Car Review: Ford offers an off-road ready Explorer with the rugged Timberline edition

The popular Explorer SUV had a makeover two years ago and Ford continues to tweak it to boost appeal. The latest Explorer is an adventure-seeking Timberline trim level.

(WTOP/Mike Parris)

With more ground clearance, the Explorer Timberline looks like a proper off-road SUV. The front-end styling is unique to this model with a dark gray grill and LED fog lamps tucked up and away to keep them safe in the brush.

There is even a front skid plate to keep the Explorer’s undercarriage better protected when the going gets rough. The black 18-inch wheels come with all-terrain tires that are ready for action. The Forged Green paint suits the Explorer — and people move out of your way not knowing if you’re a police vehicle or not.

With this latest makeover, its ride and handling are vastly improved. A better handling SUV means it’s better at tackling more types of roads with confidence. The ride is pleasant. Even as a large three-row SUV, it feels smaller as the speed picked up. The base engine is a turbo four-cylinder power plant that actually gets the job done.

Its louder sound on acceleration gives away that it’s not a V6. The Explorer Timberline comes with standard AWD that will give you confidence in all conditions. The all-terrain tires that are ready to play off-road lead to more noise in the cabin.

A better looking interior greets you when you hop in the Explorer these days. The improved layout is more practical and easier to navigate. Those riding up front have a spacious and airy place to pass the miles with comfortable heated seats. The second row comes with heated seats, but the seat bottoms are a bit stiff. The third row of seats is a bit tight for a vehicle this size. The cargo space has improved compared to the last generation with more room when all seats are in use.

Cost: $46,015; as tested: $49,120

MPG: 19 MPG City; 23 MPG Highway. I managed 20.9 in 217 miles of mixed driving.

Safety: Ford Co-Pilot360; adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go; SOS post-crash alert system; blind spot information system with cross-traffic alert; pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking; lane keeping assist; auto high-beam headlamps; 360-degree camera; reverse sensing system.

Things to know: The Explorer Timberline is a more rugged version of this popular SUV. With improved off-road ability, the Explorer is ready to excel on the road and even venture farther when the road ends.

Pros:

  • The Explorer Timberline is ready to leave the road with more confidence.
  • More space than before.
  • Base engine will satisfy many buyers.

Cons:

  • The infotainment system is a bit slow to respond.
  • Some extra noise is made from the all-terrain tires.
  • MPG suffers, even with four-cylinder engine.

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