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Ford Goes Off-Road With New Explorer Timberline SUV

The three-row Timberline will be a genuine off-road vehicle capable of handling rugged terrain, according to Lee Newcombe, Explorer marketing manager. It goes on sale this summer, with pricing starting at $45,765.

There’s a lot of excitement around the arrival of Ford’s all-new Bronco and Bronco Sport, but the automaker has another addition to the portfolio for off-roading enthusiasts: a new Explorer variant dubbed Timberline.

The three-row Timberline SUV will be a genuine off-road vehicle capable of handling rugged terrain, according to Lee Newcombe, Explorer marketing manager.

It will have Ford’s standard intelligent 4-wheel-drive, which automatically adjusts torque between the wheels based on conditions and driver inputs to deliver the best traction – providing pre-emptive torque before wheel slip occurs, says Adam Gryglak, Explorer chief engineer.

In addition, the Timberline version of the Explorer will have a Torsen limited-slip rear differential, which automatically shifts torque to the wheel with the best traction and prevents the other wheel from spinning to help keep the vehicle moving, Gryglak says. Its Terrain Management System will feature seven drive modes, including Trail and Deep Snow/Sand.

Hill descent control, which allows the Explorer Timberline to maintain a constant speed between 2 and 12 mph (3 and 19 km/h), enabling drivers to focus on steering down uneven descents, is also standard, he says.

The ’21 Explorer Timberline, going on sale this summer, will have steel skid plates in the front and rear to protect the engine and transmission while off-roading. Steering calibration, stabilizer bars and springs are specially tuned for Timberline, including an exclusive front rebound spring that helps prevent sudden jarring off-road, Ford engineers say.

The SUV is powered by a 2.3L EcoBoost 4-cyl. producing 300 hp and 310 lb.-ft. (420 Nm) of torque paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission.

The ride height of the Explorer Timberline can rise 0.8 in. (20 mm), combined with more robust, off-road-capable heavy-duty shocks originally developed for the Explorer Police Interceptor. High-sidewall Bridgestone Dueler P265/65R-18 all-terrain tires feature a tread pattern that balances off-road traction and on-road quietness.

Towing capacity is 5,300 lbs. (2,404 kg), Ford says.

Ede Arguden, lead Explorer designer, says the Timberline will have unique front and rear fascias, resulting in a bolder, uphill approach angle of 23.5 degrees and maximum departure angle of 23.7 degrees, plus minimum ground clearance of 8.7 ins. (221 mm) for navigating unpaved roads and uneven trails.

Timberline includes LED fog lamps for illuminating on- and off-road trail edges at night. The dark Carbonized Gray grille incorporates a wiring harness for dealer-installed Ford Performance auxiliary lights to illuminate nighttime trails.


ActiveX seat trim with cloth inserts is easy to wipe clean and helps prevent occupants from sliding in the seat over rough terrain.

Newcombe says the Timberline version of the Explorer also will come with Co-Pilot360 and Co-Pilot360 Assist+ technology as standard. The package includes intelligent adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go and speed sign recognition, lane centering, evasive steering assist and voice-activated touchscreen navigation.

A standard 360-degree camera provides a view of obstacles around the vehicle, while a front camera offers a view that is useful when cresting a hill off-road.

Pricing will start at $45,765 and the destination charge is $1,245.

Newcombe says Ford’s plans call for the Timberline badge to appear on other Ford SUVs in the future as the appeal of off-road travel expands. Explorer owners report a 56% increase in off-road use over the past three years. 

“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,” Kumar Galhotra, Ford president-Americas & International Markets Group, says, noting the Timberline will be the seventh new utility vehicle Ford has launched since 2019.


Explorer Ridgeline's towing capacity is 5,300 lbs.

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