ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The Ford Explorer isn’t probably the most thrilling product in Ford’s lineup — a road-going, three-row SUV with styling that tastefully straddles the road between sporty and rugged. There’s an Explorer ST that helps join the drive expertise to the sporty a part of that look, however till now, the Explorer’s off-road functionality has been middling at greatest, particularly straight from the manufacturing facility. Maybe that should not be stunning contemplating Ford now presents the Bronco to fulfill adventurous clients, nevertheless it does so on the sacrifice of on-road refinement and general consolation. A niche in Ford’s SUV portfolio nonetheless exists then. Enter the 2022 Ford Explorer Timberline variant.
On paper, the Timberline’s distinctive options, included in our 2021 tester’s $47,260 base MSRP with vacation spot (although that worth will increase to $47,540 for the 2022 mannequin 12 months), are sufficient to encourage extra confidence. This is not simply an look package deal. It rolls on massive Bridgestone Dueler P265/65R-18 all-terrain tires. Its rides 0.8 inches increased, with a sufficiently lofty 8.7 inches of floor clearance, a 23.5-degree strategy angle (a 2.5-degree enchancment) and 23.7-degree departure angle (up by 1.7 levels). The Timberline will get an off-road suspension that makes use of a retuned model of the Ford Police Interceptor’s dampers, plus revised springs — together with a entrance rebound spring — stabilizer bars and steering rack. A Torsen limited-slip rear differential helps enhance traction in unfastened or slippery surfaces. Mechanicals are protected by metal skid plates spanning the underbody from entrance to rear.
Below the hood is Ford’s hardworking 2.3-liter turbocharged EcoBoost inline-four sending 300 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque to the usual all-wheel drive . Some might lament the shortage of a V6 possibility within the Timberline, craving the 400 horsepower and 415 pound-feet of torque out there from the Explorer ST’s 3.0-liter EcoBoost. Routed by the 10-speed transmission, although, the two.3-liter is ready to make do with its 300 ponies simply tremendous, with the gearbox selecting the best gear to by no means depart it feeling at a loss for driving force. In actual fact, we fairly loved placing the Timberline into Sport mode and having fun with the surprisingly stirring tune of the engine because it climbed the rev ladder. It’s not sufficient to tug your glasses off your head, nevertheless it’s loads of punch to make a transfer into heavy visitors or merge at a comfortably fast pace from even a shortish freeway onramp.
Beware, although: the Timberline’s gasoline economic system suffers in comparison with different Explorers geared up with the two.3. The Timberline is rated at 19 mpg metropolis, 22 mpg freeway and 21 mpg mixed, versus 20/27/23 for the Explorer XLT AWD. We weren’t precisely being miserly with the accelerator, and we hovered proper round a 17-mpg common over the course of our week within the Timberline.
The Terrain Administration System presents seven drive modes, together with Path and Deep Snow/Sand modes for while you do end up off the crushed path. Hill descent management is commonplace, and a 360-degree digicam suite features a entrance digicam that can provide you a glimpse of the path forward when your windshield is pointed on the sky. You possibly can haul toys alongside in your journey, because the Timberline is able to towing as much as 5,300 kilos (greater than the standard three-row SUV, however in need of a Grand Cherokee L), and comes with a Class III towing package deal as commonplace tools.
The Timberline appears to be like the enterprise, too. Along with its elevated experience peak and high-sidewall all-terrains wrapped round darkish, high-gloss 18-inch wheels, it will get conspicuous Ember Pink tow hooks (a coloration that’s repeated on the entrance bumper encompass), LED fog lights, black roof rack aspect rails and a novel darkish grey grille. There are cool Timberline badges on the C-pillars and liftgate, plus an analogous emblem on the wheels and entrance bumper. Our tester additionally got here with the theme-appropriate Cast Inexperienced Metallic exterior paint, which brings to thoughts the looming feeling of a pine forest at twilight. In such a forest, the non-obligatory, dealer-installed Ford Efficiency auxiliary off-road lights within the grille — for which the Timberline comes pre-wired — might make a distinction. In addition they give the entrance finish a whiff of unmarked-police-vehicle, so for those who’re questioning why the man in entrance of you goes so sluggish …
Inside, the Timberline will get an unique Deep Cypress hue that enhances that moody inexperienced exterior paint nicely. The ActiveX fake leather-based seats characteristic engaging heathered fabric inserts, and people up entrance get the Timberline emblem embossed on their seatbacks. Heated entrance and second-row seats come commonplace, as does a heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel — all welcome additions for our wintry week within the Timberline. Seats, door panels and armrests have good, not-too-bright Deep Tangerine stitching that provides to the sense of favor and inside high quality. The Stone Mesh plastic trim on the sprint is somewhat questionable, nevertheless it’s used sparingly and squares with the look of fabric on the seats. Rubber ground mats come commonplace, to make for straightforward cleanup while you inevitably monitor filth and snow into the car. One factor we’d prefer to see in a woodsy ute like this could be 120-volt retailers (along with the usual 12-volt and USB retailers) to higher energy instruments, devices and home equipment throughout out of doors adventures or soccer tailgate.
Taking a look at this Explorer, one is perhaps involved that its ruggedness would imply a sacrifice in consolation, however we had been pleasantly shocked that this isn’t the case. The Timberline, with its massive tires and off-road suspension, was completely agreeable driving round city and on undulating freeway surfaces. It was free from squat and dive, with managed physique roll however nonetheless sufficient forgiveness by the suspension that our ski tools didn’t clatter round at the back of the car and our groceries weren’t tossed across the cargo maintain. We anticipated numerous noise contemplating the tread on the all-terrain tires, however these sounds and vibrations had been largely absent from the cabin, permitting us to benefit from the music, some dialog between rows of seating, and sometimes simply the tuneful sound of the motor.
Venturing off the pavement and onto the snow-covered, potholed filth and gravel roads that encompass the fringes of Ann Arbor, the Timberline felt proper at dwelling. The suspension remained well-sorted as we high-tailed it over hill and dale flanked by empty farm fields and icy woods. Moreover, the steering was a lot lower-effort and extra exact than you’d get within the admittedly extra off-road-capable Bronco. Principally, mission achieved: the Timberline balances its elevated functionality with its snug on-road demeanor.
All of the whereas, the Timberline offered what felt like a quite regular and fashionable driving expertise, free from the analog efforts of extra devoted off-roaders. As commonplace, it comes with Ford Co-Pilot360 Help+, a driver help suite together with stop-and-go adaptive cruise management, efficient lane centering steering help, and automated emergency braking with evasive steering help. Voice activated touchscreen navigation and FordPass Join with 4G Wi-Fi hotspot are included, as is proximity, distant begin and Ford’s SecuriCode exterior keypad. Our tester additionally featured the non-obligatory twin-panel sunroof ($1,695) to let extra mild in whereas retaining the weather out.
After per week of driving, the Timberline had us feeling somewhat extra fondness for the Explorer, discovering this model to higher encapsulate our imaginative and prescient for what this nameplate must be (and initially was within the good ol’ Eddie Bauer days). It helps spherical out a nameplate that was in want of some rounding, and we recognize when one thing like this could extra capably haul three rows of passengers and their cargo to a distant cabin or campsite. It’s nonetheless a cushty and handy every day driver and household hauler, and whereas it will possibly’t enterprise as far into the wilderness because the Bronco, it will possibly get you a lot of the method there comfortably and in type.