What’s The Difference Between The Ford Explorer XLT and The Limited?

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The Ford Explorer is one of the most competent, spacious, well-appointed, and reliable SUVs in the market today, making it great for adventures of all shapes and sizes.  There are two trims in the Explorer lineup that most consumers tend to be more interested in, namely, the Ford Explorer XLT and Ford Explorer Limited.  I have done my research on the two trims, and this article will break down some of the notable differences between them.

2019 Ford Explorer XLT Desert Copper What’s The Difference Between The Ford Explorer XLT and The Limited?

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What’s The Difference Between The Ford Explorer XLT and The Limited?

The biggest difference between the two trims is that the Ford Explorer Limited is a higher trim level compared to the Ford Explorer XLT. The Ford Explorer Limited has a more luxurious interior as well as an optional hybrid engine. 

It might also interest you to know that the Limited is much more powerful compared to the Ford Explorer XLT one as it can tow up to 5,000 pounds. The Limited trim also comes with LED lighting, which helps you get a crystal clear view when you’re driving at night. 

On the other hand, the Ford Explorer XLT is a more upgraded version of the Ford Explorer Base model. The 2021 Ford Explorer is available in seven trims, all differentiated by price and features.

These trims include Explorer Base, Explorer XLT, Explorer Limited, Explorer Limited, Explorer Timberline, Explorer ST, and Explorer King Ranch. 

The basic features found on the Ford Explorer Base model are carried over to the next trims only that the higher-level trims have more advanced and better options. 

The Explorer Base model and the XLT basically offer you the basic necessities of a successful ride, while the Limited trim is fitted with more luxurious features that you’re bound to love. On the other hand, the Sport trim is fitted with a more performance-centered engine and a more improved interior design.

If you’re looking to purchase the 2021 Ford Explorer, it might interest you to know that it is available in three engine options. 

The first engine option is a 2.3L EcoBoost® engine which produces 200hp and 310-pound feet of torque. 

Even though this is the standard engine option, buyers can still expect a lot of power from it. The second engine option for the Ford Explorer is the 3.0L EcoBoost® turbocharged engine, which can produce 365hp and 380-pound feet of torque. 

However, if you select the Sport trim, the twin turbos will improve the engine’s performance to 400hp and 415-pound feet of torque. The last engine option is ideal if you’re looking for fuel efficiency and reducing gas emissions. 

This engine is a 3.3L hybrid V6 engine that produces 318hp and 322-pound feet of torque with the assistance of an electric motor and battery pack.

The MSRP of the Ford Explorer XLT is $34,000, while that of the Ford Explorer Limited is $45,005. The rest of the article will cover some of the key differences in features between the Ford Explorer XLT and Ford Explorer Limited. 

XLT vs. Limited

Nowadays, the three-row SUV market is crowded with so many vehicles that it has become very hard for buyers to keep track of what each one of them brings to the table. 

However, Ford Explorer has always found a way to stay at the top with its different trims. This is because Ford Explorer is reliable and brings something unique to the table with each trim that the next one doesn’t. 

This offers buyers the freedom to go for their preferred features without compromising comfort or efficiency. If you’re looking to add some personality to your driving experience, Ford Explorer trims are the best way to do it. 

Ford Explorer XLT and Ford Explorer Limited are undoubtedly among the most popular trims available for this three-row SUV. 

Most buyers prefer them because they provide high-performance, including Terrain Management System fitted with an electronic dial. Also, the Limited trim comes with more upscale amenities such as perforated leather-wrapped climate-controlled seats and a heated steering wheel.

The following are some of the key differences between Ford Explorer XLT and Limited:


Both the XLT and Limited trims are powered by a 2.3L turbocharged engine built on the EcoBoost platform. 

The Ti-VCT technology used in this engine offers buyers impeccable fuel economy, giving you a great mpg rate on the highway or in the city. The Ti-VCT (Twin Independent Variable Camshaft Timing) technology refers to the engine with the ability to advance or retard the intake camshafts independently as opposed to the original versions VCT, which can only operate on only a single camshaft.

It produces 300 horsepower and 310 ft.-Ib. of torque. However, to add efficiency to the Ford Explorer Limited trim, the vehicle is also available in a 3.3L V6 hybrid powertrain capable of producing 318hp and 322pound-feet of torque. 

Also, both the XLT and Limited trims run on a 10-speed automatic transmission fitted with SelectShift technology. The quick-shifting gearbox found on these SUVs helps transmit sufficient torque to the optimal intelligent 4WD system. 

It might also interest you to know that there are about seven different settings you can select from the Selectable Drive Modes, which help with optimizing transmission, drivetrain mechanics, and engine mechanics. 

For example, the Sand Mode/Deep Snow helps with maximizing off-road traction. All the driving settings on the Limited and XLT trims are displayed on the 12.3-inch digital display. 

Both the Limited and XLT trims can also be equipped with Hill Descent Control which enhances the stability of the vehicles, especially on sloped trails. 


As for the amenities, the Tri-Zone Electronic Automatic Temperature Control is available for both the Ford Explorer XLT and Ford Explorer Limited.

Additionally, the passengers occupying the second row captain’s chairs of both trims get direct access to the Rear Auxiliary Climate Control. Both the Limited and XLT trims also come with heated first-row seats and multiple temperature settings. 

However, the Ford Explorer Limited has leather-appointed seats which are accent stitched and micro-perforations with great ventilation. 

On the other hand, you have the capability to substitute the standard cloth upholstery on the Ford Explorer XLT with ActiveX material. You can also go for captain’s chairs fitted with a center console for the Limited trim’s middle row. FF

The XLT and Limited trims also feature a 50/50 configuration and split-fold bench seat which is installed in the third row. But, the Limited trim has an option to adjust the third-row leather seats with PowerFold technology. 

On the exterior, roof rack side rails and a power liftgate are available for both the Limited and XLT trim. Unlike the XLT trim, the Limited one comes with Rear Bumper Step Pad covered with a black finish. 


Both the Ford Explorer Limited and Ford Explorer XLT have some of the best technology features you’ll find in any three-row SUV today.

However, as you might have guessed by now, the Limited trim has more advanced technological features than the XLT one. 

For example, the Ford Explorer Limited comes with the SYNC infotainment system with voice activation and a touchscreen, whereas this is optional for the XLT trim. This infotainment system is also fitted with the FordPass Connect application for the sake of mobile services. 

Both the XLT and Limited trims feature a 4G Wi-Fi modem which is capable of connecting up to 10 devices. The AT&T-powered 4G Wi-Fi modem has a maximum range of about 50 feet.

The XLT trim is also connected to SiriusXM Satellite Radio and a six-speaker sound system for entertainment purposes. 

On the other hand, the Limited trim features a 12-speaker audio system made by Bang&Olufsen.  Also, the Ford Explorer Limited trim features smart-charging USB ports, a wireless charging pad, and 12-volt power outlets. 


The XLT trim has a passenger capacity of 7 people, while the Limited trim has a capacity of 6 passengers. 

This is because the seats on the second row are adjusted to the captain’s chairs. This means the seats provide the passengers with ample space on the seats, armrests, and enough comfort.

Safety Features

The Explorer XLT comes with several standard safety features.

They include a rearview camera, rear parking sensors, blind spot alert, lane departure warning and mitigation, emergency braking, pedestrian detection, rear cross-traffic alert, automatic headlights, and an automatic braking system.

The Limited trim maintains the features but goes a step higher to add the front parking sensors, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and an automated system that aids the driver with evasive maneuvers to prevent accidents from occurring.

What Other Features Are In The Ford Explorer XLT The Limited?

Although we have seen the many differences between these Ford Explorer trims, that’s not all.

They have a wide range of similarities. These are similarities that are worth checking before deciding which trim to buy over the other. 

These features are many since the Ford Explorer Limited is an improved version of XLT, which has some of the features from the XLT and Base retained. 

Some of these similarities include:

  • In both trims, the Tri-Zone Electronic Automatic Temperature Control is provided. This means that the driver, the passenger in the front seat, and the rear passengers adjust temperature and air distribution in the car to meet their needs.
  • They both have automatic headlights. Automatic headlights are luxurious features that come with the car model. These use photoelectric sensors, which are fixed in the instrument panel at the base of the windscreen. These lights can come at times when the driver may not necessarily require them or at times delay. Therefore, the driver is required to use the manual system whenever this problem arises.
  • Both the Limited trim and the XLT trims run on a 10- speed automatic transmission, which is fitted with Select-Shift technology. The quick-shifting gearbox is very important in transmitting adequate torque to the optimal 4WD system. In addition, the safety and comfort of the trim are improved as the need to constantly use the car’s clutch before and after a gear shift is eliminated.
  • Both feature a 50/50 configuration and a split-fold bench seat located in the rear row, the third row. However, the Limited trim has an option of adjusting the third-row seats with PowerFold technology.
  • The rack situated on top, rails on the sides, and power liftgate are available for both the Limited and the XLT trims.
  • Both the Limited and XLT trims possess a 12.3-inch digital screen display in which all the driving settings are available for the driver to use when the need arises.
  • Both the Limited and the XLT trims can be equipped with Hill Descent Control which enhances vehicle’s stability, especially in sloped areas. You also need to be aware that there are approximately seven settings that you can select from the Selectable Drive Modes. These help in the optimization of transmission, engine mechanics, and drivetrain mechanics. These different types of modes help with maximizing off-road traction.
  • Also, both Limited and XLT have a 4G LTE Wi-Fi modem that can connect to 10 gadgets. The AT&T-powered modem has a maximum connection range of about 45-50 feet.

XLT And Limited vs. The Competition

The main competitors for the Ford Explorer XLT and Limited are the GMC Acadia, Buick Enclave, and Chevrolet Traverse. 

Even though they do not offer the same looks as the GMC Acadia or the versatility of the Chevrolet Traverse, or even the comfort of the Buick Enclave, both the Ford Explorer XLT and Limited trims are well-rounded. 

Sometimes people tend to compare the Ford Explorer to the Dodge Durango, but the latter isn’t as well-refined as the former. Other names that tend to pop when discussing the Ford Explorer XLT or the Limited are Jeep Grand Cherokee and Honda Pilot. 

However, the Jeep Grand Cherokee is more suited for off-road purposes, whereas the Honda Pilot doesn’t feature the technology features you’ll find in the Ford Explorer Limited or XLT.

Summing up

If you’re looking to purchase the Ford Explorer, you’ll find out that there are several Ford Explorer trim levels to choose from depending on the model year. For this reason, you need to be certain about the features you’d like in your next SUV. 

This article aims at helping you make a more informed decision when choosing between the Ford Explorer XLT and the Limited trim. 

As shown above, Ford Explorer Limited is a step ahead of the XLT in terms of performance, luxury, comfort, technology, and driving experience. However, it’s important to note that you’ll need to pay more for the Ford Explorer Limited than XLT.