2021 Ford Explorer Timberline adds legitimate off-road chops

Zac Palmer
·4-min read


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The barrage of off-road-focused vehicle debuts continues at the Blue Oval with the 2021 Ford Explorer Timberline. Just as was previewed in spy photos, the Timberline is an Explorer meant for the family that wants to be a little more adventurous with what trail they point their three-row crossover to.

Thankfully, Ford went way further than a simple, rugged appearance package on the Timberline. Ride height is raised by 0.8 inches (now 8.7 inches) versus a standard Explorer thanks to high-sidewall Bridgestone Dueler all-terrain tires and new heavy-duty shocks. Ford borrowed the Police Interceptor’s dampers, then re-tuned them for this specific application. Plus, Ford recalibrated the springs, stabilizer bars and steering rack. The Timberline gets a model-exclusive front rebound spring to prevent jarring inputs to the cabin when off-road, and the steering rack was re-tuned with the same idea in mind.

Underneath all the new gear is a set of skid plates that protect your approach in front, the engine, transmission and all key components through to the rear of the vehicle. The message? Bash over things with confidence. The new ride height, along with high-clearance bumpers front and rear, allow you to attack the trail at more severe angles. Your approach angle goes up by 2.5 degrees to 23.5, and the departure angle goes up by 1.7 degrees to 23.7.

2021 Ford Explorer Timberline
2021 Ford Explorer Timberline

A new Torsen limited-slip rear differential helps keep the Timberline moving by sending torque to the rear wheel that has traction while keeping the other from spinning. All-wheel drive is standard for the Timberline, and the 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is the only engine available. It sends 300 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque through a 10-speed automatic transmission — the boosted 3.0-liter V6 is not available with this trim.

You can select between seven different drive modes with the Timberline’s Terrain Management System (the two most extreme being Trail and Deep Snow/Sand for off-roading). Hill Descent Control comes standard, and the Class III towing package is, too, allowing you to tow up to 5,300 pounds.

As for the exterior, Ford tried to make it look tougher with a Carbonized Gray grille, black Ford oval, dark accents around the lights, and a set of red tow hooks at the front. Those tow hooks are rated for 150% of the gross vehicle weight. Timberline-exclusive fog lamps are designed to be helpful on trails at night, and there’s an available Ford Performance auxiliary light set you can have installed into the new grille for even more trail lighting. Those mountain-shaped badges you see on the C-pillars and liftgate are the official Timberline badges. The Forged Green Metallic you see on the Explorer in the photos is also new and only for the Timberline.

On the inside you get Deep Cypress trim to match the green exterior. Ford uses a funky “Stone Mesh” pattern for the car’s trim, and a silver backing for the center stack. Orange inserts can be seen on the door panels, and orange stitching is used throughout the interior on the seats, steering wheel and door trim. You’ll notice the little Timberline mountains on the headrests, too. When it comes to useful features, Ford equips all Timberline models with standard rubber floor liners and ActiveX seat trim for easy cleaning. Cold weather adventurers will appreciate the standard heated seats and steering wheel, too.

There are three “Outfitter packages” you can choose from: Outfitters SkyBox, Outfitters MegaWarrior and Outfitters FrontLoader. They each offer variations of the same idea for certain kinds of outdoor activities. No matter which you choose, though, all three include all-weather floor mats, crossbars and a select Yakima rooftop accessory.

Ford says the Timberline will start at $47,010, including the $1,245 destination charge. If you want those sweet Ford Performance grille lights, those will cost you an extra $499. Expect to see Timberlines roll into dealers this summer, and keep on eye on the Timberline trim becoming a name you see more often. Ford won't say which models will get the treatment yet but suggested there will be additional Timberlines to come.

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