When it comes to family SUVs, few enjoy the provenance and reputation of the Ford Explorer. It helped bring the idea of choosing a sport-ute for an everyday ride into the mainstream back in the 1990s, and has continued to sell in mighty numbers for the brand ever since.
Of course, the Blue Oval isn't about to let this icon sit on its laurels. On Tuesday, Ford announced a new addition to the lineup: the Explorer Timberline. The brand is calling the vehicle its most off-road capable Explorer yet; Ford believes the Explorer Timberline will hit a "sweet spot" of "passenger space, moderate off-road capability and great manners around town."
The Explorer Timberline scores several off-roading features standard. It comes with Ford's intelligent four-wheel drive and a Torsen limited-slip differential in back, while the Terrain Management System features seven different drive modes. The Explorer Timberline boasts Hill Descent Control, steel skid plates for protection underneath and a front-rebound spring to eliminate off-road jarring. It alsos come with a tow package rated at 5,300 pounds — enough to lug an off-road camping trailer.
Ford is not giving the Explorer Timberline a lift kit, but the company says it rides 0.8 inches higher due to returned heavy-duty shocks from the Explorer Police Interceptor and Bridgestone Dueler all-terrain tires. The ground clearance stands at 8.7 inches, about a half-inch more than the standard Explorer (and equal to a Subaru Outback, though not the more off-road-focused Outback Wilderness). Unique front and rear fasciae provide 23.5-degree approach and 23.7-degree departure angles.
The Explorer Timberline also feature unique visual elements, including a Deep Cypress interior, blacked-out detailing and red tow hooks. In addition, Ford offers three different Outfitters packages featuring Yakima roof racks.
Overall, it seems like a smart play for the Blue Oval. Off-road and adventure-ready appearance and features are popular with SUV buyers these days; the Timberline trim cobbles together features that meet that need without Ford needing to put in a massive engineering lift. (Ford's upcoming Maverick small pickup may get a similar Timberline trim too; in a call, the brand's representatives did say that we should to expect to see additional Timberline vehicles rolling out in the future.)
Starting price for the Explorer Timberline will be $45,765, making it the most expensive trim with the four-cylinder engine. That's also around $1,500 more than a fully-loaded Kia Telluride. Buyers can order an Explorer Timberline now, with deliveries slated to start later this summer.