For 2005, the Ford Explorer comes with only a few changes: AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control, an electronic stability control program, is now standard; a new XLT No Boundaries mid-line appearance package has been added; and MP3 capability has been added to the stereo system.

Available in five- or seven-passenger seating, the perennially popular Explorer comes with a 4.0-litre V6 or 4.6-litre V8, both hooked to five-speed automatic transmissions; all are four-wheel-drive. There are four trim lines.

The XLS comes only with the V6 and includes four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, 16-inch painted aluminum wheels, heated power mirrors with approach lamps, remote keyless entry, black roof rails, black side steps, a Class II towing hitch, front and rear intermittent wipers, CD/MP3 player, air conditioning, floor mats, power windows and 60/40 folding rear seat.

The XLT comes with the V6 (the V8 is optional) and adds a driver’s door lock keypad, black roof rail crossbars, CD/MP3 with cassette, retractable cargo shade, overhead console, auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather-wrapped wheel, illuminated vanity mirrors and six-way power driver’s seat. The No Boundaries Package can be added to this model, which includes platinum-coloured front and rear fascia, bodyside cladding and tubular step bars, and 17-inch machined aluminum wheels with all-terrain tires. Also available for the XLT is the Off-Road Package of fuel tank and transfer case skid plates, front tow hooks, and specially tuned shocks and suspension.

The Eddie Bauer edition, named for the clothing and outfitting store, has the option of moving up to the V8, and adds 17-inch painted aluminum wheels, colour-keyed running boards, six-CD/MP3 stereo, dual-zone automatic climate control, memory function for driver’s seat, power-adjustable pedals, reverse sensing system, colour-keyed leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather interior, heated and eight-way power driver and passenger seats, and easy-entry driver’s seat with power lumbar support.

The Limited comes strictly with the V8, and adds a 3.73 non-limited-slip rear axle, 17-inch chrome-clad aluminum wheels, body-colour cladding, and chrome roof rails and crossbars.

The Explorer’s popularity no doubt has much do with its “user-friendly” design: its tall doors and relatively low step-in height make it easy to enter and exit, its seats are comfortable and supportive, visibility is good, and on seven-passenger models, the second row is split 20/40/20 for easy access. The V8 is a better choice for hauling a lot of cargo, but naturally consumes more fuel. The upper trim lines can get seriously pricey, but a four-wheel-drive Chevrolet Trailblazer will cost more than the base 4WD Explorer; the Grand Cherokee is competitively priced and also drives all four wheels, but has less cargo space. Reports of rollovers tarnished the Explorer’s name for a while, but it seems that most drivers have come to realize that keeping the tires inflated and not driving it like it’s a Ferrari have a great deal to do with keeping the greasy side down.

The Explorer is built in St. Louis, Missouri and Louisville, Kentucky.

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