Despite being completely redesigned for the 2020 model year, The Blue Oval has been working hard to keep the Ford Explorer fresh and on the minds of consumers in the market for a three-row vehicle. In addition to the upcoming Explorer King Ranch and Enthusiast ST, the company also seemed intent on introducing an off-road variant of its bread-and-butter utility, a fact that Ford Authority confirmed several times over when the model was spotted galivanting around without any camouflage whatsoever on multiple occasions . And now, that variant has officially broken cover as the all-new 2021 Ford Explorer Timberline, which boasts some enhancements that will no doubt make it easier than ever for Explorer owners to take their vehicles far off the pavement.
The 2021 Ford Explorer Timberline separates itself from the rest of the lineup by featuring heavy-duty shocks borrowed straight from the Police Interceptor Utility. These more robust units are supplemented by Bridgestone Dueler P265/65R all-terrain tires with tall sidewalls and construction designed to be simultaneously capable on the dirt and quiet on the highway. This combination allows the Timberline to feature a ride height that’s 0.8 inches higher than other Explorer models. Paired with the aforementioned upgrades, new trim-specific front and rear fascias also enable the Timberline to sport a 23.5-degree approach angle, 23.7-degree departure angle, and a minimum 8.7-inch ground clearance.
The Blue Oval further enhanced the 2021 Ford Explorer Timberline by including several steel skid plates as standard equipment. They cover most of the underbody, from the front end to the engine and transmission, then out to the rear end. Additionally, all Timberline models receive a unique steering calibration, an exclusive front rebound spring, and specially tuned stabilizer bars and springs. Up front, tow hooks clad in Red Ember paint are engineered to handle 150 percent of the Explorer Timberline’s gross vehicle weight.
Those parts are supplemented by the inclusion of a standard Torsen limited-slip differential – a first for the Explorer – and pre-existing off-road goodies like Ford’s Terrain Management System with Hill Descent Control, which are also standard. Intelligent four-wheel drive was also invited to this off-road party, because automatic torque adjustment that can take place before wheel slip even occurs is a likely scenario when an Explorer is dealing with rough terrain or hazardous conditions.
Specialized LED fog lamps designed to help drivers illuminate off-road trails at night are also part of the new model, and Ford even designed the Carbonized Grey grille to include provisions that will allow Ford dealers to easily install Ford Performance-branded auxiliary lights, should customers want them. If buyers do opt for the special lights, they’ll get a set that can output 160,000 candelas, or roughly 2.5 times the lighting power of the Explorer’s high-beam headlamps.
In addition to the abundance of off-road conquering equipment and technology, the 2021 Ford Explorer Timberline arrives with a new Forged Green Metallic exterior color. Other cosmetic changes include a blacked-out Ford oval up front and similar treatments to the trim surrounding the headlamps and taillamps. Timberline logos get prime real estate on the C-pillars, liftgate, and on the high-gloss painted aluminum wheels too.
Inside, Ford created the Deep Cypress cabin environment to mesh nicely with the exterior paint, a decision that is rounded out with an Ebony headliner, moonroof shade, overhead console, and other interior bits. Similarly, several trim-specific items like a Stone Mesh instrument panel, Deep Cypress door panel inserts, and Deep Tangerine stitching on the seats, steering wheel, and door trim are meant to drive the point home that the 2021 Ford Explorer Timberline is no ordinary Explorer.
That said, the Timberline will also come equipped with an attractive assortment of features found on other Explorer models, in order to enhance its overall appeal. Ford naturally outfitted the Timberline with standard rubber floor mats and ActiveX seating with cloth inserts, so owners can easily clean up after messy outdoor excursions. Heated front seats and a heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel are part of the mix too, as are more important pieces of tech like Ford Co-Pilot360 and Co-Pilot 360 Assist+ driver assist features. That safety suite also allows every Timberline to boast a standard 360-degree camera and separate front camera for maximum off-road visibility.
Underneath the hood of every 2021 Ford Explorer Timberline is the Ford 2.3L EcoBoost I-4, which is paired to the company’s 10-speed automatic transmission. In a wholly unsurprising move, the company also decided to throw in the Class III Trailer Tow Package with that potent powertrain combo as well, a decision that will make every version of the Timberline able to tow up to 5,300 pounds.
“Ford is delivering on more capable SUVs with Timberline. Consumer data has shown us that now more than ever, customers want to get outside and explore nature with friends and family,” said Kumar Galhotra, president, Americas and international markets group, Ford Motor Company. “Timberline hits a new sweet spot with these customers who want an ideal combination of passenger space, moderate off-road capability, and great manners around town.”
The 2021 Ford Explorer Timberline is slated for a summer 2021 launch, but the ongoing chip shortage has wreaked havoc on the automaker’s output, so that timeframe is certainly subject to change, although interested shoppers should be able to place an order at their local dealers now.