[DRIVEN] The all-new 2018 Ford Expedition. One Giant Leap.

Ford’s all-new Expedition is massive in every respect, including capability. We bag an exclusive first drive to see how it stacks up.

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It takes a day at least, to get used to the new Ford Expedition. To become familiar with the car’s extremities as you negotiate multi-storey car parks, to readjust your driving style to better suit its commanding position, its height, length, breadth and vast interior space. If all you’ve driven for years is a diminutive sports car or hatchback, I reckon a day would just about suffice. And, as that day draws to a close, perhaps as you’re barreling along a motorway in total serenity, it will dawn on you just how excellent this behemoth really is.

There aren’t too many regions in the world where a vehicle such as this makes sense. It’s hardly suitable for bombing around leafy English country lanes in, or negotiating the narrow streets of Naples. This is an SUV that needs space and lots of it, which makes the Middle East its ideal stomping ground.

I’m a big fan of cars being given names rather than meaningless model numbers, as they often add a sense of expectation. And when you think about what the word ‘expedition’ means, perhaps your mind begins to wander towards adventure, excitement and discovering new places. It smacks of organisation, planning and logistics – a sensible and considered way of venturing off the beaten path. After a couple of days behind the wheel of this truck-based giant, I can think of few vehicles more suited to such a journey.

It’s a handsome brute, with just the right amount of brightwork applied to its intimidating nose and, to my eyes at least, it’s better looking than any of its rivals. It literally dwarfs my own daily driver (which is considered ‘large’ by most standards) when I park next to it and yet the design is entirely cohesive – it’s unapologetic and has a commanding presence, which is another bonus on our crowded motorways. See one of these behind you and, even without being flashed, you’ll probably feel like moving out of the way.

Step up into the cabin using the electrically operated tread-boards that lower as soon as a door is opened and enter a plush, leather-lined world that whispers ‘premium’ – it’s more subtle that the exterior and the surfaces are pleasing to the touch. The seats are extremely comfortable, the hide used to cover them is supple and feels expensive, and the sheer loftiness of the entire car makes for panoramic visibility. From up here, everything apart from artic lorries and busses looks miniature.

Then there’s the small matter of its engine. This is not, as you might expect, a naturally aspirated lazy revving V8; rather it’s a 3.5-litre, twin-turbo V6 that punches above its weight with a frankly colossal 400 horsepower and 650Nm of twist, which happens to make the Expedition best in its class when it comes to torque. Put your foot down and the 10-speed automatic ’box seamlessly shifts down while the ‘EcoBoost’ motor emits a pleasing, muted roar and basically pummels whatever surface its being driven on. The way this machine goes is almost a paranormal activity – nothing this big should be able to move with such alacrity; it’s so rapid that it’s almost hilarious.

Quite understandably there is a small amount of chassis flex on some uneven surfaces but it’s far from being a wobbly mess and the ride quality in normal driving is exemplary. The suspension is compliant and softer than a ‘normal’ car, which can make things interesting if you take speed humps at more than pedestrian speeds but the pay off is an almost magic carpet ride in the majority of situations. You could drive over your next-door neighbour’s car in this and be completely oblivious, it’s that comfortable.

At highway speeds it’s supremely quiet, hushed even. For a machine of its proportions, wind noise is curiously absent and tyre roar is reduced to barely a whisper. The steering is feather light, while other controls are easy and intuitive to use, including a rotary shifter for the transmission and drive mode selector.

So the driver is taken care of with a plethora of useful tech (adaptive cruise control, lane departure prevention, reverse assistance for hitching a trailer, a new Sync 3 infotainment system, wireless smartphone charging – the list is nothing if not extensive, particularly on this Platinum edition), but this is a vehicle designed to accommodate large families. And that, these days, necessitates the inclusion of all manner of things to keep their interests sated.

To that end, you can utilise six USB ports, a power outlet and a quartet of 12-volt plugs – nobody will be suffering from flat device batteries in this car and, even if they do, there are two large screens set within the front headrests to keep the entertainment on tap. I wouldn’t be surprised if some owners decide to give up their homes and move in, there’s so much to keep occupants occupied.

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The accommodation is more than ample, with the second and even third row of chairs offering legroom aplenty – enough, in fact, to add a further best in class category to the new Ford. Fold them all down at the touch of a button, crank up the truly excellent Bang and Olufsen ‘Play’ sound system and you could turn the cabin into a nightclub. Most Expedition owners, though, says Ford, do use their vehicles for all the practicality they provide, whether that’s for transporting large items of furniture or other bulky items, or towing trailers. And in this it really does excel.

We’ve already established that the powertrain is up for practically anything – it feels utterly tireless, like it could pull a train. In reality, in standard spec it is able to tow trailers and caravans weighing up to 2670kg and, with the optional heavy-duty towing package fitted (it even includes an enlarged radiator and a revised rear axle) you can haul more than 4200kg – another best in class gong. It’s surprising you don’t need an HGV operators’ licence.

You might never need to make use of these towering abilities but it’s reassuring to know they’re there in the first place and they contribute to the air of wellbeing experienced when inside it and on the move. It cushions up to eight people from the outside world, in a veritable fortress that happens to be able to mix it up on the rough stuff too, should you require or desire.

If you think this vehicle wouldn’t be able to cut it on the dunes, think again. That stump-pulling torque, sent to all four corners, means the Expedition can haul itself about with almost contemptuous ease and there’s a new transfer case and locking differential for when the going gets suitably tough. Select Sand mode on the rotary controller and you can reach practically anywhere, even without deflating the tyres. Mostly, though, its natural habitat will be the open road, where it behaves impeccably and takes corners at speed without making you feel seasick.

The Thrill of Driving is what evo is all about, naturally, but that doesn’t mean vehicles like this should be excluded from these pages. They just offer a different kind of thrill and, if you’re intent on getting your jollies on a racetrack, this is possibly the finest machine with which to tow your sports car to the venue. In fact you could probably tow a whole team’s worth. 

Categories: EVO


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