My Explorer originally had an automatic transmission and drove great. Transmission blew up going up a steep highway hill (my own fault for NOT replacing the black fluid) & a buddy of mine & I wound up getting a manual from a Bronco II at a junkyard and converted it over. Well she's got PLENTY of power now ... the Bronco II transmission is geared lower & the "Exploder" is unstoppable in 4wd Low when going offroad in mud, water, you name it. Awesome truck! It goes anywhere & takes a good beating! I put offroad 31" tires on it, & without a lift she still goes just about every place my buddies go with their lifted Rangers w/ 33's. Plus the 4.0 motor knocks their 2.9's outta the water on the highway. (:-D)
Real solid body. Had a Pathfinder w/ 255,000 miles, still runs great but body rusted away to nothing. Explorer has 4 times as many layers of metal. 4.0 motor is the best feature, runs like a champ and gives ya plenty of juice when ya need it.
Well, its actually backwards. All the "improvements" to the newer Explorers make them less offroad capable & so fancy shmancy that ya can't beat'em without some important plastic thing breaking. Plus, forget trying to repair a newer one yourself ...t he old ones are a heck of lot easier to work on.