• Retro Review: Motor Week looks at the 1996 Ford Explorer

America’s SUV get big V-8 power

The Ford Explorer started life for the 1991 model year and soldiered on nearly unchanged though 1994. A major overhaul for the 1995 model year brought a more sculpted body with curves rather than angles. Its cushy new interior took after Ford’s sedan lineup, featuring familiar switchgear and even dual front air bags coming standard. It was the 1996 model year, however, that the Explorer really came into its own.

Optional was Ford’s 5.0-liter V-8. As Motor Week points out, the V-8 block and camshaft are borrowed form the 1996 F-150 pickup, while the intake manifold is borrowed from the Mustang GT. This gave the pushrod engine a then-respectable 210 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. While those numbers are laughable in modern times, the Explorer proved to be two seconds quicker to 60 mph over its V-6 version. What’s more, the Explorer’s competition couldn’t boast engine spec any more admirable.

The old-school engine came mated to an old-school transmission, too. It was Ford’s venerable four-speed automatic. Rear-wheel drive came standard, but a full-time 4WD system with low range was available.

The Explorer came in two versions: the standard five-door model, like the one seen here, and a more fun three-door variant. Both offered seating for five passengers, though entry and exit was more difficult in the three-door version. Ford also provided front seat passengers with relatively impressive seats. They featured power adjustments for lumbar support and side bolstering. A manually telescoping thigh support made taller occupants happy.

Pricing for the 1996 Explorer makes us long for the good ole days. It carried a base price of $25,425. Fully loaded with every option, the price jumped 10 grand to $35,000.


Mark McNabb
Mark McNabb was a contributor at TopSpeed from 2013 to 2018. Growing up, Mark always had a mind for tinkering on random items throughout his home and dad’s garage, including a 1953 Ford Mainline and 1971 Corvette Stingray.  Read full bio
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