Timeline and Genealogy:
1990: The Explorer is introduced as a 1991 model in the spring of 1990. It is based heavily on the Ranger pickup truck mechanicals, and uses the Ranger STX's chrome grille. The Explorer name was originally an option package on Ford's pickup trucks, and was also used on the 1973 Ford Explorer SUV concept.
Ford's sport-ute is available with either two or four doors, and seats six with an optional bench seat in the front. It comes standard with the Ranger's 4.0-liter V-6 engine that produces 155 horsepower and 220 pound-feet of torque. It appeases off-road enthusiasts and fits the needs of suburban households, and sells 140,509 units following its spring debut. Towing capacity is rated at just over 3000 pounds. In an Automobile Magazine comparison test in Hawaii, we proclaim, "Ford has a winner."
1991: The Explorer is named an All-Star for 1991, alongside the legendary Mazda MX-5 Miata and Porsche 911 Carrera 4. Enamored of its prowess on and off-road, Automobile Magazine takes delivery of a Ford Explorer for a Four Seasons Test. Comments over the first 11,000 miles include "best truck ever driven" and "I love this car." During our year, we declare it a better luxury SUV than the Oldsmobile Bravada, and a trip to Colorado confirms it as "the perfect skimobile." In the Four Seasons wrap-up, complaints range from the lack of a "creeper gear" to faulty front wheel hubs, but after 40,613 miles, we pronounce it "a perfect middle point between a minivan and a station wagon." The Mazda Navajo arrives, a clone of the two-door Explorer, save for a tweaked exterior.
1992: Having run largely unopposed for nearly two years, the Explorer has a new challenger: the Jeep Grand Cherokee. With the market for SUVs ballooning, we declare the more civilized Grand Cherokee a massive improvement over the Cherokee on the road, and proclaim that they "are two different vehicles" to appeal to various tastes.
1993: Anti-lock brakes become standard across the lineup, and the new Limited trim level appears one rung above the popular Eddie Bauer model. We take the Explorer to Europe to see if American iron can compete. One writer from the Continent remarks: "On our drive, the Explorer shuddered, shook, vibrated, throbbed, and pitched up and down in a choppy manner. The V-6 engine is a forgotten iron relic, crude and rough running, which doesn't help. I was reminded of the SS United States."
1994: Ahead of the 1995 mid-cycle refresh, we get behind the wheel. In a preview drive, we claim that, "thanks to the upgrades, good handling can finally be added to the list of reasons to buy an Explorer."