DEARBORN, MI – It’s no secret that consumers are flocking to the utility vehicle segment. Sales in the last 10 years have soared from 30% of the Canadian market to about 50%, mainly at the expense of car sales.
Interestingly, Ford research indicates a growing number of these SUV buyers are taking their vehicles off road. They’re not using them for extreme rock bashing – Ford has several models, such as the new Bronco, the F-150 Raptor and its Tremor lineup of trucks, that are capable of rugged off-road thrashing – but these weekend adventure seekers are getting off the beaten path to access camping sites, fishing holes, kayaking and other outdoor activities.
New Timberline sub-brand
To meet this new trend, Ford is introducing Timberline, a new sub-brand for its SUV lineup that gives its customers more capable off-road features.
“Ford is delivering on more capable SUVs with Timberline. Consumer data has shown us that now more than ever, customers want to get outside and explore nature with friends and family,” said Kumar Galhotra, Ford’s president of its Americas and international markets group. “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.”
Ford is offering the first Timberline series package on its popular three-row 2021 Explorer, with the sub-brand expected to expand to other SUV models later this year.
The Explorer Timberline’s off-road features start with Ford’s standard intelligent four-wheel drive, which automatically adjusts torque between the wheels based on conditions and driver inputs to deliver the best traction. The Timberline package adds a Torsen limited-slip rear differential, which automatically sends torque to the wheel with the best traction and prevents the other wheel from spinning to help keep the vehicle moving.
Ford’s Terrain Management System is also standard. It features seven drive modes, including Trail and Deep Snow/Sand, that the driver can select based on road or trail conditions. The standard Hill Descent Control, which functions much like an “off-road cruise control,” allows the vehicle to maintain a constant speed between three and 19 km/h, enabling the driver to focus on steering as the vehicle descends uneven terrain.
The Explorer Timberline is fitted with standard steel skid plates. The underbody protection starts underneath the front end, continues under the engine and transmission and through to the rear, helping protect key components.
The steering calibration, stabilizer bars and springs are specially tuned for the Timberline, including an exclusive front rebound spring that helps prevent sudden jarring off-road.
The Timberline’s ride height has been raised 19 mm, thanks to a combination of more robust, off-road-capable heavy-duty shocks – originally developed for the Explorer Police Interceptor – and high-sidewall Bridgestone Dueler P265/65R-18 all-terrain tires mounted on high-gloss painted aluminum wheels that feature a laser-etched Timberline logo. The higher stance, along with unique front and rear fascias, results in an approach angle of 23.5 degrees and maximum departure angle of 23.7 degrees, plus minimum ground clearance of 220 mm for navigating unpaved roads and uneven trails.
Power is supplied by a turbocharged 2.3-litre, four-cylinder EcoBoost engine producing 300 horsepower and 310 lb.-ft. of torque. It’s paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission. The standard Class III Trailer Tow Package provides 5,300 pounds of towing capability.
Exclusive styling cues
Styling cues on the Explorer Timberline include a new Forged Green Metallic exterior colour and blackout treatment around the headlamps and tail lamps, a black Ford oval, Timberline badges on the C-pillars and liftgate, LED fog lamps, plus a set of Red Ember tow hooks at the front that are rated at 150 per cent gross vehicle weight. The dark Carbonized Grey grille has provisions already incorporated, along with a wiring harness, for dealer-installed Ford Performance auxiliary lights with an output of 169,000 candelas to illuminate nighttime trails.
Interior features include a Deep Cypress trim colour, an Ebony headliner, overhead console, A, B and C-pillar trim, grab handles, visors and moonroof shade. The cabin also features an exclusive Stone Mesh instrument panel appliqué, distinctive Satin Silver Twilight on the centre stack, steering wheel bezel and door armrest trim, Deep Cypress door trim panel inserts, Deep Tangerine stitching on the seats, steering wheel and door trim, plus Timberline logos on the front seats.
Standard rubber floor liners help keep the carpet clean, while ActiveX seat trim with cloth inserts is easy to wipe clean and helps prevent occupants from sliding in the seat over rough terrain. Heated front seats, plus a heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel bring added cold-weather comfort.
Technology features on the Timberline includes standard Co-Pilot360 and Co-Pilot360 Assist+ with Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go and Speed Sign Recognition, Lane Centring, Evasive Steering Assist and voice-activated touch screen navigation. A standard 360-degree camera provides a view of obstacles around the vehicle, while a front camera offers a view that’s useful when cresting a hill off-road.
Ford is now accepting orders for the Explorer Timberline, which arrives at dealerships this summer.