2005: We continue to be impressed with SUVs other than the Explorer. Our SUV digest praises the Explorer for its "huge array of trim packages and options," but suggests "you're one of the herd" if you buy one. In 2005, the herd shrinks by 29 percent to 239,788 sales; the Mountaineer continues to linger.
2006: The Explorer is updated with the latest Mustang 4.6-liter V-8, this time producing 292 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque, and is now mated to a six-speed automatic. We praise the Explorer's updated interior, but aren't thrilled by Ford's extensive use of chrome inside and out. New headlights and taillights round out the exterior changes, and a stiffer body and new dampers help smooth out the ride. The 4.0-liter V-6 soldiers on as the base engine. The changes, however, doesn't help slipping sales, which continue to slip 25 percent year-over-year to 179,229.
2007: A new Explorer Sport Trac debuts, but its welcome parade is dampened by the likes of the car-based Honda Ridgeline. Both Explorer engines are available in the Sport Trac, and Ford claims the Sport Trac's frame is 444 percent stiffer than the outgoing model's.
Ford previews a hydrogen-powered Explorer, but there are no plans for production. Meanwhile, 137,817 Explorers find new homes.
2008: The long-in-the-tooth Explorer carries over, but the next generation is previewed in the Explorer America concept. In a departure from the Explorer's body-on-frame construction, the America has a unibody design. Ford showcases two possible EcoBoost engines, a four- and a six-cylinder, with no mention of a V-8. Meanwhile, sales of the existing Explorer drop by 43 percent to 78,439.
2009: Trailer Sway Control, and several appearance packages, can't keep buyers from choosing other SUVs. Sales continue their downward slide to 52,190 -- an 88 percent drop over the Explorer's best sales year in 2000.
2010: Terrain Management System is introduced Ford's answer to hill descent control. It arrives about a decade too late. The current Explorer will be replaced for 2011, but Mercury's imminent demise signals the end of the road for the Mountaineer.