2021 Ford Explorer

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2021 MODEL
$32,765 - $50,130
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2021 Ford Explorer Complete In-depth Review & Buying Guide

Updated on: July 20, 2020
John Bedrow's image

John Bedrow

Automotive Journalist

From its birth year (1990), till today, Ford Explorer is no doubt, considered as a trusted 7-seater SUV. With an average annual sale of 200,000 cars, this automobile is a good option to choose among its rival SUVs.

The 2020 Ford Explorer led a whole new generation for this midsize crossover. Turning it away from the front-driven pavement pounder, it was into a rear-driven rig with more off-road valor without missing its on-pavement pleasure. With its redesign starting its second year, we anticipate no significant changes to the 2021 Explorer.

See detailed review »

Pros

Spacious Cabin

Enormous cargo space

Performance in ST model

Additional tech and driver assistance features

Cons

Expensive upper trims

Cramped third row

Sluggish infotainment

What's New?

N/A


Pictures & Videos

Exterior
Interior
Videos
2021 Ford Explorer Review video
2021 Ford Explorer Interior video
2021 Ford Explorer Safety video

Styles

2021 Ford Explorer in Agate Black Metallic color 2021 Ford Explorer in Arctic Blue Metallic color 2021 Ford Explorer in Silicon Silver Metallic color
Agate Black Metallic

Vehicle images are guides only and may not reflect the model's exact specifications/features– exact specifications/features should be confirmed with the seller.

Ratings

9.0

OVERALL RATING

Trims and Configurations

MSRP


2021 Ford Explorer Base

Base

power
335 hp @ 5550 rpm
fuel
Premium unleaded (recommended)
mpg
25 combined

$32,765 - $34,765


Style Prices MPG Engine Transmission Drivetrain Seats Colors
4dr SUV (2.3L 4cyl Turbo 10A) Starting at $32,765 MSRP (22/25/29) 335 hp @ 5550 rpm, 2.7 L, V-6, premium unleaded (recommended)
8-Speed Automatic w/SelectShift all wheel drive 5
4dr SUV 4WD (2.3L 4cyl Turbo 10A) Starting at $34,765 MSRP (16/18/23) 300 hp @ 5500 rpm, 2.3 L, Inline 4, flex-fuel (unleaded/E85)
10-Speed Automatic w/SelectShift all wheel drive 7

2021 Ford Explorer XLT

XLT

power
318 hp @ 6500 rpm
fuel
Flex-fuel (unleaded/E85)
mpg
18 combined

$36,675 - $38,675


Style Prices MPG Engine Transmission Drivetrain Seats Colors
XLT 4dr SUV (2.3L 4cyl Turbo 10A) Starting at $36,675 MSRP (16/18/23) 318 hp @ 6500 rpm, 3.3 L, V-6, flex-fuel (unleaded/E85)
10-speed shiftable automatic four wheel drive 7
XLT 4dr SUV 4WD (2.3L 4cyl Turbo 10A) Starting at $38,675 MSRP (16/18/23) 300 hp @ 5500 rpm, 2.3 L, Inline 4, flex-fuel (unleaded/E85)
10-Speed Automatic w/SelectShift all wheel drive 6

2021 Ford Explorer Limited

Limited

power
318 hp @ 6500 rpm
fuel
Flex-fuel (unleaded/E85)
mpg
18 combined

$48,130 - $50,130


Style Prices MPG Engine Transmission Drivetrain Seats Colors
Limited 4dr SUV (2.3L 4cyl Turbo 10A) Starting at $48,130 MSRP (16/18/23) 300 hp @ 5500 rpm, 2.3 L, Inline 4, flex-fuel (unleaded/E85)
10-Speed Automatic w/SelectShift rear wheel drive 6
Limited 4dr SUV 4WD (2.3L 4cyl Turbo 10A) Starting at $50,130 MSRP (16/18/23) 318 hp @ 6500 rpm, 3.3 L, V-6, flex-fuel (unleaded/E85)
10-speed shiftable automatic rear wheel drive 5

Expert Review

9.0

Overall Rating


The 2021 Ford Explorer will inherit its base features from the 2020 model. In addition to that, it is expected that Ford might launch the vehicle with a couple of updates like an optional V6 engine instead of the regular one for the XLT version also, new attracting colors, minor exterior & interior fittings, and it is rumored that it might also add a PHEV trim.

Numerous engine options, assuring safety features, charming sporty looks, 360 degrees camera, are some of the peculiarities that make this car a better choice among its rivals like 2020 Hyundai Palisade SEL, 2020 Honda Pilot EX, 2020 Nissan Pathfinder SV RCE. No more delays let's go further and uncover what makes this SUV a special of its segment.

2021 Ford Explorer Exterior Front View
2021 Ford Explorer Exterior Rear View

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

2021 Ford Explorer Features

The currently running 2021 Explorer has 4 different trims with price range starting from $32,800 to $59,000. The 2021 model might have sparse changes including PHEV and so it could come up with a slightly increased price segment i.e., $34,000 - $60,000. The base explorer that gets you turbocharged inline-four mated to 10 speed automatic transmission ,fabric seats, and SYNC 3 infotainment. The top of the line has a hefty $58,250 price tag and has Lincoln rivaling luxury with interior draped in real wood and leather.

Trim

Base

XLT

Limited

Platinum

MSRP (RWD)

$32,765

$36,675

$48,130

-

MSRP (AWD)

$34,765

$38,765

$50,130

$58,250

Key Features

Tri-zone electronic temperature control

Includes Base model’s features and adds -

Includes XLT’s features and adds -

Includes Limited's features and adds

 

Air filtration system

10-way power driver’s seat including power lumbar

Auto-Dimming Rearview Mirror

Active Park Assist 2.0

 

Configurable daytime running lights

LED Signature Lighting

Forward Sensing System

Illuminated front scuff plates

 

Lane-Keeping System

Intelligent Access with Push-Button Start

Steering wheel, Heated, leather-wrapped with paddle shifters

Twin-panel moonroof

 

Rearview camera with washer

Second-row captain seats with Power-Assist Fold

Ambient Lighting

Sony Premium Brand Stereo System with 12 speakers

 

Remote Start

Roof rack side rails, black with black end caps

Universal Garage Door Opener

Heated Steering Wheel

 

FordPass Connect 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot

 

B&O Sound system by Bang & Olufsen

Body-color door handles with satin aluminum insert

 

Cloth seating surfaces

 

Voice-Activated Navigation System

Satin Chrome lower bodyside cladding insert

 

LED Headlamps and Taillamps

 

Leather seating surfaces 

Tri-Diamond Perforated Leather Seating Surfaces

 

Privacy Glass, Second and Third Rows

 

Dual Chrome Exhaust Tips

Quad Chrome Exhaust Tips

We Recommend

We think the Ford Explorer in limited trim gives the most bang for the buck as it has an efficient and powerful 3.0 L EcoBoost engine. It also gets the much-improved SYNC 3 infotainment system, exceptional ambient lighting, and host of other feel-good amenities.

Initially, Ford has planned to release it during summer 2020, due to the recent pandemic it has drifted to the later phase of 2020.

2021 Ford Explorer Engine and Performance

There are no changes to the engine lineup of the 2021 Explorer is going to get almost similar specs of the 2020 model. There are numerous engine combinations available for the 2021 Explorer. The two optional 3.3L V6 Hybrid engines, Enhanced 3.0L EcoBoost V6 engine, and the standard 2.3L EcoBoost I-4 Engine. The 2.3L EcoBoost I-4 Engine will impress the drivers with its 300hp power output at 6500rpm and 310lb.ft torque. It will provide a smooth and agile play at highways and also provides good off-road performance.

2021 Ford Explorer Engine Bay

It has 10-Speed Automatic Transmission, also a manual mode with paddle shifts. Gear shifting is quiet, smooth, and doesn't feel any unresponsiveness with shifting. By default, it has Rear Wheel Drive, but you can add a unit of 4WD which comes with an intelligent Terrain Management System.

Now going to the acceleration part, the 2020 Ford Explorer XLT took 6.8sec from 0-60mph and 15.3sec for its quarter-mile distance. You can feel comfort as well as fun and can have an adventurous ride while driving the vehicle. It has a beautiful front and rear wheels individual suspension system with front and rear stabilizer bars. With these in your wheels, there will be no doubt that you will not feel any kind of discomfort while driving off-roads and terrains.

Models

2020 Ford Explorer XLT

2020 Hyundai Palisade SEL

2020 Honda Pilot EX

2020 Nissan Pathfinder SV RCE

 

MSRP

 

$36,065

$33,925

$34,530

$35,465

Engine

 

2.3L EcoBoost® I-4

3.8L 6-Cylinder

3.5L V-6

3.5L DOHC V6

Drivetrain

 

RWD

FWD

FWD

FWD

Transmission

 

10-Speed SelectShift® Automatic

8-Speed Automatic

6-Speed Automatic

CVT

Power (hp @ rpm)

300 @ 6,500

291 @ 6000

280 @ 6000

284 @ 6,400

Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)

310 @ 4,000

262 @ 5200

262 @ 4700

259 @ 4,800

The 2020 Ford Explorer XLT wins this segment of power & torque comparison with huge 300hp & 310lb.ft power and torque and with huge 10-Speed transmission. This is going to continue in the 2021 edition also. Ford doesn’t compromise with the engine performance, so no need to worry about your adventurous rides.

Acceleration

Ford Explorer races from 0 mph to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds. On paper and on the drag strip, Explorer is quicker than the Nissan Pathfinder and Hyundai Palisade. But the Honda Pilot with a bigger engine does 0-60 mph in 6.1 seconds, a tad bit quicker. 

2021 Ford Explorer Side angle View

Models

Ford Explorer

Honda Pilot

Nissan Pathfinder

Hyundai Palisade

0-60 MPH

6.8 sec

6.1 sec

7.1 sec

7.3 sec

Quarter mile

14.4 sec

14.7 sec

15.5 sec

15.8 sec

Emission

Tons/yr of CO2 Emissions @ 15K mi/year

9.8 (Est)

8.0

7.6 (Est)

N/A

On the quarter-mile drag, the Explorer completes it in 15s and stands alongside the Honda Pilot while the rest vary from 0.5s a whole flat second slower.

Ride and Handling

The Explorer suspensions are adept at the job of transporting all your family in comfort. They offer cushioned ride quality even on 'not so friendly' terrain, which is familiar territory for the Explorer. High-speed ride quality is composed too with no nervous body movement, a necessary trait on those long highway drives to the outback.

2021 Ford Explorer Handling

Engaging handling and fun to drive characteristics are down on the Explorer's list of priorities. Effortless, safe, and family-friendly features are high on the list, a good thing for a family crossover. The SUV can handle the sudden change in direction with aplomb so you can rely on it to save you from hairy situations.

However, it lacks in one area where it really shouldn't. Most people are expected to drive it in town, and this Ford SUV is cumbersome in tight situations being heaviest and lengthiest among the competition.

Braking

The Ford Explorer has a soft brake but the braking performance is impressive – 70 to 0 mph in 174 feet – among best in class. This is impressive considering the Explorer weighs almost 600 pounds more than the next heaviest competitor and features equal size rotors.

2021 Ford Explorer Brake

Model

Ford Explorer

Honda Pilot

Nissan Pathfinder

Hyundai Palisade

Brake pads-front(in)

12.6

12.6

12.6

12.6

Brake pads Rear(in)

12.8

13

12.8

11.9

Curb weight(lbs.)

4901

4288

4361

4198

70-0 MPH (ft.)

174

198

177

168

Honda Pilot and Nissan Pathfinder curb weight curb lesser than the Explorer and still covers a larger distance from stopping 60-0 mph.

2021 Ford Explorer Fuel Economy

As the 2021 Ford Explorer follows the same engine guidelines, there won't be much change in the fuel economy when compared to the 2020 model. If it comes with a PHEV variant, then it might increase the fuel economy. So, let's take the fuel ratings of 2020 Explorer.

This SUV has a tank capacity of 19.2gal and gives 24 combined mpg which tops the competition with its rivals. The city mileage is 21mpg and the highway is 28mpg. Explorer never gets you down in the middle of your trip. If it gets a PHEV engine, then these values will increase further.

Models

2020 Ford Explorer XLT

2020 Hyundai Palisade SEL

2020 Honda Pilot EX

2020 Nissan Pathfinder SV RCE

 

MPG (City)

 

21

19

19

20

MPG (Highway)

 

28

26

27

27

MPG (Combined)

 

24

22

22

23

Fuel Capacity (Gallons)

 

19.2

18.8

19.5

19.5

Range (City/Highway/Combined, in Miles)

403/537/460

357/489/413

370/526/429

390/527/448

From the readings, it is evident that Explorer is the solo winner providing a range of 460miles combined. The 2021 Explorer is going to keep this lead continuing.

2021 Ford Explorer Interior

The interior of 2021 Explorer might acquire its classy look from the 2020 model with slight changes and add-on options. It comes with two options, one is Ebony leather-trimmed interior, and the other is of Sandstone. The cabin is spacious enough for a family to have a long dusty ride along with substantial luggage filled in. The interior gives a corporate look when you get into the cabin. In the XLT and above trims, the second-row bench is replaced by the captain's chair, making it one of the best second rows in the segment. Also standard on the model is the cloth upholstery and soft-touch material around.

The driver seat is 10-way adjustable for giving an excellent viewpoint to the driver, and the side passenger seat is 4-way adjustable. The overall seat quality is decent; it would be better if Ford has added heating seats for this XLT variant. The dashboard is comprehensive and spaced enough with minimal buttons on it. The ventilation ports are full and offer better airflow around the cabin. There is an 8" touch screen at the center of the dashboard; below it; there are multi-media and AC controls. However, the engine start/stop button is placed in a wired place behind the steering wheel.

Now, talking about the headroom and legroom space. There will be a decent headroom and legroom space in the front two rows of the vehicle, but the 3row has a lesser area. So, it is adjustable for children only.

2021 Ford Explorer Interior

Models

2020 Ford Explorer XLT

2020 Hyundai Palisade SEL

2020 Honda Pilot EX

2020 Nissan Pathfinder SV RCE

Seating Capacity

7

7

8

7

Frist Row (Headroom/Shoulder Room/Leg Room, in inches)

41.4/61.5/42.9

40.7/61.2/44.1

40.1/ 62/40.9

42.2/60.9/42.2

Second Row (Headroom/Shoulder Room/Leg Room, in inches)

40.6/61/39.5

40.1/60.8/42.4

40.2/62/38.4

39.4/60.4/41.7

Third Row (Headroom/Shoulder Room/Leg Room, in inches)

37.8/50.8/32

37.8/55.2/31.4

38.9/57.6/31.9

36.5/57.1/30.7

Trunk Capacity (cubic feet)

21

18

16.5

16

Looking at the interior capacities of its competitors, we can say that Explorer XLT offered a decent overall space though it was a close competition. Explorer has provided both enough headroom and legroom space with a trunk capacity of 21cu.ft which is an appreciable one. There won’t be any major changes for the 2021 model in this area also.

Let's look at the overall features of the cabin. Below are some of the attractive features that come with this Explorer XLT.

  • Manual Telescopic adjustable steering column.
  • Auto Climate Control and Three-Zone Climate Control.
  • FordPass Connect6 with 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot capability.
  • 6-speakers AM/FM stereo system.
  • Reverse Sensing System with a rear parking camera.
  • Side-Wind Stabilization.
  • Auto Start/Stop buttons along with Drive mode selection buttons.
  • Onboard Hands-Free Communication System.

Infotainment System

The Base Ford Explorer and the Explorer XLT now get the dated SYNC infotainment system with a 8-inch touchscreen. SiriusXM Satellite Radio is optional. For the new SYNC 3 with an 10-inch touchscreen, you have to upgrade to the Limited trim. Sync 3 is responsive and has a crisp display and intuitive UI.

2021 Ford Explorer Infotainment System

The Explorer gets pleasantly old-school physical buttons for most of the controls – a respite as others are increasingly moving all the controls to the touch screen. 

The smartphone integration is quick, thanks to standard Apple Carplay, Android Auto, and even Amazon Alexa. It comes loaded with the following tech

  • AM/FM Stereo HD Radio
  • Speed-Sensitive Volume Control
  • Auxiliary Audio Input and USB With External Media Control
  • Satellite Radio Service
  • USB Connection
  • 6 Total Sony Premium Brand Speakers including a Subwoofer
  • Smart Device Integration
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • Wi-Fi Hotspot
  • Navigation System
  • Onboard Hands-Free Communication System

Cargo Capacity

The Explorer has generous cargo space with all seats up – 21 cubic feet. The closest competitor is the Honda Pilot with 17 cubic feet – not close at all. This means the Explorer is one of few midsize SUVs that can accommodate all your family along with their luggage too when you go exploring. The luggage space continues to dominate competitors as the seats are folded one by one.

2021 Ford Explorer Cargo Space

Model

Ford Explorer

Honda Pilot

Nissan Pathfinder

Hyundai Palisade

All Seats Up(Cu.ft)

21 

17 

14 

14 

Last Row Folded(Cu.ft)

58 

47 

38

41 

Second and Third Rows Folded(Cu.ft)

99 

84 

71 

80 

The luggage space can further be stretched to 99. cubic feet on folding both the row in the rear. Which is also bigger than any rival in the competition.

2021 Ford Explorer Interior
2021 Ford Explorer Steering
2021 Ford Explorer Infotainment
2021 Ford Explorer Shifter
2021 Ford Explorer Front Seat

2021 Ford Explorer Exterior

The exterior of the 2021 Explorer might get some updates as it gets a unique Carbonized Grey-painted 20-inch wheels with matching grille, skid plates, hood lettering, and finished with dual chrome exhaust tips. Also, it is observed that the 2020 model got a unibody construction framework which means that front and rear overhangs are now shorter and there is a steep increase in departure angles.

The headlights are slimmer and enclosed between a more geometrical grille, and both the upward sweep of the character lines and tapered roof give the new Explorer an athletic stance. Overall, the upcoming 2021 Explorer might get some minor changes in its outlook body.

2021 Ford Explorer Side View

Models

2020 Ford Explorer XLT

2020 Hyundai Palisade SEL

2020 Honda Pilot EX

2020 Nissan Pathfinder SV RCE

Curb Weight (lbs)

4458

4231

4036

4287

Length (inches)

198.3

196.1

196.5

198.5

Width (inches)

78.9

77.8

78.6

77.3

Height (inches)

70

68.9

70.6

70.6

Ground Clearance (inches)

7.8

7.9

7.3

7.0

Wheelbase (inches)

112.8

114.2

111

114.2

Overall, the Ford Explorer has the highest curb weight of 4458lbs with decent ground clearance and all other dimensions are right enough for a mid-size SUV. The 2021 Explorer comes with similar dimensions.

In addition to the above features, the 2020 Ford Explorer has additional features like,

  • Black grille, door handles, mirror caps, bodyside cladding, and wheel-lip moldings.
  • Chrome liftgate applique.
  • Configurable daytime running lamps.
  • LED headlamps and taillamps.
  • 18" painted Aluminum Alloy wheels.
  • Long roof racks on the top.
  • Rear glass wiper and Rear camera.
  • Dual-tip Exhaust.
2021 Ford Explorer Exterior Front
2021 Ford Explorer Exterior Rear
2021 Ford Explorer Exterior Side angle View
2021 Ford Explorer Exterior Front angle View
2021 Ford Explorer Exterior Wheel

2021 Ford Explorer Safety

Ford Explorer is also famous for its safety features. The 2021 model also might inherit those features by adding some more. As of now, let's check the 2020 model's safety options and ratings.

The 2020 Ford Explorer has got an overall score of five in the NHTSA crash test, where it scored four stars is the rollover test. It also did well in the IIHS crashworthiness scoring the best score of ‘good’ in all tests except for the front driver-side small overlap test.

Some of the Standard safety features fitted into this SUV are as follows:

  • Personal Safety System for the driver and front passenger.
  • AdvanceTrac with RSC (Roll Stability Control™) and Curve Control.
  • SecuriCode invisible keypad.
  • Safety Canopy System with side-curtain airbags9 and rollover sensor.
  • Post-Collision Safety System.
  • Tire Pressure Monitoring.

2021 Ford Explorer Competition

Honda Pilot Vs Ford Explorer

The Honda Pilot is one of the most well rounded midsize SUV with well-equipped, spacious seats (even the third row) and high-quality materials. An efficient and powerful engine pulls the pilot briskly along the road. On top of that, the Pilot comes with Honda’s reputation of reliability and has great resale value too. However, the Explorer trumps the Pilot when the going gets tuff and is almost equal in many areas.

2021 Honda Pilot

Hyundai Palisade Vs Ford Explorer

The Hyundai Palisade has a spacious and comfortable first and second row, is loaded with features, and all these are wrapped in chick looking exterior. It costs significantly less than the Explorer when evenly equipped. The Palisade is also slower than the Explorer. With the rear seats in use, however, the Explorer has far more luggage space and has a more spacious interior.

2021 Hyundai Palisade

2021 Ford Explorer Final Verdict

In the end, with an affordable price range (though we took XLT trim which costs at $36,065, the base trim starts at $32,065 only), better-ensured safety features, high engine power & torque output, good cabin space, this Ford Explorer is a good choice to pick up. 

The 2021 Explorer is going to attain much more enhancements in addition to the 2020 model features. If you bring this SUV home, there is a good probability that the Explorer 2021 could satisfy you.

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