2021 Ford Explorer XLT offers a tough appearance and plenty of power

Ford first popularized the SUV market with the debut of its original Explorer over 20 years ago. There’s a reason why it continues to be a great-seller for Ford and its 2021 Explorer XLT looks to continue this trend. 

Starting under the hood of this XLT trim level, you’ll find a 2.3-liter 4-cylinder, “EcoBoost” engine. It spits out 300 horsepower and 310lb ft of torque. There’s also an optional EcoBoost V6 and a 3.3- liter Hybrid. All engine choices are masted to a 10-speed automatic transmission. The EPA gives a fuel economy rating of 20 miles per gallon around town and up to 27 mpg on the highway for the AWD model – which is pretty good in this class of SUV. 

With a 5,000-lb towing capacity with built-in trailer sway with the trailer towing package means that towing a larger boat or other items behind this XLT will be no problem. Also with the towing package is the enhanced blind-spot detection. 

There are a few different drive modes, including sport, two/haul, eco, normal, slippery, deep snow / sand and trail mode. Each mode changes the steering wheel feel as well as the peak RPM level. 

One of the great things about driving this Explorer XLT is how connected it makes you feel to the road and very few SUVs give you that same experience. However, there is a good deal of road and wind noise, so if you’re looking for a quieter ride, you may have to look elsewhere. 

On the safety and driver-aid side of things, you get Ford’s co-pilot 360 package. This includes automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, auto high-beams, rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring. 

The very high seating position helps you have a tremendous amount of good visibility. With large windows and window sills that aren’t too high, you’ll find that your ability to see what’s around you is rather easy. 

Both front seats are heated as well as the steering wheel. Even though the seats aren’t the most comfortable we’ve been in, both the driver’s and front passenger seats do feature lumbar support so you can help off-set some of that and make it more to your liking. 

Rear seating sports tons of legroom with a built-in cupholder and storage compartment between the two captain chairs. and there are plenty of charging/USB ports as well. Rear passengers also have their own climate control system as well. 

For audio chores, Ford has partnered with renowned audio company, Bang and Olufsen. It’s easily one of the best premium audio systems you can find in any car. Unfortunately, however, the infotainment screen is very small in contrast to the competition and we’re not sure why Ford opted for such a small solution here. The onboard navigation looks rather dated by today’s standard but it is intuitive and works well. If you consider that most folks will take advantage of the built-in support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, it rather makes the on-board navigation a moot point anyway. 

Ford has done a fantastic job of giving the Explorer XLT a rather beefy and masculine look. It has a color matched front grill and plenty of functional ventilation to help the engine breathe. You’ll find strong, bold body lines that help it look aggressive and strong. There’s an upper wing on the rear and a rear wiper that we wish were tucked up under the wing. 

Ford provides a 3-year / 36,000 mile warranty with a 5-year / 100,000 mile warranty which is pretty standard in the industry. The only companies to offer a better warranty would be KIA/Hyundai. 

As always, make sure to check out the competition and book a test drive with your local Ford dealer to see if this Explorer XLT is the right choice for you. 

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