The timberline is the altitude on a mountain above which trees don’t grow. Reaching it is a lofty climb for both man and beast. It is a great metaphor for the aspirations of the 2024 Ford Explorer Timberline, the SUV that combines ruggedness and refinement into one accomplished package. Part of Ford’s series of special edition SUVs and pickups, the Explorer Timberline is the most capable Ford Explorer for sale in your local Ford dealership.
When the Timberline edition of the Explorer debuted in 2021, Ford’s President of the Americas and International Markets Group, Kumar Galhotra, described its mission. “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.” In other words, it’s not a hard-core rock crawler, but neither is it limited to getting the kids to school in a light snowstorm.
In 2020, Ford surveyed Explorer owners and discovered that they reported a 56 percent increase in using their Explorers for off-road adventures, ranging from getting to a favorite campsite or fishing hole to trekking up to the family cabin at the end of a dirt road. There was clearly a growing trend toward making use of the “sport” aspect of their sport utility vehicles, so Ford set out to create an edition to meet their needs. Thus, the Explorer Timberline was born.
Looking the Part
When the Timberline was first introduced, it was available only in Forged Green Metallic. It echoes back to Henry Ford, who is reported to have said, “Any customer can have any car painted in any color that he wants, so long as it is black.” However, the Timberline now comes in six exterior colors, all of which are among the more visually striking colors Ford offers, reminiscent of earth and water hues seen in deep forest shade.
No matter what body color you choose, every Timberline edition sports a distinctive Timberline Grille in a deep Carbonized Gray, complemented by body-color door handles and a matching rear spoiler. A subtle red pinstripe in the front bumper gives the Explorer’s face a hint of aggression. High-gloss 18-inch black painted aluminum wheels come wrapped in all-terrain tires. Black lower bodyside cladding, a Dark Carbonized Gray liftgate applique, and the molded-in-color rear bumper step pad with contrasting black accents attest to the Ford designers’ attention to detail.
In the interior, you have one choice: Deep Cypress with heathered seat inserts. Henry Ford would be proud, though he might have flinched at the Satin Silver Twilight trim on the steering wheel bezel, armrests, and center stack. Timberline logos grace the front seats. To keep the interior clean when your adventures involve mud, sand, or snow, rubber floor liners come standard. ActiveX seating material wipes clean easily, yet provides enough grip to keep occupants firmly in place when jolting over rough terrain.
Those seats are heated, both in front and in the rear, so your posterior will warm up quickly after skiing or ice fishing. Even the passenger seats have eight-way power adjustment. Add an available Bang & Olufsen 12-speaker sound system and the passenger cabin is a very comfy environment for both driver and passengers.
The front end features Timberline Projection Lamps. The grille incorporates a wiring harness for optional auxiliary lights from Ford Performance, which your dealer can install. These lights crank out 160,000 candelas to light up the night when you’re in a pitch-black wilderness. This is two and a half times brighter than the Explorer’s regular high beams.
Your dealer can also install other exterior accessories from Outfitters, Yakima, Sportz, Covercraft, and other aftermarket companies, all of which you can order when you build your Explorer Timberline. Some of these accessories include racks and carriers, SUV tents, pet barriers and harnesses, trailering accessories, bike carriers, and much more. Aftermarket electronics that you can order at purchase time include exterior area lighting and speakers, dash cams, and Ford’s own Perimeter Plus security system.
Backing Up the Tough Look
The Explorer Timberline’s powerplant is a 2.3L EcoBoost I-4 engine. Although it’s the smallest engine available in the Explorer, don’t let its relatively small size fool you. This potent little dynamo cranks out 300 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. With the truck’s standard Class IV Trailer Tow Package, it can haul 5,300 pounds. This means you can tow a good-sized camper, boat, or toys like ATVs, snowmobiles, and jet skis. This easily enables the Explorer Timberline to meet the needs of most of those Explorer owners that Ford identified in the survey we mentioned earlier.
The Timberline sports what Ford refers to as intelligent four-wheel drive, which resembles what many would refer to as all-wheel drive. It automatically adjusts torque to go to the wheels with the best traction, preventing wheel slip. In the rear, a Torsen limited-slip differential sends power to both wheels and prevents the wheel with less traction from spinning, increasing power delivery and control.
Drivers can dial in the ten-speed automatic transmission’s Terrain Management System for different surface conditions. There are seven drive modes in all, including settings for handling trails, sand, or deep snow. Hill Descent Control comes standard and holds the Timberline to a constant speed on steep, uneven descents.
For particularly tough terrain, the Timberline offers toughness and capability beyond other Explorer models. Heavy-duty, off-road capable shocks and all-terrain tires boost the ride height by 0.8 inches for clearing rocks and branches with ease. Total ground clearance stands at 8.7 inches. Angles of approach and departure are 23.5 and 23.7 degrees, respectively, due to front and rear fascias designed especially to give the Timberline edition better hill climbing and descending prowess.
Technology for the Driver
A whole set of high-tech features comes standard on the Timberline trim level. Many are focused on safety. Pre-Collision Assist comes with automatic emergency braking for quick-stop emergencies. If there isn’t enough room to stop, Evasive Steering Assist will try to steer around the obstacle instead.
These safety tools are part of a suite called Ford Co-Pilot360 Assist+. This also includes Adaptive Cruise Control with stop-and-go capability and Lane Centering. The Touchscreen Navigation System is voice-activated, so you can keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road. Cameras offer a 360-degree split view around the vehicle and a front view for better off-road safety. Ford’s BLIS blind-spot monitoring system with Cross-Traffic Alert comes standard on the Timberline and includes Trailer Coverage for safer towing.
Beyond safety, an optional technology package provides an array of convenience features. It upgrades the standard PowerPoint port to a 110V/150W AC outlet. It adds the Bang & Olufsen sound system. You’ll get power-folding heated side-view mirrors that light up as you approach. PowerFold seats in the third row make loading cargo easier. And you’ll get a universal garage door opener and wireless charging pad.
Two Vehicles in One
The 2023 Explorer Timberline starts at $49,330, putting it in the more expensive half of the Explorer’s model range. However, it offers such a well-balanced blend of on-road and off-road capability that it’s almost like having two trucks, one for the weekday commute and one for weekend adventures. There are very few optional add-ons, which are limited to the Technology Package ($1,695), a twin moonroof (also $1,695), a few smaller options like an engine block heater, and the aftermarket accessories mentioned earlier.
All told, the Timberline edition could be seen as one of the better-value Explorer packages. With its distinctive appearance, it stands out among the vast number of Explorers on the road. You won’t feel like you see yourself coming and going on your way to your favorite weekend hideaway.