By on February 27, 2009

Former Ford CEO Jac Nasser’s abrasive public persona during the Firestone tire debacle makes him the most memorable chapter in the Ford Explorer story. Like many famous Blue Oval products, the bean-counted SUV that rode on “traction B, temperature C”-rated donuts suffered a never-ending assault from the Big Chief himself. And now that the Explorer is gasping for breath, waiting for a Flex-based CUV to snatch its storied past, its nice to know the original never forgot its mission.

Like any segment buster, the Explorer wins style points for putting this genre on the map. It paved the way for the F150 and Expedition: a sleek chrome bumper meets an anti-truck aerodynamic nose. Other non-truck cues include an open greenhouse, low beltline and thin roof pillars, offering the best visibility this side of the Griffith observatory. The rear hatch is designed with purpose, thanks to a prominent lever with idiot-proof markings: turn left to open the rear glass, right for the hatch.

Forget about the Hummer H2. No modern SUV is this open and inviting. And honest: no plastic pretenses to off roading prowess or wannabe big-rig nose jobs. The Explorer was a siren song for status seekers weary of sedans and the (yet to be catch-phrased) American MILF desperately seeking an end to her minivan.

Inside, the Explorer strikes a balance between a self-starter’s rugged individualism and a trust fund baby’s BMW X5 Individual. The interior has inconsistent panel gaps worthy of its Ranger cousin and the leather-wrapped wheel is thin and rubbery. But the vinyl-overlaid plastics feel almost as rich as the Audi from whence it came. The rear seat’s secondary audio controls musta been cool ten years ago, keeping younger members of Generation Y content without a “Barney & Friends” fix for, like, five minutes.

But true to form, the Explorer’s guts are simply functional. The rear bench isn’t a passenger’s best friend but it folds completely flat for a more usable load floor than many of its successors. The standard audio system is far from today’s ICE-induced shock and awe. But those XLT-grade bucket seats are worthy of The Commander in Chief: the power side bolsters, adjustable thigh, butt and back rests are some of the most luxurious and refined chairs to grace a family hauler. It’s the lipstick that turns a pig into a princess.

Which also explains the 5.0-liter engine: yesteryear’s gas hog comes correct with higher flowing greasy bits than those seen in Vanilla Ice’s videos. There are only 210 horses even if it feels like more; and with less than two tons of weight and optional AWD, the small-block’s pushrod thrust makes for giggle-inducing jackrabbit launches without voiding one’s warranty.

Sure, the motor is a disappointment. But wait ’til you hit a bumpy road. With a confidence-inspiring A-arm affair up front and an oxcart-worthy system in the rear, any pavement blip sends shudders down the Explorer’s spine, jiggling occupants like molded Jell-O. The ride is unacceptable by today’s standards; who knows why suburbanites liked this when new? But with lovable (so to speak) truck dynamics and 6000 lb of towing, there’s nary a squeak or rattle after thirteen years and 85k miles of use. Not to mention its supremely quiet highway demeanor. What gives?

The Explorer’s Jekyll and Hyde persona is best told in the handling department, which was obviously a small and underfunded place.

Grocery getting gives an overinflated sense of well being, thanks to amazing visibility and well-disciplined body motions. Which leads to the inevitable pushing of one’s luck. Cue the chassis’ narrow track and 75-series tires breaking free. Match that with balding tires and we have the worst nightmare for many Explorer owners. And, for those who didn’t buckle their seatbelt, something far more tragic.

That said, this is the mountain goat of family haulers. Never meant to be a lap dog, the Explorer goes from timelessly appealing to WTF-ish in less time than it takes to say “Wilderness A/T.”

At our as-tested price of $5000, the SUV that started it all gets away with showing its durable truck roots, proving it can git ’er done like the best of them (for cheap). And it’s still a preferred family car: the Explorer simply caters to a lower socioeconomic class of families these days. The reason why people (like the cool kids in school) flock to this machine is not hard to understand. The Ford Explorer never tried to be cool. It just was.

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98 Comments on “Used Review: 1996 Ford Explorer...”


  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    I think the tire shredding debacle can best be summed up as follows:

    I am an a-hole who never checks tire pressure, drives an SUV because I hate minivans for some unknown reason, and drive 90 miles an hour everywhere I go. Somehow that makes it Firestone’s fault when my tire blows out, so I want money.

  • avatar
    pb35

    Those thin roof pillars work wonders in a rollover! My brother in-law has the same exact Explorer pictured and has been driving it for years. I don’t know how he does it.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    You forgot to mention the Firestone tires.

    Was it the tires or the Ford Explorer?

  • avatar
    rodster205

    Sajeev, normally I agree totally with your reviews, but this one makes me think you missed the 70’s and 80’s. If so, I realize that is not your fault. None of us got to plan what year we were born!

    The Cherokee created the SUV segment, not the Explorer. If the Cherokee wasn’t such a hit Ford would have never made the Explorer. It was Ford’s “me too” SUV. The Explorer was a huge hit but only because it was nicer/softer than the Cherokee, and took advantage of GM’s mistake (shock!) of not producing a 4-door version of the S-10 Blazer until much later.

    Also, nothing about the Explorer from it’s introduction in 89 until they went to IRS a few years ago was “designed”, it was a Ranger turned into a stationwagon. PERIOD. Go back and look at a photo of the front of a Ranger & Explorer for the same year. Doesn’t matter what year, any year before around 2003. They are exactly the same unless you have an Eddie Bauer Explorer with more “perfume” on it.

  • avatar
    tced2

    Not only were the tires under-rated for the chassis but Ford endorsed under-inflating them to improve the ride. What a disaster and poor engineering judgement. Must have been the Pinto gas tank team.

    An entire plant in my hometown paid the price for the tires. It was closed to “fix” the problem.

    @rodster205: Agreed. It was a Ranger with a bigger body and engine. In true Ford tradition, why develop a proper chassis when and old one will do?

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    My theory is that two things really killed Ford:

    1. Rollover/Firestone and the subsequent handling by the company.
    2. September 11, 2001.

    There were also significant product mistakes, but for me these are the big two issues.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    @BEAT: 2nd gen Explorer also had a higher center of gravity than the 1st.

    I knew someone (very distantly) who died in an Explorer rollover, but that was the 3rd gen. No seatbelt, new driver, overcorrection of steering input with tires leaving the pavement. Child driving, parent ejected.

  • avatar
    tced2

    They’ve had 3 generations of the Explorer?

  • avatar
    TwoTwenty

    @BEAT – it was probably a combination of the tires and the Explorer. If the tires didn’t fail, the Explorer wouldn’t have rolled – and when it rolled, the roof couldn’t support the weight of the body.

    I was just in my friend’s 1998 Explorer, and I don’t get the appeal, now or then. Some people feel safer sitting up high, but to me it just exaggerates all the body motions (to the point of near-nausea). However, there was a certain “honesty” that it was still a truck, but then again, back then the market probably didn’t demand them to be anything more than trucks.

    I had a friend in college who drove in an Explorer – he was driving home and a semi clipped his rear bumper and he rolled several times. He walked out though. I guess he was lucky.

  • avatar

    Oh boy, finally my experience as a Ford saleman of 1995 comes in handy!

    Explorer factoids:

    * The 1995 Explorer was a pretty major redesign of the original, and they did it for the Explorer. The Ranger was a free ride.

    * So the ’95 was much more popular with families because the interior was so much better and higher-featured than the ’94. It was a big difference.

    * The V8 arrived in late ’95. Initially it was just RWD, because they couldn’t make the Ranger/Explorer “Auto 4×4″ work with the V8. Packaging and torque.

    * The way Ford resolved the issue: adapt the Aerostar’s “Electric AWD” to the Explorer.

    * So if you really want a ’95 or ’96, what you want is a 4.0 Auto 4WD. It’s a better system. I used to conduct winter demos of the system for customers; we’d go into a snowy turn totally sideways in “Auto” and the truck would pull straight, like a fucking GT-R or something. Awesome.

    I loved these trucks. They took good care of me as a salesperson. They were well-built, reliable, and created happy owners.

  • avatar
    SpeedJebus

    I think what kills this truck for me, is that at the 3 year old mark, I’d see these driving around with saggy rear suspension. It just left a lasting impression on me of poor design / quality? It was probably related to the owner not towing properly, or neglecting maintenance. Regardless, the image is still fresh in my mind.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    “SUV that rode on “traction B, temperature C” rated donuts”

    Don’t forget that Firestone told Ford that the tires needed to be inflated to 30 PSI but Ford knew that 30 PSI made the Explorer tipsy, so they suggested 25 PSI instead. A 25 PSI under-inflated tire and a “C” temperature rating spelled KA-BOOM.

  • avatar

    Thank you all for reading.

    rodster205 :The Cherokee created the SUV segment, not the Explorer. If the Cherokee wasn’t such a hit Ford would have never made the Explorer.

    Which I agree with, but how well did they sell before and after the Explorer’s creation? Every girl I knew in college (mid 90s) wanted the Explorer, absolutely none of them cared about any other SUV. Much like the Camcord, it was the SUV to get for everyone: even owners of imports flocked to this thing. Like I said in the review, it was the segment buster that put the genre on the map.

    It was Ford’s “me too” SUV. The Explorer was a huge hit but only because it was nicer/softer than the Cherokee, and took advantage of GM’s mistake (shock!) of not producing a 4-door version of the S-10 Blazer until much later.

    You’re not gonna get me to slam Ford for going middle-of-the road on this thing. If I was a business looking to make the next Ford Mustang, I’d do the same thing. And I’d laugh all the way to the bank. :)

  • avatar
    John Horner

    I never understood what appealed to the women of America about this vehicle. Even after reading “High and Mighty” I couldn’t really get it. But then again, I’m not really good at understanding women in the first place :).

  • avatar
    romanjetfighter

    Had driven a 2000ish model a few weeks ago and it was noisy, buzzy, and the interior was god-awful. But the seats were REALLY nice.

    Wasn’t really impressed. Makes me appreciate the refinement of my Camry alot more. :)

  • avatar
    200k-min

    The Cherokee created the SUV segment, not the Explorer

    I don’t think anyone is trying to argue that the Explorer “created” the SUV. If you really want to go way back the Ford Bronco was first produced in 1966, long before the Cherokee…but I’d say the International Scout was the true original in the SUV segment.

    That said, the Explorer did something that nobody had been able to do before, mainstream the segment. Maybe it was just something that was bound to happen in the 1990’s and Ford was lucky to be first on the scene with the ’91 model. Jeep introduced their Grand Cherokee in ’93, which in some ways could be considered a better SUV, but it never sold nearly as well as the Explorer. Ditto the Chevy Blazer.

    My father used to own a ’93 Explorer. IMO it was a terrible vehicle, but for some reason those things sold, and made Ford one heck of a lot of profit. I’ve driven all the competition product too and just haven’t found any of them all that more redeeming. SUV’s are a fad that hopefully is finally dying. Not time to hate on the CUV’s. One thing is for sure, the poster boy for the SUV craze is clearly the Explorer.

  • avatar

    The edit feature is a little quirky right now, so I’ll add this: my tester had new-ish Michelin LTX’s (pictures to come) and was quirky, somewhat fun and livable to drive. Yes, I’ve driven the first gen Cherokee and its not nearly as fun-to-drive (especially steering response) but it also has a better back seat, a smoother engine and the styling obviously charmed everyone in this country.

    And like Jack Baruth said, AWD and the 5.0 make this thing a beast. You shoulda see the guy in the LT-1 Camaro after I launched on his ass, took his lane, and effortlessly merged on the freeway.

  • avatar

    I put 250K miles on my 95 Eddie Bauer, and watched it drive into the sunset with a giddy new owner. I miss it to this day, as it was the high water mark of Explorers… in some odd ways.

    My family has owned 95, 98, and 2000 Explorers, and never have I been so disgusted to watch the gradual bean-counting. Those comfy, power-bolstered, supportive seats that were standard in 95 were cost-reduced to the most miserably unsupportive excuses for fuzzy barstools I’ve ever had the displeasure of spending time sitting on (not in) by Y2K. The once-excellent JBL stereo was reduced to a tinny boom-box, and I think they reduced the number of interior fasteners by half by Y2K, judging the speed at which squeaks and rattles appeared in the later years.

    The cargo capacity was no-excuses, the visibility excellent (I seethe with jealousy when navigating my Outback… especially with trailer), the handling competent ($300 well spent in upgraded sway bars), even if the engine did need to get stabbed with a hot cattle prod to get out of it’s own way. At least it went when I told it to, instead of spending 3 days consulting a computer like the 2005 I leased. Despite its anemia – the Cologne-built 4.0L V6 was indestructible. As for the tire issue, I distribute the blame equally across Ford, Firestone, and owners. I shredded a rear sidewall at 70mph (thanks to a nail –> slow leak –> overheat) carrying 500lb of cargo, and it was literally a non-issue in terms of handling and control.

    If I turn a blind eye to the grenading 4R55E transmissions, the ball joints only worth 75K miles, and the rocker panels that had no desire to see 200K miles, it was a comfortable and good-looking workhorse.

  • avatar

    thin roof pillars, offering the best visibility this side of the Griffith observatory.

    …and creating a handy roof-mounted crumple zone aroundinto the passenger compartment!

    I had one of these as a rental one time. I requested a compact car and the agency “upgraded” me to an Explorer over my objections. (they actually had no compact cars.) I would describe the handling on this this like riding in a La-Z-Boy chair strapped to a grocery cart. The steering was so vague that even while holding the wheel perfectly still it would wander all over the lane, and occasionally into adjacent lanes. No wonder these things were rollover deathtraps. The crappy OEM tires were merely icing on the overall crappy cake.

    My neighbor bought one for his wife… “so she would be safe”… I haven’t talked to him since he uttered that statement.

    –chuck

  • avatar
    italianstallion

    My brother had a ’94 Explorer. I drove it a few times. Its behavior during a hard breaking maneuver on the freeway scared the living crap out of me (in dry conditions, no less). I had another friend who rolled one and is lucky to be alive.

    Beyond personal anecdotes and the Firestone debacle, its still VERY obvious to me that a body-on-frame SUV is not a family vehicle/driving appliance/mommy mobile.

    Scary thing is that Ford sold so very many of these as such. They created this market segment and there are still so many of these rolling deathtraps out there.

  • avatar
    chuckR

    Underinflated tires – bald eagle brand
    Trailering heavy loads at high speeds
    High ambient temperatures

    But Ford doesn’t escape. Under Nasser, they would go to suppliers and say – look, we’re going to buy X hundred thousand of your product for the next few years. Here’s what we’ll pay year one. Here’s how much less we’ll pay in each succeeding year. The supplier had a choice – decline the ‘offer’ and go out of business or cut costs to the bone and eke out a living. Sometimes they found the necessary efficiencies in a safe manner, other times, they didn’t. How many people know their tire ratings and the implications – outside of obsessive gearheads? My own family thinks I’m nuts for putting high speed rated tires on low speed capable cars. I do it because I know my family will somehow abuse them and I want the extra margin. Ford needed to do something similar for its family of buyers. They didn’t.

  • avatar
    mistercopacetic

    Mr. Goolsbee hit the nail on the head. There is really only one big reason why the Explorer and its ilk were so popular for a time. Whenever you asked someone who had kids why they bought their brand new SUV, the first word out of their mouth would always be “safety.” I think we as a country have learned the hard way all the myriad ways that sentiment was mistaken.

  • avatar
    NN

    I had one friend take his 94 explorer to 220k miles, and another friend take his (same generation) past 250. Original powertrains on both.

    Another friend took his to 190k and then sold it, still in good running condition but starting to have a few problems. My wife wanted an SUV so last year we bought a used 04 low mileage Mountaineer. I understand the appeal of these vehicles. Very roomy, very comfortable, and the sightlines–as Sajeev points out–are better than anything else I’ve ever driven. Catastrophic depreciation makes them incredibly affordable 2nd hand buys, plus they are reliable and cheap to maintain.

    In my opinion, this is probably the best product Ford made in the past 50 years…with the F-150 being the only challenger.

  • avatar
    Stingray

    I don’t know where you got the “aire en el trasero” translation… but trust me, the LULZ are flowing right now.

    Aire en el trasero “means”, air in the butt.

    A MILF pic would improve the article significantly =D, but it’s out of current TTAC policies.

    Down here we got mostly the SOHC V6 engine… the engineer who decided the location of the timing chains should be shot. Very few V8s…

    I don’t see why you complain about the 5.0 V8… the aftermarket for that engine is HUGE thanks to the fox Mustang… and getting one of those into 300HP should be easy and cheap enough. I bet a cam swap, some headers, K&N filter/intake and some ECU reflash should suffice.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    In a lot of ways the current Explorer is the ultimate, addressing the weak spots of the car’s heyday.

    Increased, width, better tires, and stability control decrease the chance of rollover. The roof is stronger and there are curtain airbags to help if the car does roll over. There is independent rear suspension to help the ride as well as a reasonably useful flat-folding 3rd row seat.

    Even though the Modern Explorer is significantly heavier, fuel economy is about the same despite more features (especially safety features), more versatility and higher performance engines.

    Sales are a fraction of what they were in the Explorer’s heyday. Chalk it up to the fickleness of trends.

  • avatar
    trk2

    The steering was so vague that even while holding the wheel perfectly still it would wander all over the lane, and occasionally into adjacent lanes.

    That was the first generation (2000-2004) explorers only. Like most trucks of the time the explorer was made with recirculating ball steering which will cause wandering after it wears. In 2005 and later the explorer was upgraded with rack
    and pinion steering at the same time Ford overhauled the front suspension. The 2005 and later trucks had much improved steering feel.

  • avatar
    Axel

    A fold-flat rear seat way back in 1996 is pretty cool.

    If I wanted a weekend pleasure vehicle that could haul people, gear, and/or trailers, this would be at the top of my list.

  • avatar
    Axel

    Justin Berkowitz :
    My theory is that two things really killed Ford:

    1. Rollover/Firestone and the subsequent handling by the company.
    2. September 11, 2001.

    There were also significant product mistakes, but for me these are the big two issues.

    Their one, glaring product mistake overshadows everything, though: Letting the Taurus fall pathetically behind the CamCord. Had they kept the Taurus a class leader, Ford’s position in the market would be very different today.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    Well I saw a 1996 Ford Explorer yesterday.

    I noticed that the tires were brand new but the Explorer was shaking tremendously.

    I can see 4 tires shaking. looked like it badly needed a Wheel Alignment, suspension were horrible. I decided to drive away from that Ford Explorer before some parts fly away and hit my hood or wind shield.

    FYI. I bought cheaper tires before and used them until they’re worn out. They’re unknown brand from Pep Boys but they never ever gave me any problems especialy like blow out or flipping my car over the highway.

    Next time you see an explorer in front of you look at the suspension,chassis etc. they are freakin scary. Brand new tires doesn’t matter and never ever tail gate them. you might see flying debris hitting your hood. (I have the pic to prove it)

    IT IS THE EXPLORER!!! Oh did they fix the front brakes too?

    Condolences for those who were killed by this SUV.

  • avatar
    Stingray

    @trk2

    Explorers have been using rack and pinion since the 1995 redesign.

    They also changed the front suspension from Twin-I-Beam to double wishbone / torsion bars to lower the hood line.

  • avatar
    Thabo

    Here is one from Denver’s Craigslist – looks like they’ve taken care of the dodgy tire problem quite nicely!

    Look ma, no tires!!

  • avatar
    BEAT

    In 2006 in a Ford Explorer rollover trial, evidence was introduced that indicated that the Explorer is unstable not only on Firestone tires but also on tires made by Goodyear, Cooper, Michelin’s Uniroyal, BF Goodrich, Kelly Springfield, Continental General and other tire manufacturers. The Explorer rollover trial. Such evidence help to support the argument among many plaintiff lawyers that represent Explorer rollover victims that the Ford Explorer and Ford Explorer Sport Trac are unstable and can flip over or overturn when the driver is faced with an emergency maneuver, hard braking or other evasive driving maneuvers to avoid an animal, a pothole, black ice, road hazard or another vehicle.

    “Firestone will no longer sell tires to Ford for use on the Explorer. “There is something wrong with the Ford Explorer. The testing and accident data we have done proves it,” Lampe said. “You can take our tires off the Ford Explorer and it would continue to roll over.” …. Mr. John Lampe – Bridgestone / Firestone CEO

    The rack and pinion has nothing to with the roll over it is the way the Explorers were built. Aerodynamics, durability of the parts for stress and wear,unstable platform (it is like landing a B52. remember it land side ways)

  • avatar
    trk2

    Explorers have been using rack and pinion since the 1995 redesign.

    They also changed the front suspension from Twin-I-Beam to double wishbone / torsion bars to lower the hood line.

    What decade is this? You’re completely right. I had a brain cramp and typed 2005 instead of 1995 (just like the first gen Explorers were obviously not 2000-2004 but 1990-1994).

  • avatar

    jgh : My family has owned 95, 98, and 2000 Explorers, and never have I been so disgusted to watch the gradual bean-counting. Those comfy, power-bolstered, supportive seats that were standard in 95 were cost-reduced to the most miserably unsupportive excuses for fuzzy barstools I’ve ever had the displeasure of spending time sitting on (not in) by Y2K.

    If my eBay picture hunting is correct, it was 1997 when things went south. And 1996 might be the best year: if you wanted a “new” 5.0 to go with last year’s sport buckets, flashy interior and IFS.

    and I think they reduced the number of interior fasteners by half by Y2K, judging the speed at which squeaks and rattles appeared in the later years.

    This is why I love this website, our readers are so darn smart.

    I noticed that too, since this 1996 felt way tighter than the 1998 and 2001 I’d sampled previously. Whatever Ford took out of it, they really screwed the pooch. No surprise they cut corners with the tires if they’ll thrift out squeak reducing interior bits.

    Somehow, this is Jac Nasser’s fault.

  • avatar
    trk2

    Next time you see an explorer in front of you look at the suspension,chassis etc. they are freakin scary. Brand new tires doesn’t matter and never ever tail gate them. you might see flying debris hitting your hood. (I have the pic to prove it)

    I’m sorry but this is completely untrue. The first generation Explorers had the bullet-proof twin-I-beam suspension. The suspension is identical to the Rangers and a scaled down version of the F150’s and Bronco’s suspension. F150s + Broncos + Rangers + Explorers represent a huge percentage (relatively speaking) of the total vehicles on the road today. If there was a problem with parts flying off of them everyone’s daily commute would be very exciting.

    The second generation suspensions have now been on Rangers and Explorers for 14 years. Ranger’s regularly win the highest quality ratings in their segment in part because their design is hasn’t changed in so long.

    Ford has many problems, but the robustness of the Explorer and Ranger suspension is not one of them.

  • avatar

    I was in my friend’s Explorer of this model/series just yesterday. Even after all these years its an amazing vehicle. I own a Ford Expedition 2002 that suffers from the same truck ride (up until the 2003 model) but, I’ve put nearly 95,000 miles on it and its A SOLIDLY BUILT TRUCK if you take care of it.

    And that’s why Ford must/will suceed. THE F-150 kicks ass.

  • avatar
    geeber

    BEAT: In 2006 in a Ford Explorer rollover trial, evidence was introduced that indicated that the Explorer is unstable not only on Firestone tires but also on tires made by Goodyear, Cooper, Michelin’s Uniroyal, BF Goodrich, Kelly Springfield, Continental General and other tire manufacturers.

    I would like to examine this “evidence.” Did it consist of tests conducted by the plaintiff’s attorney?

    I recall reading that the Explorer’s rollover/accident rate was the same as that of other SUVs.

  • avatar
    kken71

    My folks still have a 4.0 liter 95 Explorer. It way my mom’s station wagon until 175k, when it became my dad’s hunting/hauling junk truck and is still going as strong as it ever went. It has been through one or two transmissions, and it sounds like there is a cat in agony in the steering column if you use the turn signals. I learned the hard way that if you don’t exercise the 4WD low periodically, something freezes up and then when you try to use it, something really expensive breaks. (In case you can’t tell, I’m not a mechanic.)

    They replaced an ’86 Cressida wagon when they bought the Explorer and a Pilot replaced the Explorer in ’05.

  • avatar
    Rev Junkie

    I just think the Explorer’s success shows the power marketing has on people. This hybrid of a pickup truck and a station wagon gave the Explorer the best of both worlds- wagon utility with pickup truck V8 power and durability. Perfect for a large family with a horse trailer or a boat, but pointless for anyone who lives in the ‘burbs with one kid and never has the tires see anything but pavement and never towing anything. The term “SUV” was brilliant, it’s a wagon, but it’s not called a wagon. Just like “crossover”, it’s a euphemism for a station wagon, without the station wagon stigma. Personally, I don’t see why buying a vehicle that suits your needs perfectly is worse than buying a vehicle that does more than you need it to just to avoid a stigma, but if everyone thought that way we wouldn’t need marketing buzzwords like “SUV” and “crossover”.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) issued a safety report in 2005, finding that Ford Explorer (the two-door, two-wheel drive models) made between 1999 – 2002 had the fourth highest rate of driver death of the 47 SUVs that were part of the study and in a study the year before, the Ford Explorer SportTrac received the worst rollover rating of any SUV tested.Ralph Nadar’s organization Public Citizen along with many consumer action groups are pushing NHTSA and Congress to recall the Ford Explorer. The problems with the Ford Explorer are just going to continue to increase as the fleet of these SUVs get older. As the suspension, springs, shocks, tires, linkage gets worn out and looser, the handling and stability of the Explorer will be even harder to control in emergency evasive manuevers and other everyday situations in which a tight responsive vehicle is required and expected. Further, Explorer lawsuits have been file in court alleging that the Ford Explorer roof is defective as the design creates a weak roof subject to severe roof crush or roof deformation in a rollover resulting in severe spinal cord injuries,neck fractures, head injuries, resulting in paralysis, brain damage and death.

    Here is the site http://www.fordexplorerrollover.com

    Excuse me 1996 Model is not on the list but I STILL WON’T RECOMMEND BUYING ANY EXPLORER MODEL.

    For the safety of the consumer.

  • avatar
    trk2

    As the suspension, springs, shocks, tires, linkage gets worn out and looser, the handling and stability of the Explorer will be even harder to control in emergency evasive manuevers and other everyday situations in which a tight responsive vehicle is required and expected.

    This is true of any vehicle.

    And you lost me as soon as you mentioned Nader.

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    I think the rollover problem was mostly due to the inherently tippy design of the vehicle, including high center of gravity relative and long travel soft suspension dynamics. While hitting absolutely nothing, an acquaintance of mine managed to roll one on a flat, four-lane highway dusted with snow. I can understand tripping over a curb while going sideways or while being done in by an undulating embankment at high speed, but on a flat snowy road?

  • avatar
    BDB

    “Perfect for a large family with a horse trailer or a boat,”

    If I fit that description, and it were the mid-90s, I’d pick an Aerostar over this.

    A RWD/AWD truck based minivan can do 90% of what an SUV does, and better.

  • avatar
    geeber

    BEAT, that site is maintained by plaintiff’s attorneys seeking clients, so it hardly an unbiased – let alone credible – source. These attorneys are shilling for business, not presenting the facts in an unbiased manner.

    Explorer rollover rates rank higher than any of it’s current competitors. A recent rollover study analysis of national and Florida crash statistics, the Ford Explorer, even when fitted with tires other than Firestone, has a higher rate of tire-related accidents than other sport utility vehicles. While Firestone turned out millions of sub-standard and potentially defective tires, and was the initial cause of loss of control many Ford Explorer Firestone tire tread separation rollovers, the blame has shifted toward Ford for a defectively designed and unstable vehicle .

    If the root source of the accident is still tire-related, it’s not because of the design of the vehicle. Basically, this quote is meaningless goobledygook designed to make the Explorer look bad to those who don’t bother to actually ponder what it means.

    And then there is this:

    The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) issued a safety report in 2005, finding that Ford Explorer (the two-door, two-wheel drive models) made between 1999 – 2002 had the fourth highest rate of driver death of the 47 SUVs that were part of the study and in a study the year before, the Ford Explorer SportTrac received the worst rollover rating of any SUV tested. (emphasis added)

    As per this site, the Explorer Sport only has the FOURTH highest rate of driver death – and this presumably includes deaths from all types of accidents (i.e., Explorer driver gets drunk and plows into a tree at 80 mph).

    Second, the models the excerpt specifically mentions – the two-door “Sport” models and the Explorer SportTrac models – are two very different models. The SportTrac is the four-door model with the pickup bed out back, while the Sport model is the two-door version of the regular Explorer. These have very different body designs and driving dynamics. To say that they display the same handling characteristics because they carry the same nameplate and front clip is a bit of a stretch.

    One thing they seem to have in common is ownership by young people. Who can be expected to drive more carelessly, and are less likely to wear safety belts. Which tells me that, instead of focusing on Explorers, we need to focus on who drives them.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    I don’t need to argue with you Geeber.

    Those lawyers won the law suit and you asked them not me. Creating a web site against Ford Roll over is asking for trouble. But if you read the news even Firestone CEO said that their own test showed that Ford Explorer rollovers are cost by the vehicle.

    I am not against Ford and I LOVE FORD. But I hate Ford Explorer but I love the Ford F-150

    Ask the people who died from the Rollover?

    Research the Law suit against Ford Rollover and majority of them won the law suit that’s a fact.

    Yes it is not the 1990 or 1996 Ford Explorer but it doesn’t mean that older models of Ford Explorer are more safer than the modern Explorer.

    Millions of dollars were awarded by Ford to victims of Ford Explorer rollover even poor Firestone has to pay those victims too.

    Will you buy a toy product from China that is contaminated with lead paint? of course NO?

    Will buy a SUV that has a history rolling over and killing people?
    of course the answer is NO again

  • avatar
    geeber

    Winning a product liability lawsuit isn’t always based on finding the truth. It is also based heavily on emotion, and what evidence the judge chooses to admit.

    The site presents snippets and figures that apply to different configurations of the vehicle, and attempts to label all Explorers as dangerous without presenting any solid facts.

    And I’m not surprised that the CEO of Firestone said that. Because the next target is the tire his company manufactured. He is hardly an unbiased source, either.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    TRK2 That is not True in any vehicle.

    I had a 1993 Honda Civic it had 250,000 miles on it. not a single screw or washer fell from my 93 Civic. If I can only show you the big dent on my 08 Lancer that a Nut came flying away from a FORD EXPLORER.

    What Nader is like Michael Moore? Oh please.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    So you mean that every Black Americans who are in Jail. Participated on heavy emotion from the prosecutor during trial so that’s why they are all in Jail?

    Solid facts?!!

    You mean those people who died from the Ford Explorer roll over are not sufficient facts that the Product is defective.

  • avatar
    trk2

    I had a 1993 Honda Civic it had 250,000 miles on it. not a single screw or washer fell from my 93 Civic. If I can only show you the big dent on my 08 Lancer that a Nut came flying away from a FORD EXPLORER.

    What Nader is like Michael Moore? Oh please.

    Beat, it is true that any vehicle will handle worse with age as the suspension components wear. Despite your anecdotal evidence (I’ve seen plenty of Honda Civics with mufflers falling off, but I’m not going to claim that Civic’s are scary), all you have shown is that the Ford Explorer Sport (the two door model which was sold in pittance quantities next to the four door)is the fourth highest rate of driver death. Your source for this data is hardly unbiased.

    And yes, Ralph Nader is a sensationalist who often has no idea of what he is talking about.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    So you mean you are better than Nader?

    At least this Nader is helping people NOT TO DIE from Ford Explorer Rollover and forcing Ford to make a safer product that doesn’t kill people

    While you insist that Ford Explorer are safe.

    Tell that to the 2 poster who commented about their friends driving the Explorer and to those people who are already dead and to those who are missing a back bone, a limb or fingers or brain dead from Ford Explorer Roll over.

    Yes my Japanese car is better and research more how many accident from 1992 to 2005 on Ford Explorer roll over.

    Found On the Road Dead products are not really bad Just the Explorer that made them bad.

  • avatar
    geeber

    BEAT: I had a 1993 Honda Civic it had 250,000 miles on it. not a single screw or washer fell from my 93 Civic. If I can only show you the big dent on my 08 Lancer that a Nut came flying away from a FORD EXPLORER.

    A car can hold together but still feel and drive differently after racking up the miles. Nuts and bolts don’t have to fly off of the car for it to handle differently.

    My 2003 Accord has 109,000 miles on it, and nothing has fallen off of it. But I’m willing to bet that it drives differently from when it was brand new. I just haven’t noticed because the change has been gradual over the past six years.

    Your anecdotal evidence of a nut flying from an Explorer is meaningless. Did you actually see it fall off of the Explorer? Did you watch it come loose and then fly off and hit your car? How was this vehicle maintained? Was it modified?

    This nut also could have been kicked up from the road by the Explorer.

    Sorry, but I’ve had stones, rocks, etc., hit my car, and it’s extremely difficult to tell exactly where it came from – especially something as small as a nut.

    BEAT: So you mean that every Black Americans who are in Jail. Participated on heavy emotion from the prosecutor during trial so that’s why they are all in Jail?

    The standards of evidence and burden of proof in a criminal trial are completely different from those in a civil trial. Compare apples to apples, please.

    BEAT: You mean those people who died from the Ford Explorer roll over are not sufficient facts that the Product is defective.

    The fact that a vehicle rolled over and people died in the accident is not sufficient, in and of itself, to prove that the vehicle is defective.

    BEAT: Yes my Japanese car is better and research more how many accident from 1992 to 2005 on Ford Explorer roll over.

    The Explorer – like all SUVs – has a higher center of gravity. So I would imagine that it is more likely to roll over than the typical Japanese (or American, or German, or Korean) compact sedan.

    What that proves is that SUVs cannot be driven in the same manner as a passenger car. Which is one reason I don’t want one. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that SUVs are dangerous.

  • avatar
    trk2

    I don’t insist that the Ford Explorer is safe. I’m stating that the Ford Explorer is not as dangerous as you believe or advocate. I do not believe it is a ‘deathtrap’ as other have called it. I do find it somewhat amusing that you have developed a arbitrary classification system that equates some cars as safe and other cars as dangerous. Your comments are clearly sensational and designed to provoke an emotional response. Since I have no desire to discuss this on an emotional level, I don’t think anything productive can come from future conversations on this topic.

  • avatar

    BEAT: you are beating a dead horse. And if you think Nader is in it for nothing more than someone’s safety, I have some prime beachfront real estate in Wyoming I’d like to sell you.

    I will never say any of the Explorer family is safe, but I question if its any worse than its peers of the same vintage. Ditto the Pinto: I wonder how many Corollas and Datsun 510s blew up when a 5000lb Caddy ran over them.

    And lawyers can justify anything, even if it doesn’t mean a damn thing. Look at this particular ruling:

    http://www.autoblog.com/2005/03/03/ford-loses-31-million-explorer-lawsuit/

    Don’t wear your seatbelt, blame the quality of glass and get $31 million from Ford? That’s the legal system for ya. (though I think this case was thrown out on appeal)

  • avatar
    VerbalKint

    I had a ’97 XLT, V6 w/ 4wd. It was absolutely reliable for me. Never had a any trouble with it. Really. Two warranty non-issues: a throttle body that was had a casting problem which never caused me a problem but was replaced anyway and the “lock’ on the underfloor storage was removed because somewhere in America some a-hole kid locked himself inside that tiny, shallow compartment. God only knows how he did it– he must have been the size of a starving Ethiopian.

    As far as handling, even when hustling around on-ramps it was very predictable– and that was with the mediocre F-stone tires.

    I believe the “rollover problem” was the result of this: Tire failed. Moron’s response: SLAM on the brakes. Throw the steering wheel over towards the road shoulder. When the suspension unloads throw the wheel over in the opposite direction. Repeat. Scream. File a lawsuit denying responsibility.

    I tossed around my 97 with no surprises. Ever. Smooth braking. Smooth steering inputs. Simple.

    My ’03 Eddie Bauer, however, is an unreliable, de-contented POS.

  • avatar

    I have a ’99 Eddie Bauer AWD version of this SUV and I agree with the review completely. The thing has had bullet-proof reliability, it’s honest in it’s mission, but the gas mileage and the ride quality leave a whole lot to be desired. The rear has started to sag and I’ve never towed a thing in it so who knows what the problem is. Still, I’ll probably drive it into the ground because it’s not worth much and it’s in fantastic shape.

  • avatar
    Durask

    I drove the 1995 (first year) for 6 years – thing was bulletproof and excellent.

    Then I went “upscale” to C-class Mercedes. Big mistake.

  • avatar
    partsisparts

    Being a Ford dealer in the 90s I had a lot of experience with these vehicles. They were good solid reliable transportation. The Country Squires of their day.
    The proof is look how many are still on the road today. You cannot get in your car without coming across one. And most of them still look good. Great vehicle.

  • avatar
    Mervich

    I had four of them…a ’93 Eddie Bauer, a ’94 Sport, a ’96 Eddie Bauer and a ’99 Eddie Bauer. They were all very reliable, nearly bullet proof, with only a few oddball glitches…mainly, the 4X4 on the ’93 was sometimes difficult to engage in very cold weather and the ’99 had a couple of initial quality problems. They all had one thing in common…lousy gas mileage! I finally broke down and sold the ’94 Sport a couple of years ago rather than see it rot in the driveway.

    Those who condemn the Explorer’s safety are the usual suspects…mostly, never owned one and heard about it somewhere on TV. I can tell ya this, the ’96 was T-boned on the passenger side by a Cherokee traveling at 50 mph…I walked away with a bruised butt…the Jeep driver didn’t fare quite as well. Lemme see ya do that in your Camry!

  • avatar
    charleywhiskey

    My wife and I were both very happy with our Explorer. It had to be the most reliable vehicle we’ve ever owned. Front and back seats were much more comfortable than those in the Grand Cherokee and it rode far better at high speeds due to the independent front suspension. One of the most surprising things about the Explorer was how easy it was to park because of the small turn radius.

  • avatar
    IC Turbo

    Sajeev,

    You may need to check your weights a bit. Unless it got lighter in the second gen, my 92 2 Door 4WD weighed just under two tons. The lightest was 3800ish for a 2 door RWD. Add ~200lbs each for 4 doors and 4WD so a total spread of 3800-4200lbs, and that’s with the V6. V8 should be even more.

    I’ll second the disappearing rocker comment. Mine spent its life in NY and CT and when I bought it in 2004 they were gone. Rear brake lines also rusted through and the e-4WD drive selector was busted. That was when I bought it. I fixed the 4WD, but despite siliconing both roof channels, and resealing the windshield, I could not fix the water leak at the headliner.

    Rolloverability? I never tested the handling because I didn’t have to since when you live in snow country, you have a winter beater and this was mine. I don’t know if it was designed or not, but check the front alignment of everyone of these. They all seem to have about 2-3 degrees of camber visually. Good for handling, makes it more likely to roll. I will say it was definately better than the Bronco II it replaced.

  • avatar
    mistrernee

    I’ve ended up driving a number of fleet owned Explorers for work, I hate them.

    All of the older ones (mid-late 90’s) have had automatic transmissions that took seconds to shift, 5+ if it was really cold out.

    They got hung up on everything if I tried to take them off road. Toyota 4Runners, Nissan Pathfinders/XTerra, Honda Civics, Dodge Caravans, Austin Minis, these are all vehicles more capable of going off road than the Ford Explorer.

    A newish one we have now, an 07, loves to get stuck in moderate snow and sounds like something is going to explode when you try and rock it back and forth. The 4 wheel drive and traction control systems are confusing. Spending 10 minutes reading the manual while stuck because the throttle keeps cutting out is always fun.

    The interiors look awful, are uncomfortable/cramped, and have terrible ergonomics. Pointy pokey bits are everywhere and anytime I get the seat where I want it the steering wheel is buried between my knees. The gear selector is oddly designed and doesn’t let you go into N from D without pushing the stupidly placed release button… oh, and what stops Ford from putting a “mist” button on the wiper/light stalk or an indicator to let you know if the cruise control is turned on? This on a vehicle that costs close to 50k Canadian MSRP? How about seperate stalks, one for lights and one for wipers, would that be so hard? Hell, GM managed to fit wipers, lights AND cruise all onto one stalk*, Ford should be able to figure it out.

    My memories of the inside of the late 90’s models have been erased, thankfully. I don’t remember being near as irritated by them though as far as the interior went, they just felt like they were going to die any second.

    I despise these things with every fibre of my being, the Chevy panel vans were more fun to drive and seemed better put together.

    Still, we ended up with a Dodge Nitro once when the Explorer was in the shop and I was VERY happy to get the Explorer back. So I guess it could be worse.

    *not saying this is a good idea or anything

  • avatar
    Cougar Red

    Pre-2002.5 Explorers with the solid rear axle are defective death traps. You could not pay me to drive one.

    After the modifications, they don’t roll over nearly as much.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    I’m shooting from memory here, but IIRC: One of the main points brought up during the rollover debacle was the ease in which you could overload the Explorer. As previously pointed out, the orginal design was basically Ranger. Adding the rear bodywork to enclose the vehicle added enough weight to reduce the payload. While the capacity in pounds was reduced, there was plenty of space which made it easy to overload. In fact, a Taurus wagon had quite a bit more (I think 500 lbs) carrying capacity, yet had much less volume within the vehicle. Couple chronic overloading, under inflated tires, high speed, so so tire quality, and a high center of gravity, you are looking at a perfect storm of events…

    I have several family members that have (or had) Explorers and they mostly have been reliable. Weak points were some under designed suspension components, the infamous rocker panel disappearing act, and one Explorer required a new transmission at 130,000 miles – too early in my book. They make great used vehicle choices, though I have to say they are not my cup of tea…

  • avatar

    @golden2husky:

    Just speaking as somebody who put two bikes in a Ford demo every weekend and headed to the BMX track… a Taurus wagon had a fair amount more loadspace than an Explorer.

    I made it my personal mission in the second half of 1995 to show every Explorer “intender” a Taurus wagon. My conversion rate was about 1 in 15, but I believed that many Explorer customers would be happier in a quieter, more spacious, more fuel-efficient, faster vehicle. Alas, most of them just wanted what their neighbors had.

    Still, that old Explorer was a good truck. The safety aspects of it aren’t really worth discussing from my perspective; if you kept your Explorer on decent tires you never had an issue, period.

  • avatar
    RC61944505

    I’m sorry but when you get into an Explorer, it clearly states on the sun visor and owners manual that any abrupt maneuvers performed can cause a rollover. So to me, it seems that Ford gave these people fair warning and they continued to drive them knowing the risk. So I think that it is these people’s faults for listening to the warnings. Also, BEAT, if you want to talk about your Civic being safer than the explorer, how do think the Civic would hold up against an Explorer in a head on crash. Then lets see which car is safer.

  • avatar

    IC Turbo : You may need to check your weights a bit. Unless it got lighter in the second gen, my 92 2 Door 4WD weighed just under two tons. The lightest was 3800ish for a 2 door RWD. Add ~200lbs each for 4 doors and 4WD so a total spread of 3800-4200lbs, and that’s with the V6. V8 should be even more.

    You are probably right. When I googled “1996 Ford Explorer Curb Weight” the same specs show up on many, many different generic car websites: 1752 kilograms which equals 3862 pounds. Not sure if the aluminum headed SOHC V6 is much lighter than pushrod 5.0, but a 5.0 AWD 4-door is closer to your 4200lb estimate.

  • avatar
    Kman

    Justin,

    With due solemn respect for the event, how do you link Sept 11th to Ford’s (almost) demise? I’m not sure I see the direc link.

    Plus I’m reacting because I’m cautious about any explanations for the Big 3’s troubles that don’t place

    1. POOR PRODUCT

    at the top of the list of reasons. (Also reasons 2-8)

  • avatar
    Copy Chef

    I am honored and priveleged to own a ’99 Explorer Sport with over 100K on the odometer which runs like a sewing machine. I live in Idaho (where we actually use 4WD and eschew blingy rims on “SUVs”), so it goes camping with the Boy Scouts, fishing in 3 Rocky Mountain states, and gets me up and down the deer hill every opening day. My 12-year-old Tenderfoot is learning to drive in it when we go squirrel hunting in the desert (the most fun you can have with a .22). And it gets 21 mpg on the highway. The Tenderfoot wants it when he gets old enough to drive, and by Gar it’ll probably be running still.

    Previous to this I had a ’96 4-door Explorer that we put over 130K on, and it ran great the day we traded it. Alas, we traded for an ’06 Trailblazer that was a true POS. And then got talked into trading that less than a year later on an ’07 Trailblazer (better car, but I’d love for a tree to fall on it so I could use the insurance money to pick up an ’04 Explorer NBX). Ford was the only one of the Big 3 that didn’t ask for bailout money, and their products are the most forward-thinking of the American offerings. So do yourself a favor and pick up one of these Explorers used while they’re still out there in good shape. Unless you want to show up for opening day in your shiny new Dongfeng.

    Here’s a quick American 4WD history lesson for the writer of this piece: The original “SUV” was the post-WWII Willys Jeep, followed by the old square Ford Bronco, then the Chevy Blazer and Suburban, and the original Toyota Landcrusher. When Chrysler offered 0% financing in he ’80s, the 4-cylinder Cherokee became the Bic lighter of 4WDs, and today the new “Grand” Cherokee is a bloated, gas-guzzling couch of a vehicle with no cargo space. The current Trailblazer will go down in history as the vehicle that sank GM. So if you’re in the market for a new SUV that’ll get you there and back and you’re a patriotic American who puts his/her money where your mouth is, drive a Ford.

    Selah.

    P.S. – Anyone who gets in an SUV and attempts to drive it like a sports sedan is an a-hole, which is the cause of 99% of these accidents. Drive a truck like a truck – and consider all mid and full-size SUVs trucks.

  • avatar

    I guess principle is no longer a part of the English language. Why would anyone buy a car model from a car company that intentially covered up the safety issues related to the Ford Explorer ever again?

    I love the arguement presented that it said on the sun visor that it could be dangerous to make quick manuvers in the Exploder. I guess I should put a sign on the front of my car saying I am not responsible for anyone I run over!!!! That covers me. NOT!!!!

    You can argue all you want but the Explorer had an unusually high roll over rate. And, it was not because everyone that drove one was a maniac on wheels.

    Such short sitedness and lack of principle pretty much sums up why America is where it is today, on the downslide shopping at WalMart!!!

  • avatar
    Cougar Red

    RC61944505: I’m sorry but when you get into an Explorer, it clearly states on the sun visor and owners manual that any abrupt maneuvers performed can cause a rollover. So to me, it seems that Ford gave these people fair warning and they continued to drive them knowing the risk. So I think that it is these people’s faults for listening to the warnings.

    NHTSA required that visor warning beginning in 1999. Pre-1999 Explorers don’t have it.

    And you are right that driver error plays a role in rollovers. The vast majority of drivers are able to control their vehicles after a tire disablement.

    However, the vast majority of vehicles do not become so violently oversteer in the case of a rear tire disablement as the pre-2002.5 Explorers.

    It’s a simple fact that Explorers built after 2002 with an independent rear suspension and other safety modifications do not roll over with nearly as much frequency as their predecessors.

    I see no reason EVER to own or drive a pre-2002 Explorer. Here’s a link to IIHS driver death rates per million vehicle miles for 1994-2004 model cars and trucks:

    http://www.informedforlife.org/demos/FCKeditor/UserFiles/File/DEathRatescombined1994to2004deathorder.pdf

    If you want an SUV from that era, there are several good choices with driver death rates 4 to 10 times better than various Explorer models.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    I worked with a lady, a chemist with a master’s degree, who when she bought a SUV, was absolutely amazed when I told her that of course a vehicle that is taller can be rolled more easily than one that is quite low to the ground. This hadn’t occurred to her at all.

    Imho this ignorance of physics on the part of the general public is the reason for the warning on the Explorer’s sun visor: This tall truck is easier to roll than your Taurus was. That still doesn’t mean that every time you drive on the freeway you can expect to see an Explorer on its top in the median.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    In a lot of ways the current Explorer is the ultimate, addressing the weak spots of the car’s heyday.

    I’d hazard that the Taurus X/Freestyle does an even better job of that.

    I looked at both, and unless you have a burning need to tow something heavy, the Freestyle kicked the Explorer’s ass six ways from Sunday: handing, ride, comfort, materials. Why it didn’t sell is beyond me.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Here’s a quick American 4WD history lesson for the writer of this piece: The original “SUV” was the post-WWII Willys Jeep, followed by the old square Ford Bronco, then the Chevy Blazer and Suburban, and the original Toyota Landcrusher. When Chrysler offered 0% financing in he ’80s, the 4-cylinder Cherokee became the Bic lighter of 4WDs, and today the new “Grand” Cherokee is a bloated, gas-guzzling couch of a vehicle with no cargo space.…

    Might want to include the International Harvester Scout/II in that history lesson…

  • avatar
    texan01

    I currently own a ’95 Explorer XLT that has 242,000 miles on it. It’s an awful commuter car due to the truck underpinnings but a great highway cruiser. the front seats are very supportive and it’s pretty quiet at speed. I’ve lowered mine an inch which seems to take a lot of the tippyness out of it.

    The handling is surprisingly well balanced if you dare to drive it hard. It’s very predictable at the limit which isn’t very high. I have learned to keep the tire pressures around 32 psi in all 4 tires as it’s VERY sensitive to tire pressure. Found out one day when driving it on the highway after getting 2 new tires on the rear, the tire shop inflated them to 25 psi instead of 32 like I asked them, had a guy cut me off, I haul over on the wheel at 55mph and wind up putting the Explorer into a 360 degree spin. It felt less likely to roll than my low-slung ’76 Chevelle in that manuver. Otherwise I drive it with indifference as I drive the contour.

    Reliability on the forums seems to be a hit-or-miss, I must have one of the ones that was put together right as it went 229,000 miles on it;s original transmission, though it’s got an appetite for radiators and heater cores and routinely eats one every 2 years.

    Squeaks and rattles are still few and relegated to the cargo area, had one up front but it turned out to be a loose bracket that i had neglected to tighten up completely last time I took it off.

    The times I have taken it off road (it’s a 2wd model) it’s never gotten stuck even in soft sand or mud. You just have to watch your path and use sense. the newer IRS models are less comptent off road than the 1st and 2nd gen models.

    I’ve used it to pull logs, push down weeds to clear a path, haul engines, tow trailers, move my dorm room when I was in college. This week was moving servers and racks for the office.

    Mine gets used/abused and put away but it always keeps going.

    But. Ford did cheapen out on a lot of it’s design. It is a short bed, standard cab Ranger under the skin and it has a lot of stupid engineering in it. like using the same frame for 2wd and 4wd models, I can understand the cost savings, but you can lower the 2wd models quite a bit or lower the driveline quite a bit and reduce the top-heavy feel. the suspension design has no roll control designed into it, so you stomp on the reasonably powerful brakes it noses into the pavement, unloading the rear wheels. the leaf spring rear while functional has no inherent control in it so you get wheel-hop on hard acceleration (yeah I know it’s an oxymoron when talking about a 160hp OHV v6) Ford added a 3rd shock on the pinion but noone’s figured out what it’s supposed to do. I’ve never replaced mine and I’ve not noticed any difference in the ride/handling.

  • avatar
    trk2

    NHTSA required that visor warning beginning in 1999. Pre-1999 Explorers don’t have it.

    I hate to be the Explorer defender because I actually am ambivalent to the vehicle but this statement is 100% WRONG. All Explorers had the warning on the visor just like the Bronco II had the warning on the visor before that. Don’t believe me and go look at Ebay photos of 1990 explorers and there is a warning right on the visor.

    Quickly, here are the reasons why I feel it is irresponsible to run around screaming that Explorers are deathtraps.

    From the links provided earlier by Explorer detractors:

    1) The four door Explorer 1995-2002 (the model reviewed) is in the best (fewest rate of fatalities) 40% for vehicle death rates. As safe as 99-02 Toyota Camry and safer then various jetta’s, maxima’s and accords. So for the record, the FOUR DOOR EXPLORERS ARE ‘SAFE’. The Explorer reviewed is safer then most of the vehicles on the road. The four door variant sold much more then the two door (I looked for hard numbers but couldn’t find any, I remember the breakdown being around 80/20)

    2) The two door 4wd Explorer don’t have the best rating but they are far from the worst. Rated at “near average” (95-97) and worst 25% (99-02). These vehicles are still rated higher then other vehicles that don’t garner as much negative press such as Tacoma’s, Tercel’s, Grand Am’s, Escorts, Blazers, and Sunfires.

    3) The lowest rated (worst 10%) Explorers happen to be the 2 door, 2wd models which ALSO HAPPEN TO BE SOLD IN THE SMALLEST VOLUME. So don’t buy the 2 door 2wd version.

    4) Why the Ford Explorer is ACTUALLY SAFER then all the statistics listed above: It’s very simple. Some % of those deaths were related to the failure of Firestone tires. I have no idea how much or how little and neither does anyone else. Regardless, defective Firestone tires cause some % of accidents which resulted in some % of deaths. Therefore the Explorer numbers have been weighted been Firestone and do not reflect the true safety of the vehicle.

    The most common Explorer happens to be relatively ‘safe’ and in my opinion suffers from sensationalist press and the scare tactics of trial lawyers.

  • avatar

    Just to prove the point, my 1996 tester has the warning label on the visor. It has words describing how unsafe this vehicle can be. Or is.

    SUVs from the current millenia have a more graphic warning label with a picture of a generic SUV tipping over, because people in this country don’t understand something if you don’t s-p-e-l-l i-t o-u-t for them.

    You can’t protect people from what they want, and trial lawyers are ready for the feast. Brilliant.

  • avatar
    IC Turbo

    To reiterate points made above. Both my 1992 Explorer and 1987 Bronco II both had sunvisor warnings of rollovers. The Explorer even had an additional one on the driver’s door jam, and the in BII owner’s manual. Both were 4x4s and specifically mentioned the 4×4 components as reasons for being prone to rollover, so I don’t know if was on the 2wd versions. Personally, the 4×4 components should make it less likely to roll since it was weight added low in the chassis. I never understood how people could sue with these warnings in CLEAR view of the driver.

  • avatar

    Agreed about the AWD and being safer than the alternative. The 2WD models were Drift Kings in wet weather, with limited slip differentials and no active handling.

    I wonder how many of the rollover cases in these trucks were in 2WD models.

    Even my Mom went a little sideways in a 2WD Mountaineer once. And that’s saying something.

  • avatar
    highrpm

    I must be in the minority here, but I like the trucky ride of these types of SUVs. For example, I liked the truck-based Expedition much better before they went to a full independent suspension in 2003. I like the way a Grand Cherokee rides compared to a Highlander. I like the old-school Cherokee.

    To me, that’s how SUV trucks should drive. If I want a “car” feel, I can buy an Audi wagon and get better cornering and fuel economy to boot.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    TRK2. Explain everything you can I still believe that Ford Explorer are not safe.
    Defend Ford Explorer. I don’t care. You so lala land

    It is not a safe product.

    It seems that you drove every single Ford Explorer since 1992. Are you really Proud serious about an SUV that killed or will kill people.

    It seems that TTAC readers only cared about them self. Telling the truth is what this web site means

    Ya I saw another one yesterday your beloved Ford Explorer front tires separated fell off hitting another incoming car. If TTAC allow to post pictures I will take a pictures of every single Ford Explorer accident on Interstate 93,95 and Route 3 and 9

    Yes blame the people who died from the Ford Explorer roll over.
    I hate selfish people.

  • avatar
    RC61944505

    BEAT: If you really want to talk about a dangerous SUV from that time, then look at the Chevy Blazer. The Blazer got a 2-star rollover rating just like the explorer, but then you look at iihs crash test for the Blazer it got a poor rating while the Explorer got an acceptable rating. Also, just like guns, its not the Explorer killing people, its people killing people. First, no one tells these people that they have to drive these vehicles and if they do drive the Explorer there is a warning telling you about the vehicles tendency to rollover with abrupt or sudden maneuvers. When one decides to act like its a sports car then the vehicles will roll. So its not like the Explorer its the Explorer (not talking about tire blowouts) is jerking the wheel and then rolling its the person doing it. So the Explorer can be a safe vehicle if its driven like its made to be driven.

  • avatar
    davey49

    My brother has a 96 Explorer with the V6. It’s pretty slow but the seats are comfortable. It’s got a 180K miles or so. He’s never had an issue with the tires but he always runs higher pressures.
    The Scout and original Bronco are not SUVS, they are both too small to have any utility.

  • avatar

    davey49 : The Scout and original Bronco are not SUVS, they are both too small to have any utility.

    Yeah, good point. Even the advertisements (that I see on eBay) for those vehicles were not aimed at suburban families. Station wagons were acceptable back then.

    I’d have to go with the Cherokee being the creator of this segment. And (nerd alert!) the Jeep Cherokee was the DOS to the Explorer’s MS/DOS.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    davey49 : The Scout and original Bronco are not SUVS, they are both too small to have any utility.

    Yeah, good point. Even the advertisements (that I see on eBay) for those vehicles were not aimed at suburban families. Station wagons were acceptable back then…

    Huh? Before the term SUV was coined, 4WD vehicles were used by hunters/outdoorsmen/sportsmen. They were not aimed at “families.” Yes the station wagon of the day was the kidmobile. But they were still the original “SUV”; they just had a different focus.

  • avatar

    golden2husky : Huh? Before the term SUV was coined, 4WD vehicles were used by hunters/outdoorsmen/sportsmen. But they were still the original “SUV”; they just had a different focus.

    I believe we are in agreement. SUV was a marketing term from the late 90s to reflect the new type of vehicle that was taking mainstream families by storm….and nothing more IMO.

    Calling the old 4WDs of the 60s and 70s an “SUV” is kind of an insult, no?

  • avatar

    Our 105K mile 1996 AWD Explorer has had Michelins since before the tire saga. I tend to keep the inflation on them in the mid-30 psi range. There’s no arguing that my sofa handles better than the Exploder (not mispelled), but it’s paid for and too reliable to get rid of. Besides every family likes to have a car that you can toss whatever inside and not worry about damaging anything.

  • avatar
    Accords

    Hmmmm
    THE EXPLODER wasnt designed for you to throw needless shit into the back of it.

    It wasnt designed for Besty Wetsy to drive to the market. It also wasnt designed for her bf to drive one to work and back.. EMPTY.

    It wasnt designed to take emergency cornering / handling manuervers.

    It wasnt designed by FORD AND or approved by the MILITARY.

    it wasnt designed to handle properly.

    It wasnt designed to ride comfortably.

    It wasnt designed to be a commuter.

    It was designed for outdoor people hunters / sportsmen / fishermen as a original alternative against the GC.

    The purpose of the independant rear sus is to cancel out the effects of the poor riding suspension and the tendency BUILT AND DESIGNED INTO THE VEHICLE FROM DAY ONE.. to be top heavy, ttipsy to handle like a rough hewn truck!

    Not some jacked wagon that ya can toss ya children into.

    It wasnt designed to take a corner, it wasnt designed to handle a emergency situation.

    This car.. wasnt designed to handle basic needs and or situations that a Camry / Malibu or any other CAR could easily perform.

    It was designed to fatten FORD’s books from day one. They created this top heavy Exploding POS in ’85 by taking the Ranger frame, with a cap and stuffing / cramming two extra doors onto the vehicle. It was tested to roll over.. and it did. It was tested to sit on its roof.. and the roof crushed under its own weight.

    This vehicle…
    Wasnt designed to hold its own weight as told by the govt to be able to support its own weight when rolled over.

    It wasnt designed to be light weight or to even save anyones life when placed in this damn deth trap.

    It wasnt designed.. well… at all.

    As for vehicle stability control…

    ITS UP TO YOU.. TO CHOOSE to drive a vehicle that you can ADEQUATELY CONTROL without the need of a system that does it for you. Indicating the vehicle is unable to be under your own control.

    This very system…
    Vehicle stability control, or any device with the ability to alter a vehicle’s control by a computer selecting sensors activating and or correcting control problems in a wheel.. removing it from uncontrolability…

    IS A PROBLEM.

    And ever since the 01 Firestone debacle…
    it is now standard on all vehicles..

    Because of the INABILITY of FORD or ITS CUSTOMERS to operate and or design a vehicle that can save it and your ass!

    In short…
    Stay away from it.

  • avatar
    Copy Chef

    A vehicle, like a firearm, is only as safe as the operator. A few years ago there were numbskulls who wanted to sue Smith & Wesson because people shot each other with their products. If you want to be wrapped in cushy no-brainer automotive safety, buy a Volvo. No, Explorers don’t handle like sports sedans. That’s because they’re NOT sports sedans. They’re basically TRUCKS. If you drive them APPROPRIATELY, you won’t end up in the DITCH. Is that CLEAR???

    My years as an outdoorsman have taught me that a growing segment of the US population has neither the skills, ethics, nor desire to get off a paved road — on foot or in a vehicle. But if you want to go there and come back in one piece, you need to UNDERSTAND THE LIMITATIONS OF YOUR VEHICLE. 4WD does NOT make one invincible, nor do big knobby tires. They give you some added traction, but on the whole, you can either navigate the trails or you can’t – which comes down to time in the saddle. And if you can’t, stay home and bore your metrosexual neibhbors around the cul de sac with how great the gas mileage is with your Prius.

    But don’t put down a vehicle that has a better handle on the outback than you do, OK? Grow up. If you want to drive 95 and pretend you’re on the Autobahn (legal limit even in our wide open Western states is 75 max), get a sports car. If you want to haul a bunch of larvae to soccer games and lug home mass quantities of alimentary paste from Costco, get a minivan. But don’t put down a vehicle that in the right hands is an incredible tool for exploring (hence the name) jeep trails, logging roads, forest service roads, and other semi-wild places.

    Maybe it ain’t the girl for you. Maybe that’s OK, sport.

  • avatar
    Clutchless

    I have a 1995 Explorer XLT with 120,000 miles that drives great. It is fully loaded and I agree about the seats. Engine and transmission run great thanks to Mobil 1. I have aftermarket antisway bars from Explorer Express, they call it the California Highway Patrol package, much stiffer than stock and they greatly reduced body roll, improved steering turn in and handling. I recently installed Bilstein shocks to replace worn out Edelbrock shocks (which were also good, but rode stiffer), which lasted 7 years after I used them to replace the mush factory shocks at 50,000 miles. The ride is firm but better than stock, the handling confidence inspiring at 90 mph with the Michelin LTX tires and although the 4.0 V6 is low on horsepower, it has gobs of torque and is fun to drive for an SUV. The Borla exhaust added a few horsepower and makes it sound like a Corvette when you stomp on the gas. I keep it around to haul stuff and for the occasional snow storm. The mileage is okay and comparable to anything new that would cost much more to replace rather than keep this running until something major breaks.

  • avatar
    qtip

    I too have a 2nd gen Exploder, in fact I have owned it since new (It’s a 1998) and have put 215000 hard miles on it. It has performed admirably through snow storms, misguided off-road adventures and endless trailer towing. I have gone through many cars since getting the Ford, a 2001 Honda Accord, a (short lived) stint with a Ford Escape which ended when a gravel truck decided it wanted to park where my Escape was parked. I now Drive a 2009 RX-8 R3 daily and my better half drives a 2008 Cobalt SS/TC. The RX-8 is the first car that I can honestly say I love as much as my truck.

    Sure it rides rough, handles like a fat kid on a hurdles course is loud and thanks to it’s 4 inch lift and 33inch tires is more tipsy than ever. The truth is that this vehicle in the hands of a cautious driver with a level of mechanical empathy will last forever and inspire pride every time you look at it. My best friend recently got a 2006 Explorer Eddie Bauer and I can honestly say I would take mine over his day in and day out. The solid rear axle is bulletproof, the power steering pump whines like a banshee to let me know its still working and I have pulled much larger vehicles out of mud holes on a regular basis (even with the crappy AWD system).

    Like you say, it doesn’t try to be tough it just is. Like a veteran of the Second World War it quietly goes about its business, as simple as it is, while laughing at all the young try-hards that have the technology to do wonders but not the balls.

  • avatar
    roverman

    I have a 1996 Limited model, 2WD V6. My parents bought it in late ’99 or early 2000. They used it until 2004, then it sat until this year. I have now driven it 1500 miles or so. It runs great, has 135k on it, and had nearly bullet-proof reliability in the years my parents drove it.

    Some earlier statements are not correct. The Explorers with a solid rear axle and body-on-frame are fine for commuting and daily-driving. The reason the ride isn’t great is due to the rear leaf springs, a very primitive design. Some Explorers had rear air suspension springs, this may have helped. A body-on-frame SUV with a solid axle usually is safer than a unibody SUV–the frame helping to maintain structural integrity and protect the fuel tank.

    Even 4WD Explorers have little off-road ability. They have relatively little suspension travel, limited clearance, a light-duty and relatively unsophisticated 4WD system, etc. The ‘frame’ is an unenclosed C-channel rail, not a fully-boxed frame.

    My parents have had 4 Land Rovers since the Explorer: a first generation Range Rover, a second generation Range Rover, a second generation Discovery II, and currently a V8 LR3. All of these Land Rovers (except LR3) had a solid front AND rear axle, and they all outhandled and out-rode the Explorer. The LR3 outhandles them all with 4-wheel independent suspension (a la the current Explorer / Expedition) but unlike those new Fords the LR3 has excellent off-road capabilities thanks to cross-linked air springs on all four corners. All of the Rovers had / have a fully-enclosed steel frame, and even the earliest Range Rover had 4 coil springs. (Maybe Ford could have learned something during their tenure as the owner of Land Rover since 2000). Still, those Rovers cost thousands to maintain and a lot more to buy than an Explorer.

    I generally like my hand-me-down Explorer. The seats are awful (the driver’s has slightly caved in) and so is the ride, but it runs very well. I like the styling, I like the quick steering (in town only) and I like Fords. Driven carefully, I won’t roll it over.

  • avatar
    Shooter04

    My very first car was a 1996 Ford Explorer “Eddie Bauer” edition. She had 232,000 miles on her and still ran strong. My family owned that car all the way from 1996 when my parents bought it up until last year when it was finally time to part with her. The only problem, and I mean the ONLY problem we had was the AC system. Around 100,000 miles she just never seemed to stay working without pumping it up with free-on every month.

    Other than that I’ll say it was a fine SUV and I would definitely buy again when i have a family of my own.

  • avatar
    Accords

    Roverman:
    In case you missed the entire debacle that has LITERALLY surrounded Ford for the past DECADE involving the Explorer issue.

    The vehicle has literally a dozen known flaws that could lead to the end of the life of the driver, during basic driving maneuvers.

    1. It wasn’t designed to be.. “family vehicle.” It wasn’t designed to save you in a standard emergency maneuver. It couldnt take a dirt trail.. for due to its low design.. often without gearing and or its high center of gravity.

    2. Its tires and body-on-frame were designed out of cheap necessity to build the cheapest most gutless DOMESTIC POS that could be built.. while still using the Ford Ranger frame.. that dates back to the late 70s.

    3. Ford LITERALLY took the frame of the Ranger.. added a set of doors and a cap.. and added about 10g. They didn’t roll the vehicle over to take care of roof safety. They didnt do anything about the engineering 101 grade design.. long NARROW body.. doesn’t do well in standard avoidance maneuvers.

    4. Only to make matters worse.. are the Firestone Wilderness XT tires that came with the vehicle.. weren’t inflated properly, that ended a LONG PUBLIC FAMILY relationship with Firestone and their tires.

    5. And each and everyone of the thousands of people who died in the rollovers.. could have totally been prevented, If Ford gave a shit..

    SO.. after 2000… the govt mandated that a BANDAID be used on every vehicle of this inherent design, that bandaid is the Tire Pressure Monitoring System that tells the driver the air pressure for each individual tire.

    Inaddition to ADVANCETRAC WITH ROLL STABILITY CONTROL. Standard Ford branded stability control.. and a gyroscope to make sure the vehicle doesnt lift upon a low specified degrees.

    Inaddition to..
    Changing the frame from a Body On frame with Leaf Springs.. to a WIDER body on frame.. with an EXPENSIVE shock and strut system out back. Followed in a yr or two from now.. a new version.. including a unit body with more bells and whistles to shake a stick at.

    The Explorer and every OTHER SINGLE vehicle JUST LIKE IT.. isn’t designed to hold anyone safely and or comfortably.

    It doesn’t matter… in the least “how comfortable” you may be. or the standard “problems that normal 3 box based cars might have. Explorer.. is a vehicle that I wouldn’t put my worst most hated enemy behind the wheel.

    Its unsafe.

  • avatar
    Shooter04

    Accords,

    I respect your opinion and I can not argue with your facts but in my experience with my 1996 explorer, which my family owned all 13 years, it was a fine vehicle. My parents drove it, then they gave it to my sister for her first car, then when the time came it was my first car. As stated above the only problem we had was the AC. It just wasn’t very good.

    Granted my family never rolled it, wrecked it, and the tires were fine so we never experienced some of the problems you stated. Just as some cars are “bad lemons”, maybe my family was lucky and got a “good gold brick” or something equivalent (that was a joke…funnier in person I suppose haha).

    Although I must argue with one of your statements from above, you said it does not hold anyone comfortably. I’ll tell you that thing had PLENTY of leg and head room. I am 6′ 4″ and I fit just fine. Rear seats too.

    Just wondering, what are your viewpoints on the newer Explorers? Say..2009?

  • avatar
    Accords

    Shooter:

    The newest Exploders are in a market dominated by CUVS = body on frame vehicles.

    It itself has competition from the Edge and or the Escape. Both within about 3-500lbs of its curb weight.

    In essense..
    You couldnt drag my rotting melting corpse into one of those death traps.

    Then again..
    There isnt a CUV / SUV that you could get me into without extreme force.

    And just think about what you just said.
    “”Granted my family never rolled it, wrecked it, and the tires were fine so we never experienced some of the problems you stated. Just as some cars are “bad lemons”, maybe my family was lucky and got a “good gold brick” or something equivalent (that was a joke…funnier in person I suppose haha).” So youd ACTUALLY have to lose someone in that death trap.. before you think its a bad vehicle.

    Im sure you can look online for the horrible pictures of the people who believed FORD was selling a top notch vehicle. For proof that some didnt just get some “bad lemon”.

    And it doesn’t actually matter.. if you respect my opinion or not. I’m sure you can search the internet for the stacks of claims against Ford for problems relating to the Explorer.. and it rolling over.

    If you actually think that you are comfortable in a vehicle that wasnt designed properly but that you have enough headroom…

    Then so be it. Its your choice.

  • avatar
    Copy Chef

    Accords:

    Do you call yourself that because you deem Honda products to be the pinnacle of automotive design – like every other sheep who reads “Consumer Reports” while diddling his laptop in Starbuck’s?

    My faithful ’99 Explorer Sport just took my 12-year-old and I up into the Idaho mountains to bag his first buck last weekend (and me up by myself to fill my doe tag 2 days later). We actually spend time in the saddle using the 4Low, so we know from where we speak. Our valiant little Explorer never gets stuck, never bottoms out, and gets us there and back safely and comfortably. So before you go shooting your opinionated delitante mouth off about something you have absoloutely no concrete, real-world experience with, why don’t you stick to reviewing the cupholder placement in foreign econoboxes and leave the off-roading to those of us who actually have the skill, experience, and equipment to do it.

    Any vehicle is only as safe as the nut behind the wheel. Driving a Honda to and from your cubicle in rush hour traffic probably requires a certain set of gerbil-like skills that you have undoubtedly polished to a high gloss. Personally, I wouldn’t own a clown car, but if that’s what flips your skirt up Barbie, go for it. It’s a free country – or at least it was up until recently.

  • avatar
    Shooter04

    Accords,

    I’m not trying to start an argument here, I am just stating my personal experience with this particular year and model vehicle. As I have stated, it served my family very well.

    And as for rollovers which seem to be your biggest concern…to roll an SUV or any other top heavy vehicle you need to be driving erratically. A vehicle doesn’t just roll over in a ditch if your driving safe, it takes an idiot cutting lanes and running lights to do that. The Firestone tires may be to blame, but as with most vehicles…who keeps stock tires anyways?

    Heck, I drive a lifted F250 (6″ lift with 35″ tires) which is most definitely more prone to rollovers than my old Explorer, and I do just fine. I take corners slow, accelerate properly, and when off-road I only take inclines at angles I know I won’t roll. With vehicles my size…It’s all about enjoying the ride.

    Something I presume you can not do in your ricer. Until you pull up to an intersection and have people looking UP to you, giving you the thumbs-up when you roll coal, then you can’t really complain.

    One of my ex-girlfriends drove an Accord actually and quite frankly, I didn’t like it. Sure it was quiet, the ride was like i was on a cloud, and the sound system was nice but…It’s just not my “cup-o-tea”.

    I like sitting high, I like rough suspension, and I like me engines loud. Just my preference. Guess it comes with being raised in the south haha.

    -Shooter04


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