Ford Expedition — Comfortable people mover

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

While large body-on-frame sport utility vehicles are a dying breed, there's still a market for the full-sized SUVs for people who need maximum passenger and storage space, heavy-duty towing capability, and off-road proficiency. One of the remaining vehicles is the Ford Expedition, and for 2015 the big Ford has never been better with a new turbocharged V-6 engine, updated suspension, more interior flexibility, and subtle exterior styling changes.

The timing seems to be right for a revitalized Expedition and the noted improvements help put the Ford in a better position to battle its chief competitors, the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban, which have been redesigned. While the large Chevrolet SUVs come in big (Tahoe) and bigger (Suburban) configurations, so does the Expedition with a standard 119-inch wheelbase and a 131-inch wheelbase extended version, which gets the EL designation.

The Expedition sports a more modern stance with updated front and rear styling that includes a revised grille treatment, updated headlamps, new lower fascia design, and a new tailgate that includes a chrome strip under the window stretching from taillight to taillight. While the existing well done interior layout has been mostly carried over, the instrument cluster and center stack have been nicely revised.

The biggest change comes under the hood, (doing away with the V-8 is not a mistake). After hundreds of miles driving a Platinum edition we learned to appreciate the 3.5-liter turbocharged EcoBoost V-6 making 365 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The engine, transmission combo comes standard across the lineup. Not only does the V-6 move the big SUV in exemplary fashion (0 to 60 in 6.4 seconds), it returns decent gas mileage of 16 city, 22 highway and 18 mpg combined in rear-wheel drive format. That's good considering the Expedition weighs in at nearly three tons.

The Expedition also exhibits good road manners and the electric power steering has good on-center feel. We were pleasantly reminded by the Expedition's smooth and rather luxurious ride that it comes with an independent rear suspension, something not usually found in the big truck-like SUVs, which still use a live rear axle. And it helped that our well-equipped test truck included new continuously controlled damping (a $2,180 option) that includes a suite of electronic sensors that monitor suspension, steering, braking, and body motion. Three settings are available — comfort, normal and sport.

We found the cabin remarkably quiet at highway speeds. New sound dampening material in the cabin pillars improves quietness as does the additional material added to the center console, headliner, door trim panels, and new carpeting that is able to better absorb sounds.

Marvelously the MyFordTouch infotainment system is getting easier to use. For one thing, there are now knobs for radio tuning and volume, and climate controls are arranged outside the touchscreen and easily accessible. If you have arrived at the modern age and rely on voice commands, we found the computer easier to get along with, and virtually everything in the system can be operated simply by speaking.

Most of the interior materials are of good quality, the wood and leather trim was good looking and nice to the touch and fit and finish is first class. Gauges are clear and the steering wheel controls — particularly the cruise controls — are easy to decipher and use. The front seats are large and comfortable. We were impressed at the stretch out room for second-row passengers, and adults can actually find comfort in the third row with decent legroom. What wasn't impressive is Ford's continuous use of hard plastic specifically on the doors. It takes away from the upscale theme.

Expedition answers the call for cargo hauling quite nicely with 18.6 cubic feet of space behind the third-row seat and 108.3 cubic feet with both rows folded flat. Opt for the longer wheelbase version and space increases to 42.6 and 130.8 cubic feet respectively. Towing is also a strong suit at 9,200 pounds.

The Expedition comes in four trim levels — XLT, Limited, King Ranch and new-for-2015 Platinum. All can be ordered with all-wheel drive and can be purchased in long-wheelbase format. The base XLT starts at $44,585 including destination charge. The base Expedition is well equipped with such things as 18-inch alloy wheels, running boards, roof rack, rear parking sensors, backup camera, keyless entry and ignition, power-adjustable pedals, Ford's voice-operated Sync system, and a six-speaker sound system with satellite radio.

Our top line Platinum rear-wheel drive test vehicle carried a bottom line of $61,605 and included optional 22-inch polished aluminum wheels, a special Ruby Red Metallic Tint, and the special suspension package.

Base price: $44,585; as driven, $61,605
Engine: 3.5-liter turbocharged V-6
Horsepower: 365 @ 5,000 rpm
Torque: 420 foot-pounds @ 2,500 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive: rear wheel
Seating: 2/2/3
Wheelbase: 119 inches
Length: 206 inches
Curb weight: 5,559 pounds
Turning circle: 40 feet
Luggage capacity: 18.6 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 108.3 cubic feet
Towing capacity: 9,200 pounds
Fuel capacity: 28 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 22 highway, 16 city, 18 combined
0-60: 6.4 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Chevrolet Tahoe, Toyota Sequoia, Nissan Armada

The Good
• Fuel-efficient turbocharged V-6
• Large towing capacity
• Spacious cabin
• Useable third-row seating

The Bad
• Car-based crossovers get better fuel economy

The Ugly
• Hard plastics still used in the interior