Car Life Nation

When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

A white 2023 Ford Explorer Limited Hybrid is shown parked next to a family on a pier.

Making Family SUVs Fun: The 2023 Ford Explorer

What do you do when you need a roomy family car with comfortable seats and plenty of cargo space, but you still want to have fun behind the wheel? You buy a 2023 Ford Explorer. Cars that can cart around the kids during the day while still giving you a burst of adrenaline when you have some alone time are few and far between. Generally, you have to choose between something fun, like a Mustang or a Wrangler, and something practical, like a Traverse or a Highlander. Even worse, most of the legitimately fun family car options are vehicles like the BMW X5 M and Land Rover Range Rover that carry six-figure price tags well out of reach of the average American family.

Fortunately, Ford has decided to come to the rescue and do exactly what the Blue Oval has always done––democratize performance. Most car brands like to play it safe, but Ford has been breaking barriers for ages. From creating the pony car segment with the 1965 Mustang to kickstarting the performance truck revolution with the 2010 F-150 Raptor, you can count on Ford to deliver. While the 2023 Ford Explorer may not be quite as wild as those two automotive icons (it is still a family car, after all), it does its best to satisfy your need for fun with not one but two enthusiast-oriented variants.

Hit the Streets or Take to the Trail?

Having a fun family car for around $50k is already impressive enough, but Ford understands that driving enjoyment means more than just going fast these days––although the 2023 Explorer ST will certainly let you do exactly that. No, these days car enthusiasts also want to be able to head out into the wild and get some mud on the tires. That is why Ford also offers the 2023 Explorer Timberline. No matter which side of driving enjoyment you come down on, this remarkable SUV has an option for you. These aren’t “sport-like” or “off-road-inspired” either, like some recent models we could name. Although Ford is certainly willing to cash in on drivers who are only interested in looking the part with its new Explorer ST-Line, the Explorer ST and Explorer Timberline are the real deal.

2023 Explorer ST

Starting with the 2023 Explorer ST, you get a genuine high-performance SUV that can challenge considerably more expensive models from brands like BMW and Mercedes. Under the hood, you will find a 3.0L EcoBoost twin-turbo V6 providing 400 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque. That’s more power than an Audi SQ7 or an Acura MDX Type S. The engine is paired with a ten-speed automatic transmission that includes paddle shifters for manual control, and driving enthusiasts will be excited to learn that the 2023 Explorer ST is available with your choice of rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.

Ford added more performance features to the ST than just a big engine. You will find a larger 3.58 rear end for more torque, a stiffer suspension for better handling, and an available Street Pack that adds 21-inch wheels and upgraded brakes. Altogether, the 2023 Explorer ST can rocket from zero to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds and runs the quarter mile in 13.8 seconds, putting it just 0.2 seconds behind a Mustang EcoBoost High Performance Package. If you want a modern muscle car that can fit the whole family, the Explorer ST is the one for you––just don’t confuse it with the Explorer ST-Line, which has the same looks but lacks the performance features.

A dark blue 2023 Ford Explorer is shown in a driveway.

2023 Explorer Timberline

However, what if you prefer tearing up dirt roads and crawling down muddy trails? In that case, look for the 2023 Explorer Timberline. While you might not think a midsize family SUV can handle itself off-road, Ford knows what it’s doing––after all, the Blue Oval basically created the modern off-road segment with models like the Bronco and Raptor. The Explorer Timberline is tricked out with red tow hooks up front and steel skid plates underneath, readying it for the trail. However, one of the most important upgrades is one you’ll never see––the 3.58 Torsen limited-slip rear end that takes this model’s standard all-wheel drive system to the next level.

Completing the package is a set of all-terrain tires on 18-inch wheels and a small lift kit that gives the Timberline 8.66 inches of ground clearance and improves the approach and departure angles. To make off-roading a little easier, Ford outfits the vehicle with Hill Descent Control, a seven-mode Terrain Management System, and a 360-degree camera with Split-View Display. While these electronic aids may not be strictly necessary, they are a nice touch for the weekend adventurer who doesn’t mind a little help on the trail. While it may not be a Bronco, the 2023 Explorer Timberline will let you go anywhere in style.

Keeping the Family Happy

We’ve shown how the 2023 Ford Explorer is ready to live up to your expectations as an enthusiast’s SUV, but what about your family? What will they think when you bring home the exciting Explorer ST or the adventurous Explorer Timberline? Well, we’re happy to say that as long as you keep quiet about your new ride’s performance features, they’ll probably never know it is anything more than a comfortable midsize SUV.

Both of these trims come standard with all the comfort and convenience features that you would expect from a well-equipped family SUV. Tri-zone automatic climate control is standard to keep all your passengers comfortable, and the standard six-speaker sound system can be upgraded to an impressive 14-speaker Bang and Olufsen stereo that will let everyone enjoy their favorite tunes. Second-row captain’s chairs let your backseat passengers stretch out, but you can option a bench seat to bring the total seating capacity up to seven. The seats in the Timberline are upholstered in durable Active-X material with orange stitching, while the ST has leather seats with perforated inserts and silver stitching.

Technology is plentiful, with standard 10.1-inch central touchscreen and a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot. Voice-activated navigation and HD radio are available options. There are 12V outlets in all three rows, USB ports in the first and second rows, and an available 110V outlet to keep all your phones, tablets, and laptops charged. Finally, Ford Co-Pilot360 is standard, equipping the vehicle with advanced driver-assist features to help protect you and your family on the road. The 2023 Explorer was even named a Top Safety Pick+ by the IIHS, which is sure to make your spouse happy.

A white 2023 Ford Explorer is shown parked near a cabin and family on bikes.

A Rare Vehicle in the Modern World

While the 2023 Ford Explorer may not be able to keep you from pining for a Shelby GT500 or a Bronco Raptor, it is one of the best enthusiast-oriented family vehicles you can buy. Its roomy and comfortable cabin will handle road trips and grocery runs with ease, and its suite of tech and safety features means you can relax even when your whole family is onboard. When it’s time for some fun, the Explorer ST provides 400 ponies under your right foot, and the Explorer Timberline is ready to rumble with its off-road features. Best of all, with a roughly $50k price tag for these two fun trims, you can actually afford to bring an Explorer ST or Explorer Wilderness home with you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *