Looks cool, but is it worth it? | Rare Techy


Ford Explorer Timberline parked in front of the forest

Tyler Duffy

Everyone wants to feel adventurous. Just like buying a Patagonia or North Face jacket to go mountain climbing without, there’s no shame in adding a little off-road flair to your three-row family crossover. That’s where the Ford Explorer Timberline comes in.

This trim does not fit the Explorer into the Bronco at full power. But the package looks cool and adds off-road capabilities—even if the typical Explorer owner never uses that option.

Ford loaned me an Explorer Timberline for a few days to drive to the F-150 Raptor R event. I didn’t get to push the enhanced off-road capability. But I put a few hundred freeway miles on one, hiked over some marked suburban Michigan sidewalks, and did a few preschool runs—about the average Explorer experience.

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The Explorer Timberline adds some serious off-road hardware

The Explorer Timberline finish adds more than just looks. This is the only Explorer with functional skid plates and towbars. Get an upgraded off-road suspension with parts from the Police Interceptor Explorer. The Explorer Timberline has decent limited slip differentials and all-terrain tires. Optional Hill Descent Control is standard on the Explorer. The package gives the Explorer a 0.8-inch rise to 8.7 inches of ground clearance, the same as a non-Wilderness Subaru Outback.

The Timberline package increased capability, but perhaps not enough to move the Explorer’s needle toward the recreational landscape.

But going all out with off-road hardware means sacrifices elsewhere

There’s only so much Ford can put into the mid-level Explorer. SUVs exhaust Timberline’s budget.

The only engine offered is a base 2.3-liter inline-four turbo — sadly, no 400-horsepower twin-turbo V6. The four is fine – it makes plenty of power – but it can feel labored and agricultural. All-terrain tires are seriously noisy on long road trips (noticeable even after a morning of driving the deafening F-150 Raptor R). And the whole package reduces fuel consumption. The EPA rates the standard four-pot Explorer at 28 mpg highway; The Timberline is only rated for 22 mpg highway. (To be fair, I got 23.6 mpg.)

This unique Timberline style cannot help but have a favorable effect on the interior as well. You do get a heated leather steering wheel, but other than that the touchscreen is small. The front seats are not leather, heated or supported. The whole experience feels cheap and plastic rather than premium.

How much does the Explorer Timberline cost? What are the alternatives?

My tester was the base Explorer Timberline, which started at $46,245 and topped out at $47,540 with destination and delivery — about $10,000 more than the base Explorer. Ford raised the 2023 base MSRP to $48,480.

That’s about on par with competitors’ thick off-road gear. Honda just announced pricing for the new Passport Trailsport, which starts at $48,350. The SX X-Pro version of the Kia Telluride starts at $49,885.

Verdict: Ford Explorer Timberline

The Explorer Timberline is the cooler looking version (and no one will mistake you for an undercover cop). But looks aren’t everything.

Off-road technology is nice, but getting it means giving up luxury, comfort and performance features that an Explorer owner would actually use. If you’re willing to pay around $50,000 for the Explorer, you might as well shell out the extra cash for the ST, Platinum, or King Ranch trim.

2022 Ford Explorer Timberline

Transmission: 2.3-liter turbocharged inline-four; 10-speed automatic; 4×4

Horsepower: 300

Torque: 310 lb.-ft

Towing capacity: 5300 pounds

EPA Fuel Economy: 19 mpg city, 22 mpg highway

Seats: 7


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