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2023 Ford Explorer Trim Levels, Configurations & Comparisons.

2023 Ford Explorer Trim Levels, Configurations & Comparisons: Base vs XLT, ST-Line vs Timberline, Limited vs ST, and King Ranch vs Platinum

What 2023 Ford Explorer Trim Should You Buy? What is the Difference Between Trims?

At one point, families who needed room for more than five people were stuck with a minivan. That all changed when three-row SUVs exploded on the market. Midsize three-row SUVs are particularly popular, largely due to the fact that they are more fuel efficient and easy to maneuver than full-size options.

The 2023 Ford Explorer is an example of what a well-rounded midsize SUV has to offer. This vehicle has been around longer than most in its class, and it continues to give families the features they want most. In 2023, Ford leaves the design of the Explorer alone for the most part. The only change is the addition of a new paint option, known as Red Jewel Metallic.

There are eight trim levels available for the 2023 Explorer. Theoretically, every family can find one that meets their needs. It can be difficult to decide which is the right one to have sitting in the driveway, however, which is where the following guide comes in.


Compare the Base vs the XLT Trim. What is the difference?

The entry-level Explorer is simply known as the base model. It starts the SUV off strong with a turbo 2.3L four-cylinder engine mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. Drivers can use this setup to make 300 horsepower along with 310 lb-ft of torque. The new Explorer is a rear-wheel-drive SUV, however, even the entry-level model is available wtih an all-wheel drive.

Automatic LED headlights are standard for the Explorer in 2023. Around the back, drivers find LED taillights along with a power liftgate. There is a body-colored rear spoiler and black exterior door handles when drivers choose the base model. There are power-adjustable side mirrors to take advantage of, and this Explorer rides on 18-inch alloy wheels.

There are five 12V power outlets to be found throughout the cabin, with two located in the first row, two located in the second row, and one located in the cargo area. The front row is also where drivers find one USB-A and one USB-C port. The base Explorer comes with tri-zone automatic climate control for increased passenger comfort. An eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat is also standard.

An 8-inch touchscreen is at the heart of the standard Explorer infotainment system. It gives drivers access to Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. FordPass Connect services are also included, giving drivers the ability to remotely start their vehicles. A Wi-Fi hotspot and a six-speaker sound system round out the standard tech features.

Ford gives the base Explorer a respectable amount of standard driver assistance features. Automatic high beams are included, and the SUV also has trailer sway dampening and rear parking sensors. While the Explorer is moving, features like blind-spot monitoring, lane departure mitigation, and forward-collision mitigation help protect the occupants of the SUV.

Many upgrades are made by the Explorer XLT. It keeps the same powertrain but adds features like roof rack side rails and a chrome mesh for the front grille. The door handles for the XLT are body-colored rather than black. As for the side mirrors, they add heat and security approach lamps when drivers choose this trim.

Privacy glass is added to the second and third rows of the XLT, as well as the liftgate. Inside, this trim gains a push-button start. Interestingly, this version of the Explorer loses one of the 12V outlets in the second row, bringing the total down to four. This trim level comes standard with the six-speaker sound system but is available with premium upgrades that cannot be had on the base model. The XLT adds two charging USB ports to the back of the center console, making them convenient for passengers in the second row. While the base model has a 4.2-inch productivity screen, the XLT goes up to 6.5 inches instead.

The XLT has second-row captain's chairs, reducing the seating capacity from eight to seven. It gains heated front-row seats, plus a power-adjustable front passenger seat. The driver's seat becomes 10-way power-adjustable rather than eight-way power-adjustable.

It costs less than $2,000 more to go with the XLT model rather than the base. This brings many more standard features for the Explorer, and it opens up the package options for the SUV considerably.

Compare the XLT vs ST-Line. What is the difference?

The ST-Line model of the 2023 Explorer sticks with the same standard engine. For the exterior, it goes with 20-inch alloy wheels for a bolder look. It gains LED fog lamps, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and dual chrome exhaust tips as well. The headlights and taillights get a unique "black-out treatment" to help add to the athletic look of the Explorer ST-Line.

Inside, the ST-Line gains a wireless charging pad. It also gets multi-color ambient interior lighting and a heated steering wheel with red accent stitching on the leather. Both HD and satellite radio become standard features here, and they can be enjoyed on the standard 12-speaker B&O sound system. The touchscreen grows to 10.1 inches, and voice-activated navigation is included on the ST-Line.

There is red stitching found on the seats of this trim level. Rounding out the upgrades made by this trim is a 360-degree camera system. The ST-Line costs a whopping $7,500 more than the XLT, which may cause buyers to do a double-take at the dealership.

Compare the ST-Line vs Timberline Trim Level. What is the difference?

The 2023 Explorer Timberline is designed to be more off-road ready. It has the same performance stats under the hood, but it adds rugged exterior features like front tow hooks and steel skid plates. This trim level is also home to unique badging and special Timberline projection lamps on the side mirrors. The Timberline is the only trim to come standard with all-wheel drive.

Choosing the Timberline means getting an off-road-oriented suspension and increased ground clearance for tackling rough terrain. This trim level goes down to 18-inch wheels, but it comes standard with all-terrain tires. Unlike the ST-Line, the Timberline does not come standard with a wireless charging pad. It also loses the multi-color ambient interior lighting.

Rather than red accent stitching, the Timberline has "deep Tangerine" accents instead. The Explorer Timberline costs approximately $3,000 more than the ST-Line.

Compare the Timberline vs Limited Trims. What is the difference?

The Limited model of the 2023 Explorer does not have the off-road-oriented features that the Timberline does. Instead, this trim level focuses on upping the luxury level of this midsize SUV. The Limited has the same standard powertrain lurking under the hood, but it is the first to offer a hybrid setup based on a 3.3L V6. This powertrain creates 316 horsepower.

Choosing the Limited will mean going back to 20-inch alloy wheels. This trim level also adds extra chrome accents for the exterior. Rain-sensing windshield wipers, which are missing on the Timberline trim level, become standard once again. At the same time, the Limited model does not come with tow hooks.

The wireless charging pad is back when drivers choose the Limited trim, which also comes equipped with a handy universal garage door opener. This sophisticated trim level benefits from a heated steering wheel along with a power tilt and telescoping steering column. The front seats gain ventilation while the second row gets heated. Leather upholstery is another luxury upgrade found in the Explorer Limited.

As far as the price tag, the Limited trim level is nearly two grand less than the rugged Timberline. This is likely due to it losing standard all-wheel drive and other performance-oriented features. The Limited costs around $1,000 more than the well-equipped ST-Line. When considering the number of extra features found in the Limited, this price jump feels pretty reasonable.

Compare the Limited vs ST. What is the difference?

The hearty ST trim level of the Explorer comes standard with a turbo 3.0L V6 engine that generates 400 horsepower as well as 415 lb-ft of torque. This engine sticks with a ten-speed automatic transmission and standard rear-wheel drive, although all-wheel drive is naturally an option. This trim level also benefits from a sport-tuned suspension.

Quad chrome exhaust tips adorn the rear of the Explorer ST. The blackout treatment on the exterior lights, which was deleted for the Limited, comes back for this athletic trim level. The wireless charging pad and universal garage door opener are downgraded to available features, however.

Inside, the main attraction is a 12.3-inch instrument panel cluster. There are also sport-bolstered front seats, plus paddle shifters, to increase the sportiness level inside the cabin. The seats have the ST logo and silver accent stitching.

Choosing the ST will mean paying around $500 more than buyers would for the Timberline model. It costs around $3,000 more than the Explorer Limited.

Compare the ST vs King Ranch. What is the difference?

The King Ranch model of the new 2023 Explorer combines performance with luxury. It keeps the same turbocharged V6 engine found in the ST model. It also adds power-folding side mirrors and exterior approach lighting for more convenience after dark.

Features that were missing from the ST trim, including wireless charging and the universal garage opener, return to the standard equipment list for the King Ranch. The sophistication of this trim is increased by the wood interior accents and upgraded leather seats. The King Ranch is the first model to come standard with a power-folding third row.

One of the second-row USB ports is replaced by a 110V AC power outlet on the back of the center console in the King Ranch. On the safety front, this trim gets rear brake assist. This feature monitors for rear collisions and applies the brakes when need be.

The 2023 Explorer King Ranch costs just about $4,000 more than the ST. Many of the features gained by this trim fall into the bells and whistles category, which may cause buyers to look lower on the trim ladder when choosing their Explorer.

Compare the King Ranch vs Platinum Trim. What is the difference?

All that is left is the upscale 2023 Explorer Platinum for buyers to consider. This trim level comes standard with the hybrid powertrain, and it has the turbocharged V6 as an available upgrade if buyers will pay a bit more. This may be the reason that the Platinum has a starting cost that is about $200 less than the King Ranch in 2023. The Platinum is still considered the most fully-loaded Explorer, regardless of the fact that it is not the most expensive.

Unlike the King Ranch, the Platinum model does not have quad chrome exhaust tips. It does, however, gain adaptive LED headlights that corner with the vehicle. Illuminated front scuff plates are also standard for the Explorer Platinum. The Platinum trim level is the only one that offers Active Park Assist 2.0. This feature can take the stress out of both parallel and perpendicular parking. It handles the shifting, braking, and steering.


Final Thoughts

Every 2023 Ford Explorer is reasonably well-equipped. The base model may serve the needs of some drivers, but families will want to step up to the XLT if possible. The second-row captain's chairs are more convenient, and little touches like heated front seats can make a big difference in comfort.

Of course, off-road enthusiasts may want the Explorer Timberline instead. It has legitimate capability off the pavement while still providing enough practical features for day-to-day driving. Those who crave a bit more power may want to consider the ST and its standard turbo V6 engine. Higher trim levels are full of fancy upgrades that drivers may not find all that useful.

The 2023 Ford Explorer XLT strikes the right balance between features and price, making it a strong option for many families.

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