If you call the third generation Ford Expedition long in the tooth, it would be a gross understatement. Launched way back in 2006, the large SUV managed to trudge along for more than a decade before a replacement was introduced. Its T1 platform was a variant of Ford’s P platform used from 2003 in F-Series trucks. It’s a demonstration of how ruddy good this chassis was that Ford managed to shift decent numbers of this full-size SUV in the American market and in our region even in its ageing, jaded form. But with its rock star cousin, the F150, getting a new platform, drivetrain and a complete makeover, it was just a matter of time before the Expedition also went under the scalpel.

So for 2017, the Blue Oval introduced the fourth-generation Expedition as a 2018 model with a raft of comprehensive changes, mechanically, cosmetically and technologically. Having sold 1.7 million SUVs around the world in 2016, Ford would have expected the new Expedition’s arrival to boost demand further. But apparently demand for the new model beat all expectations with the Dearborn automaker having to increase production targets by nearly 25 per cent to meet surging customer demand. Shown first in the region at last year’s Dubai motor show, the new Expedition is also expected to do well in our market, and has been launched in the UAE this month. As always, we are the first to get behind the wheel of one here in Dubai, and promptly took it for a drive up the craggy steeps of the Hajar mountain range.

The first thing you notice about the Expedition is how strikingly modern its lines have become. It’s a far cry from the primordial design of the previous two generations, with a bold, imposing face dominated by a large radiator grille flanked by a new C-shaped headlight design similar to that in the current F-trucks. The bonnet also has a more sculpted look, adding to a significantly more aggressive stance than before. As opposed to the slab-sided profile of the model it replaces, the new Expedition gets a distinctive line that runs along its sides connecting the headlights and the taillights, and lends the raised beltline more character. The rear, which takes design cues from the current Explorer, is a great blend of curves and angles, and the taillights continue the C-shaped theme adding to the cohesion of the overall design.

You may also like: 2016 Nissan Patrol Nismo

Photos: Stefan Lindeque

The interior is pretty similar to the current F150 truck’s, with vertical AC vents replacing the circular ones from before and a generally more sophisticated styling and layout. The gear shifter is now a Range Rover-like rotary item, adding to the general air of roominess inside the cabin. It’s a proper eight-seater, and the seating arrangement is highly flexible with a sliding second-row seat offering tip-and-slide function that enables easy access to the third row without the need to first remove a child safety seat. The second- and third-row seats can be folded flat with the push of a button, making it easy to free up massive amounts of cargo space. 

The changes aren’t just visual though, with the all-new T3 platform ably complemented by the new drivetrain. Although the 3.5-litre twin-turbocharged V6 block is carried over, it’s been tuned to deliver a 400bhp and 610Nm of torque. The six-speed automatic from the previous model has given way to a 10-speed transmission. While the soundtrack is not as deep and growly as that of the V8’s the V6 has ample power to haul the large utility vehicle around with ease. Power delivery is linear, and the auto ‘box’s shifts are barely perceptible. Ride quality is probably one of the best in class, especially on highway cruises, feeling more planted and plush than a Nissan patrol or a Toyota Land Cruiser.

Photos: Stefan Lindeque

Up in the rugged mountain terrain, the Expedition’s new Terrain Management System shone bright with its different drive modes making it easy to set up the suspension and steering to optimal settings. The different modes include normal for city and highway driving, sport for the occasional dash down that empty by-road, tow/haul for better towing and hauling performance, eco for improved fuel economy, grass/gravel/snow for loose terrain, sand for low traction situations, and mud/rut for uneven surfaces.

To keep up with its thoroughly modern and up to date rivals, the Expedition comes equipped with features and driver-assist technologies including enhanced active park assist with a 360-degree camera, lane-keeping aid, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, collision avoidance detection system, blind spot information system, wireless charging, dual-headrest rear seat entertainment system, four 12-volt power points, six USB chargers and a 220-volt power outlet, a 12-speaker B&O premium audio and a panoramic sunroof among others.

Photos: Stefan Lindeque

Ford has also priced its flagship right, starting at Dh210,000 and going up to Dh299,250 for the range-topping Platinum trim tested here. This effectively undercuts most of its rivals in this market, making it a truly convincing option for a full-size SUV buyer.