Most folks will never take their SUVs or crossovers on anything more adventurous than a gravel path to a farmer's market, and that's too bad. Some of them are built to take one way more than that, and now Ford has a version of its excellent Explorer SUV that's specifically outfitted to take on the rigors of less-traveled paths. It's called the Explorer Timberline, and it's as rough and ready as its woodsy looks.
What's great about the new Timberline version is that it's way more than just a rugged-looking SUV. Most auto manufacturers just slap on some new badges and make SUV versions that have only changed in appearance. Ford actually gave the Timberline 0.8 inches of added ride height, high-sidewall Bridgestone Dueler all-terrain tires, and heavy-duty shocks to manage less-than-perfect surfaces. They pulled the dampers off the Ford Police Interceptor (the Explorer designed for law-enforcement duties) and then re-tuned them for off-road performance.
But the Timberline doesn't stop there. It gets functional (not just aesthetic) skid plates to protect the front end, engine, transmission, and vital underbody components. This means Ford expects you to take it off road instead of just driving on a dirt path. They even changed the Explorer's approach and departure angles with revised high-clearance bumpers coupled with the increased ride height. The angles are up by 2.5 degrees to 23.5 in front and 1.7 degrees to 23.7 in back. The breakover angle is unchanged.
In terms of managing the power over the rough stuff, there's a new Torsen limited-slip rear differential and standard all-wheel drive. Power comes from a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that's good for 300 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. No turbo V6 is available in the Timberline, but the power should be more than sufficient. There are seven drive modes in the Terrain Management System including Trail and Deep Snow/Sand. Hill Descent Control is standard on the Timberline, as is the Class III towing package that allows for 5,300 pounds of towing capacity. That's more than enough to tote along your overlanding gear.
Thankfully, the Timberline looks different, too. There's a new Carbonized Gray grille, a unique black Ford oval badge, darker headlight surrounds, and some sweet red tow hooks. Ford also added unique foglights for trail illumination and fresh mountain logo badges on the wheels, C-pillars, and liftgate. The Timberline can be colored in Forged Green Metallic paint, unique to the model.
You can opt for Deep Cypress green interior trim to cinch your outdoorsy look, and there's even a Stone Mesh seat insert pattern. Orange inserts and stitching can be found throughout the Timberline, and the Timberline mountain logo is embossed in the seats. All Timberline models come with easy-cleaning rubber floor mats and ActiveX seat trim, too. And just because you'll probably take the Timberline through four seasons of adventures, it has heated front seats and a heated steering wheel, both standard.
In terms of options, you can choose from three “Outfitter packages”: Outfitters SkyBox, Outfitters MegaWarrior, and Outfitters FrontLoader. They are customized based on the activity you choose. Consistent across all the Outfitter packages are all-weather floor mats, roof rack crossbars, and a Yakima rooftop accessory. Ford obviously means for buyers to take the Timberline's capabilities seriously, and it could very well be the ideal camping and overlanding vacation vehicle.
Prices start at $47,010 base MSRP, and it should go on sale this summer. Just in time to get the family out of this pandemic hell and into the great outdoors.