Wednesday, Aug 12, 2020
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Brave new world

Virtuosity drives the new Ford Expedition Platinum, to see if the famous American brand can keep pace as car buyers shift their purchasing priorities

If you like your cars big your only choice is to head to the US. American Car manufacturers are the past masters in large SUVs, with a leaning towards comfort and practicality, rather than luxury and performance. Or are they?

As globalization takes hold and buyers move from saloons to SUVs in droves, the big American brands have shifted gears, heading up in the luxury segments, to counter the European’s vice-like grip on performance luxury SUVs.

Yes, you can still buy a Ford Expedition with cloth seats and a lower option level, for use as a daily school run wagon or a weekend off-roader, but you can also buy the Platinum Edition, which is perhaps one of the most surprising vehicles you are ever likely to drive.

Why? Well, for starters, it’s bloody fast. The Ford 3.5 litre V6 Ecoboost engine is a real gem. In the Platinum is comes in its highest state of tune, pushing out 400 horsepower and 650 Nm of torque. When you plant your foot on the accelerator, the 2.5 tonne car takes off like a firecracker. To say it’s quite a surprise would be a bit of an understatement.

It also handles quite well, thanks to multilink independent suspension, continuously controlled damping and a supple ride that the Europeans can only dream of. Even the brakes are good, albeit without much feel or feedback (but then it is an SUV).

Of course, it’s a huge SUV, so if you push it too hard physics will start to take over, so the key to the big Ford is to get your braking done early, slow through the corners and use that epic engine to power out the other side. That’s if you want to drive it like that. The Expedition is more about luxurious cruising, than blasting around.

The engine is bolted to a ten-speed transmission (yes, ten gears), which can seem a little OTT when you first get behind the wheel. However, that crazy number of cogs actually means that the Ford always has a gear to suit, and it’s pretty accurate when picking them, so you don’t find it hunting for gears.

You can also manually reduce the number of gears, so off-road driving should in theory be made a lot easier. On that subject, the Expedition would make an excellent camper, as there’s enough room for half the family to sleep inside. No need for an expensive tent or caravan.

As well as the very long list of standard items on the Expedition, the Platinum gets auto deployable running boards, power boot, LED fog lamps, a 360-degree, split view rear camera, memory heated and cooled seats, memory steering wheel, memory pedals (just in case you can’t get that power steering wheel just right), stop/start, auto high beam, lane assist, lane alert, pre-collision assist, and pedestrian detection.

Add to that three rows of extremely comfortable seats, with both second and third rows automatically folding in the Platinum, and you have pretty much all your bases covered. Even the materials used for the interior are vastly improved over American cars of old.

With the third row of seats folded away the boot is gigantic; perfect for trips to Ikea or three months’ worth of groceries. There’s even a small boot with all the seats in place. The Expedition is a truly flexible vehicle.

The Ford Expedition Platinium isn’t going to scare the Range Rover or Mercedes GL sales team, as it falls short on performance, trim and on-road handling, but then that’s not the market this is aimed at. The Ford is half the price of those cars and isn’t pretending to be in the premium luxury segment.

What Ford have done is take a tried and tested platform that people clearly love and give it a premium feel. And as the technology gap in infotainment narrows even further, buying those premium SUVs becomes harder and harder to justify.

The Platinum Edition is fully loaded, fast, agile and luxurious. That’s pretty much most people’s wish list for an SUV. The only thing beyond that is a bit more speed, a bit more luxury and badge snobbery. If you hate money, buy the luxury brands. If you like to get a lot for your money, then the big Ford is pretty much spot on.

In short Ford has this one well and truly spot on.

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