In 1998, Ford sold 431,488 Explorers in the United States. That's a lot of Explorers. This mid-sized SUV has consistently been near the top of automotive sales charts since its introduction. But what is it about the Explorer that has convinced so many people to plunk down $20,000 to $30,000? We've tested plenty of Explorers and Mercury Mountaineers, but we wanted additional insight. We wanted answers. We wanted something to drive to lunch. We picked up a '99 Explorer for a road test.
We've enjoyed this SUV's ability to provide lots of utility in an easy-to-drive package. However, we've driven only four-door models, so this time, we picked up a two-door Oxford White Explorer Sport. It had two-wheel drive, the 4.0-liter SOHC V6, and a five-speed automatic transmission. Highlights from the options included a trailer-towing package, a power moonroof, the Premium Sport group, the Convenience group, and the Comfort group.
In two-door form, the Explorer looks both modern and rugged. The two doors translate to a shorter wheelbase: 101.7 inches vs. 111.6 inches for the four-door. It also weighs about 200 pounds less. Our test truck was outfitted with 15-inch chrome wheels, fog lamps, and step bars from the Premium Sport group. These exterior add-ons came in handy for identifying our Explorer in mall parking lots. We definitely saw ourselves both coming and going with this vehicle. At one point during our evaluation, one of our editors noticed that he was driving in traffic surrounded by four other white Ford Explorers. Make no mistake: these things are everywhere.
Other than helping our vanity, none of the Premium Sport items was particularly useful. The step bars extended beyond the width of the vehicle. Shorter stature people might like the step bars to aid in entry/egress, but otherwise they were a fashion risk for occupants who didn't use them. If the bars were dirty, care needed to be taken in order to avoid pant leg or shoe contact on the bars. Difficulty of entry/egress was average for this type of vehicle.
More useful equipment came with the Comfort group. The "puddle" lamps are small lights mounted underneath the side mirrors. When the doors are unlocked with the remote or opened, the puddle lights turn on to project a small circle of light next to the door. It's a simple feature, but was useful to see what we were stepping on at night as we exited the vehicle. The Comfort group also added items like an overhead console that displays compass direction and temperature, a keypad, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, automatic headlights, and auto-locking doors. The mirror has a special electrochromic coating that dims at night, reducing the glare from headlights. The automatic headlights worked fine, though we initially thought something was wrong when the headlights were staying on after we shut off the ignition and pulled the key. A flip through the manual told us that they are supposed to do that. A small sliding button on the rearview mirror adjusts the time delay that the headlights stay on after the ignition is killed.
But for $2,340, do you really need this stuff? We could easily go without it, but Ford has sneakily made the Comfort group the only way to get a power-operated driver seat. The same goes for the Convenience group. This $750 option is the only way to get cruise control and a tilt steering wheel on the Explorer Sport.
The $2,340 seat did live up to its group's name. We were quite happy with the comfort it provided, though the standard Ford-brand power-seat buttons on the side of the seat were, as usual, a bit disappointing. They were small and not as intuitive as one would like. And while nothing was horribly wrong with the Explorer Sport's interior, it never went out of its way to impress. In a four-door Explorer, the rear seats are comfortable. But in the Explorer Sport, the rear seats were small and did not provide adequate back or head support. In addition, the materials and overall interior finish were quite average. The center storage bin was large, but the door bins were small. Sitting still, the sunvisor whacked us in the forehead if we moved it from its folded-down position to the driver door position. Does this mean we were sitting too close? If so, then why was it that the smallish radio controls were too far away and couldn't be operated without leaning forward? And why was it that the first button our hand naturally fell to in order to operate the windows was for the passenger's window, not the driver's? It's things like these that make us wonder how this SUV became so popular.
Like the four-door model, the Explorer Sport fares better when its utility is considered. Despite the short wheelbase, the Explorer can still haul 70.2 cubic feet of cargo with the rear seats folded down. This beats a two-door Chevrolet Blazer (67 cubic feet) and a two-door Isuzu Rodeo (62 cubic feet), and dominates smaller 'utes like the Chevrolet Tracker or the Toyota RAV4. With the rear seats folded (the process is easy to do), the Explorer Sport can still haul nearly as much cargo as a four-door Explorer with its rear seats folded. Opening and closing the rear hatch lacked any type of drama.
Further utility could be gained from four-wheel drive. But alas, our test vehicle was faithful to its rear wheels only. As such, we didn't bother taking the Explorer off the pavement. Without four-wheel drive, the Explorer is little better than a car in terms of its capability in poor conditions. Actually, it might be less capable. Traction control, something found quite frequently on cars priced similarly to our vehicle, isn't an option on 2WD Explorers.
Contained on pavement, our Explorer didn't do itself any favors. Over small bumps or ripples, it was fine. But once it encountered medium- or large-sized bumps, it was distinctly truck-like in the way it bounded and hopped. This was likely due to the shorter wheelbase. Pushed beyond normal commuting-type efforts, we noticed a steering system that was unresponsive off center and a brake pedal that required too much effort. Only when we were on the throttle were we impressed. The power from the 4.0-liter SOHC V6 (210 horsepower and 240 foot-pounds of torque) was very useful in urban situations, and it allows a maximum towing capacity of 4,900 pounds. On the freeway, the Explorer cruised relatively quietly, with minimal road noise and no squeaks or rattles.
Overall, we were disappointed with the Explorer Sport that we drove. With 4WD, we could have treated our Explorer like an SUV instead of like a car with a huge trunk. With four doors instead of two, maybe that big-time driver's-side blind spot would have gone away and the rear seats would have become more useful. Maybe we would have been more forgiving of a stripper Explorer Sport instead of the $26,505 model we tested. Maybe we would be more impressed if we were "Horse Trailer Monthly" instead of Edmunds.com. Maybe. But none of those things happened. Which leaves us scratching our heads about why somebody would buy an Explorer Sport 2WD. It can't go off-road. And on the road, its manners and interior are humbled by a roomy, new $15,000 Ford Focus. If you want to purchase an Explorer, we recommend a four-door model.
Is the 1999 Ford Explorer a good car? Edmunds experts have compiled a robust series of ratings and reviews for the 1999 Ford Explorer and all model years in our database. Our rich content includes expert reviews and recommendations for the 1999 Explorer featuring deep dives into trim levels and features, performance, mpg, safety, interior, and driving. Edmunds also offers expert ratings, road test and performance data, long-term road tests, first-drive reviews, video reviews and more.
Our Review Process All of our reviews are written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.
How do people like the 1999 Ford Explorer? Consumer ratings and reviews are also available for the 1999 Ford Explorer and all its trim types. Overall, Edmunds users rate the 1999 Explorer 3.9 on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. Edmunds consumer reviews allow users to sift through aggregated consumer reviews to understand what other drivers are saying about any vehicle in our database. Detailed rating breakdowns (including performance, comfort, value, interior, exterior design, build quality, and reliability) are available as well to provide shoppers with a comprehensive understanding of why customers like the 1999 Explorer.
Review Got my 99 explorer in febuary of 2013 with only 97**** miles and now towards the end of 2015 with 104*** still running strong with the 5.0 engine. Plenty of room for my wife and 2 kids and you wouldnt believe how much stuff we hauled with this,better then a pickup. Truck has been very reliable with the only maintenence done to it has been buying a new set of tires when got it,got rear and front brakes replaced and one time car did not start thought it was the starter had it checked out wasn't the problem,turned out to be the pulley that wasn't allowing it to crank replaced and nothing since. Got a MagnaFlow exhaust which makes it sound beasty,I leave Hondas in the dust! See other reviews of them pushing to 200*** plus miles and taking care of this bad boy hoping to keep em around to get him there.
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What options are available on the 1999 Ford Explorer?
Available Ford Explorer 1999 Submodel Types: SUV
Available Trims: XLT, Limited, Sport, Base, Platinum, Eddie Bauer, XLS, XLT Sport, XL, NBX, XLS Sport
Exterior Colors: Shadow Black, White Platinum Metallic Tri-coat, Ingot Silver Metallic, Tuxedo Black Metallic, Ruby Red Metallic Tinted Clearcoat, Magnetic Metallic, Blue Jeans Metallic, Smoked Quartz Tinted Clearcoat Metallic, Oxford White, Oxford White Clearcoat, White Gold Metallic, Black Clearcoat, Sterling Gray Metallic, Deep Impact Blue Metallic, Silver Birch Clearcoat Metallic, Dark Side Metallic, Red Fire Clearcoat Metallic, Canyon Ridge Metallic, Caribou Metallic, Black, Dark Blue Pearl Clearcoat Metallic, Sterling Grey Metallic, Sunset Metallic, Bronze Fire Metallic Tinted Clearcoat, Guard Metallic, Kodiak Brown Metallic, White Suede Clearcoat, Aspen Green Clearcoat Metallic, Dark Blue Pearl Metallic, Pueblo Gold Clearcoat Metallic, White Suede, Dark Stone Clearcoat Metallic, Red Candy Metallic Tinted Clearcoat, Blue Flame Metallic, Green Gem Metallic, Kona Blue Metallic, Medium Wedgewood Blue Clearcoat Metallic, Torch Red, True Blue Clearcoat Metallic, White Sand Tri-Coat, Brilliant Silver Clearcoat Metallic, Dark Cherry Clearcoat Metallic, Dark Copper Clearcoat Metallic, Ginger Ale Metallic, Mineral Grey Clearcoat Metallic, Sangria Red Clearcoat Metallic, Toreador Red Clearcoat Metallic, White Platinum Metallic Tri-Coat, Bordeaux Reserve Red Metallic, Ceramic White Tri-Coat Clearcoat Metallic, Oxford White Clearcoat (Fleet), Vapor Silver Clearcoat Metallic, Blue Metallic, Cinnamon Metallic, Golden Bronze Metallic, Stone Green Clearcoat Metallic, Tropic Green Clearcoat Metallic, Burgundy Velvet Metallic Tinted Clearcoat, Cashmere Clearcoat Tri-Coat Clearcoat Metallic, Colorado Red Clearcoat, Deep Jewel Green Pearl Metallic, Estate Green Clearcoat Metallic, Harvest Gold Clearcoat Metallic, Mineral Gray Clearcoat Metallic, Platinum Dune Metallic Tri-Coat, Sport Blue Clearcoat Metallic
Interior Colors: Ebony Black leather, Charcoal Black leather, Medium Light Camel leather, Ebony Black w/Red Accent Stitching leather, Medium Light Camel cloth, Medium Light Stone leather, Ebony Black premium leather, Medium Light Stone cloth, Ebony Black premium cloth, Charcoal Black premium leather, Charcoal Black premium cloth, Medium Parchment, Camel leather, Black leather, Medium Light Stone premium cloth, Medium Soft Ceramic premium leather, Pecan premium leather, Medium Light Camel premium cloth, Midnight Grey, Camel leather/suede, Charcoal Black w/Sienna Insert premium leather, Graphite, Black cloth, Charcoal Black w/Sienna Insert leather, Medium Prairie Tan, Stone leather, Camel cloth, Medium Graphite, Medium Light Stone premium leather, Stone cloth
Popular Features: Fold Flat Rear Seats, Rear Bench Seats, Audio and cruise controls on steering wheel, Power Driver Seat, Tire Pressure Warning, Stability Control, 5000lb Towing Capacity, Aux Audio Inputs, Trip Computer, Post-collision safety system, Third-row seating, Bluetooth, AWD/4WD, USB Inputs, Alarm, Parking sensors, Back-up camera, Leather Seats, Heated seats, Keyless Entry/Start, Power Liftgate/Trunk, Navigation, Mobile Internet, Towing Hitch, Electronic Folding Mirrors, Cooled Seats, Auto Climate Control, Multi-Zone Climate Control, Sunroof/Moonroof, Remote Start, Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane Departure Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control, Automatic Emergency Braking, 2nd Row Bucket Seats, Upgraded Engine, 6000lb Towing Capacity, Upgraded Stereo, Upgraded Headlights, Apple Carplay/Android Auto, Rear Entertainment System, Pre-collision safety system, Heads up display