Plan an adventure with this three-row SUV.

2021 Ford Explorer Review: Hero | CarMax 

Freshly redesigned for the 2020 model year, the 2021 Ford Explorer is a capable three-row SUV with room for your whole crew and power to boot. Plus, the 2021 Explorer is also available as a plug-in hybrid if you're looking for less trips to the pump. An available AWD system lets you choose from seven different traction settings, and the 2021 Ford Explorer is loaded with practical touches, like easy-exit second-row seats and four feet of space between the interior wheel wells.

While we currently do not have many 2021 Ford Explorers on our lots, we look forward to selling more in the future. If you love the 2021 model, you should also consider prior model years of the Ford Explorer with similar features.

Here's what you'll learn in this 2021 Ford Explorer review:

Key Specs and Features


2021 Ford Explorer Review: Exterior | CarMax
  • The 2021 Ford Explorer with the turbocharged 2.3L four-cylinder engine and RWD gets an EPA-estimated 21/28 mpg city/highway.1
  • The 2021 Ford Explorer Hybrid with the 3.3L V6 and RWD gets an EPA-estimated 27/28 mpg city/highway.1

Cargo Space:

2021 Ford Explorer Review: Trunk | CarMax
  • The 2021 Ford Explorer has 18.2 cubic feet of space behind the third row.
  • The 2021 Ford Explorer has a maximum of 87.8 cubic feet of cargo volume with all three rows folded flat.

Towing Capacity:

  • The 2021 Ford Explorer with the turbocharged 2.3L four-cylinder engine and RWD can tow an estimated 5,300 lbs., when properly equipped.2
  • The 2021 Ford Explorer with the 3.3L V6 hybrid platform can tow an estimated 5,000 lbs., when properly equipped.2
  • The 2021 Ford Explorer with the turbocharged 3.0L V6 and RWD can tow an estimated 5,600 lbs., when properly equipped.2

Seating Capacity:

2021 Ford Explorer Review: Front seats | CarMax
  • The 2021 Ford Explorer has seating for up to seven people.
2021 Ford Explorer Review: Backseats | CarMax

Engine Options:

  • A turbocharged 2.3L four-cylinder engine that makes 300 hp
  • A hybrid platform with a 3.3L V6 engine and a combined 318 hp
  • A turbocharged 3.0L V6 engine that makes 365 hp
  • A high-output turbocharged 3.0L V6 engine that makes 400 hp

Tech Features:

2021 Ford Explorer Review: Cell | CarMax
  • Seven driving modes available for AWD models
  • Available 4G Wi-Fi hotspot3
  • Eight USB charge ports
  • Driver aids such as adaptive cruise control and lane centering assist
  • A surround-view camera with integrated washer


The Ford Explorer has a strong sales history at CarMax. It has been featured in these ranking lists:

5 Reasons to Buy

1. The Right Engines for the Job

2021 Ford Explorer Review: Engine | CarMax

Regardless of what you need or want from a three-row SUV, the 2021 Ford Explorer has the engine and drivetrain to get the job done. The Explorer offers four competent powerplants, like a hybrid 3.3L V6 engine or a heart-thumping, 400-hp turbocharged 3.0L V6. All engines come paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission. No matter what you're looking for, the 2021 Ford Explorer has an excellent engine for the task.

2. Capable Towing

Do you have a boat, trailer, or RV that you enjoy taking out for some weekend fun? The 2021 Ford Explorer has the hauling power for a variety of trailer needs. The standard, turbocharged 2.3L four-cylinder engine on the RWD 2021 Ford Explorer offers an estimated 5,300 lbs of towing capacity, when properly equipped.2 Max out the 2021 Explorer's towing capacity at an estimated 5,600 lbs. with the turbocharged 3.0L V6 engine, when properly equipped.2

3. Room for the Whole Crew

2021 Ford Explorer Review: Third Row | CarMax

Are you taking the soccer team to the game? Or maybe you're looking for a vehicle to take your crew and your pets to a campground, cottage, or resort. No matter who or what you need to carry, the 2021 Ford Explorer has the space and seating you need. There's a whopping 152.7 cubic feet of passenger volume—plenty of room for the seven people the Explorer seats. Toss your luggage into the 18.2 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row, and away you go.

4. Lots of Configurable Space

The 2021 Ford Explorer boasts an interior that can adjust to your storage needs. The easy-folding second- and third-row seating can be configured several dozen ways. If you're picking up something long, short, wide, or tall, the interior of the 2021 Ford Explorer offers plenty of room. Fold down all the seats for an impressive 87.8 cubic feet of cargo volume. There are also four feet of space between the interior wheel wells, which means common construction materials will lay flat.

5. Modern Technology

2021 Ford Explorer Review: Dashboard | CarMax

If the latest in driver-assistance and infotainment technology is one of your must-haves, you'll love the 2021 Ford Explorer. An optional tablet-like 10.1-inch touchscreen takes center stage on the console. A wireless charging pad cuts down on wires and keeps your devices powered. An available 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot is standard on all 2021 Ford Explorers and supports up to 10 devices.3 You can start your 2021 Explorer remotely, or right from your smartphone.4

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What You Need to Know

Available Trims

  • Explorer: Includes a turbocharged 2.3L four-cylinder engine, six-speaker audio system, 18-inch aluminum wheels, and more.
  • XLT: Adds heated and power front seats, second-row captain's chairs, push-button start, LED signature lighting, and more.
  • Limited: Adds a 12-speaker B&O® Play sound system, heated second-row seating, heated and ventilated front seats, Ford Co-Pilot360 Assist+, and more.
  • Limited Hybrid: Adds a 3.3L V6 hybrid platform to the Limited trim's features.
  • ST: Features a turbocharged, 400-hp, 3.0L V6 engine; an ST appearance package; sport-tuned suspension; a 12.3-inch digital cluster; and more.
  • Platinum: Adds adaptive LED headlights, 21-inch alloy wheels, satin-aluminum exterior trim, and more to the Limited trim's features.

Available Colors

  • Agate Black
  • Atlas Blue
  • Carbonized Gray
  • Iconic Silver
  • Infinite Blue Metallic Tinted Clearcoat
  • Oxford White
  • Rapid Red Metallic Tinted Clearcoat
  • Star White Metallic Tri-coat
  • Stone Gray


  • 18.2 cubic feet of trunk space
  • Seven-passenger seating
  • Three-passenger third-row bench
  • Optional 10.1-inch touchscreen
  • Dual USB charge ports in the second row

Average CarMax Prices

The 2021 Ford Explorer is a newer model year, and we currently have a limited number in our inventory. See below for average CarMax prices for previous model years of the Ford Explorer.

  • 2012 – Average prices less than $16,5005
  • 2013 – Average prices less than $17,5005
  • 2014 – Average prices less than $19,5005
  • 2015 – Average prices less than $21,5005
  • 2016 – Average prices less than $24,5005
  • 2017 – Average prices less than $27,5005
  • 2018 – Average prices less than $29,0005
  • 2019 – Average prices less than $30,5005
  • 2020 – Average prices less than $41,0005

Similar Model Years

If you like the 2021 Ford Explorer, check out some previous model years of this vehicle with similar features.


The 2021 Ford Explorer received an overall 5/5 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Certain vehicles may have unrepaired safety recalls. Click here to look up a specific vehicle.

Similar Vehicles

If you're interested in the 2021 Ford Explorer, you should also check out these similar vehicles from previous model years.

Hyundai Santa Fe

Redesigned and rebadged for 2019, the Hyundai Santa Fe is available as a five-passenger SUV or a three-row, seven-passenger SUV (Santa Fe XL). The 2019 Santa Fe features five trims and two engine options. The standard 2019 Santa Fe is powered by a 185-hp, 2.4L four-cylinder engine. The 2019 SE trim is packed with standard features, and nets an EPA-estimated 25 mpg combined from the 2.4L engine.1

Standard features on the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe include:

  • Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability
  • Lane-keep assist and rear cross-traffic alert
  • Seven-inch touchscreen
  • Front and rear USB charge ports
  • Adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go functionality

Kia Telluride

New for 2020, the stylish and comfortable Kia Telluride packs an impressive list of features into three trims. AWD is standard on all trims of this three-row SUV, and all models can tow an estimated 5,000 lbs. when properly equipped, thanks to the 291 hp, 3.8L V6 engine.2 With 21.2 cubic feet of cargo capacity, the 2020 Telluride has room for luggage and up to eight passengers.

The base-model 2020 Kia Telluride EX includes the following standard features:

  • Automatic LED headlights and taillights
  • Tri-zone automatic climate control
  • Six USB charge ports and front wireless charging
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Rear power liftgate

Hyundai Palisade

New for 2020, the Hyundai Palisade stands out with modern exterior styling and contemporary interior design. This 2019 Red Dot design winner is a show-stopper, loaded with the latest technology. Front-wheel drive is standard, and AWD is available on all three trims. Enjoy 18 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row, or a whopping 86.4 cubic feet with all seats folded.

Standard features on the 2020 Hyundai Palisade SE include:

  • Forward collision-avoidance assist with pedestrian detection
  • Five USB charge ports
  • Adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go functionality
  • Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability
  • Rearview camera with dynamic guidelines

The Bottom Line

If you need an SUV that fits the whole family, a big group of friends, or tons of gear for a weekend getaway off the grid, the Explorer delivers. With three rows of seating, lots of trunk space, and plenty of power, the 2021 Ford Explorer is an excellent choice for all your driving needs.

Want to find out more? Check out these related articles:

1Fuel economy figures are based on EPA estimates for when vehicles are sold as new. Fuel economy may vary for reasons like driving conditions and vehicle history. Unless specified, figures are for vehicles equipped with an automatic transmission. See fueleconomy.gov.
2Various factors may impact towing capacity, including the weight of passengers, cargo, and options/accessories.
3Wi-Fi hotspots require a data plan to activate and may also require a compatible device. See the owner's manual or manufacturer website for more information.
4Remote start functionality may require the purchase of a subscription plan and/or a compatible device like a smartphone. See the owner's manual or manufacturer website for more information.
5Based on prices on carmax.com from April 9, 2019, through September 10, 2020. Actual prices may vary based on your selected model year, features, and trim packages. Prices do not include taxes, tags, titles, and any applicable fees.
Unless otherwise noted, information related to these featured vehicles comes from third-party sources, including manufacturer information. Product and company names may be trademarks or registered trademarks of third-party entities. Use of them does not imply any affiliation with or endorsement by these entities.