2021 Ford Explorer restores XLT appearance package

Jonathon Ramsey

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Three years ago, when Ford debuted the XLT Sport Appearance package on the previous-generation Explorer, the SUV's brand marketing manager said, "Our Sport Appearance philosophy is rooted in the fact that we know exterior appearance is the No. 1 consideration in SUV purchase decisions," the dark trim ornamentation designed as "a dramatic offering that gives customers another attractive option." The sales numbers back up the cosmetic effort on the base XLT trim, Ford saying 20% of XLT buyers choose the option. It's taken a few months to get around to it, but the Sport Appearance makes its return soon on the new-generation Explorer, with effectively the same enhancements as before.

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Outside, a Carbonized Gray hue shows on the grille, hood lettering, skid plates, and painted 20-inch wheels, while dual chrome exhaust tips shine out back. The interior seating gets covered in the automaker's partial-leather ActiveX material instead of cloth, in a Light Slate color with accent stitching, matching the ActiveX trim on the center console and door cards. That light gray is offset with satin silver trim across the dash and on the door. It's tasteful and less intense than the last Sport Appearance pack, which paired Ebony Black with Fire Orange stitching.

Ford hasn't announced pricing, but the package added $1,595 to the previous-gen XLT trim. It will be available this summer, after the 2021 model switchover occurs. In the meantime, shoppers looking at the 2020 Explorer can order the satin silver dash and door trim, providing "richer surfaces for the instrument panel, steering wheel and switches."

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