A blue 2022 Ford Explorer ST-Line is shown parked in the desert at dusk.

Over Three Decades of the Ford Explorer: The Highlights

It made its debut back when SUVs were barely a blip on the radar, as sedans and station wagons dominated the roadways. It quickly became evident, however, that the Ford Explorer was meant for greatness, sporting a newfound design and rugged build not yet seen before, prompting drivers to become intrigued by it. There now became more options, and for those who yearned to get out and explore, the aptly named Explorer provided them with a means to do so. As we welcome the 2022 Ford Explorer and all of the fine features it brings along with it, it’s evident that even after 32 years, it is still going strong.

The Early Years

The Ford Explorer happily replaced the Bronco II, showcasing a lot of the same features as this unpopular model; however, it brought with it a type of swagger that was difficult to ignore. With only one engine to choose from, a 4.0L V6, the Explorer boasted favorable power, as well as an available push-button four-wheel drive system to further enhance the integrity of its ride. There were few sport utility vehicles on the road these days, allowing the Explorer to really stand out from the crowd. The 1990s brought many changes to Explorer models, as more drivers were becoming interested in owning a coveted SUV. Ford worked diligently to improve the quality of the Explorer, taking it from rugged to cozy with features, like premium upholstery, two-tone paint, and other convenience features designed to appeal to more drivers everywhere.

A red 2022 Ford Explorer Limited is shown towing an Airstream trailer next to a river.

A New Generation

The mid-90s brought a new generation of the Explorer to the surface, one that showcased a more eye-catching design with soft curves and designer appeal. It was quickly apparent that this bold adventure vehicle was quickly evolving into an everyday SUV for commuters, families, and the average everyday driver. The second generation also brought a more powerful engine into the mix, a 4.9L V8, for those who desired more excitement during their travels. During this time period, the Explorer also added a sportier model to its lineup, conveniently called the Explorer Sport, which featured two doors instead of four to try and appeal to the driver who yearned for a more athletic look in their vehicle.

More variations of the Explorer began to pop up due to the model’s increasing popularity with a multitude of drivers. One of these variations was the Explorer Sport Trac, a cross between a pickup truck and the beloved Explorer. With the build of a truck accentuated by Explorer design, the Sport Trac offered even more versatility to the Explorer nameplate. Although the look of the Explorer was there, it didn’t exhibit the power that drivers really needed, which resulted in it eventually being discontinued. It was clear that people loved the Explorer, and Ford would go to great lengths to develop various Explorers to meet the varying needs of drivers, whether they were in need of a pickup or a sporty adventure mate.

Modern Appeal

It wasn’t until the Explorer graduated to its third generation that big changes were seen, especially regarding its overall build. Sitting on a new platform and for the first time, offering an independent rear suspension, the Explorer finally shed its Bronco II features for good, truly becoming a model all its own. As it entered its fourth generation in 2006, it was ultimately revamped to include more comfort elements inside, as well as sleeker style outside. A waterfall grille and more modern headlamps allowed the Explorer to emanate a contemporary look that was much in line with what drivers wanted at this time. Although the Explorer occupied the throne for quite a while at this point, it was about to face reality…compact options were on the rise, and they were offering drivers more, especially when it came to efficiency.

Changes needed to be made to the Explorer, so that it continued to perform ahead of its competitors, especially compact models. The next generation of the Explorer, which debuted in 2011, showcased a unibody construction on a car platform, allowing it to better compete with its compact rivals. Two engines in its arsenal, as well as room for seven people, allowed the Explorer to perform like its compact competitors while offering more space and capabilities not found in smaller models. This, in turn, allowed the Explorer to remain on top. It was more functional than ever before, utilizing its interior cabin space effectively, and with multiple engines to choose from, the Explorer continued to stay ahead of the pack.

A blue 2022 Ford Explorer ST is shown driving on a winding road.

Today’s Explorer

As the years have gone on, the Explorer has gotten sleeker, more stylish, and more versatile, which is why it’s a best-selling Ford model each and every year. You’ll find that the 2022 Ford Explorer still showcases a phenomenal selection of trims to appeal to any driver, as well as hybrid powertrains available for maximum efficiency. The best thing about the Explorer is that it never strayed too far from its roots and is still recognized as an adventure vehicle through and through. Its powerful selection of engines allows it to deliver that kick of adrenaline drivers want in their travels, while a versatile array of cargo solutions inside and out make it easy to explore in this popular SUV.

For 2022, the Explorer features a new trim level, the ST-Line, which boasts ActiveX seating materials with Miko inserts and a twin-panel moonroof on the inside, LED signature lighting, 20-inch wheels, and exclusive badging on the outside. Rear-wheel drive is now available in its athletic ST model, while top trims, like the King Ranch, now enjoy a more powerful engine. Its adventure-ready Timberline model, which is still relatively new to the lineup, can be outfitted with a bench seat in the second row. Enhanced cargo options can now be found throughout the Explorer to heighten the appeal of your next journey, no matter where it takes you.

High visibility, smooth handling, and a can-do attitude hold the Explorer at the top, performing well above many of its rivals. Opting for its more athletic trims will allow you to enjoy a sportier ride with an updated suspension system and more power from its engine. Choosing to outfit the Explorer with all-wheel drive will allow drivers to utilize various drive modes, including Slippery, Deep Snow/Sand, and others so that traveling on any terrain is made easier. All in all, the 2022 Ford Explorer takes the characteristics of the original Explorer and further enhances them to appeal to today’s modern driver and their lifestyle needs.

Evolution of an Icon

What started out as a spin-off of the Bronco II, morphed into a truck, then into a modern-day marvel, has become what we know and love today. The Explorer proves that there’s a reason why it remains one of the top-selling SUVs in the industry. As the industry began to shift, Ford noticed, perfecting its star player, so that it would continue to perform ahead of its competition, and the same holds true to this day.

The 2022 Ford Explorer harnesses the rugged appeal of the original Explorer and adds value to it by allowing it to appeal to more drivers with different lifestyles and varying travel needs. The key is to adapt and evolve, which is exactly what the Explorer has done over the past 30+ years, making it one of the most popular models, not only in Ford’s lineup but in the entire SUV lineup as a whole. Now that’s what we call a legend.