2021 Ford Explorer Hybrid


What’s new

  • New Sport Appearance package available on XLT trim
  • Minor changes to standard and optional feature availability
  • Part of the sixth Explorer generation introduced for 2020

Pros & Cons

  • Quick acceleration
  • Rear-wheel-drive platform improves handling and towing
  • Roomy cargo area
  • Hybrid model limited to a single upper-level trim
  • Elevated noise from wind and hybrid system
  • Lackluster second- and third-row interior space
  • Interior materials could be better
MSRP Starting at

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2021 Ford Explorer Review

Coming off a full redesign last year, the Ford Explorer returns for 2021 with only minor changes. As with past models, this is a three-row midsize SUV that's well suited for a variety of tasks. This sixth-generation Explorer is notable for a few reasons, one being its available hybrid powertrain. It combines a V6 engine with a hybrid system to provide 318 horsepower as well as upwards of 28 mpg in combined driving, according to the EPA.

This is only a few mpg better than what you get from the Explorer's base turbocharged four-cylinder engine. It's also down from the Toyota Highlander Hybrid's 35 mpg. But Ford prioritized capability more than maximum fuel efficiency. Maximum towing capacity with the hybrid powertrain is a respectable 5,000 pounds. This new-generation Explorer also has traditional rear-wheel drive (all-wheel drive is optional), which is beneficial for both handling and towing stability.

Ford only offers the hybrid powertrain in the rather expensive Limited trim level, however. This makes the hybrid a dubious choice from a value standpoint. To learn more, check out our Expert Rating for an in-depth analysis of the 2021 Explorer with the hybrid powertrain.

Edmunds’ Expert Rating
Rated for you by America’s best test team

Our verdict

7.4 / 10
Like the regular Explorer, the hybrid-powered Ford Explorer offers great handling, good looks and snappy acceleration. It's available in rear- or all-wheel drive, which is unusual but appreciated. But it also shares regular Explorer weaknesses such as average rear passenger and cargo space and lackluster interior materials. The hybrid powertrain isn't always smooth, and Ford's Limited trim-only strategy makes the Explorer hybrid expensive.

How does it drive?

The Explorer, with the hybrid powertrain, feels eager and balanced. Much of this goodness stems from a chassis that combines the dynamic benefits of a rear-wheel-drive foundation, an advanced four-wheel independent suspension, and lightweight unit-body construction. Its all-wheel-drive system can deliver power continuously in challenging conditions, something that can't be said of other AWD hybrids.

The engine holds up its end of the bargain when it comes to power, and it is a smooth highway cruiser. The trouble is that this hybrid powertrain doesn't feel as well sorted as it should. Acceleration isn't as smooth or predictable as it is in other hybrids, such as the Toyota Highlander Hybrid. Clumsy is too strong a word, but the Explorer's system could certainly use more polish.

How comfortable is it?

The Explorer's front seats are nicely shaped and comfortable. But we don't recommend the optional massaging ones — the mechanism behind the massaging can make the seats feel lumpy when it's turned off. Seat comfort gets progressively less cushiony as you move back to the second and third rows. Our Explorer Limited test vehicle rode smoothly most of the time, but smaller road imperfections were a little more noticeable than in some other SUVs.

Operating the automatic climate control system can require more manual adjustments than expected; the air vents won't pump out as much air as you want when you lower the temperature, for instance. Another drawback is that the Explorer isn't as quiet as it should be. The hybrid system emits more clunks, clicks and whirs than it should, and you can hear gusty wind noises at even moderate highway speeds.

How’s the interior?

The front seat space is abundant and the driving position is nicely adjustable. It's also generally easy to see out thanks to the adequate glass area and good-size mirrors. But middle-row knee room and legroom aren't up to the standard set by others in the class, and the third row is unlikely to impress adults who are taller than average. Getting into the back can be clumsy in tight quarters if the doors can't be opened past the first detent because space is tight between the large door-map pockets and the prominent rear wheel arches.

How’s the tech?

The Explorer Hybrid only comes in the Limited grade. As such, it features the 8-inch touchscreen, Sync 3 infotainment system, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration that all Explorers have, but it also comes with built-in navigation and a strong-sounding B&O premium audio system. Avoid the optional 10.1-inch vertical touchscreen because its skinnier proportions cause the displays for Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and the rearview camera to shrink too much.

You'll get a full complement of standard driving safety aids, including a forward collision warning system that can automatically brake for you if you don't react in time. It all works well, but the alerts for these various systems sound overly similar and the lane-centering system may falsely accuse you of taking your hands off the wheel.

How’s the storage?

The Explorer with the hybrid powertrain has as generous amount of cargo space with its rear seats folded down. It's a bit tighter than some other SUVs with the third-row seats up, but you can still fit three, maybe four, rollerboard suitcases back there. There's a good amount of small-item storage up front for your odds and ends, and child seats are easy to install in the middle row.

The Explorer is especially well suited to towing, and the 5,000-pound maximum tow rating is quite good for a hybrid SUV. The optional Trailer Tow package comes with just about everything you'll need, including an easily accessed receiver hitch, four- and seven-pin wiring, full support for an add-on electric trailer brake controller, a tow/haul transmission mode, and an enhanced blind-spot monitoring system that covers the length of the trailer.

How economical is it?

The all-wheel-drive version of the hybrid gets an EPA-estimated 25 mpg combined (23 city/26 highway), which is only 2 mpg higher than a regular Explorer Limited with the base turbocharged engine. Or consider a Toyota Highlander Hybrid, which gets 35 mpg combined. Our test vehicle fell slightly short of the EPA estimate with an average of 23.3 mpg over 610 miles of mixed driving.

Is it a good value?

There's not much of a rational reason to buy an Explorer with the hybrid powertrain. Available only in the Limited trim, it costs a lot more than it should. What's more, the build quality and interior materials don't live up to what you should expect for the price. This hybrid doesn't deliver anything like a sizable fuel economy benefit either, especially if you purchase the all-wheel-drive model.


Looks like the Explorer you already know, only better. As a hybrid, it's a particularly stealthy choice because it absolutely looks no different from any other Explorer. That's a good thing because this new Explorer has a strong stance and sleek proportions that suggest motion.

For the most part, this is no hollow promise because the driving experience exceeds that of any previous Explorer. It's quick, it has poise and balance, and it likes to be hustled through corners. This is the one to get if your daily drive includes mountain roads or interesting corners. The hybrid isn't quite as refined as its non-hybrid brethren when driven around town, but it still satisfies beyond city limits.

Which Explorer does Edmunds recommend?

The base Explorer is generously appointed, but we suggest stepping up to the XLT trim for its nicer interior and additional convenience features. If the Limited trim didn't have such a big price jump, it would have earned our recommendation for its added safety and luxury features.

2021 Ford Explorer models

The 2021 Ford Explorer is a midsize three-row SUV with seating for six or seven passengers. There's a variety of available trim levels, but only the Limited offers the hybrid powertrain. It produces a total of 318 hp and comes with a 10-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is optional.

The Explorer Limited with the hybrid powertrain comes standard with:

  • Hands-free power liftgate
  • Roof rails
  • Tri-zone automatic climate control
  • Second-row captain's chairs
  • 50/50-split folding third-row seats
  • Keyless entry/ignition and an exterior keypad
  • Power-adjustable front seats with heating and ventilation
  • Leather upholstery
  • Heated steering wheel
  • Second-row sunshades

Technology features include:

  • 8-inch touchscreen
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration
  • In-vehicle Wi-Fi hotspot
  • Remote monitoring and control via a smartphone app
  • Second-row USB ports
  • Wireless charging pad
  • Navigation system with voice control
  • 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system

Every Explorer also comes with these advanced safety features:

  • Frontal collision mitigation (warns you of an impending collision and applies the brakes in certain scenarios)
  • Blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert (warns you if a vehicle is in your blind spot during a lane change or while reversing)
  • Trailer sway control (adjusts vehicle brakes to help control trailer movement if a trailer begins to sway)
  • Surround-view camera system (gives you a top-down view of the vehicle and its surroundings for tight parking situations)
  • Adaptive cruise control (adjusts speed to maintain a constant distance between the vehicle and the car in front)
  • Lane centering system (makes minor steering corrections to help keep the vehicle centered in its lane)

Significant options for the Explorer Limited include:

  • Sunroof
  • Second-row bench seat
  • Rear-seat entertainment system

Consumer reviews

There are no consumer reviews for the 2021 Ford Explorer.

Trending topics in reviews

    Build Your Explorer

    Features & Specs

    Limited Hybrid 4dr SUV features & specs
    Limited Hybrid 4dr SUV
    3.3L 6cyl gas/electric hybrid 10A
    MPG 27 city / 29 hwy
    SeatingSeats 6
    Transmission10-speed shiftable automatic
    Horsepower318 hp @ 6500 rpm
    See all for sale
    Limited Hybrid 4dr SUV AWD features & specs
    Limited Hybrid 4dr SUV AWD
    3.3L 6cyl gas/electric hybrid 10A
    MPG 23 city / 26 hwy
    SeatingSeats 6
    Transmission10-speed shiftable automatic
    Horsepower318 hp @ 6500 rpm
    See all for sale
    See all 2021 Ford Explorer Hybrid features & specs


    Our experts’ favorite Explorer safety features:

    Lane Keeping System
    Alerts the driver as the Explorer starts to drift out of its lane. Also applies pressure to the wheel to guide the car back into the lane.
    Post-Collision Braking
    Applies the brakes after a collision to reduce the effects of a secondary collision.
    Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control
    Maintains the distance between the Explorer and the car in front. Also includes a system that keeps the Explorer centered in the lane.

    NHTSA Overall Rating 5 out of 5 stars

    The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.

    Frontal Barrier Crash RatingRating
    Overall5 / 5
    Driver5 / 5
    Passenger5 / 5
    Side Crash RatingRating
    Overall5 / 5
    Side Barrier RatingRating
    Overall5 / 5
    Driver5 / 5
    Passenger5 / 5
    Combined Side Barrier & Pole RatingsRating
    Front Seat5 / 5
    Back Seat5 / 5
    Rollover4 / 5
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of Rollover14.7%

    IIHS Rating

    The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.

    Side Impact Test
    Roof Strength Test
    Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    IIHS Small Overlap Front TestNot Tested
    Moderate Overlap Front Test

    Ford Explorer vs. the competition

    Ford Explorer vs. Kia Telluride

    After earning Edmunds Top Rated status for the last two years, the Kia Telluride continues to impress us with its abundant comfort, spacious interior and long list of standard features. By contrast, the Ford Explorer trails by a sizable margin — it's held back by its higher price, disappointing interior materials and noticeable wind noise on the highway. Read Edmunds' long-term road test of the Telluride.

    Compare Ford Explorer & Kia Telluride features

    Ford Explorer vs. Hyundai Palisade

    The Hyundai Palisade is a close relative of the Kia Telluride and enjoys many of the same advantages. Not surprisingly, it easily leads the Ford Explorer in a number of ways. The Palisade is a bit more expensive than the Telluride but still represents a relative bargain compared to the Explorer.

    Compare Ford Explorer & Hyundai Palisade features

    Ford Explorer vs. Honda Pilot

    The Honda Pilot is the veteran of the class; it was last redesigned in 2016. Despite its age, the Pilot remains a very strong pick among three-row SUVs thanks to its versatile interior, smooth ride and clever storage options. It might not be as exciting to drive as the Explorer, but its smart family-friendly design gives it a distinct edge. Read Edmunds' long-term road test of the Pilot.

    Compare Ford Explorer & Honda Pilot features


    Is the Ford Explorer a good car?

    The Edmunds experts tested the 2021 Explorer both on the road and at the track, giving it a 7.4 out of 10. You probably care about Ford Explorer fuel economy, so it's important to know that the Explorer gets an EPA-estimated 25 mpg to 28 mpg, depending on the configuration. What about cargo capacity? When you're thinking about carrying stuff in your new car, keep in mind that the Explorer has 18.2 cubic feet of trunk space. And then there's safety and reliability. Edmunds has all the latest NHTSA and IIHS crash-test scores, plus industry-leading expert and consumer reviews to help you understand what it's like to own and maintain a Ford Explorer. Learn more

    What's new in the 2021 Ford Explorer?

    According to Edmunds’ car experts, here’s what’s new for the 2021 Ford Explorer:

    • New Sport Appearance package available on XLT trim
    • Minor changes to standard and optional feature availability
    • Part of the sixth Explorer generation introduced for 2020
    Learn more

    Is the Ford Explorer reliable?

    To determine whether the Ford Explorer is reliable, read Edmunds' authentic consumer reviews, which come from real owners and reveal what it's like to live with the Explorer. Look for specific complaints that keep popping up in the reviews, and be sure to compare the Explorer's average consumer rating to that of competing vehicles. Learn more

    Is the 2021 Ford Explorer a good car?

    There's a lot to consider if you're wondering whether the 2021 Ford Explorer is a good car. Edmunds' expert testing team reviewed the 2021 Explorer and gave it a 7.4 out of 10. Safety scores, fuel economy, cargo capacity and feature availability should all be factors in determining whether the 2021 Explorer is a good car for you. Learn more

    How much should I pay for a 2021 Ford Explorer?

    The least-expensive 2021 Ford Explorer is the 2021 Ford Explorer Limited Hybrid 4dr SUV (3.3L 6cyl gas/electric hybrid 10A). Including destination charge, it arrives with a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of about $49,855.

    Other versions include:

    • Limited Hybrid 4dr SUV (3.3L 6cyl gas/electric hybrid 10A) which starts at $49,855
    • Limited Hybrid 4dr SUV AWD (3.3L 6cyl gas/electric hybrid 10A) which starts at $51,855
    Learn more

    What are the different models of Ford Explorer?

    If you're interested in the Ford Explorer, the next question is, which Explorer model is right for you? Explorer variants include Limited Hybrid 4dr SUV (3.3L 6cyl gas/electric hybrid 10A), and Limited Hybrid 4dr SUV AWD (3.3L 6cyl gas/electric hybrid 10A). For a full list of Explorer models, check out Edmunds’ Features & Specs page. Learn more

    More about the 2021 Ford Explorer

    2021 Ford Explorer Hybrid Overview

    The 2021 Ford Explorer Hybrid is offered in the following styles: Limited Hybrid 4dr SUV (3.3L 6cyl gas/electric hybrid 10A), and Limited Hybrid 4dr SUV AWD (3.3L 6cyl gas/electric hybrid 10A).

    What do people think of the 2021 Ford Explorer Hybrid?

    Consumer ratings and reviews are also available for the 2021 Ford Explorer Hybrid and all its trim types. Edmunds consumer reviews allow users to sift through aggregated consumer reviews to understand what other drivers are saying about any vehicle in our database. Detailed rating breakdowns (including performance, comfort, value, interior, exterior design, build quality, and reliability) are available as well to provide shoppers with a comprehensive understanding of why customers like the 2021 Explorer Hybrid.

    Edmunds Expert Reviews

    Edmunds experts have compiled a robust series of ratings and reviews for the 2021 Ford Explorer Hybrid and all model years in our database. Our rich analysis includes expert reviews and recommendations for the 2021 Explorer Hybrid featuring deep dives into trim levels including Limited Hybrid, etc. with careful analysis around pricing, features, performance, mpg, safety, interior, and driving and performance. Edmunds also offers expert ratings, road test and performance data, long-term road tests, first-drive reviews, video reviews and more.

    Read our full review of the 2021 Ford Explorer Hybrid here.

    Our Review Process

    This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

    We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.

    What's a good price for a New 2021 Ford Explorer Hybrid?

    2021 Ford Explorer Hybrid Limited Hybrid 4dr SUV AWD (3.3L 6cyl gas/electric hybrid 10A)

    The 2021 Ford Explorer Hybrid Limited Hybrid 4dr SUV AWD (3.3L 6cyl gas/electric hybrid 10A) can be purchased for less than the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (aka MSRP) of $55,340. The average price paid for a new 2021 Ford Explorer Hybrid Limited Hybrid 4dr SUV AWD (3.3L 6cyl gas/electric hybrid 10A) is trending $2,429 below the manufacturer’s MSRP.

    Edmunds members save an average of $2,429 by getting upfront special offers. The estimated special offer price in your area is $52,911.

    The average savings for the 2021 Ford Explorer Hybrid Limited Hybrid 4dr SUV AWD (3.3L 6cyl gas/electric hybrid 10A) is 4.4% below the MSRP.

    Available Inventory:

    We are showing 5 2021 Ford Explorer Hybrid Limited Hybrid 4dr SUV AWD (3.3L 6cyl gas/electric hybrid 10A) vehicle(s) available in the Ashburn area.

    Shop with Edmunds for perks and special offers on new cars, trucks, and SUVs near Ashburn, VA. Doing so could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars. Edmunds also provides consumer-driven dealership sales and service reviews to help you make informed decisions about what cars to buy and where to buy them.

    Which 2021 Ford Explorer Hybrids are available in my area?

    2021 Ford Explorer Hybrid Listings and Inventory

    There are currently 11 new 2021 [object Object] Explorer Hybrids listed for sale in your area, with list prices as low as $55,040 and mileage as low as 0 miles. Simply research the type of used car you're interested in and then select a car from our massive database to find cheap used cars for sale near you. Once you have identified a vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the 2021 Ford Explorer Hybrid. Then select Edmunds special offers, perks, deals, and incentives to contact the dealer of your choice and save up to $4,899 on a new, used or CPO 2021 [object Object] Explorer Hybrid available from a dealership near you.

    Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 2021 [object Object] Explorer Hybrid for sale near you.

    Can't find a new 2021 Ford Explorer Hybrid Explorer Hybrid you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

    Find a new Ford Explorer for sale - 7 great deals out of 17 listings starting at $8,897.

    Find a new Ford for sale - 11 great deals out of 22 listings starting at $14,347.

    Why trust Edmunds?

    Edmunds has deep data on over 6 million new, used, and certified pre-owned vehicles, including all models of the 2021 Ford Explorer Hybrid and all available trim types: Limited Hybrid, Limited Hybrid. Rich, trim-level features & specs and options data tracked for the 2021 Ford Explorer Hybrid include (but are not limited to): MSRP, available incentives and deals, average price paid, warranty information (basic, drivetrain, and maintenance), features (interior and exterior color, upholstery, bluetooth, navigation, cruise control, parking assistance, lane sensing, keyless ignition, satellite radio, folding rears seats,run flat tires, wheel type, tire size, sunroof, etc.), vehicle specifications (engine cylinder count, drivetrain, engine power, torque, engine displacement, transmission), fuel economy and MPG (city, highway, and combined, fuel capacity, range), vehicle dimensions (interior cabin space, vehicle length and width, seating capacity, cargo space). Edmunds also provides tools to allow shopper to compare vehicles to similar models of their choosing by warranty, interior features, exterior features, specifications, vehicle dimensions, consumer rating, edmunds expert review, safety rating, and color.

    Should I lease or buy a 2021 Ford Explorer Hybrid?

    Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

    Check out Ford lease specials