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A 2023 Ford Explorer Buyer’s Guide

The Ford Explorer is a spacious, comfortable, and powerful three-row SUV. Since 1991, the Ford Explorer has been given credit for being one of the SUVs leading the charge in the popularity of this vehicle category. It’s a great, family-friendly vehicle, offering all the space and amenities one can ask for on busy days without any somewhat embarrassing minivan looks. With 4WD capability and things like tow hooks and skid plates on some trims, it’s also ready for some off-road adventures. The Explorer has undergone several transformations throughout the decades, starting as a somewhat boxy SUV that was rough around the edges and evolving into the stylish, fine-tuned model it is today.

If you’re looking for a 2023 Ford Explorer for sale, you might find yourself curious about the differences between the eight diverse trims. At its core, the Explorer is a seven-passenger SUV with some powerful engine options supporting its sporty frame. However, each trim appeals to a slightly different driving and personal style. Knowing exactly what features each one has to offer can help ensure you get the exact model you want. Let’s take a closer look at this diverse

The Explorer Base

The base-trim Explorer is packed with solid features that should keep busy families content and comfortable. It’s going to have the 2.3L EcoBoost I-4 engine paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission. It will also get Auto Start-Stop Technology, which starts and stops the engine at certain times to boost fuel economy.

You’ll enjoy Ford’s generous suite of driver-assist features in this trim, courtesy of the Co-Pilot360 suite. This will include features such as Pre-Collision Assist, the Blind Spot Information System, a Rear View Camera, a Lane-Keeping System, as well as Auto High-Beam Headlamps to improve visibility in low-light settings. The base level trim also gets rear parking sensors to help with tricky parking jobs.

The driver will enjoy an 8-way power seat, and the front passenger will have a 4-way manual seat. Base-level Explorers equipped with 4WD will get the Terrain Management System with seven available terrain modes, including Normal, Trail, Deep Snow/Sand, Slippery, Sport, Tow/Haul, and Eco mode. Between these options, drivers should be able to gain the traction and command they need in a variety of situations. Seven spacious seats will keep passengers comfortable, while a large trunk has room for everyone’s belongings. A standard power liftgate also makes it easy to open the trunk and load it up with little effort.

The Explorer XLT

When you move up to the XLT, you’ll get everything found in the base level trim, but you’ll get some extras in the way of comfort, convenience, and safety. For starters, it will have a 360-degree camera with a split-view display, giving you a comprehensive look at what’s happening around your vehicle at all times. The driver gets a bump up to a 10-way power adjustable seat, and the front seat passenger goes from a manual to a 4-way power seat. Additionally, there is an 8-way power adjustable seat available for the front seat passenger. First-row seats are heated in this trim, as is the steering wheel.

Drivers who choose this trim can add the available XLT technology package, which earns you a 14-speaker Bang and Olufsen sound system, a wireless charging pad, a universal garage door opener, and a Class IV Trailer Tow Package.

A close up shows the tire pressure on the gauge in a 2023 Ford Explorer.

The Explorer ST-Line

The ST-Line is for those who like everything available in the XLT but want something a bit more stylish. It gets things like a black mesh grille insert, black side rails, and a black rear fascia. Inside, you’ll find an instrument panel with sophisticated accent appliques and an ebony door with red stitching. You also get some upgraded features standard on this trim, like the 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system, as well as ActiveX seating material, which is soft and easy to clean. Another notable feature will be the standard Co-Pilot360 Assist+, which includes everything the standard Co-Pilot 360 does while adding Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control with Lane-Centering and Stop-and-Go functionality, Evasive Steering Assist and Post-Collision Braking.

The Explorer Timberline

The Timberline is the Explorer’s off-road-ready option. It will have 4WD as standard, unlocking those seven dynamic driving modes to help drivers tackle tons of different terrain. It will also have underbody skid plates to protect the vehicle’s undercarriage on rough roads. Plus, it has front tow hooks in case you need anyone to pull your Explorer out of a rut.

The Timberline is rich with features that make it adventure-ready, like 12V outlets for powering up devices as you go and an available PowerFold third-row seat that makes it easy to quickly create more cargo space when you need it. Speaking of cargo, it has a Cargo Area Management System and an available rubber cargo mat for those days you need to load up a muddy dirt bike or other messy gear.

In addition to standard front heated seats, you can add optional heated second-row seats to keep passengers comfortable. Like the ST-Line, the Timberline gets the advanced Co-Pilot360 Assist+, which is a smart addition since Timberline drivers will likely use this trim to explore unknown areas, where a little extra safety can go a long way.

The Explorer Limited

The Limited trim combines great powertrain options with tech-forward and comfort-boosting features. You can get the standard 2.3L EcoBoost gas engine, or, for the first time in the trim lineup, you can access a hybrid powertrain (just note the hybrid powertrain gets the lowest towing capacity of 5,000 lbs).

Inside, you’ll find nearly everything you get in the XLT, plus leather-trimmed seats with micro-perforated inserts and accent stitching. You can also add the available SYNC 3 with a 10.1-inch touchscreen with pinch and zoom capabilities (great for exploring maps in new places). SYNC 3 also has voice recognition, so you can ask it to do things like pull up directions or make calls.

The Explorer ST

The ST is made for those who crave speed. It gets the 3.0L EcoBoost V6 with Auto Start-Stop Technology, boasting 400 hp and 415 lb-ft torque. If you want excellent acceleration paired with the Explorer’s maximum towing capabilities of 5,600 lbs, you’ll want the ST. The ST gets performance-inspired design details, too, as seen from the fun cockpit-style driver’s area. It also has exterior style details like a blackout treatment on the head and tail lights. Plus, add the ST High-Performance package, and you get 21-inch aluminum wheels, along with performance brakes.

The Explorer King Ranch

The King Ranch is the Explorer’s Western-themed trim that combines comfort and functionality with elevated style. Second-row captain’s seats come standard in this trim, creating a spacious cabin and easy access to the third row. Ford’s two-toned, earthy Del Rio leather covers all three rows, and you’ll find hand-stitched King Ranch seat back logos to round out the aesthetic. On the exterior, you’ll find 20-inch, 10-spoke aluminum wheels with King Ranch center caps. It also utilizes the previously mentioned 3.0L V6.

A red 2023 Ford Explorer is shown driving on a coastal road.

The Explorer Platinum

The Platinum combines power with luxury, building on much of what you get in the Limited. You get a standard 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system but can opt for a 14-speaker one, making this the trim for audiophiles. The Platinum comes standard with a hybrid powertrain, but you can opt for the 3.0-liter high-output engine if you want an SUV capable of towing up to 5,600 lbs. Adding to the luxury features is an available twin-panel moonroof along with the Premium Technology Package, which gets you massaging front seats, a 10.1-inch touchscreen, and the aforementioned 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system.