What Is It?
In summer 2021 Ford added the Explorer Timberline, a new trim level for the popular full-size SUV that offers a more rugged off-road appearance backed by modifications to improve off-road performance. Ford claims that Timberline is the most off-road-capable Explorer ever, thanks to increased ground clearance, improved approach and departure angles, steel skidplates, a Torsen limited-slip rear differential, Bridgestone Dueler all-terrain tires and revised suspension. We spent a few days in the 2021 Ford Explorer Timberline and discovered this off-roader remains great on road as well.
Ford provided us with a 2021 Explorer Timberline 4WD finished in Forged Green Metallic with Deep Cypress ActiveX seats. Starting MSRP for Explorer Timberline 4WD is $46,015, and the test vehicle included a cargo management system for a total price as tested of $47,425 including a destination and delivery fee of $1,245.
Rugged New Timberline
Ford differentiates this new Explorer Timberline from other versions via redesigned front and rear bumpers that increase approach and departure angles as well as steel skidplates. The front bumper incorporates Red Ember tow hooks and an accent stripe. The unique grille is finished in dark Carbonized Gray with a black Ford oval. Headlights and taillights feature blackout treatment. The LED fog lights are standard equipment, and the grille can accommodate dealer-installed Ford Performance auxiliary lights, including the needed wiring.
Explorer Timberline Details
The 2021 Ford Explorer Timberline features high-gloss painted aluminum wheels with a laser-etched Timberline logo that get shod with Bridgestone Dueler P265/65R18 all-terrain tires. Timberline badges are positioned on the C-pillars and the liftgate, with Timberline logos molded into the bumpers.
Under the Hood
The 2021 Ford Explorer Timberline is powered by Ford’s 2.3-liter EcoBoost turbo engine producing 300 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque, combined with a 10-speed automatic transmission. Standard intelligent 4-wheel drive automatically adjusts torque between the front and rear axles depending on driving conditions. The standard rear Torsen limited-slip differential delivers torque to the wheel with the best available traction. Explorer’s Terrain Management System features seven drive modes including Trail and Deep Snow/Sand. Hill descent control will maintain a set speed between 2 and 12 mph as selected by the driver.
To increase the off-road capability of the 2021 Ford Explorer Timberline, ride height increases by 0.8 inch thanks to the addition of heavy-duty shocks — originally developed for the Explorer Police Interceptor — and taller Bridgestone Dueler tires. Combined with the revised front fascias, Explorer Timberline’s off-road specs include an approach angle of 23.5 degrees, a maximum departure angle of 23.7 degrees and minimum ride height of 8.7 inches. In addition to the visible front and rear skidplates, steel skidplates also protect the engine and transmission. The SUV’s steering, stabilizer bars and springs are all specially tuned for Explorer Timberline, including a new front rebound spring that helps mitigate sudden jarring in off-road conditions. A Class III Trailer Tow Package is standard, and Explorer Timberline is rated at 5,300 pounds of towing capacity.
Inside, the 2021 Ford Explorer Timberline features a Deep Cypress color for the seats, door panels and center armrest. The dash trim has a Stone Mesh pattern with Satin Silver Twilight trim for the center console, steering wheel and doors. The seats have easy-to-clean ActiveX and cloth inserts that hold occupants in position over rough terrain. The seats, steering wheel and doors have Deep Tangerine stitching, and the front seats include Timberline logos. Heated front seats are standard as well as a heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel. Rubber floor liners complete the package.
The 2021 Ford Explorer Timberline driver assistance includes Co-Pilot360 and Co-Pilot360 Assist+ including intelligent adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go and speed sign recognition, lane centering, evasive steering assist and voice-activated touchscreen navigation. A 360-degree camera is standard, and the front camera view assists the driver off-road when cresting hills or negotiating obstacles.
On the Road
Explorer Timberline offers a much more aggressive off-road look and modifications to improve off-road performance, but the good new is that it’s still at home on the street for everyday use. Although we did not have a chance to test the off-road capabilities of Explorer Timberline, most Timberline owners never will either so the good news is this: Despite the aggressive appearance, the Explorer Timberline is still comfortable on the street.
On the Road
Thankfully, the Bridgestone Dueler all-terrain tires are also comfortable on road and the steering response is good. While the 2.3-liter EcoBoost might seem a little small for a vehicle of this size, the acceleration and all-around drivability are very good. The 310 lb-ft of torque paired with the 10-speed transmission keep Explorer Timberline in the powerband during most situations to deliver a commendable driving experience.
As more crossovers with sleeker designs enter the market, some manufacturers have gone back to more traditional SUV designs and the Explorer Timberline offers that aggressive, off-road appeal. We like the look, but we also like that it is still a very suitable everyday vehicle that drives well on the street. We also like the Forged Green Metallic paint — the launch color for the Explorer Timberline and one of our favorites.
The 2021 Ford Explorer Timberland offers a sporty, mid-level interior without high-end leather, but offering Deep Cypress ActiveX seats with cloth inserts and orange stitching that creates a sporty feel to match the exterior styling. The all-weather floormats add to the off-road appeal of the SUV.
Explorer has been one of the top-selling SUVs for decades, and the Timberland adds a new variation that will appeal to those who may use their vehicle in more difficult off-road situations, or simply want to look the part as they go about their day-to-day activities. Either way, it’s a great addition to the Explorer lineup with a smart balance of aggressive looks, off-road capability and everyday practicality.
Ford adds the Explorer Timberland with more aggressive looks, modifications for off-road capability and a sporty but functional interior. Even though many buyers may never use vehicle’s off-road capabilities, the more traditional SUV look may appeal to many. Overall it’s a great addition to the Explorer lineup.