346 N·m) of torque) 3.5 liter TiVCT (Twin independent Variable Camshaft Timing) V-6 attached to either the 6-speed 6F automatic or 6-speed 6F SelectShift automatic.

Soon thereafter, Ford offered the economical 240 hp (179 kW) (270 lb·ft (370 N·m) of torque) 2 liter EcoBoost turbocharged, direct-injected I-4 mated to the 6-speed 6F automatic. The I-4 engine is not available with the optional 6-speed 6F SelectShift automatic, and will only be available in front-wheel drive.[36][37]

The Explorer is available with an automatic intelligent all-wheel drive system inspired by Land Rover, featuring a variable center multi-disc differential with computer controlled lock.[38] Conventional front and rear differentials are used with 3.39:1 gearing. The center multi-disc differential controls the front-to-rear torque split, biasing as much as 100 percent of torque to either the front or rear wheels.[39] Depending on the Terrain Management mode selected, the center multi-disc differential's intelligent lock will allow for a 50:50 torque split in off road conditions.[39] The power take off (PTO) unit includes a heavy-duty dedicated cooling system to allow the four-wheel drive system to supply continuous non-stop torque delivery to all four wheels indefinitely, without overheating.[40] A "4WD" badge is advertised on the rear liftgate on the all-wheel drive models.[41][42] Explorer’s overall off road crawl ratio is 15.19:1 with high range – no low range – gearing only.

Off road electronics include Hill Descent Control (HDC), Hill Ascent Assist (HAA), four-wheel electronic traction control and Terrain Management.

Four-wheel electronic traction control (ABS braking) is employed to simulate front and rear differential locks via aggressively "brake locking" the front or rear differentials, transferring up to 100 percent of torque from side-to-side.[38][40][43] In the right conditions, the Explorer can keep moving even if only one wheel has traction, regardless of which wheel it is.

Terrain Management includes four selectable modes. Each mode is selected via a rotary control dial on the center console, aft of the transmission shifter.

Terrain Management System[44]
Default start selection: Normal Driving mode
Subsequent modes are selected by turning the control dial clockwise.
Second selection: Mud & Ruts mode
Third selection: Sand mode
Fourth selection: Grass/Gravel/Snow mode

Depending on the mode selected, Terrain Management will control, adjust, and fine tune the engine, transmission, center multi-disc differential lock, throttle response, four-wheel electronic traction control and electronic stability control (ESC) to adapt the SUV for optimal performance on the corresponding terrain.

Off road geometry figures for approach, departure and ramp brakeover angles are 21°, 21° and 16° respectively.[28] Minimum running ground clearance is 7.6 inches (193 mm).[28] Standard running ground clearance is 8.2 inches (208 mm).[45] Low hanging running boards are no longer offered from the factory to help increase side obstacle clearance.

Moving to a monocoque body usually has a negative impact on towing capacity.[citation needed] The new Explorer will be available with an optional trailer tow package. The package includes a Class III trailer hitch, engine oil cooler, trailer electrics connector, trailer sway control (TSC), wiring harness and a rear-view camera with trailer alignment assistance to help in backing up to a trailer. If equipped with the trailer tow package the new 2011 Explorer will be able to tow up to 5,000 lb (2,300 kg) of braked trailer. That’s 1,500 lb (680 kg) greater than the towing capacity stated for the Explorer America concept and 2,115 lb (959 kg) less than the outgoing Explorer’s towing capacity, although that was only available with the 4.6 L V8 engine.[46][47]

Safety and security[edit]

Safety features include: Dual front adaptive SRS air bags, dual front seat side impact air bags, dual rear safety belt air bags (available first quarter, 2011) and side curtain head, torso and rollover protection air bags. Other safety features include BLIS blind spot information system with rear cross traffic alert, forward collision warning with brake support precrash system, Auto high-beam, Roll Stability Control (RSC), Electronic stability control (ESC) and Curve Control.

The fifth-generation Explorer was the first-ever vehicle to be equipped with inflatable dual rear inflatable safety belts. Air bags are sewn into the inside of the seat belts, and inflate with cold air to prevent burns. Ford claims it will be released as an option and to introduce inflatable seat belts on other Ford models eventually.[48]


NHTSA Ford Explorer:[49]
Overall (2013–present) 5/5 stars
Overall (2012) 4/5 stars
Frontal Driver 4/5 stars
Frontal Passenger (2013–present) 5/5 stars
Frontal Passenger (2012) 4/5 stars
Side Driver 5/5 stars
Side Passenger 5/5 stars
Side Pole Driver 5/5 stars
Rollover FWD 4/5 stars / 16.9%
Rollover AWD 4/5 stars / 17.4%
Ford Explorer IIHS scores[50]
Moderate overlap frontal offset Good
Small overlap frontal offset Marginal*(2013–present models)
Side impact Good
Roof strength Good

*vehicle structure rated "Poor"


The fifth generation 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.[51]

2013 Ford Explorer Sport[edit]

2013 Ford Explorer Sport

The Ford Explorer Sport was announced March 28, 2012 as an option for the 2013 model year and went on sale in June 2012. The "Sport" trim level comprises blackened exterior treatments, stiffened chassis and suspension, larger brakes and the installation of the EcoBoost 3.5L Twin Turbo V6 rated at 365 hp (272 kW) and 350 lb·ft (470 N·m) of torque. It is the only version to feature a combined 4WD/EcoBoost option (a FWD version is not being offered for the Sport trim), allowing its MPG to average between 16/city and 22/highway.[52] This version will be slotted above the Limited trim and is expected to compete in this segment against Jeep Grand Cherokee's SRT Sport and Dodge Durango's R/T trims[53] and a newly updated 2013 Chevrolet Traverse, the latter of which unveiled their new look on the same day as the Explorer Sport as their response to Ford's news.[54]

2016 facelift[edit]

2016 Ford Explorer Sport

The refreshed 2016 model year Ford Explorer debuted at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show, with a redesigned front fascia, hood and lower bumper, standard LED low-beam headlights, and fog lamps that were inspired by the thirteenth generation Ford F-150. The rear of the Explorer was also refreshed with restyled LED tail lamps and dual exhaust outlets. The 2016 refresh bumped the I4 engine to a 2.3 Liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine from the 2015 Ford Mustang. A newly introduced Platinum trim now tops out the range, slotting above the Sport and Limited trims. Similar to the Platinum editions of the F150 and Ford Super Duty trucks, the Platinum trim features a front and rear cameras, enhanced active park assist with perpendicular park assist, park-out assist and semi-automatic parallel parking, hands-free liftgate from the Ford Escape, an exclusive 500-watt Sony surround sound system, and a heated steering-wheel. The Platinum trim is paired with a 3.5 Liter Ecoboost Twin-turbo V6 with 365 horsepower which was previously only available with the Sport trim. The 2016 Explorer went on sale at dealerships in the Summer of 2015. Other than the addition of the top-of-the-line Platinum trim, as well as standard eighteen-inch alloy wheels on the base Explorer trim, the changes are mainly in styling, exterior and interior color combinations, technology, and power.


Type Model Years Power@rpm Torque@rpm
1,999 cc (122.0 cu in) Ecoboost 2.0 I4 2011–15 240 bhp (180 kW)@5500 rpm 270 lb·ft (366 N·m)@3000 rpm
2,253 cc (137.5 cu in) Ecoboost 2.3 I4 2016– 280 bhp (210 kW)@5600 rpm 310 lb·ft (420 N·m)@3000 rpm
3,496 cc (213.3 cu in) Duratec 35 V6 2011– 290 bhp (220 kW)@6500 rpm 255 lb·ft (346 N·m)@4000 rpm
3,497 cc (213.4 cu in) Ecoboost 3.5 TT V6 2013– 365 bhp (272 kW)@5500 rpm 350 lb·ft (475 N·m)@3500 rpm

Explorer Sport variation[edit]

The Ford Explorer Sport was a 3-door version of the Ford Explorer, designed to take the place of the Bronco II in Ford's model line, and was produced from 1991 to 2003. The Sport began as a trim level of the Ford Explorer, but it eventually became its own model. It rode on a 10" shorter wheelbase. There was only one Sport, but there were several other trim levels of the Explorer that were available with 2-doors, such as the XL (1991–1997), the Eddie Bauer (1991–1994), and the Expedition (1995). In 1998 the Explorer Sport became the only 3-door trim level of the Explorer, and in 2001 it became its own model, as the second generation Explorer moved on to a 5-door-only 3rd generation.

Mazda Navajo[edit]

1994 Mazda Navajo LX

The Mazda Navajo is a rebadged version of the Ford Explorer and was the company's first sport-utility vehicle in the United States (it was not sold by Mazda Canada). It was sold between the 1991 and 1994 model years. At its launch, the Navajo was sold in a single configuration: a three-door body with four-wheel drive. As with the Explorer, it was assembled at the Louisville Assembly Plant. The Navajo was Motor Trend magazine's Truck of the Year for 1991. The Navajo was created and sold only in North America; it was not offered in Japan.

The Navajo and Explorer Sport largely differed in exterior trim, with unique taillights, grille, front bumper, and wheels. Inside, the two were nearly impossible to distinguish from one another, except for minor changes to seat fabrics, the typeface on the instrument cluster, and the Navajo was given a different design for its steering wheel hub. Similar to the 3-door Explorer, the Navajo came in two trim levels: base (renamed DX for 1992) and LX. In contrast to the Explorer, the base version of the Navajo offered power windows, power locks and power mirrors as standard. The LX added features such as extra interior illumination and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. An optional premium package loaded up the Navajo with luxuries including air conditioning, a stereo system with cassette deck, cruise control, sport seats with power lumbar adjustment and a pop-up/removable moonroof.

For 1992, the Navajo became available with rear-wheel drive, geared towards buyers who liked the sporty image of an SUV, but did not need four-wheel drive. Aside from the nomenclature change of the base model to DX (to fit Mazda's naming scheme), the Navajo changed so little that the company reused much of the photography from its 1991 promotional materials for another year. For 1993, the Navajo received mechanical upgrades alongside the Explorer, such as increased power for the V6 engine and four-wheel anti-lock brakes. Unlike the Explorer, however, the only other change was an optional CD player. For 1994, the LX model was given 5-spoke alloy wheels.

In comparison to the Explorer, sales of the Navajo were relatively poor and it was discontinued after the 1994 model year. While a five-door unibody design, the Mazda Tribute (based on the Ford Escape) is the next SUV sold by the company in North America; it was produced from 2000 to 2011.

Ford Police Interceptor Utility[edit]

A CHP Ford Police Interceptor Utility Vehicle.

With the discontinuation of the Ford Crown Victoria in 2011, and to compete with police model sport utility vehicles that are being offered by other automobile manufacturers, Ford has made the 2012 Explorer the basis for a new SUV type Police vehicle. It is only available to law enforcement and other emergency services agencies. Ford calls it the Police Interceptor Utility . There are major differences between the standard Explorer and the Police Interceptor Utility such as provisions for emergency services related equipment such as radios, lightbars and sirens. There are also options designated fleet only such as custom 2 tone paint arrangements that are available to the Utility Police Interceptor.

The California Highway Patrol now uses the Police Interceptor Utility because the current Ford Taurus, Chevrolet Caprice and Dodge Charger patrol cars did not meet the payload the CHP requires.[2] The PI Utility uses the larger displacement 3.7 liter Ford Cyclone V-6 used in the Ford Mustang and Ford F-150 instead of the 3.5 liter engine. The PI Utility is available only in all-wheel drive and takes advantage of larger disc brakes, more advanced ABS and traction control systems, a more efficient cooling system and other standard police equipment. The PI Utility comes with a column-mounted shifter as well, as the previous generation Explorers had, to allow more space available for equipment. In May 2014, statisticians R.L. Polk declared the PI Utility the most popular police vehicle, based on 2013 U.S. sales figures.[55] For 2014, the 365 hp EcoBoost V6 engine will be available for the Police Interceptor Utility. [3]

Export sales[edit]

UK models[edit]

In the UK, the Ford Explorer was initially available as just one model, with the 4.0-litre engine and with a high specification – the only dealer options being leather interior. Second and third-generation Explorers for the UK and other RHD markets utilised a center console-mounted shifter and hand parking brake instead of the steering column-mounted shifter and parking brake pedal used in the North American models.[citation needed] In 1998, a facelifted Explorer was available with minor cosmetic interior changes and a revised rear tail lift which centered the rear number plate. In 1999 the model range was revamped slightly, the base model becoming the XLT and a special edition North Face version marketed with a tie in to North Face outdoor clothing. The North Face version was available in a dark green or a silver, with body-colored bumpers, heated leather seats and a CD multichanger as standard. In 2000, the North Face was also available in black. With the introduction of the all-new platform in 2002, Ford withdrew the Explorer from the UK market.

Middle East and Asia[edit]

In the Middle East and Chinese countries between Republic of China (Taiwan) and People's Republic of China, the 2012 Ford Explorer is currently available in several trims, all of which have a 3.5-liter V6 engine and an automatic gearbox. Some GCC markets offer the front-wheel-drive version as a base model, while most of the trims have standard all-wheel-drive.[56] The latest generation Explorer was made available in Japan the Fall of 2015.[57][verification needed]

Current exports[edit]

As of 2009, American-made Explorer is exported to Bolivia, Chile, Canada, Mexico, Panama, Dominican Republic, People's Republic of China, Japan, South Korea, Israel, Republic of China (Taiwan), The Philippines, Turkey, Russia, Iceland, the Middle East, and certain countries in South America and Africa.

As of 2014, the Explorer is available in Ukraine.

Criticism and controversies[edit]

Rollover and Firestone Tire controversy[edit]

240 Deaths and 3,000 catastrophic injuries resulted from the combination of early generation Explorers and Firestone tires.[13] The tire tread separated and the vehicle had an unusually high rate of rollover crash as a result. Both companies' reputations were tarnished.[58] This event led to a disruption in the 90-year-old Ford/Firestone partnership.

Rollover risk is inherently higher in truck-based vehicles, like the Explorer, than in ordinary passenger cars, as modification for bulky 4-wheel-drive hardware requires increases in height to avoid compromising ground clearance (raising the center of gravity), while a short wheelbase further reduces stability.[13] The previous Bronco II had already been cited by Consumer Reports for rollover tendencies in turns.[13]

The Explorer was cleared by the NHTSA as being the most dangerous SUV. [clarification needed][citation needed] With a longer passenger compartment, the Explorer added 600 pounds (270 kg), but Ford did not deem it necessary to revise the suspension or tires to carry the bigger load. It used the same tires as the Ford Ranger with a relatively low rating for high temperatures.[citation needed] Lowering tire pressure recommendations softened the ride further and improved emergency stability through increased traction, but increased the chances of overheating tires.[59] A 1995 redesign with a new suspension slightly raised the Explorer's center of gravity, but it was called inconsequential by a Ford spokesman.[citation needed] Memos by Ford engineers suggested lowering the engine height, but it would have increased the cost of the new design.[citation needed]

Explorer rollover rates rank higher than any of it's current competitors. A recent rollover study analysis of national and Florida crash statistics, the Ford Explorer, even when fitted with tires other than Firestone, has a higher rate of tire-related accidents than other sport utility vehicles. While Firestone turned out millions of sub-standard and potentially defective tires, and was the initial cause of loss of control many Ford Explorer Firestone tire tread separation rollovers, the blame has shifted toward Ford for a defectively designed and unstable vehicle . [60]

In May 2000, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) contacted Ford and Firestone about a higher than normal incidence of tire failures on Ford Explorers, Mercury Mountaineers, and Mazda Navajos fitted with Firestone tires (later including Ford Ranger and Mazda B-Series pickup trucks). The failures all involved tread separation, in which the outer tread carcass would delaminate and cause a rapid loss of tire pressure. Ford investigated and found that several models of 15 in (381 mm) Firestone tires (ATX, ATX II, and Wilderness AT) had higher failure rates, especially those made at Firestone's Decatur, Illinois plant.

Ford recommended a tire inflation of only 26 pounds per square inch (179 kPa) likely contributing to the tread separation problem by causing the tires to operate at higher than normal temperatures.[13]

Ford argued that Firestone was at fault, noting that the tires made by firestone were very defective. Nevertheless, Ford subsequently recommended that front and rear tires should be inflated to 30 pounds per square inch (207 kPa) on all Explorer models and mailed a replacement tire pressure door sticker indicating the same to all registered owners.

Some have argued that poor driver reaction to tire blowout was a contributing factor.[61] When a tire blew, the vehicle would experience a sudden sharp jerk, and many drivers reacted by counter-steering in an attempt to regain control. This action would cause a shift of the vehicle's weight, resulting in a rollover especially at higher speeds (many reports of rollovers were of vehicles being driven at speeds of 70 mph (110 km/h) and above). In a test simulating dozens of tire blowouts, Larry Webster, a test-driver for Car & Driver magazine, was repeatedly able to bring a 1994 Explorer to a stop without a single rollover, even at speeds of 70 mph (110 km/h).[61][62] According to Forbes magazine, car experts and NHTSA claim that the vast majority of crash accidents and deaths are caused not by the vehicle, but by the driver, by road conditions or some combination of the two.[63] Many vehicle injury attorneys dissent from this view.[64][65]

In response to Firestone's allegations of the Explorer's design defects, NHTSA undertook a preliminary investigation and reported that further action was not required. Its conclusion was that the Explorer was no more prone to rollover than other SUVs given their high center of gravity.[66] The subsequent introduction and proliferation of electronic stability control systems have essentially addressed and mitigated this shortcoming.[citation needed]

In May, 2001, Ford announced it would replace 13 million Firestone tires fitted to Explorer vehicles.[13]

U-Haul trailers[edit]

On December 22, 2003, U-Haul, the largest American equipment rental company, announced it would prohibit its outlets from renting trailers to persons planning to tow behind Ford Explorers due to liability concerns, with no published data to substantiate the claim.[67] Unofficial reports from employees indicated that it was due to the rear bumper separating from the vehicle, including the tow hook assembly. U-Haul did not alter its policies regarding the renting of trailers to persons planning to tow behind the Mercury Mountaineer, Mazda Navajo or earlier versions of the Lincoln Aviator, which are all mechanically identical to the Ford Explorer.[67] In mid-2013, U-Haul began allowing Ford Explorers of model year 2011 and newer to tow their trailers. All other Ford Motor Company vehicles are allowed to tow U-Haul trailers.[68]


Calendar Year Explorer (US) Police Interceptor
Utility (US)
1990 140,509[69] N/A
1991 282,837
1992 292,069
1993 301,668
1994 278,065
1995 395,227
1996 402,663
1997 383,852[70]
1998 431,488
1999[71] 428,772
2000 445,157
2001[72] 415,921
2002[73] 433,847
2003 373,118
2004[74] 339,333
2005 239,788
2006[75] 179,229
2007 137,817
2008[76] 78,439
2009[77] 52,190
2010[78] 60,687
2011[79] 135,179
2012[80] 158,344 5,863
2013[81] 178,311 14,086
2014[82] 189,339 20,655

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]