Road-Test/Review | 2021 Explorer King Ranch | Giddy Up
Western chic gives way to urban panache. When I think of Ford’s King Ranch trim level my mind instantly goes to a Charcoal Blue Metallic Crew-Cab PN-96 F-150. That truck introduced many to the King Ranch brand, and the unique and beautiful Castano saddle leather that covered the seats. The look, feel, and smell of that era of King Ranch interior was completely unique in the automotive world. Unfortunately; far too few buyers took to time to read the literature that accompanied their new purchase, where they would have learned the unique care procedures required to maintain those fantastic saddle leather seats. You’re going to need to invest in products like these (not necessarily SVTP recommendations) :
That’s why you rarely see one of those trucks with an interior that looks half-way decent. After that fiasco Ford overcorrected and dumbed down the King Ranch interior to something that just resembled a traditional Western styled truck. Thankfully Ford’s designers have bounced back and have found a happy middle ground with the interior of our recent 2022 Ford Explorer King Ranch test vehicle. The seats are swathed a nice quality leather that looks and smells great, without requiring the specialized attention of the old saddle leather. It’s a bit less authentic, but way more user friendly. I’d call it a win for 99.5% of buyers.
Check out our Full Review Video. The WOT runs are fun, especially when exploring some back roads.
Outside, the rig has the same classic King Ranch styling we’ve come to expect from Ford. It’s classy, but not ground breaking. The Star White Metallic Tri-Coat paint absolutely pops in the sunlight and the 20 inch aluminum wheels fill out the wells nicely. I feel the use of unpainted plastic wheel flares and lower cladding is out of place at this price level, but it doesn’t look bad when new and shiny. Fit and finish are good, but don’t ask me to turn wrenches on it. The engine bay is jam packed with tubes and hoses. It’s amazing how such a small engine (internally know as part of the Nano family) can take up so much space.
The front end styling of the U625 6th Generation Ford Explorer is a massive upgrade over the U502 5th Gen models.
However, I have to give Ford credit for making the move back to a RWD biased platform for the Explorer. It’s not too often we see a nameplate lost to the darkness of the FWD abyss make its way back to the light. Speaking of light, Ford as seen fit to start installing more lightweight mega-castings in the structure of this SUV. The massive cast strut towers are an impressive addition, and I hope this is the start of a trend for Ford. Mega-castings solve a lot of issues with unibody structure, and they are becoming much more prevalent in certain premium auto brands. Hopefully we see some make their way into the S650 Mustang.
This is the most common environment you'll find an Explorer in these days, the concrete jungle.
On road, the Explorer handles exactly as you would expect a premium 3-row mid-size SUV to handle. It is smooth and confidence inspiring, but by no means a performance machine. It’s the kind of vehicle you can drive all day without getting overly fatigued, have peace of mind sending your wife out with the kids in it, and still be able to smoke unsuspecting commuters when you light off the twin turbos on the 3.0L EcoBoost. That last part is especially true if you have some custom tuning loaded up.
This is a good looking rig, especially in a place like this.
I didn’t get to spend a ton of time with the King Ranch Explorer, but I did get a good sense of what I’d like to see out of this platform. I’m really interested in sampling an Explorer in the new Timberline trim level. I think that would be somewhat of a return to the Explorer’s roots as a comfortable family SUV that can still handle some trails and haul a cooler you your favorite fishing spot. If there’s one thing Ford has excelled at with the Explorer, it’s in offering it in a flavor to suit nearly everyone’s taste. I just happen to prefer Rocky Road to Butter Pecan. I’m just glad to have the option, and I’ll take mine with two-scoops of turbo please.
The metallic Star White paint and massive polished wheels are a great combination.
I'm not crazy about plastic side cladding, but it is functional.
There's an engine in there somewhere under all that stuff.
Working on the turbos on one of these rigs is just an absolute treat.
Mega-Castings such as this one are the way of the future. Expect to see many more these and extrusions in the future.
Ok, this just looks right.
Photos by StacyStangz (the good ones) and the Author (the ones shot with a potato)