In the aftermath of the financial crisis, Ford undertook a high-risk strategy to modernise its best-selling and most iconic vehicles.
The daring objective was to “future proof” the F-Series pickup trucks and to ensure that the Mustang could endure well into the 21st century.
These are vehicles that were forged in the heyday of dirt-cheap gas in the USA, the period following World War II. But cheap gas forever is a bad bet these days — a lesson that the auto industry learned the hard way several years back when fuel prices spiked near $5 a gallon in some parts of the country.
Government fuel-economy regulations are also set to become more stringent, although President Donald Trump’s EPA might roll them back.
Ford was especially vulnerable to pricier gas. Big pickups like the F-150, with their powerful V8 engines, are gas hogs. The higher-performing trim levels of the Mustang are also thirsty consumers of petroleum.
Ford’s strategy has been twofold: build the large vehicles using more lightweight aluminium; and develop more fuel-efficient engines, such as turbocharged six-cylinder powerplants than mimic V8s for the trucks and gas-electric hybrids for the Mustang, to enhance acceleration (electric motors provide a lot of pop off the line).
The F-150 and the Super Duty pickups have been lightweighted, and now the Expedition SUV has gotten the treatment.
“[A]n all-new high-strength, aluminium-alloy body and redesigned high-strength steel frame form the foundation for Expedition’s rugged off-road and strong towing capabilities,” Ford said in a statement announcing the revamped full-size SUV, the first thorough rework in over a decade.
“Thanks to the use of advanced materials, the all-new Expedition saves up to 300 pounds, and the team reinvested that weight savings everywhere it counts to give customers more technology and convenience features than ever before.”
Ford is also touting the Expedition’s upgraded technology and driver-assist features, but the combination of aluminium construction and the 3.5-litre EcoBoost turbo mated to a new 10-speed automatic is the real story (and we’ll have to wait and see how that 10-speed performs, as transmissions with a lot of gears, while helping with fuel-economy, has proven to be buggy).
The Expedition will arrive in “XLT, Limited and Platinum series,” Ford said, adding that “[i]n addition, an XL version is available for fleet customers, from law enforcement to emergency services.”
A stretched version of the new SUV will also be available, providing addition space in the seven-passenger configuration (and enabling the Expedition to perform limo duty).
According to Ford, the “Expedition is part of Ford’s plan to grow its SUV leadership with five new vehicles for North America in the next four years.”
The Expedition goes on sale this fall. Pricing wasn’t announced, but it should start just south of $50,000. And the SUV will be built in Kentucky, a point that Ford made quite clearly, and that should stand the company in good stead with the Trump administration.