With the Ford Explorer Timberline, buyers not only get a lovely badge and paint job but legitimate upgrades for moderate off-road adventures.
Remember the 90s Eddie Bauer Ford Explorer? It was a nice-looking badge and its paint job was meant to emulate an outdoorsy lifestyle. Fast forward to present day and the new Ford Explorer Timberline adds actual outdoor and off-road creds along with a slick badge and paint job.
According to Ford’s president of American & International Markets, Kumar Malhotra, “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.” While any 4×4 enthusiast will point out the lack of a low-range transfer case like the Jeep Wrangler, the name of the Ford Timberline game is “moderate off-road” chops and on that front, it looks set to deliver.
The Ford Timberline Explorer rides almost an inch higher due to heavier duty shocks and beefy sidewalls on the Bridgestone Dueler 18-inch all-terrain tires. Those shocks come from Ford’s Police Interceptor program and are retuned here with a new front rebound spring to limit the bounciness when slamming about off-road. The steering has also been recalibrated and new stabilizer bars join the mix to provide a friendlier ride when the road gets rough.
New front and rear fascias improve approach and departure angles from 21 and 22 degrees on standard Explorers to 23.5 and 23.7 degrees respectively on the Timberline. Should you underestimate the rockiness ahead, steel skid plates protect the front chin, underbody, and rear bumper area. And if you really overcook it, Red Ember painted tow hooks that are rated for 150% of the vehicle weight stick out up front ready for straps.
Ford’s Intelligent 4WD is standard on the Timberline and bolstered by a new, Torsen limited slip differential on the rear axles. That rear diff can send torque to whichever wheel has the best traction while preventing the other from spinning, all in the name of not getting stuck. In addition, seven drive modes are selectable via the Terrain Management System, including Trail and Deep Snow/Sand.
With the modest off-road capability comes a lovely badge and paint job that feels very much like one might expect a Timberline to. Forged Green Metallic paint is new with this model and is complemented by black exterior trim and Timberline badging. 18-inch alloys are also painted black and laser-etched with the same mini mountain range seen on the tow hooks.
Inside, Deep Cyprus ActiveX upholstery both looks like a forest and is easy to wipe clean. Deep Tangerine stitching and an Ebony headliner drives home the green, orange, and black design. Luxury is not lost in the name of weekend dirt-roading, as heat graces front and rear seats plus the steering wheel. However, rubber floors make cleaning a cinch if the Wellies get too muddy.
The new Timberline Explorer is powered by Ford’s 2.3-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder making around 300 horsepower and is mated to their 10-speed automatic. Co-Pilot 360 is the standard suite of driver-assistance aids and a 360-degree exterior view camera improves visibility during low-speed crawling. If you’re inching down a steep incline, Hill Descent Control is outfitted to maintain a constant velocity between 2 and 12 mph.
Ford refers to this new Explorer variant as “the first Timberline series Ford SUV”, which implies the Timberline configuration will be available on additional models in the future. Considering the Blue Oval’s decision to stop making sedans, pumping up their line of SUVs makes sense. Ford’s pickup trucks already offer the Tremor series, not to mention the Raptor, so it would seem unlikely we’ll see a Timberline Ranger anytime soon.
The Edge and Expedition are obvious Timberline targets as they bookend Explorer on the Ford SUV scale. The Ford Bronco, with its already wide array of serious off-road options, would likely skip the Timberline treatment. The wee EcoSport and small Escape are probably not on the top of would-be off-roaders lists to begin with, so they may be last in line to get a Timberline treatment. But how about a Timberline Mustang Mach-E SUV? Combining electric power with a crossover and the storied Mustang brand was a bold move by Ford, so why not send it off-road too? For now, the new Ford Timberline Explorer will start at $47,010 and is expected to be ready for delivery this summer.