TodayApril 15, 2022

2021 Ford Explorer King Ranch review 

Welcome to the Ford Explorer Three-row SUVs get a bad rap. So many people who don’t own three-row seats see it as a way to haul more stuff and not use the back seats. The obvious reason is the people I talk to who own three-row SUVs have children with friends. They can fit them all into one vehicle instead of taking two vehicles, cutting down on the use of gasoline.  

SUV versus midsize Truck?

It’s an oxymoron to think that a person that buys a three-row SUV thinks about fuel economy, but everyone I talk to about three-row SUVs talks about fuel efficiency, safety, and towing capacity. It’s easy to equate towing capacity with a midsize truck, but there is a breakdown in my neighborhood—people with full-size pickups tow horse trailers and neighbors with a three-row SUV tow a boat. 

2021 Ford Explorer King Ranch three-row seats

Ford knows this and appropriately makes a Class III trailer tow package standard on the 2021 Ford Explorer King Ranch Lariat 4WD that I drove. This gives the Explorer a maximum towing capacity of 5,600 pounds, and a maximum tongue-load (the weight of a trailer at its tongue or coupling point)of 560 pounds, ensuring that all your towing needs are met. 

A little-known secret is that most people think a truck has more power and torque than an SUV, but comparing the Explorer King Ranch to the 2021 Ford Ranger Lariat 4dr SuperCab 4WD is a surprise. I use a midsize truck, even though the interior of the King Ranch is created around the F-150 Supercrew because it is already longer than the extensive Explorer King Ranch. Let’s look at the difference:

Ford Explorer King Ranch SUV versus Ford Ranger Lariat truck

Towing capacity 

Ford Explorer King Ranch 5,600

Ford Ranger Lariat 7,500

Engine power

Ford Explorer King Ranch – 365 hp @ 5,500 rpm

Ford Ranger Lariat – 270 hp @ 5,500 rpm

Engine torque

Ford Explorer King Ranch 

380 ft-lbs. @ 3,500 rpm

Ford Ranger Lariat 

310 ft-lbs. @ 3,000 rpm

2021 Ford Explorer King Ranch mpg

Miles per Gallon

Ford Explorer King Ranch

18 city MPG and 24 highway MPG 20 combined (I got 23.8 mpg)

Ford Ranger Lariat 4dr SuperCab 4WD

20 city and 24 highway MPG 22 combined 

Of course, there are other differences, but it is striking that the Explorer King Ranch can seat more people, has more horsepower and torque, only two mpg fewer than the Ranger, and 900 pounds less on towing. 

The 2021 King ranch 4WD I drove started at $54,600.00. With options and destination and delivery of $1,245, the total was $59,430.00.

The competitors for the Ford Explorer are 

Chevrolet Traverse

Mazda CX-9

Toyota Highlander

Honda Pilot

Kia Telluride

Hyundai Santa Fe

What’s new for 2021?

For 2021, the Ford Explorer gets minor updates even though there was a refresh in 2020. The XLT now comes with heated seats and adds an optional Appearance Package. Top trim levels also come with updated interior finishes, and there are several more wheel options along with more paint choices available.

2021 Ford Explorer King Ranch engine

The Explorer models include Base, XLT, Limited, ST, King Ranch, and Platinum models. The Explorer has three rows of seating and room for up to seven (the second row pops up with two bucket seats for adults). Like most three-row seats, the third row is kid-sized. With a single-button power-folding system, the third rows lay flat. LATCH fasteners for child seats are in the second-row outboard positions. The second and third rows flip forward, giving us enough cargo space to load three solar panels.

The base 2.3-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine makes 300 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque, with fuel economy at a class-leading 21 mpg city and 28 mpg highway and a 5000-lb tow capacity. A beefier 3.0-liter Ecoboost V6 is available on King Ranch and Platinum trimmed vehicles producing 365 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque, with tow capacity up to a 5600-lb maximum when properly equipped and an even more powerful ST model making 400 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque.

The available Intelligent 4-wheel-drive system in the Explorer is available with all engines. The system includes a Terrain Management system that recalibrates itself for snow, sand, or mud when needed. With 4-wheel drive, there’s also Hill Descent Control to help maintain composure on steep, slippery slopes.

Standard equipment on the Explorer includes Cruise control, power-adjustable driver seat, media hub system, five 12-volt power points, 8-inch touchscreen, FordPass Connect 4G, multi-zone climate control with separate rear controls, capless fuel-filling, and the MyKey control/monitoring feature are all standard on the base model.

Standard features included on the XLT include:

  • Heated front seats.
  • Premium cloth upholstery.
  • Power lumbar adjustable driver’s seat.
  • Power-adjustable passenger seat.

Explorer King Ranch delivers premium touches and mahogany-colored Mesa Del Rio leather seats with perforated front and second rows with the legendary King Ranch Running W logo. The center console continues with a Mesa Del Rio leather armrest and King Ranch logo insert.

MyFord Touch combines a host of vehicle, information, and entertainment functions in an interface that appears a bit like that of iPads or other tablet computers. The system works together with Ford’s Sync interface to interact seamlessly with voice commands with media players, smartphones, and music on USB sticks.

All Explorers include Roll Stability Control and Curve Control sophisticated stability control systems. Safety Canopy side-curtain airbags also cover all three rows, and an SOS Post-Crash System helps alert authorities if the airbags deploy. Safety-related tech features on the Explorer include available Ford Co-Pilot 360 Assist, adaptive cruise control with a collision warning system that includes brake support, and a Blind Spot Information System with cross-traffic alert and driver attention alert.

The interior is an available Premium Technology Package featuring multi-contour seats with active motion massaging functionality, a 10.1-inch center stack portrait touch screen with swipe and pinch-to-zoom capability, and a 14-speaker B&O Sound System by Bang & Olufsen specially tuned to the Explorer’s interior.

2021 Ford Explorer King Ranch interior

Outside, Explorer King Ranch comes decked out with a unique Stone Gray-painted mesh grille insert, 20-inch aluminum wheels with Running W center cap, liftgate scuff plate, and quad chrome exhaust tips. Capping it all off is signature King Ranch badging.

Specs for the Explorer:

Engine: 3.0L EcoBoost V6 -inc: auto start-stop technology

Transmission: 10-Speed Automatic

3.31 Non-Limited-Slip Axle Ratio

GVWR: 6,160 lbs

50 State Emissions System Flexible Fuel Vehicle (FFV) system is standard equipment for vehicles with the 3.3L Ti-VCT V6 FFV engine.

Transmission w/Driver Selectable Mode

SelectShift Capability w/Paddle Shifters

Automatic Full-Time Four-Wheel Drive

Engine Oil Cooler

Battery w/Run Down Protection

Regenerative Alternator

Class III Towing Equipment -inc: Hitch and Trailer Sway Control

Trailer Wiring Harness

Gas-Pressurized Shock Absorbers

Front And Rear Anti-Roll Bars

Electric Power-Assist Speed-Sensing Steering

Quasi-Dual Stainless Steel Exhaust w/Chrome Tailpipe Finisher

20.2 Gal. Fuel Tank

Auto Locking Hubs

Strut Front Suspension w/Coil Springs

Multi-Link Rear Suspension w/Coil Springs

4-Wheel Disc Brakes w/4-Wheel ABS, Front And Rear Vented Discs, Brake Assist, Hill Descent Control, Hill Hold Control, and Electric Parking Brake

2021 Ford Explorer King Ranch second-row

2021 Ford Explorer prices

2021 Ford Explorer Base SUV – $32,925

2021 Ford Explorer Base 4WD SUV – $34,925

2021 Ford Explorer XLT SUV – $35,075

2021 Ford Explorer XLT 4WD SUV – $37,075

2021 Ford Explorer Limited 3.3L V6 Hybrid SUV – $45,255

2021 Ford Explorer Limited 2.3L SUV – $45,255

2021 Ford Explorer Limited 3.3L V6 Hybrid 4WD SUV – $47,255

2021 Ford Explorer Limited 2.3L 4WD SUV – $47,255

2021 Ford Explorer Timberline – $46,015

2021 Ford Explorer ST – $49,000

2021 Ford Explorer King Ranch SUV – $52,600

2021 Ford Explorer King Ranch 4WD SUV – $54,600

2021 Ford Explorer Platinum 3.0L V6 SUV – $52,730

2021 Ford Explorer Platinum 3.0L V6 4WD SUV – $53,335

2021 Ford Explorer Platinum 3.3L V6 Hybrid 4WD SUV – $53,335

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Lou Ann Hammond

Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a founding member of the Women's World Car of the Year #WWCOTY, and board member of the Women in Automotive.

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