By on May 5, 2021

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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71 Comments on “2021 Ford Explorer Timberline Looks Reasonably Ruggedized...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “But the powertrain remains the base 2.3-liter turbo with 300 horsepower offering 310 pound-feet of torque.”

    “Ford is asking $47,010 for the Explorer Timberline and basically telling you that you have to take it as is.”

    Are you sh**ing me?

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      No V6 for you until the ST at $50.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Wait, I’m already being gouged at $47K but if I spend 3K more I can get the V6 that needed to be standard in the first place?

        • 0 avatar
          Rocket

          You expect the EcoBoost V6 to be standard? 400HP for $49k (MSRP of course, not OTD) sounds quite reasonable.

          You can also get the 3.3L NA V6 hybrid drivetrain starting at $50k, but it’s obvious why that isn’t standard.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Yes I expect the V6 to be standard north of 40K, especially on a porker like this. Whether its gas N/A or turbo is irrelevant to me.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      This is not the worse case scenario. I was a MB E class, years back – $75,000… Same 2.3L Turbo
      No WAY!

    • 0 avatar
      Rocket

      “Yes I expect the V6 to be standard north of 40K, especially on a porker like this. Whether it’s gas N/A or turbo is irrelevant to me.”

      Used to feel the same … back when I didn’t get it. In real world driving, this 2.3 turbo outperforms every normally aspirated V6 in the class. Porkers like this need torque, and a good four cylinder turbo offers it in spades. It might not be as smooth as a V6 in some circumstances, or sound as good, but it offers punch where it matters.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I did enjoy the Ecoboost in a Mustang recently, but it weighed 1,000-1,500lbs less than the MY21 Explorer depending on configuration. We’ve already seen heavy “SUV”s with tiny motors with turbo to compensate fail owners for the past ten years. Then looking at EPA mileage one would think it should be pretty decent with the I4… 20 city w/AWD. But it looks like 18 city w/AWD for the 3.0 V6, so I incur all of the risk and additional maintenance of a turbo setup for 2 whole mpg so Ford can achieve better economies of scale with its EB 2.3L? I think for the coin we should be beyond that.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        I used to have 2009 4cyl Highlander, it was OK. Problems only happened in mountains and during highway passing. But what always disturbed me, the sound of the 4cyl engine under the hood. With my 2019 v6 highlander, all these issues are gone…. although, together with approach and departure angles. Cant have everything.

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Mindemann

      ^^THIS. The powertrain is a HUGE miss, here… I’d settle for a turbo V6 instead of a V8, but a 4-cylinder? You’ve got to be kidding.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Eddie Bauer or GTFO.

  • avatar
    Dan

    Rich Corinthian Skidplates.

    Just last week I saw an RX350 with angry black wheels and knobby tires, although to be fair the idiot who put those on was only following the lead of the other idiot who put that predator front end on first.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    And Jeep has the “Trail rated” Cherokee.

    Just a trim package to lighten the wallet.

  • avatar
    Rocket

    I could do without the orange/red exterior bits, but otherwise it looks better than expected. The lovely green paint, Torsen rear diff and legitimate tire sidewalls are reasons enough to consider the Timberline over other versions of the Explorer, whether one needs a soft-roader or not. I’m probably in the minority, but I’d love to see a third row delete option for those of us who need to haul stuff rather than people.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve Biro

      “I’m probably in the minority, but I’d love to see a third row delete option for those of us who need to haul stuff rather than people.”

      I guess we’re both in that minority. Or perhaps most of the people who would like to delete the third row of seats also wouldn’t pay $47K for this vehicle, either. Too bad. It’s the first Explorer to be even mildly attractive to me.

      • 0 avatar
        bradfa

        The Dodge Durango performance trims used to (maybe still do?) offer a 2nd row bench and 3rd row delete no-cost option. The previous generation Chevy Tahoe “Custom” trims forced a 3rd row delete and appear to have sold very well locally to me.

        If I was in the market for a large-ish SUV this Timberline trim would be on my list for sure. If they offered a 3rd row delete option I’d also be interested in checking that box.

  • avatar
    Imagefont

    When I think about buying a Ford, I think about my wife’s ‘96 Mustang convertible that she owned when I met her. And I think about the time the speedometer stopped working. And it turned out to be a tiny plastic gear that gradually dissolved in the lubricant used on it from the factory. And it was such a famous problem that aftermarket companies actually made that plastic gear as a replacement part, for which I paid $25 so I could fix the speedometer and get the car inspected. And if you recall, in 1996, quality was Job 1. Of course that little gear was just the tip of the poor quality iceberg I eventually ran in to.
    So Ford, if you’re reading this, two things:
    1. Screw you.
    2. If you ever expect me to buy anything from you, I’m going to expect a fairly massive discount.

  • avatar

    No V6? Then how many miles it goes fully charged?

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    I read this as Timberland and I got excited and then I thought maybe Justin Timberlake and I got *really* excited and then realized maybe Timberwolf or Timber Wolf (aka Furball), but no, it’s Timberline. Oh well.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I’m taking a few days off in rural mountain Washington this week.

    This area is absolutely overrun with Crosstreks featuring suspension lifts and wider tires on rally-style wheels. This package is giving off the same energy.

  • avatar
    redapple

    Hard PASS

    The Jeep is a much better car.

    EBFlex is closer to the truth in my eyes. My new 96 Explorer was a POS. Radio quit. Cruise Broke. Dash lights went out. Headlight burned out and the dealer had to drop the fascia to get to it.

    Quality is Job 1. A joke. During this time the propaganda was that ford had near Honda quality levels. Pure BS.

    Still dont trust them.

    • 0 avatar
      kcflyer

      Redapple, I’ll C your 96 and raise you the car my wife had when we met. I think an 89 or 90 exploder. POS just doesn’t adequately describe what a joke that thing was. By the time we could afford to replace it I was convinced the engineering plan must have stopped at putting a much heavier shell on the Ranger and calling it a day. Fortunately we were not in WNY yet. Can you imagine what Buffalo roads and salt would have done to that rolling bucket of plastic and tin? This from the people who made my 87 Mustang GT, the best and most reliable car I have ever owned. Go figure.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I can’t believe I’m going to defend the Exploder, however my aunt had an MY94 Eddie Bauer for many years going between Pittsburgh and Western NY who had no adverse issues with it in winter. She replaced it in 2001 with a 2002 Subaru Outback, so she drove it roughly eight years my guess past 100K but not much.

        Incidentally, a very clean example bid to just under 8K in 2020 which was still under the reserve [!!].

        https://carsandbids.com/auctions/KVMJl7Yx/1994-ford-explorer

    • 0 avatar

      Myself and my family have also been burned by a few fords (last one being a 97 contour). It’s a shame I don’t trust them because from time to time the put out something compelling Bronco for instance.
      I’m always reminded of a friend of my father who used to say you had to be nuts to buy any ford Product smaller than a 3/4 ton truck.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      I have tickets to Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill 25th anniversary tour (actually the 26th now because Covid). I only bring it up because had your radio been working you’d have heard You Outta Know or Ironic every third song , the DJ using the phrase “Here’s a new one from Rage Against the Machine” as well as learning for the first time that that dude singing in that new band called the Foo Fighters had been the drummer for Nirvana.

      That is a really long way to say 1996 was quite a few years ago.

      I did hate those Explorers though. The redesign was so ugly but they are a nice source for 5.0 motors in the junkyard nowadays.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      is it worse than this car?
      https://youtu.be/FJ27xDrETy8?t=2668

    • 0 avatar
      EBFlex

      Well yeah. I don’t say things that are false

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        “I don’t say things that are false”

        Nice to see you admit that Biden won fair and square!

        And COVID-19 is not a hoax.

        This will be entertaining……

        • 0 avatar
          slavuta

          Covid-19 is not a hoax. It is a virus that left Chinese lab due to bad safety, during research funded by NIH and dr. Faucci.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            No, it originated in a wild animal meat market in Wuhan. Have you ever seen places like that? Unsanitary with meat from questionable sources. The Chinese government deserves the blame for allowing it to operate. Don’t try blaming NIH.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            I would think that with all your Trolling for Mother Russia Vlad would get you a car that was less of a POS.

          • 0 avatar
            EBFlex

            “ No, it originated in a wild animal meat market in Wuhan.”

            Yes the one that’s walking distance from the lab that was playing around with this virus and doesn’t even sell bats.

            That narrative fell apart faster than the “we to wear masks because they work” narrative.

        • 0 avatar
          EBFlex

          “ Nice to see you admit that Biden won fair and square!

          And COVID-19 is not a hoax.

          This will be entertaining……”

          As I said, nothing I say is false. Every comment I’ve made on those two subjects is 100% true (although it should be noted I’ve never referred to COLDVID 19 as a hoax).

          Also, I hear you can catch the super duper mega scary controlla virus through the internet. You better disconnect or put a mask on your computer.

          • 0 avatar
            slavuta

            EBFlex,

            you tell him!! He is still at the wet market. Even though I posted info before (links) that was openly published in 2017 that US had removed blocks from doing this very gain-of-function research. And voila – in 2019 we have it out!

            Also, 2 new developments
            1. China military collaborated with the lab
            2. China started to work on the vaccine weeks before they announced COVID is contagious.

            right now I don’t see many sources on this so we can wait till this will be 100% proven.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            Wow. I got a pair of covidiots for the price of one. I knew this would be entertaining.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Can’t speak for The Dominion of Canada but Stateside the Covidiots are the sheeple who blindly follow the insanity surrounding the disease without any question or critical thinking. Oh and they usually Karenize you if you express any doubt or dissent in any way.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @28- Ironically, the worst COVID-19 numbers in Canada (per capita) is in Alberta with a highly conservative rural population, a conservative government and the highest rate of “covid denial” in the population and in government.

            I do agree that critical thinking is severely lacking in the general population. Most can’t discern fact from fiction or know what constitutes accurate information. I’m not one to trust those in power. I do trust logic and the scientific process.

            My “covidiot” comment is aimed at the pair of trolls in this thread. If someone wants to deny science, that’s their choice as long as they fully comprehend the consequences of that choice. Therein lies the problem, most don’t fully comprehend the consequences of their choices.

          • 0 avatar
            EBFlex

            There’s no science involved in Covid19(84) so what’s to deny?

            Unless you are referring to the highly politicized “science” of just blindly believing everything the government says and chastising anyone that simply asks questions that go against the narrative.

            For instance, if masks actually work, how come case loads INCREASED after mask mandates were put in place? But no, your science is “masks work because we are telling you they do and if you question us we will attack you”.

            I think Florida is a shining example of how the government got the response to Covid-19(84) right. They protected the more vulnerable populations (by following the real science) and allowed the rest of the state to function. Meanwhile, New York and California went absolutely ballistic, lost their minds, exerted control over their citizens to a degree that should have people voting red for centuries and the result was death rates far higher than Florida.

            But…..trust the science. We learned a long time ago with global warming that when the government says “trust the science” you should under now circumstances trust the science.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            “if masks actually work”

            If you ever need to get an operation, sign a waiver releasing the staff from wearing masks.

            “Only one observational study has directly analyzed the impact of mask use in the community on COVID-19 transmission. The study looked at the reduction of secondary transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in Beijing households by face mask use (10). It found that face masks were 79% effective in preventing transmission, if they were used by all household members prior to symptoms occurring. The study did not look at the relative risk of different types of mask.”

            “Leffler et al. (29) used a multiple regression approach, including a range of policy interventions and country and population characteristics, to infer the relationship between mask use and SARS-CoV-2 transmission. They found that transmission was 7.5 times higher in countries that did not have a mask mandate or universal mask use, a result similar to that found in an analogous study of fewer countries (30). Another study looked at the difference between US states with mask mandates and those without, and found that the daily growth rate was 2.0 percentage points lower in states with mask mandates, estimating that the mandates had prevented 230,000 to 450,000 COVID-19 cases by May 22, 2020 (31).”

            PNAS January 26, 2021 118 (4) e2014564118

            It’s a long read but the science says masks work.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @Slavuto- I’m posting from a meta-analysis. In other words, they looked at all the data at the time. There are ways to analyze the quality of the study. That’s much different than the troll approach of posting just what aligns with your scripted view.

        • 0 avatar
          slavuta

          lalala. bla bla bla. science. voila….
          There are as many studies that show mask efficacy as those that show none. MIT came out with efficacy first. Then –

          “A study published in late October by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology linking a decrease in coronavirus hospitalizations to a face-mask mandate has been withdrawn …”

          Many many studies in Europe came up with no efficacy results https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/10.7326/M20-6817

          Too bad I deleted large group of studies where I had links, etc, where they show that mask mandates don’t work. Every country with a mask mandate had huge increase in transmission.

          But mask is Ok, debatable. What constitute a covidiot to me is the person who is rushing to roll his sleeve to get a shot of experimental vaccine, especially one that based on mRNA technology. Speaking strictly numbers game, I understand for old frail people. For them this is lose-lose situation and … unpredictable. + they don’t have long term expectations either way. People with diabetes…

          Other than that, this is nothing but gov. being in bed with pharma and notice a total absence of therapeutic science development. Even though multiple existing treatments available to lessen effects and speedup recovery. But these things don’t make $$. When did any CNNs of this world gave us a good news that Israel might soon have a treatment for this https://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/296388
          This is against big agenda – ruin everyone, including children. Make people dependent on gov.

          • 0 avatar
            ToolGuy

            slavuta,

            Speaking of science: When we say ‘mask’ do we mean actual *mask* or do we mean “face covering”?

            I wore a “3M Half Facepiece Reusable Respirator 6200” with “3M P100 Respirator Cartridge/Filter 60921” filter cartridges for a drywall job last week, because that is what it takes to keep the (relatively ginormous) dust particles out of my lungs.

            [When I got home there was a very clean line around my nose where the dust particles were and where they weren’t – ‘even’ an N95 is a joke by comparison.]

            (For the very-occasional run-ins with 2K automotive death paint [sprayed outdoors] we upgrade to the “3M P100 Respirator Cartridge/Filter 60923” and a Tyvek suit [and there is NO WAY that I would trust that setup if spraying 2K paint indoors in a relatively closed environment].)

            So are we talking ‘Science’ or “Science”? (It’s hard to tell these days.)

            [This is not directed at you, it is pointed in the general direction of Clown World™.]

          • 0 avatar
            slavuta

            ToolGuy,

            I think, science is long time gone. When money meet science, it becomes goal-oriented-science. This is when you work your science to retrieve desired results. Remember Dr. Faucci’s evolution from “don’t wear a mask, it might stop a droplet or 2” to triple masking? What do you think that was? That was exactly what I said. With Trump in office I don’t think he would suggest to triple-mask.

            Or take Greta Tumberg. She is not the first girl making all the rage at UN building. And not even a second. This a known scheme, time tested.

            We live in post-science world.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @slavuto – “Inconclusive results, missing data, variable adherence, patient-reported findings on home tests, no blinding, and no assessment of whether masks could decrease disease transmission from mask wearers to others.”

            This is a cut and paste from the first study you posted.

            LOL

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            @Lou:

            Why even try? He has his “truth,” such as it is. You aren’t going to make a freakin’ dent.

        • 0 avatar
          slavuta

          Lou_BS

          a-ha. This is in every study – missing, incomplete, undetermined etc. People die, stop reporting results, refuse to show up for checkup, miss 3 weeks, etc. This is normal.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @slavuta – what are your qualifications? And no, studies don’t tend to put disclaimers up front in the opening remarks. They’ll state “confidence limits”.

            They only checked infection rates in mask wearers versus unmasked populace. It’s disingenuous since standard masks are designed to reduce the odds the wearer will transmit infections to others.

            BTW, I’m a member of my Centre’s HIGH RISK Infection Control Team. Just in case you are wondering about my qualifications.

        • 0 avatar
          slavuta

          Center? What center? Center of propaganda? I know many scientists that work in the field of molecular medicine. None of them post on car sites

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            “None of them post on car sites”

            We all have our hobbies.

            They must frequent ‘T’he ‘T’ruth ‘A’bout ‘N’ovichok or its sister site, ‘T’he ‘T’ruth ‘A’bout ‘P’olonium.

  • avatar
    wolfwagen

    MEH!

  • avatar
    chiefmonkey

    I have lots of contempt for people who drive these dark colored Explorers. Deep inside, I know they want people to think they’re driving a police cruiser.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    I see some improvement in the screen area, it used to dominate the cabin, negatively. Watch what savagegeese had to say about it. They called it half-baked product that shouldn’t leave the factory. I don’t agree or disagree, they have their points. But if I pay north of 30K for an SUV, it is better have a V6. This is why I have Highlander and not CX9 today, even though I’ve been accused of being a “mazda fanboy”

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    $47k for bigger tires and some red accent strips. Outrageous.

    And the quality will still be abhorrent.

  • avatar
    sckid213

    The grille inserts make it look a LOT like a Police Interceptor. Thanks Ford!

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Shouldn’t the sales dept. simply intercept potential Explorer buyers at the door and redirect them to an F-150 at the same price point?

    “Come this way sir or madam, we’re actually good at making this”.

    • 0 avatar
      EBFlex

      Are they though? With all the problems with the F150 of late and Ford’s insisting on “fixing” those quality issues by developing gimmicks (reclining seats, folding shifter, an inaccurate bed scale and a generator that you will use twice yet lug around for the entire life of the vehicle) I question if they have a clue as to what they are doing with trucks.

  • avatar
    nrd515

    I actually like the looks of this thing, but no Ecoboost ever for me, unless I lost my mind and leased one. The price on these SUV/CUV’s is over the top, especially for the ones I would actually want. The profit margin must be huge on them.

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