When it comes to towing seriously weighty objects and transporting a sports team's worth of passengers and cargo, the 2015 Ford Expedition is one of the most capable rigs around.
Ford and General Motors recently updated their full-size sport utility vehicles with additional punch and dress-up amenities. But where GM's variants stuck with V8 power sources, Ford has taken a completely different approach with the Expedition.
Between its flanks resides a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 that makes 365 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque, connected to a six-speed automatic transmission.
With that output level the "Ex" looks pretty solid against GM's Chevrolet Tahoe/Suburban and GMC Yukon that use a 5.3-liter V8 rated at 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet.
Dropping the previous 5.4-liter V8 that made 310 horsepower and 365 pound-feet of torque might seem like a gutsy move. After all, purchasers of these big rigs have come to expect eight-cylinder muscle under the hood, regardless of how good the output numbers appear. But what's good for the F-150 pickup is likewise good for giant-sized wagons.
As a bonus, the Expedition's new V6 returns 16 mpg in the city and 22 on the highway, which represents an increase of two mpg for both cycles.
Unchanged from 2014 is the maximum 9,200-pound towing capacity, which is cut to 9,000 pounds when the optional four-wheel-drive system is selected.
Ford didn't alter the Expedition's look to any great extent, with only modest updates to the grille, bumpers and front and rear lights. These changes apply to both the regular- and extended-length EL version, the latter adding 12 inches between the front and rear wheels for a cargo capacity that's increased by 21 percent.
The independent rear suspension setup is compact enough to allow the second-row (bench or no-cost-optional captains chairs) or third-row seats to be folded completely flat while providing a more convenient lower load floor.
The dashboard has been updated to accommodate a video feed from the now-standard rear-view camera (with backup warning). There's also an optional eight-inch touch-screen.
To reduce invasive road and engine noises, there's more sound-insulating material added to the door panels, headliner, carpet underlay and the floor console. The windshield is now made of acoustic glass, while up-level trims also have it installed for their front-door windows.
Expedition drivers and passengers benefit from the available continuously controled damping suspension that adjusts for road and vehicle-load conditions to help smooth out the ride. The system can be switched from normal, comfort (soft) and sport (firm) settings, according to driver preference.
For 2015, buyers can choose from XLT, Limited, King Ranch and new-for-2015 Platinum trim levels. All trims can be had in rear- and four-wheel-drive and in regular- and extended-length sizes.
At the bottom end, the $44,400 XLT comes with the usual array of comfort features on the inside and running boards and a roof rack on the outside.
The Limited's highlights include perforated-leather-covered seats that are heated and cooled in front. There's also climate control, a power-folding rear seat plus a power liftgate. The King Ranch features a premium leather interior, 10-way power driver and front passenger seat, heated second-row seats, navigation system and power running boards.
Shelling out close to $60,000 for the Platinum gets buyers a power moonroof, 12-speaker Sony audio system and 20-inch polished aluminum wheels (18-inchers are standard and 22-inch wheels are optional).
For a vehicle weighing about 5,500 pounds, Ford's fleet leading model would appear to have its work cut out for it. Fortunately, a more aggressive powertrain coupled with suspension upgrades and a comfort- and space-focused cabin should translate into an enjoyable journey for all on board.
What you should know: 2015 Ford Expedition
Type: Four-door, rear /four-wheel-drive full-size sport utility vehicle
Engine (hp): 3.5-liter DOHC V6, twin-turbocharged (365)
Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual-shift control
Market position: Full-size sport utes aren't nearly as popular as they once were, but that doesn't mean they'll disappear completely anytime soon. For toting and towing heavy loads, these vehicles are virtually indispensible.
Points: Not much change on the outside, but the turbo V6 represents the most significant update; Improved fuel performance now matches the Chevrolet Tahoe; Revised dash and control panel retains its old-school look; New Platinum trim level adds a note of luxury, but Ford's similarly sized and powered Lincoln Navigator is still tops in this regard.
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.
MPG (city/hwy) 16/22 (4x2); Base price (incl. destination) $44,400
Base price: $47,300
Expedition's chief rival has standard V8 power; Denali edition is tops in luxury.
Base price: $39,100
Long-in-the-tooth three-row model uses a powerful, but thirsty, V8.
Base price: $45,300
A strong-running standard V8 and impressive cargo capacity are big pluses.