Ford Explorer channels rugged roots with burly 2021 Timberline model

Steel skid plates, higher ground clearance, improved towing - definitely not your typical Explorer.

Back when the Ford Explorer was first introduced in the 90s, it was more truck than crossover utilizing a body-on-frame configuration and boxy aesthetics. Over the years it’s gone away a bit from its rugged roots (I’m looking at you Platinum grade), however the automaker is rectifying that by launching a brand new Timberline model.

Release DateSummer 2021
US MSRP$45,765
Canadian MSRP$50,799
Prices do not include destination charge, fees, taxes.

“This is for buyers who need a high level of off-road capability, but maybe not as much as a Bronco, plus more passenger and cargo room,” said marketing manager Lee Newcombe during a virtual presentation of the vehicle on Monday, citing people increasingly participating in outdoor activities since the start of the pandemic as one of the reasons for its introduction.

Explorer Timberline’s off-road features

Dubbed the most off-road-capable Explorer ever, the bold claim is backed up by the specs.  The foundation starts with standard Ford intelligent four-wheel drive, bolstered by a Torsen limited-slip rear differential. The LSD is capable of automatically distributing torque to the wheel getting the best traction, while stopping the other from spinning, to help get things moving. 

2021 Ford Explorer Timberline off road features
2021 Explorer Timberline. Photo: Ford

5 main upgrades:

Increased approach & departure angles

Steel skid plates

Increased ground clearance

Torsen limited-slip rear differential

5,300 pounds towing capacity

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The SUV is also seriously armoured-up boasting steel skid plates protecting right from underneath the nose of the vehicle, along the engine and transmission and through to the rear. 

Compared to the regular variant, the Timberline sits on heavier-duty shocks and Bridgestone Dueler 265/65/18-inch all-terrain tires formulated to balance grip and low noise. Together, the combination raises the ride height 19 millimetres and yields a minimum ground clearance of 220 millimetres meaning unpaved roads and tricky trails should be no problem. 

Being a modern day Explorer, some comfort is expected — that’s why the steering calibration, stabilizer bars and springs are all specifically tuned to keep the unpleasantness of navigating over ruts and bumps to a minimum. There’s even a special front rebound spring to mitigate some of the sudden jarring usually experienced during off-roading. 

Power and performance

Powering the mid-size SUV is Ford’s 2.3-litre turbocharged EcoBoost engine producing 300 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque, mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. A Class III Trailer Tow Package is included allowing drivers to haul along other adventure-ready toys like RVs, ATVs and watercraft. 

Another exclusive on this new SUV is the cool Forged Green Metallic colour. Regardless of paint job, all offerings feature blacked out details around the headlamps and taillamps and sport a cool black Ford oval badge. Timberline emblems have been added to the C-pillars and liftgate, as well as a laser etched logo on the alloy wheels. The proverbial cherry on top are the pair of bright Red Ember front tow hooks rated at 150 per cent gross vehicle weight.

Some interior & exterior touches

2021 Ford Explorer Timberline interior
2021 Explorer Timberline. Photo: Ford

Complementing the outer styling is the Deep Cypress interior pieces with contrasting Ebony headliner, overhead console, pillar trim, grab handles, visors and moonroof shade. The unique design elements don’t end there: a Satin Silver Twilight finish is found on the centre stack, steering wheel bezel and around the door armrests, and Deep Tangerine stitching is added throughout the cabin providing a subtle visual pop. 

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Just like the exterior, the cabin needs protection too from the mud and goop treaded in from playing outside. Rubber floor liners are standard, and the ActiveX upholstery is both easy to wipe clean and keep occupants in place during extreme manoeuvres. 

Finally, a full complement of safety technology is equipped such as radar cruise control, active lane keep assist, 360-degree birds-eye view camera. The 2021 Ford Explorer Timberline is available to order now and will arrive in dealerships later this summer.


Overall, the entire Explorer lineup is getting a lot of love; kicking off with the first-ever 2020 Explorer ST making 400-hp (Ford’s most powerful SUV). And now, the mountain-climbing, skid plate-equipped Explorer Timberline.

Here’s a look at more 2021 & 2022 SUVs worth waiting for.

Interior and exterior 2021 Ford Explorer Timberline pictures