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2021 Ford Explorer

Ford Explorer OEM Exterior Photo
OEM Interior Primary
OEM Exterior Standard
OEM Exterior
OEM Interior
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Used Car Price Range
$23,000 - $47,150
$23,000 $47,150
Select a Trim
Select a Trim
2021 Base 4dr 4x2
most popular
Price:   -  From $32,925
2021 Base 4dr 4x4 Price:   -  From $34,925
2021 XLT 4dr 4x2 Price:   -  From $35,075
2021 XLT 4dr 4x4 Price:   -  From $37,075
2021 Limited 4dr 4x2 Price:   -  From $45,255
2021 Timberline 4dr 4x4 Price:   -  From $46,015
2021 Limited 4dr 4x4 Price:   -  From $47,255
2021 ST 4dr 4x4 Price:   -  From $49,000
2021 King Ranch 4dr 4x2 Price:   -  From $52,600
2021 Platinum 4dr 4x2 Price:   -  From $52,730
2021 Platinum 4dr 4x4 Price:   -  From $53,335
2021 King Ranch 4dr 4x4 Price:   -  From $54,600
Expert Rating
3.4 (Good)

Our expert ratings are based on seven comprehensive criteria: quality, safety, comfort, performance, fuel economy, reliability history and value.

You can interpret our ratings in the following way:

: Outstanding vehicle. Only the most exceptional vehicles achieve this rating.

: Very Good vehicle. Very good and close to being the best vehicle in its class.

: Good vehicle. Decent, but not quite the best. Often affordable, but lacking key features found in vehicles of the same class.

: Below average vehicle. Not recommended, and lacking attributes a car buyer would come to expect for the price.

: Poor vehicle. Simply does not deserve to be on the road.

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What's New

After a major redesign last year, the 2021 Ford Explorer rolls over with minimal changes. Aside from a few feature tweaks and price drops, it stays the same.

Last year’s overhaul brought the Explorer back to a rear-wheel-drive architecture. It competes against a crowded field of three-row family SUVs, including rivals like the Kia Telluride, Honda Pilot, and Toyota Highlander.

Choosing Your Ford Explorer

The Ford Explorer comes in five trim levels: Explorer, XLT, Limited, ST, and Platinum. Starting prices range from $33,470 including destination for the base model to $55,725 for the Platinum.

Engine Choices

The Explorer gets four powertrain options, including a hybrid that was introduced last year. The first three trims start with a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, while the hybrid powertrain is available on the Limited for $4,150 extra. The ST gets a 3.0-liter turbo V6, while the Platinum features a less-powerful version of the same.

Engine TypeHorsepowerTorqueFuel Economy (Combined)
2.3L Turbo 4-Cylinder300 hp310 lb-ft24 mpg
3.3L V6 Hybrid318 hp322 lb-ft27 mpg
3.0L Turbo V6365 hp380 lb-ft20 mpg
3.0L Turbo V6400 hp415 lb-ft20 mpg

All four use a 10-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel drive is standard on the three lower trims, but all-wheel drive is available for $2,000. AWD is standard on the ST and Platinum.

The hybrid powertrain is the efficiency champ, but its advantage over the base engine isn’t huge. When equipped with either of the turbo V6 engines, the Explorer is capable of towing up to 5,600 pounds.

Passenger and Cargo Capacity

The Explorer offers seating for up to seven passengers with the third row in place. A second-row bench is the default, but captain’s chairs are available. The third row offers only 32.2 inches of leg room, so it will be most comfortable for children.

Cargo capacity starts at 18.2 cubic feet, which is decent for the class. Folding the third row opens up 47.9 cubic feet of space, and the Explorer can handle up to 87.9 cubic feet with both back rows down.

Ford Explorer

Safety Features

The Ford Explorer should help families rest easy. It starts with a strong crash-test report card, with last year’s model earning a Top Safety Pick Plus award from the IIHS. On top of that, every Explorer comes with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane keeping assist, lane departure warning, and rear parking sensors.

Adaptive cruise control is available in a $795 bundle on the XLT, and standard on the three highest trims.


The Explorer starts with an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen, compatible with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A vertically oriented 10.1-inch screen is available, but you’ll need either the ST or Platinum trims to get one.

Navigation and wireless charging become standard at the Limited trim level.

Ford Explorer

Explorer - From $33,470

The base Ford Explorer comes with a good set of standard equipment. Features include three-zone automatic climate control, a power liftgate, and a wi-fi hot spot. Seats are upholstered in cloth, and the front row is power adjustable.

Aside from a towing package, there are no bundles or options available at this trim.

XLT - From $35,245

The Explorer XLT offers more convenience for a relatively modest price bump. The steering wheel is wrapped in leather, the front row is heated, and the second row gets captain’s chairs and two USB ports. On the outside are roof rails and 18-inch wheels.

For a touch of luxury, buyers can add the 202A equipment group ($3,540), which includes a heated steering wheel, synthetic upholstery, and remote start. A rear-seat entertainment system is available for $1,995, and restoring the second-row bench costs $495.

Limited - From $46,950

The Limited trim pushes the Explorer into luxury territory for both features and price. The advanced safety features come standard here, as do leather upholstery, wireless charging, navigation, and premium sound. The front seats are ventilated, and the second row is heated and power-folding.

A twin-panel moonroof is available for $1,695.

ST - From $53,850

The ST trim is as sporty as the Explorer gets. Although it isn’t the most expensive trim, it comes with the most powerful 400-horsepower engine. To go with the extra power, the ST gets a sport-tuned suspension, paddle shifters, and bucket seats in the front row. Also included are front seat memory settings, a digital gauge display, and an automated parking system.

Upgraded brakes come in the ST High Performance Package ($1,595), which also includes red brake calipers and 21-inch wheels. If you’d rather have the calipers and wheels without the extra braking power, the ST Street Pack ($995) has you covered.

The ST trim is the first to unlock the larger infotainment system, which comes in the Premium Technology Package ($995) along with multi-contour front seats and a premium sound system.

Platinum - From $55,725

The Platinum trim dials back some of the ST’s performance and replaces it with luxury. The exterior gets LED lighting all the way around, plus adaptive headlights, heated and power-folding mirrors, and a handsfree liftgate. On the inside, upholstery is diamond-stitched perforated leather, and the driver gets the same 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster as the ST.

Compare Explorer Trims Side-By-Side

CarsDirect Tip

The XLT remains the best value in the 2021 Ford Explorer lineup. Add the active safety features, and it's ready for family duty.

author image
Automotive Editor
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Expert Review

  • Great base engine
  • Comfortable interior
  • Good value in lower trims
  • ST too pricey
  • Hybrid mileage
  • Hybrid refinement
Expert Rating
3.4 (Good)

Our expert ratings are based on seven comprehensive criteria: quality, safety, comfort, performance, fuel economy, reliability history and value.

You can interpret our ratings in the following way:

: Outstanding vehicle. Only the most exceptional vehicles achieve this rating.

: Very Good vehicle. Very good and close to being the best vehicle in its class.

: Good vehicle. Decent, but not quite the best. Often affordable, but lacking key features found in vehicles of the same class.

: Below average vehicle. Not recommended, and lacking attributes a car buyer would come to expect for the price.

: Poor vehicle. Simply does not deserve to be on the road.

author image
Automotive Editor

Practicality and personality. Ford didn't invent the SUV genus, but they did set the spark to it with the original Explorer. Since the first models rolled off the line over 30 years ago, there's been some revisions – from body-on-frame to unibody, from rear-wheel drive to front-wheel drive to rear-wheel drive once again – but its overall mission hasn't changed. Practicality and personality remain the two cornerstones to the Explorer's success.

Both are present and accounted for in the 2021 Ford Explorer, which sees no notable changes from last year's full-on redesign. Last year, the Explorer showed up with new looks, more tech, and a fierce new ST model. Dare we hope that the Explorer ST might trigger a Honda Pilot Type R or Toyota Highlander TRD?

The answer is probably not. Ford, for its part, has transitioned the Explorer back to a rear-wheel-drive platform – a rare move in today's overwhelmingly front-wheel-drive environment – and the return to such an inherently sporty layout opens the doors to such a performance model as the ST. Trying to get a FWD platform up this level of performance would require a budget that the bean counters would waste no time refuting.

Power aplenty. We've talked about it enough at this point, so here are the details: a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 putting out 400 horsepower and 415 pound-feet of torque gives the ST its motivation. That power gets through a 10-speed automatic transmission shared with the rest of the lineup. 0-60 mph happens in less than six seconds and top speed is a respectable 143 mph, so there's no excuse to be late to soccer practice.

The ST pairs this high-output powerplant with its own extra-firm suspension. It makes the ST noticeably stiffer than the rest of the lineup but doesn't compromise usability. The ST is very much drivable on the daily, as long as the biggest potholes and sewer caps are avoided.

Most other models use a 2.3-liter turbo-four. There isn't anything modest about this engine, which manages to churn out an even 300 hp. That's enough chutzpah to make any sort of in-town or highway maneuver a fairly effortless exercise, despite the Explorer's two-ton bulk.

Neither spirited launches from stoplights nor steep grades have this engine laboring; it just happily keeps feeding the transmission whenever the driver dips their right foot into the throttle. The 10-speed automatic, for its part, clicks off endless seamless shifts regardless of driving conditions.

The 2.3-liter models run generally smaller wheels with more tire sidewall, which helps cushion the ride. A decent-length wheelbase and freshly redone chassis further lend the Explorer some prim-and-proper road manners across a variety of pavement conditions.

Ford Explorer

Hybrid woes. The one powertrain to let us down is the plug-in hybrid model, which is limited to just the, ah, Limited trim. It isn't just its mediocre mileage that has us shaking our heads. It's the lack of refinement.

Frankly, it feels as if the R&D budget dried up about 85% of the way to project completion. Compared to the buttoned-down ST and the properly fleshed-out lower trims, the Explorer Hybrid is chunky and clunky.

Most of the blame can be cast on the 3.3-liter V6 and single electric motor. It had a propensity for shuddering between 15 and 40 mph, severely hampering the driving experience. And tolerating that for a mere 28 miles per gallon combined, according to the EPA, isn't acceptable in our opinion.

For context, the primary competitor to the Explorer Hybrid, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid, returns 35 mpg combined. That material 7-mpg difference translates to 25% better fuel mileage, which is enough to notice at every fill-up. Among hybrid buyers, that matters.

Quality, features, and value. Ford has been inching its prices up for years, and some models are encroaching luxury-car territory. Take the Explorer ST, for instance. It starts at over $52,000 before any options; start checking boxes, and $62,000 comes soon enough. It's a nice SUV, but does it really merit such an outlay? We don't think so, good as it is to drive.

A better value is something like the XLT trim. Starting at around $37,000, it gets features like heated seats, an 8-inch touchscreen with Ford's Sync 3 software, USB ports across the front two rows, upgraded cloth upholstery, and 17-inch wheels.

To get standard heated front seats in either a Toyota Highlander or Chevrolet Traverse, you'll need to fork over about $40,000, though doing so also nets you leather and a few other goodies missing on this Ford. On the flip side, a Honda Pilot EX comes equipped similarly to the Explorer but rings in around $36,500; it's a similar story with the Subaru Ascent Premium, which is priced at just under $36,000.

All this goes to show the Explorer is priced right in the heart of the market with its mainstream trims. That's good and all, but we still have some nits to pick with the quality of the materials and final assembly.

Especially on lower trims, Ford seemed to put the cheapest plastic they could find in the most blatant of areas. The worst offender is the touchscreen surround, which almost had us cringing; vending machines use nicer plastic around their buttons. Most of the aforementioned competition has certainly done a better job trimming their interiors, and the kicker is they've done so at the same price point as the Explorer or less.

Final thoughts. Ford needs to take a mulligan on the hybrid, and revisiting its liberal use of cheap plastic may be a good idea, but, otherwise, the 2021 Ford Explorer is a strong contender in a very crowded, competitive segment. The ST, pricey as it may be, is another feather in its cap; we aren't expecting a proper competitor to come dethrone this hot number anytime soon.

The original Explorer would never recognize the ST model as its own kin. Yet that level of product evolution is exactly why the Explorer has managed to remain so popular among consumers. The 2021 model is the latest result of this constant improvement, and shoppers would be wise to check out this latest rendition of the SUV that gave this segment its staying power.

Check prices for the 2021 Ford Explorer »

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Specs & Features

Overall Crash Safety Rating
Engine - Cylinders/Horsepower/Torque
2.3L I-4 / 300 HP / 310 ft.lbs.
10-spd auto w/OD
Drive Type
Fuel Economy - City/Highway/Combined
21 / 28 / 24 Mpg
Passenger Capacity
Bumper to Bumper Warranty
36 Months / 36,000 Miles
Mechanical Specs
Engine - Cylinders/Horsepower/Torque
2.3L I-4 / 300 HP / 310 ft.lbs.
Drive Type
Fuel Economy - City/Hwy/Combined
21 / 28 / 24 Mpg
4-wheel Disc
Front Suspension
Rear Suspension
Independent Multi-link
Spare Tire And Wheel
Compact Steel
Fuel Tank
17.9 Gal.
Recommended Fuel Type
Premium Unleaded
Average Cost To Fill Tank
Dimensions & Capabilities
Maximum Cargo Volume
87.8 Cu.ft.
Passenger Volume
153 Cu.ft.
Exterior Length
198.8 "
Exterior Width
78.9 "
Exterior Height
70.2 "
Front Headroom
40.7 "
Rear Headroom
40.5 "
Front Legroom
43.0 "
Rear Legroom
39.0 "
Front Shoulder Room
61.8 "
Rear Shoulder Room
61.9 "
Front Hip Room
Rear Hip Room
Curb Weight
4,345 Lbs.
Wheel Base
119 "
Turning Radius
Exterior Features
Door Count
4 Doors
18.0 " Silver Aluminum
Clearcoat Monotone
Exterior Mirrors
Dual Power Remote
Grille Moldings
Rear Spoiler
Stainless Steel
Interior Features
Passenger Capacity
Seat Trim
Front Seat Type
Heated Front Seats
Front Driver Seat Direction Controls
(8-way Power)
Front Passenger Seat Direction Controls
Front Armrests
(8-way Power)
Rear Armrests
Rear Seats
35-30-35 Split-bench
Radio & Infotainment
Siriusxm Am/fm/satellite, Clock, Seek-scan
Radio Steering Wheel Controls
Apple Car Play
Android Auto
Bluetooth w/ Hands-Free Connectivity
Convenience Features
Steering Wheel Type
Telescopic Tilt
Climate Control
Automatic Air Conditioning
Cruise Control
With Steering Wheel Controls
Sun Roof
Rearview Mirror
One Touch Open Window
Driver And Passenger
Tinted Windows
Vanity Mirrors
Dual Illuminated
Remote Keyless Entry
Keyfob (all Doors)
Power Outlets
Safety Features
Overall Crash Safety Rating
Overall Front Crash Safety Rating
Overall Side Crash Safety Rating
Rollover Crash Safety Rating
Front Impact Airbags
Driver And Passenger
Driver Side Impact Airbags
Seat Mounted
Knee Airbag
Driver And Passenger
Passenger Side Impact Airbag
Seat Mounted
Rear Side Airbag
Seatbelt Pretensioners
Anti-Lock Brakes
4-wheel Anti-lock Brakes (abs)
Forward Collision Warning
Ford Co-pilot360 - Pre-collision Assist With Pedestrian Detection Forward Collision Mitigation
Blind Spot Sensor
Ford Co-pilot360 - Blis (blind Spot Information System) Blind Spot
Lane Departure Warning
Lane Keeping Alert Lane Departure
Autonomous Cruise Control
Pedestrian Detection
Ford Co-pilot360 - Pre-collision Assist With Pedestrian Detection Front Pedestrian Detection Prevention
Driver Attention Alert
Driver Alert Driver Attention
Daytime Running Lights
Auto High Beams
Ford Co-pilot360 - Auto High Beam Auto High-beam
Adaptive Headlights
Parking Sensors
Reverse Sensing System Rear
Security Systems
Panic Alarm
Ignition Disable
Bumper To Bumper Months Miles
36 Months / 36,000 Miles
Major Components Months
60 Months / 60,000 Miles
Included Maintenance Months
Roadside Assistance Months
60 Months / 60,000 Miles
Corrosion Perforation
60 Months / Unlimited Miles
Accessories Months
36 Months / 36,000 Miles

Used 2021 Ford Explorer for Sale

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