The Ford Explorer deserves a lot of credit for kicking off the SUV boom of the 1990s and early 2000s. During that era, sport utility vehicles supplanted minivans, which a decade earlier had pushed out station wagons as the default transportation choice of middle-class suburban Americans. With its clean, rugged good looks, tough, truck-based underpinnings and comfortable interior, the Explorer was a segment-defining favorite.
By the second half of the 2000s, the next evolution in mainstream family haulers was underway. Crossovers -- which brought together elements of the sport utility vehicle, minivan, and sedan -- were well on their way to becoming the new standard.
Introduced for the 2006 model year, the fourth-generation Explorer stayed true to its traditional SUV roots. While detractors considered it dated, the updated Explorer offered a lot to like if you could look past its comparatively clunky road manners and poor fuel economy.
The 2008 Explorer was slightly larger than average for a midsize SUV. In part to more strongly differentiate it from the company's new, smaller Edge crossover, Ford beefed up the Explorer's dimensions. This meant that the fourth-generation version offered more passenger space and cargo room than earlier versions of the vehicle.
The Explorer was 193.4 inches long, 73.7 inches wide and 72.8 inches high with a 113.7-inch wheelbase. Its base curb weight was a hefty 4,436 pounds. With all the seats in place, the Explorer offered a generous 45.1 cubic feet of space for groceries, sporting equipment, camping gear or other cargo.
The Explorer's 4.0-liter V-6 was a rough, underpowered engine that lagged significantly behind its prime competitors. For example, the 2008 Toyota Highlander's smaller 3.5-liter V-6 produced over 50 more horsepower. Even Ford's own Edge -- the Explorer's smaller and cheaper stablemate -- had a dramatically more powerful base engine.
The Explorer's single-overhead-cam, 12-valve V-6 produced 210 horsepower at 5,100 rpm and 254 foot-pounds of torque at 3,700 rpm. A five-speed automatic transmission came standard. The Explorer's four-wheel-drive system was a proven part-time setup with a low range.
While the engine felt a bit sluggish in day-to-day driving situations, the Explorer's towing capacity was actually quite good. It could haul a maximum 5,395 pounds, which was considerably more than many of its competitors. Credit for this went to the SUV's rugged, truck-based chassis.
Interior Comfort and Features
Although the XLT was the entry-level trim option, it still came with a healthy assortment of standard features. These included 16-inch alloy wheels, full power accessories, cruise control, air conditioning and a CD stereo with auxiliary audio jack. A wealth of optional equipment was also available, such as a third-row seat, which expanded seating capacity from five to seven people, second-row captain's chairs, rear-seat climate controls, a premium stereo, a voice-activated navigation system, satellite radio, a sunroof and Ford's Sync hands-free device integration system.
The Explorer was below average in terms of fuel economy. Its heavy, body-on-frame structure helped it excel at towing and off-road forays, but gave its lighter, more car-like competitors an edge at the gas pump. The V-6 Explorer received an EPA rating of 14 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway. For comparison, the 2008 V-6 Jeep Grand Cherokee was rated at 18-23 and the V-6 Toyota Highlander at 18-24.
The four-wheel-drive, V-6-powered Explorer XLT had a sticker price starting at $28,815 back in 2008. Today, considerable depreciation means you can get a nice used one for a fraction of that amount. Kelley Blue Book states that, as of 2014, the SUV is worth between $10,350 and $11,100.