All good things must come to an end, they say. After nearly two years of ownership and heaping helpings of joy and sadness, I’ve bid my farewell to the 2000 Toyota 4Runner. The noble steed left me as it met me: a few rough edges, but striving to please and perform.
That was about three weeks ago, and in its place is now a second-generation Ford Explorer. You can tell me I’m crazy, or tell me I “dun goofed cuz I bought a Ferd,” but in just about every facet, I see this vehicle as an upgrade; here’s why.
When I was looking for a car to replace the 4Runner, I looked high and low, up and down, in and out, and all around Southern California, as well as parts of Nevada and Arizona. The next vehicle had to meet the following criteria: SUV or truck, less than 150k miles, high and low-range four-wheel-drive, no glaring issues like rust/drivetrain/bad paint, a clean title, able to pass the California smog test, and a clean Carfax. Bonus points were awarded for a V6 or V8, decent gas mileage, automatic gearbox, clean interior, and maintenance records. The catch was that I had to get all of this for $4,000 or less.
I did my research and ruled out just about everything except the 1990-2002 Toyota 4Runner and 1997-2001 Ford Explorer. The 4Runner was still my preferred platform thanks to its solid dependability and capability, even in 2WD form, and I was willing to step back to the 1990-95 generation if it meant I could keep my Toyota loyalty intact. But I had to face facts: Toyotas carry their values very well, and that all but excluded me from rejoining the fold in a 4×4.
Every other brand had its pluses and minuses, except one – Ford. Although I’d never owned an Explorer, I had close friends that vouched for these vehicles. I watched one friend cycle through three of them in a matter of two years, and none of them had ever given him serious trouble; they just got boring after a while as he chased a different color (gold, black, etc.).
So now, almost a month after purchasing the vehicle, what do I have to say? Here it is: You should buy a second-generation Ford Explorer. You’ll be right in sweet spot of off-roadiness and creature comfort, right before the government started mandating stupid crap like tire pressure monitoring systems, and right after the buggy prototype era of electronically controlled four-wheel-drive.
You get four doors, power windows, power locks, power seats, rear air conditioning, cruise control, and the list goes on. The 4.0-liter V6 makes great power and torque, and the 5R55E will last with regular maintenance. Did I mention the rearend? 4.10:1 gear ratio, limited-slip differential from the factory, and standard disc brakes. Disc brakes! Not even my beloved 4Runners had those until 2003.
“Boy, I sure would like a clean Explorer,” you’re probably thinking. Good for you. Go and grab one before they’re all gone, because the clean ones are finding buyers and the old ones are heading to the scrapyard.