The 2021 Ford Explorer Hybrid is the midsize 3-row crossover SUV that manages to excel at every aspect of what makes the SUV desirable. The Ford Explorer is one of the most popular models of an SUV, and the newest edition coupled with an impressive hybrid-electric drivetrain shows a pretty compelling argument as to why that is. The 2021 Ford Explorer Hybrid toes the line between capability, comfort, and energy competence with modern design and style that wraps up the package beautifully. We really like the prospects of what the new hybrid engine is capable of from a cost perspective and what it can offer for drivers who need to rely on their vehicle when the going gets tough.
It is rare, of course, for a vehicle to be flawless. The hybrid drivetrain is not available on the lower trims on the brand, being available on only the midline Limited trim. While that means that you get some really incredible materials and high end feeling, it isn’t exactly going to come on the most budget-friendly model.
The Hybrid Engine
The engine that beats at the heart of the 2021 Ford Explorer Hybrid is a 3.3-liter V6 and electric motor. One of the first things that pops into any driver’s head when they hear the word hybrid engine is: “that engine must be kind of weak.” Don’t let the stigma of the past keep you from the truth of what modern energy is capable of. The hybrid V6 engine is actually pretty capable.
The 3.3-liter hybrid engine can get an output of around 318 horsepower and 322 lb-ft of torque. That isn’t too shabby, especially when you look at some of the competition like the 2021 Honda Pilot, which doesn’t even break 300 on either metric, even with a V6 gasoline engine of comparable size. You’re going to be getting great acceleration and easy highway speeds with all of those horses and the torque. This power combined with the all-wheel drive terrain management system (which we will discuss soon) means you’re getting traction exactly where you need it on difficult terrain, and you are getting a lot of it. 2021 seems to be the year of new and improved hybrid capability, and it’s great seeing Ford lean in and engineer something like this. The engine runs standard with the 10-speed automatic transmission that is basic for the 2021 Explorer and smoothly transitions between gears, so you barely even notice.
The fuel economy of the Hybrid Explorer is pretty good for such a large three-row SUV. The rear-wheel drive models get a fuel economy of 27 miles per gallon in the city and 28 miles per gallon on the highway. Meanwhile, the all-wheel drive option gives you 23 miles per gallon in the city and 26 miles per gallon on the highway. Of course, with the all-wheel drive option, you are getting more bang for your buck with your traction, which accounts for the reduction in fuel efficiency. Overall there really isn’t much to complain about with the hybrid engine Ford has put in the 2021 Explorer. It is efficient, powerful, and gives you that little peace of mind that you’re doing your part.
As mentioned earlier, the torque numbers look great for this hybrid engine, but how does that translate to actual capability. A part of that digs into how the power of the engine applies force to traction, and the 2021 Ford Explorer has some really cool options that ensure you don’t let anything go to waste.
The all-wheel drive option has a standard Terrain Management System. What this does is it gives you more direct control of how the torque gets distributed to your axles with selectable modes. Parameters like transmission shifting, torque management, steering assistance, traction control programming, and throttle response are all dialed into specific amounts to suit your needs. Included modes are Sport, Slippery, Deep Snow/Sand, and Tow/Haul.
This system is fantastic, and they don’t leave out drivers without the all-wheel feature out either. Rear-wheel drive Explorers get a version of the Terrain Management System, but it doesn’t come with all the modes that are possible with the all-wheel drive. Specifically, the deep snow and sand mode are not featured. If you want to explore the tundra or the desert, we recommend getting the all-wheel drive option.
Not all capability comes down to just the terrain it can cover but what it can bring with it. Towing is a huge factor for SUV drivers, and if you have a family and want to go on a camping trip, you may need to bring a camper. The Limited trim, which comes with the available hybrid powertrain, comes standard with a trailer hitch. The towing is actually no joke with this SUV. The Explorer has quite a decent amount of pulling power, and while it won’t be out doing any diesel trucks, it shows up and impresses. It can tow up to 4,500 lbs like a breeze and take you up to high speeds without issue.
In addition to that, the engine takes on steep inclines like a champion and even has enough clearance to wade through up to 12 inches of water. The Explorer is clearly built with toughness and performance in mind and still manages to accomplish this with energy efficiency and tons of room for people and luggage. It almost sounds like it is too good to be true.
The hybrid model is available only on the Limited trim, which is one of the more expensive trims in the lineup. Adding the hybrid drivetrain means your starting MSRP is around $50,000, and for some people, that is a steep place to start. While this is by no means the most expensive trim in the Explorer line, it is a little disappointing that you can’t equip the hybrid with all of the trims. However, the slightly higher price tag also includes some of the more updated tech and luxury features that will make driving this hybrid comfortable and fun. We hope that Ford will include the hybrid engine options for all of the trims in the future, or even make a completely separate hybrid Explorer model in the future, but for now, we can’t be too mad at everything you get when you buy the 2021 hybrid Explorer Limited. Plus, even though the upfront cost is a little higher, the fuel savings you’ll have in the long run are sure to make up for it.
A Hybrid Gamechanger
The 2021 hybrid option for the Limited trim is really exciting and could be one of the vehicles coming out in the new model year that sets the standard for what hybrid energy engines will be capable of. If you have the budget for it, the 2021 Ford Explorer Limited is a very appealing buy. It is classy with luxury materials and designs that feel like things you would find on models well over its price point, feeling more like it is directly competing with Mercedes than Honda. If you want an SUV that can do it all and save money at the gas station, the 2021 Ford Explorer Limited with the hybrid drivetrain could be a gamechanger for you.