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For 2015, Ford gave the Expedition a mild refresh. It now has a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 to replace the outgoing V8, optional electronically variable dampers, additional noise-abatement measures and one additional trim level. Additionally, all Expeditions now have electric power steering to replace the hydraulic assist of the outgoing model. Despite its not being an all-new model, the changes made to the 2015 Ford Expedition are well executed and put it in serious contention for best in its class.
What Is It?
The Expedition is one of the few full-size, truck-based sport-utility vehicles (SUV) on the market. In this case, the body-on-frame Expedition rides on a chassis shared with the previous F-150. It's available in two wheelbases, 119 and 131 inches, both of which have three rows of seating, and can be configured in 4x2 or 4x4 guise. SUVs like the Expedition do more than simply function as people movers. If that's all you're after, allow us to show you a car-based crossover.
Instead, the big attraction among old-school SUVs is their ability to haul passengers as well as tow. Simply put, if you need to transport a large family while towing, say, a boat, a body-on-frame SUV can't be beat. The Expedition is rated to tow up to 9,200 pounds according to Ford's internal yardstick, a measure that doesn't conform to the new industry standard known as SAE J2807. Either way, the Expedition will out-tow your average car-based SUVs and crossovers that use unibody construction.
One downside to all this brawn, of course, is weight. The 2015 Ford Expedition's curb weight ranges from 5,559 pounds for the lightest 4x2 model to a staggering 6,091 pounds for the 4x4 long-wheelbase model. That kind of mass translates into less efficiency at the pump.
What's Been Changed?
Buoyed by the sales success of EcoBoost-badged F-150 pickups, Ford slotted that truck's direct-injected 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged gasoline V6 under the hood of the Expedition for the first time. In fact, for 2015 this is the only engine available. It replaces the 5.4-liter normally aspirated V8 and is married to a six-speed automatic transmission.
Generating 365 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque, the turbocharged V6 (called EcoBoost in Ford-speak) outshines the V8 by 55 lb-ft and 55 hp. Not only that, but the EcoBoost's maximum torque is delivered over a broader range of engine speeds compared to the relatively "peakier" V8.
Ford also developed an optional continuously variable damper system for the 2015 Expedition, the intent of which is to improve ride comfort without compromising handling. Elsewhere, there are revised body seals, more sound insulation and acoustic glass to reduce noise, a few tweaks to the styling inside and out, plus a new range-topping Platinum trim package.
How Does It Drive?
We spent a few weeks driving a full-zoot Platinum version of the 2015 Ford Expedition on the highways, back roads, city streets and canyons of Southern California.
Allow us to put the skeptics' minds at ease. The twin-turbocharged V6 has no problem moving the Expedition's mass with authority. Even when giving it the beans from low revs, the engine transitions into boost readily and linearly, so there's ample thrust on tap.
During testing, the Expedition got to 60 in 6.5 seconds and cleared the quarter-mile in 14.9 seconds at 90.5 mph. These are shockingly good numbers for a vehicle of its size. For comparison, the last Chevy Tahoe we tested managed a 7.3-second run to 60 and a quarter-mile time of 15.3 seconds at 89.6 mph with its 5.3-liter V8.
The only time we were able to catch the power delivery out was when navigating a set of low-speed corners. We'd return to the throttle and find the automatic transmission consistently a gear or two too high. For sure, the transmission is calibrated to favor high gears in order to reduce fuel consumption.
Its new electric power steering is appropriately geared and friction-free, if quite numb. More successful are the multimode dampers, which offer three distinct levels of ride control. The softest of the three modes, Comfort, smothers road imperfections skillfully, managing to be plush yet still control body motions without wallowing. Perhaps the most succinct way to describe these dampers' effectiveness is that they make the massive Expedition drive like a smaller, tidier vehicle.
We've always appreciated the mannerly ride quality of the independently suspended Expedition, and this characteristic is only amplified by these fancy-pants dampers. The only downside is that they are a $2,180 option that's bundled with 22-inch wheels: a touch spendy, but a nicely executed package. The refinements in the Expedition's noise isolation result in a hushed cabin even at freeway speeds. Road noise is at a minimum, except over high-speed pavement seams, which can cause an audible suspension smack.
How About the Fuel Economy?
The EcoBoost-ized 2015 Expedition also gets a bump in fuel economy from 13 mpg city/18 highway to 15 city/20 highway. This bumps the combined EPA fuel economy estimate from 15 mpg to 17 mpg.
Blame the traffic or our driving style, but during our time with the Expedition we averaged 14 mpg, with a best tank of an EPA-average-tying 17 mpg. Based on our experience and the onboard readout, however, we have no reason to doubt that 20 mpg is achievable on long highway drives.
Considering the newfound power and torque, the additional fuel economy is one of those cake-and-have-it-too situations.
Is the Interior Better Than Before?
The cabin is largely carried over from the existing Expedition, with the addition of a revised center stack and instrument cluster. It's a comfortable place to spend time, although the overall theme, going on several years old, is showing its age.
The steering wheel and its controls in particular harken back to a bygone era of Ford's cabin design. On the plus side, its seats are large, plush, highly adjustable and some of the most comfortable we've ever been in. Room in the third-row seat is especially generous thanks to the design of the independent rear suspension.
The loaded Platinum edition we tested here is one of four trim levels on the Expedition. The least expensive option is the base 2WD XLT, which starts at $44,585 and comes with a lot of goodies including automatic headlights, keyless entry, six-way power driver seat, rearview camera, leather steering wheel, Bluetooth and rear audio controls. Jumping up to the Limited adds about $9,300 to the bottom line, 20-inch wheels, front parking sensors, power-folding mirrors, power liftgate, leather, dual-zone climate control and more. You could also spend another $4,000 to get the King Ranch edition. It all depends on how much you like two-tone paint and a wood-grain interior.
We'd skip that one and go straight to the Platinum. This one starts at $59,145 and includes the high-end wood and leather from the King Ranch, but without the Western theme and with a standard sunroof.
Adding 4WD pads on about $3,000 depending on trim.
What Are Its Closest Competitors?
The 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe is the Expedition's most formidable rival and is easily the biggest seller among full-size SUVs. Redesigned for 2015, the Tahoe still carries a live rear axle, but it receives a direct-injected 5.3-liter, 355-hp V8, a completely overhauled cabin and GM's own kind of electronically variable dampers.
The 2015 Nissan Armada is an older vehicle that's still capable. Powered by a 317-hp, 5.6-liter V8, it has been face-lifted once since its introduction in 2004. It is generally regarded as being outclassed by its competition. An all-new Armada is expected in 2016.
The 2015 Toyota Sequoia brings a 381-hp 5.7-liter V8 and 7,400-pound maximum towing capability to the party. Though the Sequoia hasn't been significantly updated since its introduction in 2008, it remains the only SUV in the segment that adopts the SAE J2807 towing standard.
Why Should You Consider This SUV?
If you're in the market for a large SUV with solid towing capability, the new Expedition deserves your full attention. The changes made for 2015 are purposeful and effective, breathing new life into this long-in-the-tooth SUV. With its newfound power and refinement, the Expedition is better than ever, and a serious contender for best-in-class status.
Why Should You Think Twice About This SUV?
Not towing? A full-size SUV like the Expedition might not be your ideal choice. Car-based crossovers like Ford's Explorer deliver nearly as much interior space while providing a more refined ride and better fuel economy.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds with this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.