Skid Marks

Expedition EL: Big, bold and beautiful

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The Ford Explorer EL has an EcoBoost 3.5-liter V6, which makes it more fuel-efficient.

I’ve always had a soft-spot for the Ford Expedition. Back in 1997, as a freshman in college, our family bought a grey-market toreador red Ford Expedition in Eddie Bauer V8 trim with the bigger 5.4-liter engine that just blew away the smaller-engined 4.6-liter V8s.

It was also luxuriously equipped: a 10-CD changer, a VHS player, a small TV, leather interior, and dual air-conditioning.

It was a fun car. There was less traffic, gas prices were cheap, and the massive tires simply smothered all road imperfections.

When the Asian financial crisis hit later that year, Ford Expedition values tanked: nobody wanted a hugely thirsty, lumbering gasoline V8 SUV.

Ironically, we ended up with another Expedition, a local variant with cloth interior, and the smaller 4.6 V8 engine.

It was so cheap when it was offered to us, my Dad thought it can’t be that bad. Imagine having two big, thirsty V8s in the family garage?

Never again, we all thought. Well, a few years after, my Dad bought a F150 Super Crew because, much as he hated the V8’s thirst, he loved the sheer massiveness of these American Ford trucks.

After 21 years, I’m once again reunited with the Expedition. This time, it has grown up, all high-tech and cutting edge.

And again, just like how it hit me 21 years ago, the new Expedition, especially the EL (extended length), is massive.

The new face is cleaner, much more global, less American-centric with a bold corporate face, new grille and headlamps.

The sides appear massive, like the Great Wall of China, but creases and scallops on the side break the monotony and give it a simple yet stylish vibe.

Underneath the skin, it’s also learned some new tricks: better suspension, better brakes, better steering, more luxurious niceties inside, and more.

But the biggest bit of exciting information for me was the twin-turbo V6 engine and the 10-speed automatic transmission.

The 10-speed SelecShift automatic transmission has several modes.

Extensive use of aluminium has also allowed the latest Expedition to shed 136 kg from its predecessor, despite measuring a frankly massive 5.67 meters in length, with a massive 3.342 meter wheelbase.

It’s practically bigger in every dimension compared to the old model. Thankfully, it’s 1.956 meter height means you can clear most covered parking lots in malls and buildings should you manage to fit it, thanks to its length and 2.388 meter width.

Impressively, the Expedition has a smallish (again, given its size) 6.9-meter turning radius.

I almost thought it had four-wheel steering (it doesn’t), but that would really make the Expedition very handy in Metro Manila.

The 10-speed SelecShift AWD automatic transmission has several modes to help put power down to the ground as efficiently as possible.

This gives the Expedition more response, more grunt low-down in traffic, so you actually do step on the gas pedal far less, which helps achieve its amazing 6.2 kilometers per liter fuel consumption in the city (yes, that is not a typo).

Of course, times have changed, and I’ve also learned to drive much more carefully. But consider this: other typical gasoline power SUVs like Toyota’s FJ Cruiser, which is about half the size, can only muster 5 km/liter in the city at best.

Out on the highway, the Expedition can barely reach 10 km/liter, but I feel that given a longer trip (at least over 150 kilometers of total highway driving), the Expedition can possibly break into the high 11s or low 12s, as my fuel average was slowly improving as miles piled up on the highway going to Tagaytay for the weekend.

A bold corporate face, new grille and headlamps

The next bit of impressive kit is, of course, the engine, Ford’s new workhorse.

The EcoBoost 3.5-liter V6 has been used on the Explorer and the F150 pickups.

The turbocharged engine, in theory, is supposed to deliver the same output as a 6.2-liter normally aspirated V8, but with far less weight, a smaller footprint, and thus, further helping fuel efficiency figures.

And it’s creamy smooth. Plus it delivers 375 hp and 637 Newton meters of torque over a much wider powerband compared to a V8 of normal aspiration.

Indeed, boost truly is better with the new EcoBoost Expedition.

The interior is pretty well-appointed: leather seats, a Bang & Olufsen surround sound system mated to Ford’s Sync3 multi-media system with an 8-inch LCD screen, optional captain’s chairs for the middle row seats, and multi-zone climate control are the major goodies.

Driving position is also very car-like, with great seating position, a steering column optimized not just for big, overweight rednecks but also for tinier Asians like you and me, with excellent adjustment for reach and rake, as well as 14-way electronic seat adjustment for the driver.

On the road, you do feel a tad sheepish driving something so massive alone: everyone just looks and stares, especially people in jeepneys and other PUVs who are all probably shocked by the Expedition EL’s sheer size.

This had me concerned, too, when paying the toll at Slex as I might be charged with a Class 2 fee, and be covered by the truck ban.

Thankfully, my fears were unfounded.

To be honest, the newest Expedition is a real hoot to drive. Yes, it’s massive, but given it’s size, it is surprisingly very responsive.

The Bang & Olufsen sound system is mated to Ford’s Sync3 system.

It stops and steers like a car one-fourth its size, rides very well on rough surfaces (the super long wheelbase minimizes the seesaw effect), yet has excellent body control on winding roads.

The brakes, long a weak-point in many American cars, has found Euro-like confidence: firm, well-modulated and very progressive.

You know the Expedition will stop when it’s told to, rather than waiting for it to act after endless prodding.

Steering effort is light, making the Expedition very easy to drive, once you get over its sheer size.

And that is the single biggest problem.

Leaving my Mandaluyong townhouse to go down south, Waze makes me pass through numerous tight inner roads through Mandaluyong, Makati, and sometimes parts of Manila.

The width isn’t such a concern as my daily-driven Toyota FJ Cruiser is also pretty wide. But it’s the sheer length that is a burden.

On many tight inner city roads, the Expedition could barely clear those 90-degree turns without risk of hitting light posts, parked cars, and annoyingly lane-splitting motorcycle riders who suddenly pop out from behind.

Many will argue that the Expedition is meant for wide open roads, and it is, but we all have to face reality (and traffic) in the Philippines, with the tight inner city roads, numerous illegally-parked cars, and various road hazards.

Of course, the Expedition is packed with safety features: ABS-EBD brakes with emergency brake assist, traction/stability control with roll-over stability control and mitigation, and blind-spot detection.

But the bigger fear is when the Expedition hits something, or worse, someone. Yes, this puts that sort of fear into you. You know you’ll be fine. But you can’t say for the other party.

So, the Expedition of the future is truly impressive. Larger, yes, but also more fuel efficient, packed with technology that really helps improve efficiency, and truly enjoyable to drive, preferably out on the open road.

It’s the perfect vehicle to take family and friends out on long road trips. Just like our old Expedition which we used religiously almost every weekend for out of town trips with the barkada.



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