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Street Performance or Off-Road Fun? Ford Explorer Timberline vs Ford Explorer ST

One of the good things about the SUV becoming such a dominant force on the market is the way automakers have specialized these practical haulers to suit different types of buyers—enthusiasts included.

In no model lineup is this more apparent than within the Ford Explorer, which is offered in several variants, including the street performance Explorer ST and the off-road grade Explorer Timberline.

Ford Explorer ST vs Explorer Timberline

Both of these roomy, three-row Explorers have AWD, a turbocharged engine and a ten-speed automatic transmission. They are also priced fairly close to each other. Is one of them a better choice than the other?


For the 2022 model year, the Explorer Timberline has a base MSRP of just under $50,000. It comes with a 300-horsepower 2.3L EcoBoost engine and standard AWD.

Ford Explorer Timberline with Loaded Roof Rack

When equipped with AWD, the Explorer ST comes in at just under $53,000, and for your extra money you get the larger 3.0 liter EcoBoost V6 engine that makes 400 horsepower.

Ford Explorer ST Blue

It should also be noted that If you don’t need the added traction of AWD, you can now also get the Explorer ST in RWD and you’ll save about $2,000 in the process.

Performance & Personality

Apart from the differences in horsepower, there are some other big differences between the ST and Timberline that contribute to their distinct personalities.

Ford Explorer Timberline at Campsite

The ST gets a lower, stiffer suspension for a more athletic poise on twisty roads. It can also be spec’d with large 21-inch wheels and upsized performance brakes to slow down its significant mass.

Ford Explorer ST Wheels and Tires

The result is something that's both quicker and far sportier than you expect from a family SUV, especially for the money. The ST of course, also gets its own styling and accents throughout.

Ford Explorer ST Badge

The Timberline, meanwhile, gets a higher ride height, more ground clearance, increased underbody protection and a limited-slip rear differential. It also gets smaller wheels with chunky all-terrain tires.

Ford Explorer Timberline Towing Trailer

Obviously, it won’t be as sharp as the ST, but its softer suspension and larger tires should make it more comfortable on the road. The Timberline also gets its own unique styling inside and out, with a more rugged flavor to it.

Ford Explorer Timberline Interior

Fun Factor

It might seem strange to consider the “Fun Factor” when shopping for a three-row SUV, but both the Timberline and ST will be significantly more enjoyable than your typical family utility vehicle.

Ford Explorer ST Front View

For day-to-day excitement on the street, the ST will probably get the nod with its more powerful engine and sharper handling.

Ford Explorer ST Light Projection

On the other hand, venturing off the paved road can be even more fun, and the Timberline’s added capability could be a lot of fun when exploring (no pun intended) the outdoors.

Ford Explorer Timberline red painted Tow Hook

Ultimately, the biggest limiting factor on the Timberline is its engine. While the 2.3 is more than adequate, it’s still down 100 horsepower from the ST, and it’d be nice to see Ford offer the 3.0 EcoBoost V6 in the Timberline as an option.

Ford Explorer Timberline Front 3/4 View

For now, you really can’t go wrong with either. The Explorer ST might not be a track-ready performance machine and the Explorer Timberline might not be a hardcore off-roader, but they both deliver a lot more capability than your typical family SUV.

Ford Explorer ST Blue on Road

On-road or off-road, we are glad Ford is giving Explorer buyers multiple flavors to choose from in what used to be a vanilla segment.

  • Speaking of the Explorer ST, there's an argument to be made that the RWD version is about as close as we've ever been to having a Mustang station wagon.
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