Stick Shift: 2015 Ford Expedition

Image provided by Ford Motor Company.

Image provided by Ford Motor Company.

By: Brandon Randall

It used to be an unspoken rule amongst SUV’s that bigger is better. In the wake of an economic recession, and with ever fluctuating gas prices, this is no longer the case. Luckily for large families and social butterflies with ride mooching friends, Ford has kept the Expedition large and in charge in the big SUV arena.

With this latest installment, Ford has made a number of impressive changes that keep this 8-passenger family freighter still firmly in the game. Sure, for 2015 the body style has largely remained circa 2007. However, Ford has given us a heavy refresh with bright halogen headlamps, a redesigned from bumper with available LED fog lamps and a new three-bar grille. In addition, you can get beautiful 22″ polished aluminum wheels and automatically lowering running boards. Just watch your shins.

Also new for 2015 is the Platinum trim model, which I was lucky enough to have. Included in this package is a beautiful satin metal finish and a posh, leather-lined interior. While this is a step in the right direction, it isn’t quite enough to save the interior from ultimately still looking a little dated.

While the overall aesthetic might be falling behind, with Sync and MyFord Touch technology added, Ford isn’t letting the Expedition drag its feet when it comes to tech. Up front we also find a redesigned steering wheel and instrument cluster. The driver and front passenger seats are softly padded but still supportive. They can be adjusted, heated, cooled and provide an excellent space to clock miles in during those annual family road trips to see the relatives.

Sadly, the convenience of fold-flat versatility also means that the second and third row seats are board flat, stiff and uncomfortable. However, my biggest complaint was with the cheap looking, hard plastic panels on the dashboard and door panels. However, this may be an intentional act of quality restraint to give customers of the Lincoln Navigator justifiable reason to spend the extra dough on plush interior padding and contrast stitching. Other niceties include blind-spot monitors, rearview camera, keyless engine starting, a 700-watt sound system by Sony, adjustable ambient lighting colors and Ford’s ever helpful “truck apps” that will simplify any towing or off-road task that comes your way.

That’s all fine and good, but the real excitement is the loss of the old gas guzzling V8 in exchange for the already proven 3.5L twin turbo V6. It’s more efficient than the old V8 and still makes more power than the 5.3L base power plant. What’s not to love? 0-60 is accomplished in a mere 6.4 seconds. No small feat for an SUV that weighs over 6,000 pounds, and that’s before you start stuffing people inside it. Acceleration is brisk and smooth, surprisingly quick and quite compared to the V8 models of yesteryear.

The Ford Expedition underwent some serious chassis recalibration for 2015 to improve handling, which I found to be tidy and better than expected given the overall size and tall ride height of the SUV. Also helpful in the handling department was the installation of a new electric power steering system that, when combined with the newly optional continuously controlled damping (CCD) system, provides the driver with Comfort, Normal and Sport chassis settings.
Each comes with its own dynamic range of assistance aides and ride compliances. From behind the wheel, the differences seemed subtle at best: Sport mode adds a little more weight to the steering but didn’t improve feedback much. It also allowed more bumps into the cabin. Comfort quiets and softens the ride, but honestly, neither setting deviates very far from Normal.

Between the smaller engine, electric power steering, and efficiency gains, It’s no surprise that the final product is a car that’s more fuel efficient and eco friendly than previous generations. My model reported a combined MPG of 18 putting it in the middle of the SUV pack. So while many SUVs are slimming down, shedding an extra seat or two and losing cubic feet with each new installment, the 2015 Ford Expedition still proudly offers a compelling full sized 8-passenger option for big, active families on the go.

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