Very tough vehicle. Has been stuck in a ditch with water halfway up the door on one side (and KEPT the water out no less), dug a rut with the rear differential. Also hit a ladder on the interstate doing 70 and all it did was bend the ladder and jump over it.
Another impressive bit is that this truck has gone all 239,000 original miles without a tune-up on the original platinum plugs the Ford dealer put in to cure a stalling problem when it was new.
The brakes are excellent when well maintained, and can really save your butt when something goes awry around you (sudden stops ahead, people not paying attention, etc.).
The handling is pretty good for a truck of this type. The key is in the driver and the tires. Good tires on the Explorer will make it handle a lot better than cheap tires.
Acceleration is super peppy in the manual configuration. This truck can smoke the tires easily, and can pin you back in your seat if you want it to. You must be good on the shifter though as the distance on the tach between gears is VERY short if you need to move in a hurry. Overdrive is best shifted into a 55-65mph. Still keeps climbing pretty quick past 75 if you have a lead foot, so be careful.
Shifting skills and maintenance have allowed me to get this truck close to 24mpg on the highway. You get the best mileage in small towns and rural environments; big city stop and go tends to hurt the worst gas wise.
Does okay off-road, but does have a tendency to get stuck when the mud goes higher than the hubs of the wheels. If you plan to off-road, 4X4 is going to be better than 2X4.
Have had this truck out in the winter snow for the last 4 years, and it's been the reason I'm one of 5 people who show up to work on super-snowy days. Just stay off the totally iced over roads and you will be fine.
Either way I plan to keep this vehicle a very long time. It does everything I've needed and need it to do from hauling large music and construction gear to going off the beatin' path for leisure. It may be reaching 20, but I'd say this truck is doing great for a 20 year old SUV.