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2021 Ford Explorer Timberline: 7-Passenger Off-Road Adventure Machine

Lifted Suspension, AT Tires, Skid-Plates, Tow-Hooks, & a Limited-Slip Rear Differential Make This SUV Off-Road Ready

2021 Ford Explorer Timberline

Ford, now a builder of only trucks and SUVs (besides the Mustang) in North America, is doubling down on its off-road offerings. The Bronco Sport, Bronco, Ranger Tremor, Raptor, Super Duty Tremor, and now 2021 Ford Explorer Timberline models are ready for adventures of the beaten path. Inevitably the Explorer, Ford’s best-selling SUV, had to get the off-road treatment like all of its stablemates.

So, is the Explorer Timberline worth your hard-earned dollars? Because, with a starting price of $47,010, it’s not exactly inexpensive. That’s just $3,000 shy from a Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro or roughly the same starting price of a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. Here’s the rundown.

7 Seats & A Suspension Lift

2021 Ford Explorer Timberline

Up until now, if you wanted 7-passenger seating and a lifted suspension out of the box, your only option was a full-size SUV, like the Chevrolet Tahoe Z71 or a Toyota Sequoia TRD Pro. Ford fixes this problem with the Explorer Timberline. It’s the first unibody midsize 3-row SUV to get a suspension lift all around (0.8-inches).

Now, we get that this won’t grant you Rubicon-conquering capability, but it’s enough to get you down forestry service roads with ease and tackle harder off-road obstacles than you might think.

The Explorer Timberline package includes front and rear skid plates, model-specific 18-inch wheels wrapped around Bridgestone Dueler all-terrain tires, as well as a Torsen limited-slip rear differential.

Here’s a fun fact: Ford says the Explorer Timberline gets the same shock absorbers as the Explorer Police Interceptor. How much off-roading are police officers actually doing with their Fords anyway? The key for us is that we know they are proven parts that are designed for severe duty.

2021 Ford Explorer Timberline: Inside & Out

2021 Ford Explorer Timberline

The 2021 Ford Explorer Timberline looks the part too, with a new paint color called ‘Forged Green’ (as pictured) on offer. The entire fascia is more aggressive, with a redesigned front bumper that helps improve approach (23.5 degrees) and departure angles (23.7 degrees). There’s some cool LED lighting integrated into the grille and a more powerful set of fog lamps. The Timberline gets more body cladding than a standard Explorer and has easily accessible red tow hooks installed front and back.

Inside, the Timberline gets ActiveX seat material and rubber floor mats for easy cleaning. Stone mesh dashboard trim, bronze stitching, and Timberline logos that are shaped like a mountain range help differentiate it from the non-offroad ready Explorers.

One Drivetrain, Ample Towing Capability

2021 Ford Explorer Timberline off-road

Nothing changes under the hood, as the Timberline only comes with one available engine: the Explorer’s entry-level 2.3L turbocharged EcoBoost 4-cylinder. It’s paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission. Output is rated at the same 300 hp and 310 lb.-ft. of torque and, of course, the Explorer Timberline comes standard with all-wheel drive.

Ford also throws in a tow package for a claimed 5,300-pound rating at no extra cost. That’s 3,000 pounds more than a 4Runner TRD Pro. Plus, a 4Runner won’t grant you 7-passenger seating, a crucial element if you’re an off-road enthusiast that also has a big family.

Explorer Timberline Conclusions

2021 Ford Explorer Timberline interior

That all being said, we would have liked to see the Explorer Timberline being offered with more engine options. Ford’s 400 hp 3.0L twin-turbocharged V6, for instance, which currently powers the Explorer ST, would have definitely given this off-road machine a bit more of a performance edge. Or even better, the Explorer hybrid’s powertrain would have allowed this big guy to be both adventurous and a bit more eco-friendly.

Ford obviously wanted to keep pricing reasonable for what is essentially a pilot project. The Timberline also conveniently squeezes its way between an XLT with all-wheel-drive and a Limited within the Explorer trim hierarchy. It makes total sense, and it’s not like it has real competitors anyway. Not yet. Because you can be darn sure that competing brands are looking at this beefed-up Explorer and thinking “we need one of them bad boys in our dealerships as well.”

The 2021 Ford Explorer Timberline hits U.S. showrooms this summer. We’ll make sure to get our hands on an example to give it a proper trail test and see if it’s a worthy candidate in the off-road space. On paper, it’s a very compelling family adventuremobile.

2021 Ford Explorer Timberline camping

Willliam Clavey
About Willliam Clavey

Automotive journalist from Montreal, Canada. When William's not busy reviewing cars, he's ripping through some back roads in his modified MINI Cooper or fixing up his E39 BMW 540i. He also daily drives a 2001 Toyota Camry.