What’s the Difference Between The Ford Explorer Base and The XLT?

I have been looking for a seven-seater car with innovative features, and I came across the Ford Explorer and XLT.

I didn’t seem to settle on any of the two, so I decided to research and compare both models, and here is everything I learned. 

What’s the Difference Between The Ford Explorer Base and The XLT?

The Ford Explorer Base provides you with standard features necessary for a smooth and comfortable ride on a budget. On the other hand, the XLT has more luxurious features with cutting-edge technology and an enhanced interior to take your adventures to the next level but at a higher price. 

If you want a family-friendly SUV but wouldn’t consider minivans, the Explorer Base and XLT models are perfect options. 

I have broken down the differences between the two models to help you choose a car that meets your requirements. Keep reading to learn more. 

Distinguishing Features Between Ford Explorer Base and XLT

The Ford Explorer XTL and Base are ideal for anyone who needs a spacious, reliable, versatile, and imposing vehicle. 

Deciding between the two models can be a daunting task, but there are some unique features in the two models that can make you choose one and not the other. 


The Explorer Base model has a 2.3L EcoBoost ®I-4 turbo engine that generates 310 lb-ft torque and 300 horsepower. 

This vehicle also offers a 10-speed transmission and rear-wheel drive. 

The XLT model has a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, making it ideal for anyone who needs to use the vehicle for more hauling and towing purposes. 

One significant difference is that the Explorer Base has an EPA mileage estimate of 27MPG and 29MPG in the city on the highway, respectively. 

On the other hand, the EPA mileage estimate for XLT is 28 MPG on highways and 21MPG in the city. 

Both vehicles have a fuel tank capacity of 17.9 gallons. 

Interior Comfort

Both Ford Explorer XLT and Base provide comfortable rides, suitable for longer trips. 

The difference is that the XLT offers a 10-way power driver’s seat while the Base has an 8-way power driver’s seat. 

This means that you can easily adjust your seat correctly while driving the XLT. 

However, you will have to make the adjustments manually for the Base model or upgrade to the power seat, and it won’t still give you the same effect. 

The Base model has dual-zone automatic climate control, which means that both the passenger and driver can set different temperatures from their side of the car.

On the other hand, Explorer XLT features a three-zone automatic control system that allows you to regulate temperature from three spots in the vehicle. 

Other impressive features that you can find with the XLT model include heated seats, a second-row console, and bucket seats on the second row that offer maximum comfort. 

The car even has power side-view mirrors with heated glass. 

Ford Explorer XLT also has a standard leather-wrapped steering wheel. 

Exterior Design

The Base model has a dark foundry grille with chrome bars. 

It also has black door handles, a chrome applique liftgate, privacy glass, and 18-inch painted aluminum wheels. 

On the other hand, the XLT has a more sporty appearance. 

You will love the upgraded 20-inch aluminum wheels with a carbonized gray paint coat. 

Another outstanding feature is the foot-activated liftgate. 

With this feature, the liftgate will automatically rise once it senses your foot. 

The XLT also has a roof rack side rail that comes in different colors. 

For this option, the door handles match the body color. 

Safety Features

Both models have a post-crash alert system that activates horns and flashers once airbags get deployed. 

Other standard safety features in both models include automatic emergency braking, collision, blind-spot warning, and cross-traffic alert systems. 

The Base model has more advanced features like a rearview camera with a washer, individual tire pressure monitoring, a lane-keeping system, and roll stability control. 

On the other hand, the XLT features a reverse sensing system, auto high beam headlamps, forward collision, and pedestrian detection systems. 

Additionally, its rearview camera has a backup assist grind line with washers. 


The Ford Explorer XLT and Base feature modern technology properties, but the XLT has more advanced features. 

If you buy either of the cars, you will enjoy an info-entertainment system with a 4.2 inch LCD screen and excellent Bluetooth connectivity.

The Base model also has 4G LTE WiFi, Android Auto integration, and Apple CarPlay. 

If you opt for the XTL, you will love the Pilot 360 technology with a navigated touchscreen navigation system with pinch to zoom capabilities. 

This vehicle also has a perimeter alarm and remote start that enable you to start your car from a distance. 

If you opt for the Explorer Base, it comes with six speakers, but the XLT has a nine-speaker entertainment system. 

You can even add adaptive cruise control, collision warning, and rain-sensing windshield wipers systems to your XLT.

How Much Does A Ford Explorer Base Cost?

The starting price for a 2021 Explorer Base is around $33,000. 

However, the price will vary slightly from one dealer to the other, and the range should be between $33,000 and $38,596. 

On average, you can pay $35,675 for this model. 

It’s therefore important that you shop around to get the best deal available in the market today. 

Different car styles have varying prices. 

You can pay around $34,925 for an Explorer Base four-wheel drive and $32,920 for a rear-wheel drive. 

The Ford Explorer’s production year can also affect the price. You can get the 2017 model at $32,605, $33,135 for the 2018, $33,360 for the 2019 and $34,010 for the 2020 models. 

Ensure that you confirm with your dealer if there are other extra charges like the registration, documentation, licensing, and transportation fees. 

How Much Is a Ford Explorer XLT?

The 2021 XLT cost starts from $36,320, up to $42,784. If you want the 2017 model, you will pay about $34,720. 

XLT 2018 costs around $35,170, $35,494 for the 2019 and $38,170 for the 20202 model. 

The price for this vehicle may be higher or lower than this range in your region based on the demand and destination fee. 

The price difference between the Base and XLT isn’t that much. 

You can choose to either go for the Base and save some cash or add a little amount to enjoy the advanced features of the XLT model. 

If your source of financing is a loan, you will pay higher monthly payments for the XLT, so you will want to consider this before making a decision. 

What Does XLT Mean on The Ford Explorer?

XLT stands for extra luxurious truck, and such vehicles have advanced features not included in the other trim levels of the same model. 

The ford XLT models have unique exterior and interior performance that distinguishes them from the basic XL model. 

For instance, the XLT has standard features like cruise control and MyKey. 

Therefore while driving for a longer distance, you can set your car to continue cruising at a specific speed to prevent fatigue.

The features also allow you to control the car’s safety settings, maximize the speed limit or radio volume. 

You will have to pay to have such features installed in the XL model. 

Also, for the XLT, you can get the 3.0L Powerstroke V6 diesel engine, but you don’t have such an option for the XL package. 

How Much Can a Ford Explorer Base and XLT Tow?

The towing capacity for these vehicles will vary depending on the type of engine you choose. 

If you go for Base and XLT with the 2.3Turbocharged EcoBoost® I-4 engine, it can tow up to 5300 pounds. 

Once you upgrade to the twin-turbocharged V6 engine that delivers 400 horsepower and 415 lb-ft torque, your car can tow a load of up to 5600 pounds. 

On the other hand, if you choose to equip your vehicles with the 3.3L Hybrid V6 engine, you will enjoy fuel efficiency without compromising the towing capacity. 

The engine provides 365 horsepower and 380 lb-ft torque and provides 5600 towing capacity.

There are various features in your vehicles that can boost your car’s towing capacity even while in the less ideal driving conditions. 

For instance, the Rear Wheel Drive enhances the vehicle’s capacity to handle on and off-road driving, increasing the towing capacity by 600 pounds.

Additionally, the Class III Trailer Tow Package will enable you to tow heavy loads easily. 

If you get a model with this feature, you will enjoy sturdy trailer connectors, a wiring harness, and an engine oil cooler. 

Also, the towing and trailer way control will help you adjust brakes and engines to increase stability. 

The Bottom Line

With both the Ford Explorer Base and XLT, you will enjoy a spacious interior, outstanding performance, and technologically advanced features. 

Both models have similar basic features, but the XLT has additional unique amenities that make it a better choice, considering the moderate price difference. 

You can still go for the Base model and add most of the features present in TLX.

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