2021 Ford Explorer Price, Value, Ratings & Reviews | Kelley Blue Book (2024)

The 2021 Ford Explorer midsize 3-row SUV/crossover shines bright in many ways. It’s roomy, fuel-efficient, and comes with plenty of safety features as standard.

Now in the second year of its sixth generation, the 2021 Explorer has a standard rear-wheel-drive (RWD) setup, in common with its body-on-frame early ancestors, but with the lighter and more sophisticated unibody construction approach that its immediate predecessor employed.

Not that the nuts and bolts have much of an impact on everyday driving. The Explorer remains a user-friendly and perennially popular choice. All-time sales are now at around 8,000,000.

Not all of those customers had the same reasons for purchasing a new Explorer. In recognition of this, Ford offers a variety of powertrains that should appeal to a broad spectrum of buyers. As well as a perfectly adequate base engine and a muscular V6, there are hybrid versions (a rare offering in this class; the Toyota Highlander range includes one) and a sporty Explorer ST variant.

For 2021, Ford has introduced a luxurious new King Ranch Explorer (powered by the 3.0-liter EcoBoost V6 with 365 hp) and a new version of the ST called the Enthusiast ST. This model has the same potent 400-hp turbocharged engine and AWD as the standard ST, but it’s nearly $5,000 easier on the wallet. Also new for 2021 is the off-road-oriented Explorer Timberline, which Ford calls the most off-road capable Explorer ever.

The world of midsize 3-row crossovers has more great contenders, like the exceptionally spacious Chevrolet Traverse, Honda Pilot, Kia Telluride, Volkswagen Atlas, and the Mazda CX-9. But the 2021 Explorer deserves its place among them.

Used 2021 Ford Explorer Pricing

The Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price for any individual used vehicle can vary greatly according to mileage, condition, location, and other factors, but here's a general idea of what buyers are currently paying for used 2021 Ford Explorer models when purchasing from a dealership.

Original MSRP

KBB Fair Purchase Price (nat'l average)

Sport Utility 4D

$34,170

$24,971

XLT Sport Utility 4D

$38,645

$28,821

Timberline Sport Utility 4D

$47,260

$32,114

Limited Sport Utility 4D

$48,825

$31,477

ST Sport Utility 4D

$50,245

$37,801

Limited HEV Sport Utility 4D

$53,675

$34,998

Platinum HEV Sport Utility 4D

$54,580

$36,360

King Ranch Sport Utility 4D

$55,845

$37,995

Platinum Sport Utility 4D

$56,300

$36,328

For reference, the 2021 Ford Explorer originally had a starting sticker price of $34,170, with the range-topping Explorer Platinum Sport Utility 4D starting at $56,300.

Driving the Used 2021 Ford Explorer

The turbo 2.3-liter 4-cylinder engine delivers ample power to merge onto freeways and sustain highway speeds with ease. And the automatic stop/restart function is smooth. The 10-speed automatic transmission also shifts with pleasant precision. Gears 8, 9, and 10 are all overdrive ratios, so they only really come into use on the highway.

The all-wheel-drive (AWD) system disconnects the front axle on the highway for improved fuel economy (and can send as much as 50 percent of the power to the front wheels in slippery conditions). When accelerating out of corners, the bias to rear-wheel drive isn’t obvious. Instead, there’s simply eager acceleration and excellent composure overall.

All-wheel-drive versions have a Terrain Management System with selectable modes changing parameters for things like throttle response, transmission shifting, steering assistance, traction control programming, and torque management to suit the conditions. Modes include Sport, Slippery, Deep Snow/Sand, and Tow/Haul. Rear-drive Explorers also have a version of the Terrain Management System, but it doesn’t include the Deep Snow/Sand mode.

Outward vision is excellent, but the standard blind-spot monitoring feature is always welcome. And although the Explorer weighs nearly 4,500 pounds, body roll is never excessive.

Towing a trailer in the Explorer Hybrid is a cinch. Based on the Limited trim, it comes with a trailer hitch as standard. It also has sufficient power to tow a 4,500-pound boat easily, with no problem getting the rig up to highway speeds. It can climb steep inclines without running out of energy, and even wade through 12 inches of water.

Ford’s ST variants are always well-executed, and the 400-horsepower Explorer ST is something special. Considering a Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 only has 29 more horses and costs nearly $75k (almost $20k more than the ST), this is a convincing performance SUV, with a sport-tuned suspension to match. It can run from standstill to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds, which is fast.

Platinum trim blends thrilling power with sublime luxury, as well as natural-effort steering, good brakes, and a ride that’s comfortable without being sloppy.

Interior Comfort

In its basic form, the 2021 Explorer is a 7-seater with a 3-person bench in the second row and a third seating row for two. Higher trims have a pair of captain’s chairs in the second row, bringing the occupant count down to six. The 2nd-row seats can slide forward and back for better legroom or greater cargo space.

No space compromises were necessary with the hybrid. For example, the lithium-ion battery pack fits beneath the rear seat’s passenger side, so interior volume has not been affected adversely.

The new Enthusiast ST has leather seating surfaces with perforated inserts and ST logos. Also standard on this model are a 12.3-in digital cluster and a heated steering wheel with paddle shifters.

The new Timberline model has a unique interior with what Ford calls Deep Cyprus ActiveX seat material with heathered cloth inserts. It also has heated front and rear seats, orange stitching, the Timberline logo throughout, and a heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel.

The top-spec Platinum doesn’t just have fine stitched-leather seating surfaces, leather is also on the dashboard and the door panels, complemented by real wood trim.

The Explorer Platinum also offers massaging front seats, a 980-watt Bang & Olufsen stereo, and a 10.1-inch vertically oriented touchscreen on its center stack that looks like a permanently fixed iPad, with swipe and pinch-to-zoom controls.

In luxurious new King Ranch form, the Explorer interior features mahogany-colored Mesa Del Rio leather seats (with the King Ranch logo), a leather armrest (also with logo), a leather-stitched instrument panel (with wood trim), and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

The loadspace floor of the Explorer is 48.1 inches wide at its narrowest point. Behind the third seating row is 18.2 cubic feet of cargo space, which expands to a maximum of 87.8 cubic feet with rows two and three folded down. The cargo floor covering is reversible — carpet on one side, vinyl on the other.

Heated seats for the first two rows, heated steering wheel, power-folding 3rd-row seats, and hands-free tailgate operation are also available.

Exterior Styling

Although still a fresh generation, looks-wise, this 2021 Explorer is more of an evolution of the previous model than a revolutionary leap. It has a longer wheelbase, made possible by the return to a fundamental rear-drive setup. This maximizes legroom for all three rows.

For 2021, the XLT’s optional Sport Appearance package adds exterior accents and 20-inch alloy wheels, all finished in Carbonized Gray. The base model comes with LED headlights/daytime running lights/taillights, 18-inch alloy wheels.

The ST has black grille mesh and side cladding on the lower body. And the top Platinum trim has a grille and side cladding with a satin-aluminum finish, along with four chromed exhaust outlets.

The Timberline model has a unique appearance package with Timberline badging, auxiliary lighting in the grille, special 18-inch gloss black wheels, increased approach and departure angles, and unique tow hood badging.

Visual modifications to the new King Ranch Explorer are highlighted by a Stone Gray mesh grille insert, 20-inch alloy wheels (with ranch logos), chromed quad exhaust tips, and King Ranch badging.

Favorite Features

12.3-INCH DIGITAL INSTRUMENT CLUSTER
The standard instrument cluster in the Explorer ST and Platinum is a configurable 12.3-inch digital display. It also has a minimal Calm Screen mode designed to reduce driver distraction and show only essential information.

400-HORSEPOWER V6
The twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 in the Explorer ST and new Enthusiast ST produces a mighty 400 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque. This output towers above most non-luxury competitors. The ST can also come with stronger brakes (with red calipers) and 21-inch alloy wheels.

Standard Features

The base 2021 Explorer comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, tri-zone automatic climate control, 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, cloth upholstery, powered tailgate, 10 cup holders, the Co-Pilot360 set of driver aids (see the Safety Technology section below), and remote start/lock/unlock functions.

The infotainment system includes an 8-inch touchscreen, wi-fi (for up to 10 devices), one Type-A USB port, one type-C USB port, AM/FM/satellite radio, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, and a 6-speaker sound system.

It’s worth stretching at least to XLT trim, not only for the extra equipment but also to become eligible for more options. This version has heated front seats as standard, a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, 4-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, keyless entry/ignition, heated side mirrors, 2nd-row captain’s chairs, and one each of the different types of USB port for the second row.

Factory Options

There’s a whole world of extras for the 2021 Explorer, including all-wheel drive for the lower three trims, the aforementioned Sport Appearance package, and heated steering wheel for the XLT, and a Trailer Tow package (ST and Platinum have this as standard).

XLT may also be ordered with the Co-Pilot360 Assist+ package (standard in Limited trim; see the Safety Technology section below) and a rear-seat entertainment system.

The new Timberline model is equipped for off-roading with features like AWD, steel skid plates, a Torsen limited-slip differential, off-road tires, revised suspension, increased ground clearance, and hill-descent control.

Annoyingly, Limited trim now offers power-folding 3rd-row seats, memory settings, hands-free tailgate operation, and a power-adjustable steering column as options, whereas all these features were standard last year. But it still comes with rain-sensing wipers, heated/ventilated front seats, a self-dimming rearview mirror, a 360-degree camera system, wireless charging, and a 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system. This trim level is also where the hybrid drivetrain becomes available.

The ST models have their own engine and sport-tuned suspension, plus all-wheel drive, 20-inch alloy wheels, leather seating surfaces, and automatic emergency braking. High-performance brakes and 21-inch alloy wheels are optional.

The Platinum trim is expensive but well equipped. Features include a twin-panel moonroof (optional in the lower trims), adaptive LED headlights, and lashings of leather. The new RWD Platinum model — designed for customers in non-wintry climates or who simply don’t want AWD — saves buyers about $3,200.

Both Platinum and ST trims are eligible for a Premium Technology package that includes the 10.1-inch vertically oriented touchscreen, massaging/multi-contour front seats, and a 14-speaker/980-watt B&O surround-sound system.

Engine & Transmission

A turbocharged (EcoBoost) 2.3-liter 4-cylinder engine is deployed in the most versions of the 2021 Explorer. It makes 300 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque — more than most competitors’ V6 engines. This connects to a 10-speed automatic transmission, and rear-wheel drive (RWD) is the standard setup. All-wheel drive (AWD) is optional with this engine.

The Explorer Hybrid pairs a 3.3-liter V6 with an electric motor for a system output of 318 horsepower and 322 lb-ft of torque. It retains the 10-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is also optional in this variant.

The King Ranch, Platinum, and ST versions have a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6. It develops 365 horsepower in the King Ranch and the Platinum, 400 horsepower in the ST (the Dodge Durango SRT’s 475-horsepower 6.4-liter V8 would be the ST’s closest competitor).

2.3-liter turbocharged inline-4 (base, XLT, Limited)
300 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
310 lb-ft of torque @ 3,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/28 mpg (RWD), 20/27 mpg (AWD)

3.3-liter V6/electric motor (Hybrid, Platinum Hybrid)
318 horsepower
322 lb-ft of torque
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 27/28 mpg (RWD), 23/26 mpg (AWD)

3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 (King Ranch, Platinum)
365 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
380 lb-ft of torque @ 3,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/26 mpg (RWD), 18/24 mpg (AWD)

3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 (ST, Enthusiast ST)
400 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
415 lb-ft of torque @ 3,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/24 mpg

KBB Vehicle Review and Rating Methodology

Our Expert Ratings come from hours of both driving and number crunching to make sure that you choose the best car for you. We comprehensively experience and analyze every new SUV, car, truck, or minivan for sale in the U.S. and compare it to its competitors. When all that dust settles, we have our ratings.

We require new ratings every time an all-new vehicle or a new generation of an existing vehicle comes out. Additionally, we reassess those ratings when a new-generation vehicle receives a mid-cycle refresh — basically, sprucing up a car in the middle of its product cycle (typically, around the 2-3 years mark) with a minor facelift, often with updates to features and technology.

Rather than pulling random numbers out of the air or off some meaningless checklist, KBB’s editors rank a vehicle to where it belongs in its class. Before any car earns its KBB rating, it must prove itself to be better (or worse) than the other cars it’s competing against as it tries to get you to spend your money buying or leasing.

Our editors drive and live with a given vehicle. We ask all the right questions about the interior, the exterior, the engine and powertrain, the ride and handling, the features, the comfort, and of course, about the price. Does it serve the purpose for which it was built? (Whether that purpose is commuting efficiently to and from work in the city, keeping your family safe, making you feel like you’ve made it to the top — or that you’re on your way — or making you feel like you’ve finally found just the right partner for your lifestyle.)

We take each vehicle we test through the mundane — parking, lane-changing, backing up, cargo space and loading — as well as the essential — acceleration, braking, handling, interior quiet and comfort, build quality, materials quality, reliability.

More About How We Rate Vehicles

As an automotive expert with an extensive background in analyzing and evaluating various vehicles, I bring a wealth of knowledge to the discussion on the 2021 Ford Explorer. My expertise is derived from a combination of hands-on experience, research, and a deep understanding of the automotive industry. Now, let's delve into the concepts mentioned in the article:

  1. Overview of the 2021 Ford Explorer:

    • The 2021 Ford Explorer is a midsize 3-row SUV/crossover known for its roominess, fuel efficiency, and standard safety features.
    • It is in the second year of its sixth generation and features a standard rear-wheel-drive (RWD) setup, with a unibody construction approach for improved performance.
  2. Powertrain Options:

    • Ford offers a range of powertrains to cater to different buyer preferences, including a base engine, a muscular V6, hybrid versions, and a sporty Explorer ST variant.
    • Notable additions for 2021 include the King Ranch Explorer with a 3.0-liter EcoBoost V6 (365 hp), the Enthusiast ST with a 400-hp turbocharged engine, and the off-road-oriented Explorer Timberline.
  3. Market Positioning:

    • The article highlights the Explorer's popularity, with around 8,000,000 units sold, and positions it among other midsize 3-row crossovers like the Chevrolet Traverse, Honda Pilot, Kia Telluride, Volkswagen Atlas, and Mazda CX-9.
  4. Pricing Information:

    • The Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price for used 2021 Ford Explorer models is provided, giving an idea of the pricing range for different trims.
  5. Driving Experience:

    • The article details the driving experience, praising the turbo 2.3-liter 4-cylinder engine's power, smooth automatic stop/restart function, and the 10-speed automatic transmission's precision.
    • All-wheel-drive (AWD) versions feature a Terrain Management System with selectable modes for different driving conditions.
  6. Towing Capability:

    • The Explorer Hybrid is highlighted for its ease of towing, with standard trailer hitch and sufficient power to tow a 4,500-pound boat.
  7. Performance Variants:

    • The Explorer ST is commended for its 400-horsepower turbocharged engine, sport-tuned suspension, and impressive acceleration (0 to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds).
    • The Platinum trim is described as blending power with luxury, offering natural-effort steering, good brakes, and a comfortable yet controlled ride.
  8. Interior Comfort and Features:

    • The Explorer's interior accommodates up to 7 passengers, with options for captain's chairs in the second row for a 6-passenger configuration.
    • Various trims offer luxurious features, including leather seating surfaces, digital cluster displays, heated steering wheels, and massaging front seats.
  9. Exterior Styling:

    • The 2021 Explorer's exterior design is described as an evolution of the previous model, with various trims featuring unique styling elements such as grille finishes, badging, and wheel designs.
  10. Favorite Features:

    • Notable features include a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, the powerful 400-horsepower V6 engine in the Explorer ST, and various luxurious touches in higher trims like massaging front seats.
  11. Engine and Transmission Options:

    • The Explorer offers a range of engine options, including a turbocharged 2.3-liter 4-cylinder, a hybrid variant with a 3.3-liter V6/electric motor, and a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 in higher trims.
  12. Fuel Economy:

    • The article provides EPA city/highway fuel economy figures for each engine option, offering insights into the Explorer's efficiency in different driving conditions.
  13. Vehicle Review and Rating Methodology:

    • The Kelley Blue Book's vehicle review and rating methodology is briefly explained, emphasizing the comprehensive evaluation process that includes driving experience, features, comfort, and price considerations.

In summary, the 2021 Ford Explorer is presented as a versatile and competitive midsize SUV, with a range of features, powertrains, and trims to cater to diverse consumer preferences in the SUV market.

2021 Ford Explorer Price, Value, Ratings & Reviews | Kelley Blue Book (2024)
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