Mountain Wheels: Conquering the SUV world with Ford’s Expedition
As mentioned on a regular basis, there is a slight drawback to reviewing a bewildering array of new vehicles, not the least of which figuring out where basic controls are, from manufacturer to manufacturer.
For me, it’s those out-of-state plates, a constant flurry of Michigan, California and New Jersey manufacturer license plates, which instantly incur the wrath of Coloradans — though not to the extent of actual vandalism as residents in my native British Columbia apparently have decided is cool for visiting vehicles from outside the province. Yikes.
So I was kind of glad, frankly, to have a giant-ass Ford Expedition a few weeks ago that looks pretty much like a state patrol vehicle. Despite its Michigan plates, the pure largesse of Ford’s biggest SUV took care of the angry mobs, and its hearty 375-horsepower EcoBoost V-6 meant I was never short on boost to motor away from the scowls and furrowed brows. I can only imagine what a modernized version of the old Excursion, the family’s even bigger model, might provide for my daily travels.
This effect was especially interesting and impressive when the up-to-eight-passenger vehicle’s large second- and third-rows were dropped, and the Expedition was loaded to the gills with the full 104.6 cubic inches of moving boxes and personal belongings, yet showed not the slightest drop in power, or any notable change in driving and handling dynamics. Amazingly enough, it also got nearly 22 mpg on the highway, laden or unladen.
My $71,865 Expedition was a Limited-level model, which also had the FX4 off-road package, accentuating its heftiness and stability. Those upgrades include a heavy-duty radiator, skid plates and armor under the fuel tank, upgraded shocks and a two-speed automatic four-wheel drive system. You also get comfortably rugged 32-inch, all-terrain tires on 18-inch outline-painted aluminum wheels, chrome-plated running boards and a bit of specialty badging.
Expedition is, however, so gosh-darned gigantic that it presents some issues if you’ve decided you want to do real trail exploration work, encountered traffic and were required to do a 470-point turn to get out of the way.
In standard guise, it’s a 210-inch-long behemoth with a 122.5-inch wheelbase, nearly 80 inches wide, and a just-barely-clearing-the-garage-door 76.4 inches in height. It’s also 5,623 pounds. The upside is towing capacity that can be as large as 9,200 pounds, with the trailer-towing package.
Not big enough for you? Then consider the Expedition Max, which adds just under 12 inches of overall length for additional passenger comfort, resulting in 121.5 cubic feet of total cargo room and about 170 pounds of extra vehicle weight.
Even the “smaller” standard model offers third-row seating that even adults might find comfortable, with relatively easy access. There’s a whole cabin of perforated leather seating, with hand-stitched-look trim, and it’s all pretty posh, with a bit of wood veneer to enhance the cockpit. The premium Bang and Olufsen sound system is also quite pleasant, and controls are easily contained in a load of circular knobs. As with other Ford products, the control displays can seem pretty dark during the daytime — not quite as invisible as they are on the Ranger — so it’s good to know what you’re looking for.
For almost $72,000, you do get a pretty impressive overall package with leather, attractive finishings, plus a pile of electronics including a 4G Wi-Fi system that can connect up to 10 devices and the fully updated Sync 3 entertainment and navigation system. The comprehensive Co-Pilot360 system wraps everything from a 360-degree camera to trailer backup assist, plus forward and reverse sensing and park assist, making it a little easier to handle, especially in parking lots or crowded urban highways. Ford’s lane-keep assist can be a little abrupt, especially with a vehicle this large.
However, with that price being mere pocket change for big truck/SUV purchasers nowadays, there’s not only a super-high-end platinum model but a return of the King Ranch model, which adds 22-inch wheels, an acre of upgraded saddle-quality leather everywhere and enough gloss to outclass almost any other SUV out there.
Cruising is as mentioned effortless, though curbs and even smaller cars occasionally disappear from your line of sight, so be cautious. Super-massive A-pillars with grab handles and oversized side mirrors help give you an idea of the scale involved.
Andy Stonehouse’s column “Mountain Wheels” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Stonehouse has worked as an editor and writer in Colorado since 1998, focusing on automotive coverage since 2004. He lives in Greeley. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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