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Your Guide to the Six Generations of the Ford Explorer

The Ford Explorer is the pillar of the American SUV. It’s hard to believe it has been around for nearly 30 years, but it has evolved into a premier automobile. The Explorer has gone through ups and downs throughout the years, but it is braced to become the leading SUV on the market. Since its inception, the Explorer has gone through different phases called generations. Today, the explorer is at the beginning of its sixth generation. Each of the generations helped pave the Explorer to what it is today. Read below to find out about each generation.

1. First Generation-Hot Out the Gates (1990-1994)

It’s hard to determine what consumers will want from an SUV when launched, but the Ford Explorer hit all the marks. The first-generation explorer was significantly shorter at about 175 inches than today’s model at about 200 inches long.  The original Explorer had the classic “boxy” design, with a three-slotted front grill. The Explorer was also available in two-door and four-door models to appease customers’ needs. The early model Explorers were equipped with a 4.0-liter V-6 engine that created an impressive 155 horsepower. The Explorer came standard with rear-wheel drive and a reliable 5R55-E automatic transmission. These features made the original model a huge success, and it sold nearly 150K units in the first year on the market.

2. Second Generation-The Height of Success (1995-2001)

While the first-generation model was a huge hit, it only stayed on the market for less than five years. The updated model had more SUV capabilities, including a newer suspension with a rear axle and rounded headlights. It was also significantly bigger at around 190 inches in length compared to the original model. There were also significant changes to the engine, including a new 5R55E transmission and a 5.0 liter V-8 that produced an impressive 210 horsepower. The 5R55E transmission was a great addition to this vehicle and they continue to be rebuilt and reused. However, some issues with the tires during this generation led to rollovers and many recalled vehicles.

3. Third Generation-Big Changes (2002-2005)

This generation of Explorers came with some dramatic changes, one of them being the addition of third-row seats. The goal of the newer design was to appeal to families.  With an improved rear suspension, drivers enjoyed an improved and smoother riding experience compared to the predecessors. Drivers also enjoyed a larger, more powerful 4.6-liter engine with towing capabilities of over 7,000 pounds, ideal for boats are jet skis. Ford brought back the original rectangular headlights, and these changes drove sales dramatically for the first year after its launch. However, sales would soon begin to plummet, and the Explorer faced some turbulent years ahead.

4. Fourth Generation- Tough Times (2006-2010)

The fourth-generation models focused on a newly designed interior coupled with technology features to appeal to consumers. A more modern and sleek crossover appearance replaced the rugged style of previous generations. The Explorer also featured an automatic six-speed transmission, but consumers also could select the five-speed in the base unit. Even with dramatic changes, the Explorer faced some of the most challenging periods since its inception, and it had the worst year of sales in 2009. This struggle would set the stage for some of the biggest changes to the SUV.

5. Fifth Generation- Back on Track (2011-2019)

The most dramatic change during this generation was the unibody construction that also appealed more to families. The change helped the SUV look like other options available at the time. The fifth-generation also featured improved gas mileage and emissions that were a huge incentive for potential consumers. The newly designed Explorer boasted close to 20 MPG city driving and 25 MPG highway gas mileage, making it ideal for road trips. The added changes paid off, and the Explorer would climb out of the rut and return to a top contender in the SUV market.

6. Sixth Generation-Standing the Test of Time (2020-?)

The Ford Explorer has had its ups and downs throughout the years, but the current generation speaks to the class and prestige of the SUV market. Improvements include a larger and more defined grille, improved lighting, and two engine options. The base model offers a 2.3-liter engine, and consumers also can upgrade to a turbo V-6 that produces over 350 horsepower. The sleek and stylish design is expected to dominate the SUV market for years to come.

The future looks bright for the Ford Explorer. Each generation had its unique characteristics, successes, and failures to set a path forward towards improvement. The Explorer stands among the leader of the pack in the SUV genre.

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