Jude Morte / Ramon Sy | May 02, 2008 00:00
Largeness AmericanaWhen the Ford Expedition was introduced in 1999, it was hailed as a shining example of the largeness that is typical of American utility vehicles. But with jolting shifts in the local economic movement of late, is this behemoth still a relevant vehicle?
The new Expedition isn't all that proportionally different from the previous model it replaces. It's a little more than a passing resemblance to a hollow block of concrete, save for a chrome grille that is a welcome - at least to the author - change from the graph paper-like mug of its predecessor. Overall, the look is an appropriately modern re-skin that distinguishes itself from the previous model without looking too truck derivative.
Arguably the biggest change is to the SUV's insides. The circular rotating airconditioning (a/c) vents and black font-on-white background tachometer and speedometer were retained, but the dual-zone (a/c) controls have a new easy-to-understand layout, the menu screen (at the center of the dash's gauge cluster) is bigger and easier to read, and there are three to four electrical outlets around the cabin. The audio entertainment rivals that of Bose units found in certain vehicles, and the rearmost side windows have power assist. The steering wheel has radio and a/c controls, and has a layout similar to the current Ford Explorer. The light khaki-dark gray leather seats provide a synergy of sorts with the light khaki-silver interior colorway, but the faux wood inserts in the dashboard's middle and along the door armrests look somewhat out of place.
Storage is a given considering the SUV's dimensions, but there are also significant changes, too. The third row can fit two six-footers in COMFORT (you sit relaxed, not end up in the fetal position) and has power assist to make the backrests fold flat. The detailed instructions on both second row flanks on how to fold and tumble the second row (for third row access) is bigger and easier to read than in the previous model. The cupholders - 10 of them - can swallow an Absolut one-liter bottle of distilled water, and the center console can fit a Canon EOS 400D digital single lens reflex camera with a 70-300 mm lens attached to it. The rear hatch has separate handles for the glass and the hatch proper, and a leather pull handle on the hatch's inner lining is available for short people to reach in order to close the hatch properly.
The 5.4L V8 manages to move the SUV's 6818 kg curb weight around without much difficulty, thanks to a six-speed a/t that has even steps and smooth shifts, even on mountain passes. Powerband entry (3500 rpm) takes some time, but when the V8 gets angry it can hit 175 kph. Consumption is a given - 4.15 km/l, four days mixed driving - considering its heft, but you get to your destination quickly, and in comfort too.
Large SUVs with solid axle designs (such as the Expedition) usually display strong wheel hopping and a floaty ride, but the Expedition is surprisingly the opposite. A unique five-link independent rear suspension and body-on-frame construction sends the rear driveshafts through the frame rails, thus soaking up bumps (especially at the rear) with aplomb. The overall ride is firm, and rarely displays nervousness during hard cornering. Traction from the Pirelli Scorpion STRa 255/70R18 112Hs breaks at 50-70 kph with the Roll Stability Control/AdvanceTrac off, and the steering has light feel yet numbing in feedback.
Yet another positive is the P 2.99 million Expedition's safety features. The brakes grab hard at the slightest tap, exterior lighting is bright, there's electrochroming for the rear view mirror (for reduced glare at night) and turn signals within the side mirror housings. The backup sensors are useful for parallel parking, but are sensitive from one foot onwards - irksome when shoehorning the unit within cramped Makati lots. Footbrake grip is also a negative, too, as decent bite is achieved with the footbrake pedal millimeters close to the floor. On the other hand the footbrake release lever is located parallel to the driver's lower abdomen - instead of his knee, like in the current Ford Explorer - making stop-go traffic on inclines a little more enjoyable and less of an abdominal exercise.
Comedian Yakov Smirnoff once said that everything's big in America. It may be opined that he may have seen a Ford Expedition on his arrival at the airport, and the aforementioned example of largeness Americana might have had a strong impact on him. Given what the current Expedition has to offer, he may be spot-on right.