Just How Capable Is the Ford Explorer Timberline?

The Explorer arguably ignited Americans’ infatuation with SUVs in the 1990s. Back then, it was a ladder-frame 4×4 with a high- and low-range transfer case, leaf-spring rear suspension, and a naturally aspirated V6.

Now the sixth-generation Explorer is a unibody crossover with coil springs, three rows of seating, and a turbocharged line of power plants. Despite that drastic evolution, Ford claims the all-new “Timberline” trim is the most off-road capable Explorer ever.

Although the Explorer Timberline has distinctive front and rear styling, the Timberline is not just an appearance package. Ford engineers have bolted up a beefier suspensions system, including new shocks, springs, and anti-sway bars (borrowed from the Police Interceptor), and increased ground clearance by 0.8 inches.

The new suspension, high-sidewall Bridgestone Dueler P265/65R-18 (31.6-inch) all-terrain tires, and updated front and rear fascias give the Explorer Timberline results in an approach angle of 23.5 degrees and maximum departure angle of 23.7 degrees, plus minimum ground clearance of 8.7 inches for navigating unpaved roads and uneven trails. If the Duelers weren’t enough, traction is aided by a Torsion limited-slip rear differential, too.


Even with a respectable (for the three-row crossover segment) 8.7 inches of ground clearance, Ford has bolted up a set of factory steel skid plates just in case, which is a nice addition to this package.

Power comes from a surprisingly potent four-banger — a 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine producing 300 horsepower and 310 foot-pounds of torque, like that in the all-new Bronco. It’s paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission.

The rig debuts a new Ford color, too: Forged Green Metallic. And the interior looks modern, chic, and outdoorsy as well with cloth seat inserts and orange accent stitching.

Is the Explorer overlanding-capable? From where I sit it looks like it could be, especially since it can tow 5,300 pounds. It could make a great off-road trailer puller.

Would I choose the Explorer as my go-anywhere rig? Certainly not. But this could be a great option for families who want to get out and do some soft overlanding now and again. That is if they travel smartly, understanding the true capabilities of their rig and go prepared with self-recovery gear.

You can order the new Explorer Timberline now at your local Ford store and deliveries will begin this summer.

Images: Ford Motor Company

Photo by Brett Willhelm


We keep our fingers on the pulse of the Overlanding world. Join the Overland News community and get our email on all things overland—including Overland Expo show updates, offers, and overland-specific articles.