When it first launched in 1990, the Explorer brought massive profits to Ford at an unprecedented level. Besides the Jeep Cherokee and Grand Cherokee, Ford was the first major automaker to strike gold in the new SUV market during the 90s boom. Gas was cheap, the economy was soaring, and consumers just loved having the ability to go off-road while, with the exception of few, never truly needed to anything of the sorts.
Going to the mall and picking up the kids at soccer practice doesn't count as mountainous terrain. The 2010 Ford Explorer was available as a 4x2 and 4x4 model and had body-on-frame construction, i.e. a truck without a bed and more seats. It came with a standard 210 horsepower V6 achieving 14 mpg and an optional 4.6 liter V8 with 292 horsepower. Both came with standard five-speed automatic transmission. From 1990 until 2010, the Explorer was available in trim levels XLT, Eddie Bauer, and Limited.
Buyers spent over $30k to have their truck-like Explorers decked out with leather seating, upgraded stereos, and dual-zone climate control. While Ford introduced several significant updates, it still followed the same formula as a truck based vehicle. Sales declined in recent years due to rising gas prices and the introduction of the SUV's enemy: the CUV (Crossover Vehicle). This sent Ford back to the drawing board with hopes to once again reinvent the SUV/CUV for the 21st century. As the new 2011 model is set for a summer 2010 debut, it'll be interesting to see what exactly Ford has come up with.
The potential for Ford to do magic again is great, but will only be realized if the public is willing to accept a new Explorer that's not as off-road capable as its predecessor.