Once thought to be on the way out due in part to the rise in gas prices and environmental concerns, the sports utility segment and its crossover cousin not only is still around but is the fastest growing in the automotive world.
According to Ford spokespeople previewing three of the company’s SUVs for a South Florida media audience recently, SUVs accounted for 24 percent of all automotive sales in 2014 and will grow to nearly 30 percent of the total global automotive marketplace by 2020. That’s up from a 20 percent share in 2000.
While small and midsize SUVs and crossovers account for the biggest part of that surge, even big SUVs have their place in today’s world.
Their ability to carry up to seven or eight passengers in comfort with a third row that will accommodate adults, their generous cargo capacity, and their towing capability can be just what many buyers need.
Ford’s entry in the segment, the Expedition, handles all those chores and does so in rather economical fashion for the class. That’s because for 2015 the company replaced the traditional V8 engine with its new EcoBoost turbocharged V6 that, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, delivers fuel mileage of up to 16 miles-per-gallon city, 22 highway in base rear-wheel drive models and 14/20 in 4X4s. The latter mileage figures match those for 2WD models of the previous year.
The big plus: The improved efficiency was achieved without sacrificing power. In fact, it improved. The V6 pumps out 365 horsepower at 5000 rpm and 420 pound-feet of torque at just 2500 rpm. Figures for the V8 in 2014 models were 310 hp and 365 lb.-ft. of torque, so you are really are getting the best of both worlds here.
It would be a huge stretch to say the Expedition handles like a sedan, but about the only time you are inconvenienced by its size is when it comes to tight mall parking lots. On the road, not so much. The independent rear suspension provides a smoother ride, and Ford also offers what it says is a “continuously controlled damping suspension” that is adjustable for comfort, normal or sport modes depending on conditions or the driver’s desire.
The Expedition comes in either regular or extended wheelbase (EL) in four trim levels: XLT, Limited, King Ranch, and a new Platinum edition for full-on luxury features like an upgraded sound system, perforated leather seats with double French stitching, blind-spot warning system, and power deployable running boards.
Ford also features its new SYNC voice-operated technology with its MyFord Touch system for operating many infotainment and other functions. Many early reviewers found fault with the MyFord Touch system, but it really has become a fairly intuitive system to operate and the voice commands respond fairly quickly and accurately. It doesn’t take long to get adapted to it.
All in all, the Expedition needs to be on your list if a full-size SUV is what you need. It offers lots of space for passengers with a roomy third-row seat while providing lots of room for cargo as well — up to 131 cubic feet in EL versions and just over 108 in regular models with second- and third-row seats folded.
And it is going to be around a while. Ford says sales are running between 4,000 and 6,000 units a month with markets in Texas, California, and Florida leading the way. The Platinum edition, says William Mattiace, CUV/SUV Communications spokesman, is also doing very well.
“It’s certainly not going anywhere,” he says.
For a look at the 2015 Expedition with Platinum trim and specs, check out the accompanying slide show.