They might have a reputation for being thirsty old dinosaurs, but big family four-wheel drives are getting smarter with every generation. The new Ford Expedition has grown in every direction, but an aluminum-intensive body and smarter powertrain options mean it uses less fuel, tows more weight and handles better than before.
Although it shares an EcoBoost badge with the current car, the new Expedition drops the old twin-turbo V6 for the smarter second-generation EcoBoost V6 found in F-Series trucks. It makes 375 hp (280 kW) and 637 Nm (470 lb.ft) of torque in that application, but given the different roles of the two cars, you can expect those figures to change slightly when Ford unveils the full spec. The new engine is hooked up to a 10-speed automatic gearbox, which is more capable with a load on the back thanks to short bottom ratios, but more efficient on the highway thanks to its three overdrive gears.
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Efficiency benefits aside, the new powertrain should also be more capable off-road when it's hooked up to the optional electronic limited-slip differential and smart four-wheel drive system. Drivers are able to choose the type of terrain they're on using a console-mounted rotary controller, and the car will automatically set itself up to tackle it, shuffling power to where it's most needed in just a fraction of a second. According to Ford, more than half of all Expedition owners value towing, and 15 percent tow weekly or monthly, so adding the new Pro Trailer Backup Assist system was also a logical step. Then again if you're towing that often, maybe it's worth learning how to reverse a trailer?
The electronic trickery extends well beyond a trailer-assist system, because Ford has fitted the Expedition with its full range of active driver aids. Along with the requisite surround-view camera, there's a new active park assistant, lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control for effortless highway cruising. When the driver is in control, they'll enjoy the blind spot monitoring and pedestrian detection systems.
They should also enjoy a sharper drive, thanks to weight savings of up to 300 lb (136 kg). High-strength steel and aluminum have been used extensively throughout the body structure, which should make for a stiffer structure as well – something that benefits ride quality, handling and crash safety.
Inside, the Expedition has been fitted with Ford's full bag of tricks, with wireless charging and a 10-device Wi-Fi hotspot joining the standard SYNC 3 touchscreen in the cabin. All three rows of seating are treated to power outlets, and a dual-screen entertainment system should help keep restless kids quiet on long road trips. Failing that, you could drown them out with the 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen stereo.
With a car like this, interior flexibility is paramount, and Ford has gone all-out to make sure there's room for the whole family and their luggage, regardless of how many of the eight seats are filled. The second row of seats slides, helping to free up legroom for the unlucky third-row occupants, while folding all the rear seats leaves room for a 4x8 plywood sheet.
Ford has yet to reveal pricing details for the new Expedition, but the car will make its debut in Q3 of 2017. When it arrives, it will be built at the Kentucky Truck Plant. You can check out the car in the video below.