FORD Explorer Models/Series Timeline, Specifications & Photos

Generations: 6
First production year: 2003
Engines: Gasoline, Hybrid gasoline
Body style: SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle)
FORD Explorer photo gallery

Ford refreshed the sixth generation of the Explorer SUV in early 2024, five years after the model’s introduction, and the 2025 model year came with significant changes.

The Explorer was the all-time best-selling SUV in America when Ford launched the facelift for the sixth generation of it in early 2024 for the 2025 model year. Even though the car was appreciated by customers, the automaker knew that it needed some upgrades. Moreover, it simplified the lineup by reducing the grades from seven to four. Also, it added more standard features to the car. Ford hoped these changes could keep customers coming and asking for this three-row SUV.

At the front, the 2025 Explorer featured different grilles, depending on the grade. The ST and the ST line sported a black color with red badges on it. At the same time, the Platinum version was spoiled with a decoration that mixed chromed and black elements in a honeycomb pattern. All versions had similar-looking lower bumpers with a slim and wide air intake at the bottom flanked by side scoops that housed the fog lamps.

From its profile, the cab-rearward design of the Explorer was characteristic of a vehicle based on a rear-wheel drive platform. Ford emphasized that with a slightly sloped down roof line and an ascending waistline. The automaker also tried to create a rugged appearance for the Explorer by adorning the wheel arches with black moldings. For the ST and the ST line versions, the vehicle had specific badges mounted on the sides and on the tailgate, while the Active (base model) and the Platinum grades didn’t.

While the exterior didn’t look too much different from its predecessor, the interior was drastically refreshed. First, it had a new dashboard that was pushed forward to create a roomier area for the front passengers. Atop the center stack was a landscape-oriented 13.2-inch touchscreen for the infotainment system, while in front of the driver was a standard 12.3-inch LCD instrument cluster for the entire range. Both screens were controlled by the same computer so the driver could transfer the information from one screen to the other. The 2025 Explorer was the first to integrate the Ford Digital Experience, which connected Google accounts with the car, so all the preferences regarding music, apps, and locations were synchronized. Besides the technological upgrades, the SUV also boasted higher quality materials than its predecessors. On the downside, the rearmost row of seats couldn’t provide enough room for adult-sized passengers.

Under the hood, Ford installed its 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine carried over from the previous generation, and it paired it with a standard ten-speed automatic transmission that sent power in all corners. The ST grade, on the other hand, became not just the most expensive in the range but also the most powerful since it was the only one available with the 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 that sent 300 hp (304 PS) to the wheels.

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FORD Explorer photo gallery

The sixth generation of the Ford Explorer was launched at the North American Motor Show in 2019 and it shared its platform with the Lincoln Aviator. It represented the return to the RWD platform.

The original Ford Explorer was launched in 1991 and it replaced the two-door Bronco II model. Its name came from a trim-package used for the F-Series between 1967 and 1986. Over time, it evolved into a mid-size crossover SUV. It was equipped with the Ford Co-Pilot360 system that included automatic emergency braking, pre-collision assist, Lane-Keep System, blind-spot monitor, and cross-traffic alert.

The big, mesh-grille on the front with flash-mounted headlights were part of a sporty look of the vehicle. A big air-dam was on the apron, which helps to cool the engine. While the first generation of the Explorer was a true offroad vehicle, with low-range gear and body-on-frame structure, the 2020 model featured a unibody construction, which was lighter and improved the fuel-efficiency.

Inside, the car featured a hi-tech approach, with a TFT instrument cluster and an infotainment display on top of the center stack. There were two displays in the options list: an 8” landscape-type and a 10” portrait-type. The Explorer was available with three seat rows, with the middle ones offered with reclining and sliding function.

Under the hood, the Explorer could receive a choice of engines ranged between an inline-four up to a twin-turbo V6. It was available as a hybrid or plug-in hybrid as well.

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hybrid gasoline engines:

FORD Explorer 3.3L 10AT (318 HP)

FORD Explorer photo gallery

The Ford Explorer released in 2015 was among the top choices on the large SUV segment. Why?

The exterior design of the explorer was bold, not blocky as we got to see on other models. Moreover, the Explorer was tech rich, offered comfort and lots of cargo space or room for 7 people.

Over the past years, Ford switched from the truck-based chassis to the unibody design, resulting in a more functional, usable interior space.

The Explorer was available with 3 engine options: the standard 3.5 V6 developing 290 hp, and 2 other turbocharged ones. For the base model, the Explorer had a front-wheel-drive system as standard, however, users could choose the optional AWD.

The cabin of the Explorer was solid, yet simple, fitted with quality materials – especially on the upper trims. It was also quiet, another reason why long trips for 7 were not an issue.

The cargo space was flexible, the 3rd row seats could easily be folded, as well as the seats on the 2nd row.

The Explorer was equipped with a touchscreen display, a digital display instrument cluster, keyless entry and keyless ignition, as well as a rear-view camera to ease parking.

The driving experience was nice due to the great steering and the smooth suspension.

Was the 2015 Explorer a good alternative for a minivan with more style and comfort included?

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FORD Explorer photo gallery

Despite its controversy and the competitors, the Explorer was the best selling mid-size SUV of all times at the time when the fifth-generation arrived, in 2011.

Unlike its predecessors, the 2011 model featured a unibody construction instead of body-on-frame construction. It had to be ahead of the game to keep the high-sells values up. Even though it featured a shorter wheelbase, it was longer and slightly wider than before.

The new, three-bar, design of the front fascia was successfully incorporated into the new Explorer. With its high and swept headlights, the Explorer showed a bold image, inspired by regular sedans such as the Taurus. In the back, the specific blacked-out D-pillar kept a link with its predecessors. There was a large roof-spoiler on top of the tailgate and two exhausts under the rear bumper.

Inside, the car offered seating for seven on wide seats at the front and a bench in the middle, plus two individual seats in the trunk area. That was standard for all trim levels. For the infotainment unit, Ford offered the MyFord Touch system with the SYNC, that allowed voice commands. The infotainment unit featured a center stack display and two TFT displays flanking the speedometer in the instrument cluster.

The 2011 Explorer was offered with a choice of two engines. There was a 2.0-liter turbocharged and a 3.5-liter V6. The former was offered with front-wheel drive only, while the latter was available with an all-wheel-drive system.

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FORD Explorer photo gallery

Ford introduced the fourth generation of the Explorer in 2005 as a 2006 model, and the carmaker improved its exterior and technical sides.

Ford was comfortably sitting on its leading position in the SUV segment for quite a while, but the crossover segment's rise rocked its throne. Its fuel-efficiency was no match for the new generation of contenders, who managed to go further with less gas. Still, Ford had some aces in its sleeves, and it managed to improve the mid-size SUV.

While the Explorer still relied on a ladder-chassis and it was able to go on uncharted maps without tearing a sweat, the mid-size SUV lacked the on-road performance, and its look was already outdated. Ford improved the design by introducing a gigantic grille design and a 7" (17.8 cm) wide badge at the front. Its headlight's were new and bit from the front bumper. At the back, a single-piece tailgate replaced the older version, which faced some critics. A set of retractable running boards were carried-over from the Lincoln Navigator.

Inside, there was still room for seven passengers, with limited room for the last row. The Explorer's dashboard received a new center stack with a clean, organized layout. Ford insisted on having a tough appearance and installed a floor-mounted gear selector thick as a baseball club. In the instrument cluster, it placed two large dials for the speedometer and tachometer. Inside them, but smaller, the designers placed the fuel gauge and the coolant temperature.

Under the hood, the Explorer received a new, 4.0-liter V6 engine rated at 210 hp. The new SUV featured a standard 6-speed automatic geabox, which helped to improve the fuel-efficiency.

REVIEW: 2014 FORD Explorer   full description and technical specifications
FORD Explorer photo gallery

Ford made a decisive step forward with introducing the Explorer's third generation since it developed it on an entirely new platform.

The need for a family SUV that could offer enough comfort, good loading capacity, and decent off-road abilities led Ford in designing the third Explorer generation from the ground up. It ditched the Ranger chassis used for the second generation and introduced an entirely new concept with independent suspension in all corners. That was something unseen in its segment. The only other off-road vehicle that featured a similar technical solution was the Hummer H1.

Ford's design team was inspired by the Expedition's range look and carried over the same shape for the headlights and grille. The customers appreciated its massive appearance, even though they knew that it wasn't a hard-core off-roader. Its corner-mounted turn-signals and two-tone body color made the car looked more upmarket. A set of side steps was on the options list to ease the vehicle's ingress and egress.

Inside, the carmaker is installed, depending on the trim level, cloth or leather seats, and room for up to five passengers. Its wide cabin made room for three occupants on the back seats without any hip or shoulder room issues. On the dashboard, Ford arranged a clean layout with bigger dials for the speedometer and tachometer. Four additional gauges showed information for the fuel level, coolant temperature, oil pressure, and charging.

Ford installed a new platform under the body with independent suspension in all corners tuned to offer more comfort for its passengers. Under the hood, the carmaker installed three engine choices with rear or all-wheel drive.

full description and technical specifications