1990 FORD: The Explorer, introduced as a 1991 model, is based heavily on the Ranger pickup truck's mechanicals. Ford's sport-ute is available with two or four doors and comes standard with the Ranger's 4.0-liter V-6 engine with 160 hp and 220 lb-ft of torque.
1991 FORD: Enamored of its prowess on- and off-road, we name the Explorer an All-Star for 1991 and take delivery of a Four Seasons test car. After 40,613 miles, we pronounce it "a perfect middle point between a minivan and a station wagon." The Mazda Navajo, a clone of the two-door Explorer, arrives.
1992 JEEP: The Grand Cherokee makes a smashing debut at the 1992 Detroit auto show, when Chrysler president Bob Lutz drives one through the front window of the hall. It was originally conceived as the replacement for the Cherokee, but Jeep decides to sell both vehicles side by side as the SUV segment starts to take off.
1993 JEEP: Nostalgic for the Grand Wagoneer, Jeep offers faux woodgrain on the Grand Cherokee, but the effect is not the same and the model is dropped after one season. Longer-lasting additions include an optional V-8 (5.2 liters, 220 hp) and the off-road-ready Up Country suspension option.
1995 FORD: The refreshed Explorer debuts with control arms replacing the twin I-beam setup in front. Late in the model year, a 210-hp V-8 is added. The Mazda Navajo is dropped.
1997 FORD: A SOHC V-6, also 4.0 liters, is added to the engine roster. Its 205 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque shame the standard V-6, which manages to soldier on for several more years. The Mercury Mountaineer, essentially a dressed-up Explorer, debuts.
1998 BOTH: The Grand Cherokee comes out on top in our SUV comparison test, which also consists of the Explorer, the Mercedes-Benz M-class, the Isuzu Rodeo, the Dodge Durango, and the Lexus RX300.
1998 JEEP: Chrysler merges with (is taken over by) Daimler-Benz, setting the stage for today's 2011 Grand Cherokee, which will eventually be designed alongside the Mercedes-Benz M-class. The profit-gushing Grand Cherokee is one of the chief attractions for Daimler.
1999 JEEP: The second-generation Grand Cherokee is longer, wider, and taller, and its redesigned rear suspension improves the ride quality. The spare tire moves out of the cargo area and under the vehicle.