10 Fun Facts About the Best-Selling Ford Explorer

June 11th, 2021 by

A black 2021 Ford Explorer Timberline is shown in the woods after leaving a Shepherdsville Ford dealer.

Did you know that the Ford Explorer, which made its debut in 1991 to replace the Bronco II, outsold the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Chevy S-10 Blazer in its debut year? As your Shepherdsville Ford dealer, we’re proud to say that the Explorer’s popularity has continued over the last three decades and remains one of our top sellers. But what makes the Explorer so special?

The Explorer is affordable, loaded with features, offers a spacious cabin, is versatile, and it’s fun to drive. This is huge when it comes to shopping for an SUV that can meet all the demands of life, whether you’re dropping kids off at school, commuting to work, or going camping with friends. The Explorer’s versatility is something that you’ll find throughout its history and is what inspired us to look closer at the Explorer’s 30-year history on the road.

What changes has Ford made to the Explorer over the years? How has the Explorer’s safety and technology improved? From its debut as a truck-like SUV to its current design as a powerful crossover, here are 10 fun facts about the best-selling Ford Explorer that show just how far the best-selling SUV has come over the last three decades.

#1 Say Goodbye to the Bronco II

While the Bronco was a huge hit for Ford, its two-door counterpart – the Bronco II – didn’t enjoy the same success. The growing popularity and demand for four-door SUVs quickly made the Bronco II a dying breed. Ford answered that demand in 1991 with the debut of the Explorer. This time, Ford gave consumers a choice between a two-door or four-door configuration, which made it a popular option for families looking for the added room and accessibility.

A white 1985 Ford Bronco II is shown driving down a wet road splashing through water.

#2 Built Like a Truck

The first-generation Explorer was built on the Ford Ranger platform and handled more like the truck than a sedan or SUV. This changed with the third-generation Explorer in 2002 when Ford completely redesigned the model to perform more like an SUV. This redesign added an independent rear that allowed for a third-row seat to boost the SUV’s size to offer seating for up to seven passengers. The transformation was huge and later prompted another redesign with the fifth-generation Explorer (2011-2015) sitting atop the unibody chassis found on the Ford Taurus sedan.

#3 Best-Selling SUV in History

We’ve already mentioned that the Explorer outsold the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Chevy S-10 Blazer in 1991, but would you guess that it’s also the best-selling SUV in history? The Explorer’s 2020 redesign was eight years in the making, which left many to wonder why Ford waited so long to update the SUV. The answer is simple – owners continued to buy the SUV exactly as it was. So, just how popular is the Explorer? In 2020 that Ford sold nearly 8 million Explorers since its debut in 1990. We imagine that number is even higher today.

#4 Engine Enhancements Mean Better Capability

It may seem obvious that any engine enhancement can yield more power, but we see a drastic improvement between the 2019 and the 2020 Explorer. The 2019 Explorer’s four-cylinder turbocharged engine can tow up to 3,000 pounds. In 2020, Ford introduced a newer, more powerful 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine that pushes the Explorer’s capability even further with a towing capacity of up to 5,600 pounds. This difference is something to consider if you’re shopping for a used Explorer that can easily tow a trailer, camper, or boat.

#5 The Tech Keeps Getting Better

It’s no surprise that the first-generation Explorer offered minimal technology. After all, it was the decade of cassette players and power windows, both of which were premium features. Fortunately, the Explorer’s technology has drastically improved over the last 30 years, with the 2021 Explorer boasting every feature imaginable from Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration to Amazon Alexa. You can stream your favorite music, listen to a podcast, and control your smart home devices with the touch of a button or a voice command.

#6 4WD Wasn’t the Explorer’s Focus

In the 1990s, Ford wasn’t looking to attract the traditional niche of four-wheel drive buyers. Instead, the Explorer was marketed as a spacious and family-friendly SUV that could handle the demands of life. Whether those demands meant navigating errands around town, cruising the highway, or down the trail was entirely up to the driver. This versatility is what made the Explorer an instant success and is why it holds its place as one of Ford’s top sellers.

#7 Safety Remains a Top Priority

There’s a sharp contrast between the safety features you’ll find on the first-generation Explorer and the suite of safety and driver-assist tools you’ll find on the 2021 model. Despite this difference, safety has always been a top priority for Ford. On early models, this meant equipping the Explorer with advanced airbags. Today, it means offering an array of technology designed to boost your confidence behind the wheel and minimize the potential for collision. This includes tools like a rearview camera, automatic emergency braking, automatic high-beam headlamps, blind spot monitoring, and much more.

#8 The Explorer Was Made Into a Truck

The Explorer was such a huge success for Ford that the American automaker cashed in on its popularity and debuted the Explorer Sport Trac truck in 2001. The first-generation truck (2001-2006) sat on an extended wheelbase and was instantly recognizable with its short bed. The second-generation truck (2007-2010) was significantly larger and featured the same independent rear end as the fourth-generation Explorer, as well as the addition of the all-new hot-road Adrenaline model that offered more power than the Sport Trac’s standard six-cylinder engine.

#9 It Boosted the SUV Craze

While Ford didn’t intend to market the Explorer as an off-road capable vehicle, its push-button four-wheel drive system found on the first-generation model showcased its versatility. Its cabin was spacious enough for a family, while its four-wheel drive system could handle adventures both on the pavement and on the trail. This built the Explorer’s reputation as an adventure-ready vehicle and is how it helped make the term “sport utility vehicle” popular among a new generation of drivers.

A green and tan 1993 Ford Explorer Eddie Bauer Edition is shown parked on tarmac.

#10 It Made the Eddie Bauer Brand Even Cooler

During the 1990s, you couldn’t find a greater symbol of outdoor adventure than the Eddie Bauer brand. Ford cashed in on this popularity by adding the Eddie Bauer trim to the Explorer lineup. The top-level trim added every feature available, including a premium interior and a distinct two-tone paint scheme. Driving the Eddie Bauer Explorer meant you were a real adventurer and outdoor enthusiast until the Eddie Bauer brand faded from popularity and Ford bid farewell to the trim in 2010.

So Much to Explore

Whether you are a longtime fan of the Ford Explorer or you’re new to the SUV, there is no doubt that you’ll love everything the Explorer has to offer. From its rich history in the Ford lineup to the 2021 model’s innovative features, the Ford Explorer has something for everyone. This is what makes it one of the top-selling SUVs in the world and a staple on American roads even after 30 years on the market.