Y’s Alvin Thomas finds Ford has come up with a fresh take on the SUV with its new Expedition model – the best he’s sampled on the road.
I have questions – so many unanswered questions; the first of which is why a brand as big as Ford has only released the latest version of the Expedition in 2018, which they could have done a while ago.
While there’s no faulting the brand for keeping their flagship SUV under wraps for so long – 10 years to be precise – it seems that they were trying to get things right for the latest unveiling… a task that they have accomplished.
To do so, the engineers and designers went back to the drawing board and restructured everything, from its design to its construction.
Honestly, there’s not much carried over from the Expeditions of old. What you’re looking at here is a full-size SUV that’s new from head to toe, and down to the molecule.
In line with that, the Expedition takes on a new guise for 2018: the headlamps are now chunkier than before, and the chrome grille extends its way to either ends of the fascia, cutting through a portion of the headlamps to give it a clean C-shape.
You’ll also get two large fog lamps and inlets on the bodywork under the grille to aid the intake of air to feed into the massive radiator.
The side profile of the car is rather uneventful, though, with just a couple of character lines defining the top and bottom portions of the SUV. However, the posterior is rounded off with a large strip of chrome on the tail gate, and a dual-coloured bumper. It all looks handsome, even with those awkwardly bulky tail lamps.
In terms of size, the SUV seems to have grown (we’re not even sure how that’s possible) but its greatest transformation can be seen if you scratch beneath the surface. The Expedition is underpinned by a new aluminium and steel-reinforced body-on-frame chassis, which makes it a tad lighter, and the bodywork stiffer.
The full-grown exterior translates well to the interior too. The Expedition – even in the XLT variant we drove – comes with plenty of space to fit eight adults and their luggage.
With three rows of seats, and more room in the back for a pair of full-size bags, the Ford is by no means any lesser of an SUV than its competitors. Even I – a 180cm adult – could fit into the third-row seats with plenty of leg and head room to spare.
Creature comforts also include six USB charging ports, a 110V power outlet, and a Qi wireless charging dock; for your charging needs. Aside from that, there are features such as a power-folding third- and second-row seats and power-operated front seats that make life easier inside the cabin.
The seats are all cushy, and well-bolstered for when you make sharp turns. Those attributes, combined with the commanding driver seating position, make for an excellent driving experience.
On the tech front, the Expedition takes a leap uphill. For starters, you now get the slick and easy-to-use 8-inch (20cm) touchscreen running on Ford’s SYNC3 software. The latter is galaxies ahead of the version it replaces, thereby making it one of the best systems I’ve used in an SUV of late.
The dashboard, meanwhile, is carried over from the F-150 pickup truck but it has been reworked to complement the user experience. The design is clean, and the buttons are all neatly labelled and well laid out.
All the buttons are accessible while driving while extra safety features such as blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, a reverse camera, and radar-guided cruise control make driving the Expedition easier.
Mind you, it’s still quite a handful on the road. The sheer size of the vehicle means you’ll be wrestling for a spot on the road with other cars. However, the vehicle, with its light and responsive all-electric steering, and alert throttle and brake pedals, is still easier to drive than its predecessor, or for that matter any Japanese or American SUV currently out there.
My Expedition XLT came packing a 3.5-litre turbocharged V6 ‘Ecoboost’ engine pumping out a stout 375hp and 640Nms of torque. The Platinum variant will reportedly receive 400hp and 10 extra torques, but the former can haul all 2,650kg of metal from naught to 100kph in a mere 6.4 seconds.
To put that into perspective, that’s quicker than the four-cylinder Jaguar F-Pace and the V6 Range Rover Sport. Impressive indeed!
The power build-up is more linear than what you can expect from turbo motors so often you’ll feel like you’re at the helm of a vehicle powered by a naturally aspirated V8.
That coupled with the brilliant 10-speed (yes, that’s 10 gears!) automatic gearbox gives the Expedition quick feet. Kick-downs are instantaneous, especially if you set the drive mode in ‘Normal’ or ‘Sport’, and somehow, it’s always in the right gear. In certain ways, it’s almost like the gearbox has a mind of its own – but a rather intuitive one.
The result of the turbo engine and the gearbox, however, is a fuel consumption rating that’s better than most V8 SUVs out there. I could achieve a reasonable 16.5litres/100km, with the levels dropping to as low as 10litres/100kms during certain sections of the highway.
The Expedition’s ride is quiet and composed, and the SUV sits unruffled during strong crosswinds. Moreover, the well-tuned suspension, and the 275/55 high-profile tyres that are wrapped around 20-inch six-spoke alloys, makes for a soft ride on Tarmac, while providing just the right blend of road feel and comfort when off the roads.
I spent a good 45km off-roading in the Expedition and found the 4×4 system to be adept and in control of most situations, however, should things get out of hand, you can switch the dial that powers the terrain-management system to suit the conditions.
Back on the roads, the Expedition handles its weight well. I found that it could take corners at speeds of up to 60kph without much drama. But when the going gets a bit edgy, the traction control brings the vehicle back into line with an instinctive system that doesn’t simply slam on the brakes when it thinks it needs to.
The latest Expedition may have taken a good decade or so to reach us, but I’ll tell you this: It was well worth the wait. It offers everything that an individual and his/her family would require from an SUV. Above all, it comes with the potential to forge grounds that most vehicles of its size wouldn’t dare to.
Well! The Expedition may very well be the best SUV I’ve ever tested in a really long time – and that’s a statement I’ll stand by.
• Engine: 3.5-litre ‘turbocharged’ Ecoboost V6
• Transmission: 10-speed automatic
• Power: 375hp
• Torque: 640Nms
• SYNC3 system w/ navigation
• Radar-guided cruise control
• 8-inch touchscreen
• Lockable differential
• Panoramic sunroof
• 20-inch alloy wheels
• Terrain management system
• Selectable drive modes
• Six USB ports and wireless charging station
• Lane departure warning
• Collision mitigation system
• Bang & Olufsen audio