2021 Ford Explorer Timberline Looks Reasonably Ruggedized


Ford is introducing a new trim level for the Explorer, targeting both outdoorsy types and those who desperately want to be but only manage to spend a couple of weekends at Kampgrounds of America.

The 2021 Ford Explorer Timberline delivers a mix of visual accouterments and practical components that should actually make the SUV better off-road.

Don’t expect it to keep pace with a Raptor pickup, however. Despite the Timberline’s menacing new grille, skid plates, unique 18-inch wheels, and Bridgestone Dueler all-terrain tires, it’s not a Baja buggy waiting to be jumped off the next sand dune — though it may be the best option for Explorer shoppers who don’t want to spend oodles on aftermarket parts.  

Based on the equipment and features provided, our guess is that Ford wanted something to pit against the lengthened, three-row Jeep Grand Cherokee. The interior has been spruced up a bit against a base Explorer thanks to heated seats, heated steering wheel, stone mesh dashboard trim, and some new upholstery options adorned with Timberline logos shaped like mountains and orange stitching. But the powertrain remains the base 2.3-liter turbo with 300 horsepower offering 310 pound-feet of torque.

While Ford claimed future incarnations of the model would have numerous packages, there’s only one configuration for now. It comes with a Torsen limited-slip rear differential, upgraded shocks from the Ford Police Interceptor, an increased ride height of 0.8 inches, and some vibrantly orange tow hooks. Those interested in doing some hauling of their own will also be pleased to hear that the Timberline defaults with a towing package rated for 5,300 hundred pounds.

Other than that, it’s your basic Ford Explorer with all-wheel drive and some of the better features available. Hill descent control and LED fog lights come standard on the SUV. The advanced driving suite is also pretty robust, with automatic lane centering, adaptive cruise control, sign recognition, and a 360-degree camera. Blue Oval is also adding a paint color for this one (Forged Green), which looks lovely.

We’re not certain if this is the vehicle one should take over the Jeep Grand Cherokee L, however.

Ford is asking $47,010 for the Explorer Timberline and basically telling you that you have to take it as is. Meanwhile, the updated Jeep starts substantially lower (by almost 10 grand), comes with larger engine options (V6 or V8), a higher towing capacity (6,200 pounds), is a few inches longer, and allows you to make it prohibitively expensive as you add options. Combine that with Jeep having the better record off-road and the Explorer might not the best pick if you’re serious about taking your vehicle down a gnarly trail. But we’ll have to wait until we’ve tested them both to uncover the truth. The Timberline might end up nailing exactly what the average car customer desires by locating the happy medium between daily driver and part-time ORV.

Expect to see the 2021 Ford Explorer Timberline parked between XLT and Limited trims this summer.

[Images: Ford Motor Co.]

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