Ford Authority

2021 Ford Explorer Timberline Prototypes Spied Testing Completely Uncovered

Back in July, Ford Authority spied what appeared to be some sort of off-road variant prototype of the Ford Explorer out testing. Then, we came across yet another prototype of what we thought might be an FX4 variant of the popular crossover in September. Just one month later, we reported that the Explorer would be gaining two new trim levels for the 2021 model year – King Ranch and Timberline. Now, we’ve spotted a pair of 2021 Ford Explorer Timberline prototypes out testing, completely uncovered.

The previous prototypes we’ve seen testing wore heavy camouflage covering the front and rear fascias, and now we know why. The 2021 Ford Explorer Timberline features revised styling in those areas that differentiates it from the regular model, particularly up front, where there’s a unique grille design with a single bar that runs the entire width of the grille.

The “Explorer” script that typically runs across the bottom of the hood is gone as well, while the foglights are a completely new design. Instead of the thin, rectangular units present on the regular Explorer, the Timberline has more rugged, square fog lights. The lower grille features a different design intended to improve the crossover’s approach angle, and is punctuated by an orange “line,” similar to the one present on the 2021 Ford F-150 Tremor, along with a set of matching tow hooks.

Moving down the side, the Timberline wears a set of what appears to be 18-inch black wheels that look similar to the ones available on the Ford Bronco Sport Badlands, which are wrapped with beefy Bridgestone Dueler all-terrain tires. The rear bumper has been revised as well, presumably to improve the Timberline’s departure angle, and its dual exhaust has been tucked underneath for the same reason.

Perhaps most interestingly, the Timberline wears a “4WD” badge on the rear liftgate, even though the Explorer comes with an all-wheel-drive configuration. Finally, there are additional badges present on the C-pillar and liftgate of the blue model, which have been covered up.

FoMoCo filed to trademark “Timberline” on January 11th, 2018, for the goods and services category of motor vehicles, namely, passenger automobiles, trucks, sport utility vehicles, off-road vehicles, and structural parts, trim, and badges, therefore.

We expect the Explorer Timberline to launch very soon for the 2021 model year as a rugged version of Ford’s long-running crossover, essentially as an off-road-focused version of the Explorer ST. Like all other Explorer variants, it will be produced at the Ford Chicago Assembly Plant.

We’ll have more on the Explorer Timberline very soon, so be sure and subscribe to Ford Authority for more Ford Explorer news and continous Ford news coverage.

Brett's lost track of all the Fords he's owned over the years and how much he's spent modifying them, but his current money pits include an S550 Mustang and 13th gen F-150.

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  1. Roy Chile’s

    Ford, Lincoln, and Jim Farley need to focus on working out all the bugs that plague the Explorer and Aviator, before being out any new models

    1. Gary M.

      The Explorer and Aviator is one of Ford and Lincoln’s most popular vehicles. I would expect that they worked out the majority of the problems for 2021 model if not then the 2022 model. If they don’t fix the issues it could seriously damage their sales and reputation.

  2. JimL

    The nose is still too low. Needs at least a 1” to 1.5” leveling kit.

  3. Felipe

    Hoping for any off-road tech in this Explorer version as well. Maybe an “advance all terrain management” with rock crawling won’t be bad. Wondering if it will get Sync 4 or a new screen like the 2021 Edge and Expedition too.

  4. Dave Mathers

    LOVE the ‘nose down’ stance!! Well done.

  5. John

    The King Ranch trim surprises me as it was only normally used for the F-150, Super Duty, and Expedition. Seems like they’re trying to fill the gap with the absence of the Eddie Bauer trim along with attempting to answer to former Explorer owners who have criticized Ford for making the vehicle more car like.

    Anyhow, if Ford really wants to offer a more off-road capable Explorer, then fix the quality issues first, then return it to a body on frame design which offers a higher ground clearance and authentic 4WD over AWD. I would avoid taking the newer Explorers off-road anyway due to limited ground clearance and lack of a low range gear which the older models once had available.

  6. Michael Grabowski

    I have read many articles that mention all the quality issues with the explorer. I have a 2016 Explorer XLT with 110k on the clock and beside oil changes it has never been in for any problems. It even has the original brake pads and rotors and just passed a NY inspection. What problems are everyone talking about I would like to know what to expect?


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