These days, 4×4 touring and car camping are more popular than ever. And if you didn’t know that from scrolling through Instagram, the recent influx of off-road vehicles—from high-tech electric pickups to resurrected classics like the Bronco—would give you another strong hint. Today, Ford added another trail-ready SUV to its lineup: the 2021 Explorer Timberline. Although it’s only a new, trim package for the existing Explorer (and not an entirely new vehicle), it does include some significant upgrades for exploring back roads and trails.
The Explorer Timberline includes key upgrades to the standard Explorer powertrain and suspension that make it more capable off the pavement—though probably not quite as capable as iconic 4x4s like the Jeep Wrangler. Under the hood, the Timberline features Ford’s 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine, a turbocharged four cylinder that puts out 300 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque; plus it’s mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission with all-wheel drive. Unlike its stablemates, the Timberline gets a Torsen limited-slip rear differential, which reduces wheel slip on loose terrain by sending power to the wheel with the most traction. That’s a significant mechanical upgrade, and it should give the new Explorer a notable off-road edge.
The Timberline comes with a few suspension and underbody tweaks as well. It uses the same heavy-duty shock absorbers found on the Police Interceptor version of the Explorer, and it rides on 18-inch aluminum wheels with beefier all-terrain tires. Ford also equipped it with skid plates to protect the engine, transmission, and other components from rocks and scrapes. Compared to the standard Explorer, Ford states the Timberline rides about 0.8 inches higher, giving it a ground clearance of 8.7 inches.
To put that into perspective, a two-door Jeep Wrangler Rubicon has 10.8 inches of clearance, according to Car & Driver. The Timberline won’t make a good rock crawler, but it can definitely ferry you, your friends, and your gear to your favorite campsite.
Tthe Explorer Timberline features some notable aesthetic and interior upgrades, too. Ford’s offering it in a new “Forged Green Metallic” exterior color with revised front and rear fascias, Timberline badges, and blacked-out headlight trim. We think it looks especially sharp paired with the red accents along the front bumper and the red-painted tow hooks. It also comes with a matching green interior and cloth inserts on the seats and rubber floor mats that are easy to clean—always a plus when spending time in places with lots of dirt.
It’s 2021, so the Timberline is also loaded with tech to help you keep the rubber on the road. You’ll find a suite of safety and driver assist features, including a seven-mode Terrain Management System (with settings for powering through deep snow and sand), Hill Descent Control (for maintaining a constant speed on tricky downhills), and a front-facing camera, which is helpful for navigating narrow trails and parallel parking outside your local coffee shop. Now that’s versatility.
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