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Published: 08/05/2014 - by Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor
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 existing 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 and 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 SAE J2807 towing standard. 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 horsepower. 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 hours driving a full-zoot Platinum version of the 2015 Ford Expedition on the highways and two-lane roads of rural West Virginia.
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.
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.
The refinements in the Expedition's noise isolation have resulted in motoring that's hushed even at freeway speeds. Road noise is at a minimum and only the barest hint of turbo noise makes its way into the cabin.
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.
How About the Fuel Economy?
Bonus: The EcoBoost-ized 2015 Expedition is also said to deliver superior fuel economy. Final EPA fuel economy numbers haven't yet been released, though Ford officials expect about a 15 percent improvement over last year's Expedition, or roughly 18.4 mpg on the EPA combined cycle for the 2015 model. This improvement, of course, is not solely attributable to the new engine alone, as it bakes in the fuel-saving effect of the 2015 Expedition's new electric power steering.
With the newfound power and torque, the additional fuel economy is one of those cake-and-have-it 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 and plush and invite you to sprawl out. Room in the third-row seat is especially generous thanks to the design of the independent rear suspension.
How Much and When Can I Get One?
Base price with destination of the 2015 Ford Expedition ranges from a low of $44,585 to $64,835 for the range-topping Platinum. They arrive at dealers this fall.
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 2014 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 2014 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 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.
Why Should You Consider This SUV?
If you're in the market for a full-size SUV, the new Expedition absolutely 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.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
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