Crossovers may have stolen the family-hauling spotlight over the past decade, but large SUVs are far from endangered. Continued popularity of big vehicles like the Ford Expedition -- it outsells the Ford Flex -- prove that many buyers still want the presence, capability, and room of a full-size SUV. That said, times have changed since this Ford Expedition was introduced in 2006, so Ford has finally seen fit to give the SUV a significant model-year upgrade.
Significant is a relative term, however, as this is still the same basic Expedition that’s been on the market for eight years. Aesthetic changes to the 2015 Ford Expedition begin with a new front fascia and grille, new wheels, a new chrome strip on the liftgate, and some other exterior trim changes. The mild visual refresh does little to hide the Expedition’s basic, boxy shape but keeps it from looking too dated compared to its newest rivals.
The tall hood and imposing grille remind us of the Expedition’s pickup truck roots. It’s so high off the ground that power-deploying running boards are a welcome option to help the average-height passenger hop into the cabin. One upshot of the traditionalist design, though, is that the roof is horizontal and the liftgate is vertical, providing more cargo space and rear-seat headroom than you’ll find in crossovers with plunging, coupe-like silhouettes.
A tiny bit of Eco, plenty of BoostTo keep pace with how much gas prices have risen since this SUV was first designed, the 2015 Ford Expedition ditches its 5.4-liter V-8 engine in favor of Ford’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6. While this engine has considerably fewer cubes than the V-8, it offers 55 hp and 55 lb-ft more than the V-8.
The new engine has no trouble moving nearly three tons of 2015 Ford Expedition. The twin turbochargers provide peak torque from 2,500 rpm, with pulling power throughout the rev range. Switching to the EcoBoost engine saves Expedition owners 2 mpg both in the city and on the highway compared with the old V-8 model, according to EPA testing. While past experience has shown the EcoBoost V-6 doesn’t always match its lofty EPA ratings, the new engine should still save most Expedition buyers a few bucks when they top off the 28-gallon tank.
The 2015 Ford Expedition benefits from two chassis tweaks, starting with a new electric power steering system that is heavier and loads up more realistically than in many modern crossovers. It also has an old-school slow ratio requiring many turns lock-to-lock, all of which strikes us as a good thing in a large vehicle that can tow nearly twice its weight (9,200 pounds for this standard-wheelbase model).
The second upgrade is three-mode adaptive suspension. We struggle to notice a significant difference between the damping settings and settle on Normal. Besides, stiffening up the dampers only serves to exacerbate the Expedition’s tendency to shimmy and shake over rough roads. That’s a trait we’d happily leave in the SUV history books.
Overall, the 2015 Ford Expedition drives much like the outgoing F-150 (even though the SUV, unlike the truck, has independent rear suspension). It’s easy enough to keep the big SUV within your lane or to thread it around urban traffic, but it’s not as pleasant to drive as General Motors’ new SUVs. The Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon not only exhibit less cowl shake than the Expedition, they also have lighter, more car-like reflexes that make the driver feel like he or she is piloting a far smaller vehicle. In the Ford, you never forget the Expedition’s size.
Old dog, new tricksIn spite of its age, the 2015 Ford Expedition boasts most of the new technologies available on other Blue Oval vehicles. Push-button start, color-changing ambient lighting, a 12-speaker sound system, and a blind-spot warning system with cross-traffic alert are all on the options list. A backup camera comes standard, as do configurable color displays that flank the speedometer with trip, fuel economy, and other information. Atop the center stack, the latest version of the MyFordTouch infotainment system manages music, reads aloud incoming text messages, and handles navigation duties.
We applaud Ford for continuing to offer physical heated-seat, climate-control, and radio tuning knobs in addition to the touchscreen. They’re easier to reach for and use while driving than tapping on a screen, and they can be manipulated when wearing gloves in winter or when hitching up a trailer.
The three rows of seats provide a high vantage point out and are wide and comfortable enough to make multi-day road trips sound appealing. Behind the third row, the 2015 Ford Expedition offers only 18.6 cubic feet of cargo room, but fold down the second and third rows of seats, and that space expands to a gargantuan 108.3 cubic feet. As ever, the fact that the Expedition uses a compact independent rear suspension arrangement keeps the cargo floor low, both easing loading and unloading and providing more usable space. The Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon twins can only fit 15.3 cubic feet of stuff with the seats raised and 94.7 with them lowered. Awkwardly, the button for the Expedition’s power-closing liftgate is mounted inside the cargo area, forcing users to duck their heads quickly, whereas nearly all other crossovers and SUVs place that switch on the lower edge of the liftgate itself.
Fit for a KingFord’s Texas-tastic King Ranch trim level imbues this Expedition with Mesa brown leather, embroidered King Ranch floor mats, 22-inch chrome wheels with special King Ranch center caps, body-colored running boards and exterior moldings, and chrome grille and liftgate trim. The visual treatment is subtle enough that many wouldn’t notice the squiggly King Ranch emblems, and we do appreciate the look of the 22-inch rolling stock and the feel of the leather trim. There’s also a fancy $59,145 Platinum model, with a similar set of features but a slightly different look.
These high-end trims might sound like they’re stepping on the toes of the Lincoln Motor Company, which sells its 2015 Lincoln Navigator from $62,475, but Ford says buyers have flocked to the glitzy Expeditions. The King Ranch and Platinum trims each account for 13 percent (for a total of 26 percent) of all 2015 Ford Expedition sales -- an increase over the outgoing Expedition’s 8- to 10-percent take rate for the King Ranch treatment.
There will always be a place in the new-car market for capable, do-it-all SUVs like the 2015 Ford Expedition. It can seat eight, fit their luggage, and tow something behind, too. Buyers looking for this sort of vehicle know it won’t have the lithe driving dynamics, lofty fuel economy ratings, or the refinement of a three-row crossover. Yet the Expedition’s main rival, the Chevrolet Tahoe, shows that evolving this genre is about more than just adding extra electronics and chrome; GM’s SUV is a far more modern take on what it means to build a full-sizer in 2014, bridging the gap between pickup truck and crossover. The 2015 Ford Expedition is much improved over last year and performs commendably given its age, but it’s not exactly a paradigm shift. There’s plenty of room for improvement when an all-new Expedition hits showrooms in a few years.
2015 Ford Expedition King Ranch 4x4 Specifications
|Engine:||3.5-liter, 24-valve DOHC turbo V-6/365 hp @ 5,000 rpm, 420 lb-ft @ 2,500 rpm|
|Layout:||4-door, 7-passenger, front-engine, RWD/4WD SUV|
|EPA Mileage:||15/20/17 mpg (city/highway/combined)|
|L x W x H:||206.0 x 78.8 x 77.2 in|
|Headroom (first/second/third row):||39.6/39.8/38.3 in|
|Legroom (first/second/third row):||43.0/39.1/37.7 in|
|Shoulder room (first/second/third row):||63.2/63.7/51.9 in|
|Cargo room (behind third/second/first row):||108.3/55.0/18.6 cu ft|