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300X1050

First drive – 2018 Ford Expedition

A while ago I wrote an article for a motoring column I do on another website about a crossover SUV, which I called ‘Best in class.’ That was my subjective opinion having driven that particular crossover and then comparing it to its competitors.

The problem with the all-new Ford Expedition is that, it’s already the Best in Class in a multitude of categories – objectively. Which, let’s be honest, is a great problem to have. I had the fortitude of being invited to a cheeky, exclusive test drive of the all-new 2018 Ford Expedition.

 

Jumping into the Expedition using the automatically stowing-and-deploying tread boards, and nothing is the same. If you’ve never driven a large SUV before then you’re immediately overwhelmed at the sheer size of the front row. Then you lean over and look in the back at the veritable chasm between the front seats and the mid row seats – the Expedition has best in class (you’re going to be hearing a lot of that) mid and rear seating space – and you’re even more ‘whelmed’. The reason this is important is because more often than not, offering something ‘best in class’ is a numbers game – increasing the space by an inch so you’re officially the largest, but it doesn’t translate into actual space for the consumer.

This is not the case with the Expedition – it’s space that you notice. I realized it when I, from the front passenger seat, turned around and realized I could tell my co-passenger’s shoe size and still see mat in front of him. The sheer amount of cabin space boggles the mind.

 

It takes a little while to get used to the Expeditions size and dimensions but once you’ve got the hang of the boundaries of the car, it is surprisingly nimble. Still you can’t escape its size, especially in places like a mall parking lot. Now while we didn’t have the opportunity to explore your neighborhood mall, Ford’s Chief Engineer for the region, Ziyad Dallalah, assured me that it was designed to handle that too.

 

In the Platinum edition of this car, the most surprising thing is that it no longer feels like “a large, family SUV” and instead gives you a significantly more luxurious cockpit. The front passenger seats have massaging and cooling & heating functions. Bang & Olufsen speakers surround you and a panoramic moonroof means you have ample natural light. I’m always skeptic of panoramic moonroofs because they sometimes tend to leave cars warmer than I’d like, especially in our climates. Which is why I left the moonroof open during the entirety of the expedition (hah!) and to my surprise, I never once broke a sweat. In the back you have TVs in the headrests and charge points out the wazoo – 6 USB slots, 4 12-volt plugs and a fully functioning charger outlet.

This way the kids in the back NEVER have to turn off their electronics and engage with one another.

 

Inside you’ll also find Ford’s new SYNC, the SYNC 3, version of the audio and entertainment control system. To be frank, it’s a massive improvement over the previous versions of SYNC that were run by a Microsoft-created OS. SYNC 3 now runs a BlackBerry OS and if you’ve used SYNC in the past then you’ll immediately notice how much better this is. Audio controls in English and Arabic available with Ford being the first auto manufacturer to even have Arabic audio controls.

Under the hood, you’ve got Ford’s latest 3.5 liter Twin Turbo V6 (instead of a low revving V8) that, frankly, outguns its V8 rivals, belting out 400bhp and an unbelievable 650Nm of torque. While these numbers are best in class, Ford also gets best in class fuel economy which has to do with its newly-developed 10-speed automatic gearbox. The basics of the gearbox itself are co-developed with General Motors, but Ford are the first to put it to market. On the drive side, the suspension is as soft as one would expect. Driving over trails felt almost unnoticeable which means driving over a speed bump is a mere blip in the comfortability radar.

 

Dropping the pedal on the Expedition is a bewildering experience. I use that word because this car weighs about two and a half tons, yet it moves like something much lighter. The response time of the engine and the seamless shifts between the 10 gears catches you entirely off guard. Where you’d expect a slow revving V8 to chug along till it catches speed, the Expedition with it’s twin-turbo V6 mystifies you with its almost impatient response to the pedal.

Cruising along the highway is an entirely soundless experience. The cabin is so well insulated that you can barely even hear the engine or turbo when you put your foot down. And believe me, we did – at one point I switched off the air conditioning to hear the turbos spool. Driving itself is also heavily assisted with all the assist features you can fathom – lane departure control, blind spot warnings, active cruise control – even the tow hook can be ‘automatically’ connected using just a flick of a switch which will align and back the car up automatically, so that you don’t have to.

 

If you were to take the more exploratory route and venture off-road but were hesitant because of the sheer size and weight of the Expedition, I wouldn’t blame you. But I’d also tell you that you’d be worrying without reason. The sheer amount of torque that this engine produces means that, while you can’t jump or crest a dune, any sort of trail driving or desert driving comes naturally. Simply use the center control knob and switch to “Sand” or “Gravel” and the car will sort you out. Heck, you won’t even need to deflate the tyres. Torque goes to all 4 wheels and on the off chance that the going gets tough, the locking differential can sort that out for ya!

 

To summarize – the 2018 Ford Expedition is an example of a car that displays superb dexterity. Throughout the day, we drove through the desert, did some trail driving, drove in a city and barreled down a motorway. At every turn, the Expedition just went, ferrying a full car of 3 journalists and 2 Ford staffers with ease and comfort. It’s more than comfortable on the inside, extremely easy on the eyes from the outside and has all the techno-wizardy to tame any questions you’d have about performance, fuel economy, capability or practicality.

 

Ford were looking to refresh the platform and create a better version of an already popular vehicle. They instead ended up creating a new benchmark, to which all other competitor cars need to play catch up to.

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