What's the deal with Americans and their love-hate relationship with Ford? I've always failed to understand how they could be so critical of the brand, yet they'd spend their cash on a Saturn or a Mercury, both of which are the equivalent of chlamydia.
I am a child of the 90's, and during that time, a Ford Expedition in the Philippines could hardly be called an automobile - it was a status symbol. While that may be laughable to some butterball American, I still fail to see what they find so funny. Ford is a mass market brand in every corner of the world, but you cannot say that they do not build quality upscale cars when they're in the mood to do so. They have made great cars in the past, like the Model T, which paved the way for the combustion automobile.
They built a Le Mans hero in the GT40, and they've made countless wonderful rally cars like the Escort and the Capri. I also happen to think that they make good consumer vehicles as well. The F-150, the Club Wagon van, and the Ford Bronco are icons in their own right, with the latter being quite infamous for the ultimate hot pursuit of O.J. Simpson in the freeway of Los Angeles. While I don't think that they are the last name in reliability, they have a charm that most consumer vehicles don't.
I loved Ford so much that when I entered my junior year in high school, my mother gifted me my dream car at the time, an Explorer Sport Trac 4x4. As a car guy, nothing can ever replace the ecstasy of having your first car. Looking back, not even sex can compare. I'm talking about great sex. It's not even close. It was my reason for waking up in the morning, and if you know me well enough, you would know that I am a night owl and that next to death, I only fear the morning sun. The week after we bought it, fuel prices rose by more than 10 pesos per liter. Great right? This meant that before I could even enjoy my car, I had to limit driving it.
This in effect flooded car exchange garages and online car sales websites with countless Ford Explorers and of course, the mighty 5.4-liter V8 Ford Expedition. One by one the Expeditions started disappearing with a cardboard plaque that said, "Gas-guzzler ako, wag tularan". And just like that, Ford's behemoth vanished from our roads and in came the arrival of the Toyota Fortuner, Ford Everest, and Mitsubishi Montero. They took the torch and ran with it. It was a success, but it sure as hell wasn't the same. Thankfully, Ford Philippines decided not to cut-off Manila's swag mobile and here we have it, the Ford Expedition Platinum EL.
The King is here.
Now, this current Expedition is several cuts above how we used to remember it. For starters, it's a lot bigger. If there was anything that the Expedition needed to be, bigger was last on the list. Nonetheless, we have a giant EL version in the Philippines, which in the United States is the direct successor to the cathedral-like Excursion. After all, the Explorer has grown so much in size that it's pretty much as large as the short wheel base Expedition of old.
It is intimidatingly huge from the outside and it seems to be a complete lane-hogger. Driving it through tight streets looks to be an impossibility, but hey, if our truck drivers can do it, so can we. By taking a look around the car, you'll see that it's a lot more blingy than it used to be. It sits on beautiful low profile tires with big wheels, it has splashes of chrome all around, and in this black paint job, I was waiting for Harrison Ford to escort me into the vehicle.
"My very favorite piece of tech in this SUV are the air-conditioned seats. I really do think that in countries with extremely hot climate, this should be mandated by the government."
Upon opening the door, an automatic step board rolls down to assist you in entering the gargantuan vehicle. I stand at 6 feet 2 inches tall and I usually never place a foot on these step boards, but in this one, I did. It's a bit of a novelty. When you get inside, you get a feeling that it's been modernized extensively. On the instrument panel, you'll find the typical TFT screens flanking the analog speedometer. There are more cubby holes and compartments in this vehicle than there are secret doors in Wayne Manor. It is equipped with a Ford SYNC on-board computer system, which functions as the control center for music, telephone, and even climate control functions for the rear.
Speaking of climate control, my very favorite piece of tech in this SUV are the air-conditioned seats. I really do think that in countries with extremely hot climate, this should be mandated by the government. You can also start the vehicle remotely, which can cool the cabin before you even step inside. My only gripe is that it does not have xenon headlights at the very least. We are already shifting from LED to laser, so there is no excuse for having halogen headlights from a brand that has all the tech and gizmos. Also, the rear screens have a really annoying blue light that I couldn't seem to shut off. It will drive your second row passengers crazy at night.
The interior is bathed with brown leather and slushes of wood and aluminium trim. I particularly like the shade of brown, which reminds me of a leather sofa you'd see inside a log cabin in Aspen. Despite all of these updates, the overall look of the cabin is dated compared to the likes of the Explorer. Everything is boxy, but if that's your cup of tea, then you'll get a kick out of it. As with all Expeditions, its hallmark feature is its interior space, which is tremendous.
You could have a wedding ceremony inside and there will still be space for the gigantic cake. As good as the interior space was, the biggest surprise for me was the ease at which it tackled muddy off-road terrains when the roads decided to take a break. I thought it was going to squirm all over the place and piss its pants, but the electronically adjustable 4x4 system just grabbed the terrain by the neck and stepped all over it - a feat I was not expecting at all.
"You could leave a Toyota 86 for dead in a set of lights while your kids are drinking milk at the back with overnight bags in tow. Not that you'd ever do that, because it's so damn relaxing to drive."
While everything has gotten larger in the Expedition, the engine has gone through the South Beach Diet. Instead of a gas-guzzling V8, it has traded two cylinders in exchange for two turbochargers. The result is a 3.5-liter V6 that has 55 more horses in its stable than the V8. It has a total of 365 horses and they can pull the gigantic carriage from standstill to 100 clicks in just 6.4 seconds. Think about that for a minute.
You could leave a Toyota 86 for dead in a set of lights while your kids are drinking milk at the back with overnight bags in tow. Not that you'd ever do that, because it's so damn relaxing to drive. The front seats are adjustable 1,000 ways and offer great lumbar support for those infinitely long drives. You can seat 8 in absolute comfort. Amazingly, it is so much more fuel efficient than I remember any Expedition to be. I had already driven 370 kilometers stuck in city traffic and running on highways yet I still had more than a fourth of the fuel left. Impressive.
So here you have it. The Expedition is bigger, meaner, plusher, and more fuel efficient than ever. It is by no means what I would call frugal, but averaging 6.2 kilometers per liter on a combined cycle in this country is still quite an achievement. It will happily pull your speedboat to Punta Fuego and drop you off at the Conrad Hotel with equal swagger.
It must be said that this current Expedition is a great all-rounder. At under 3.6 million bucks, I can't think of anything else that can haul as many people in comfort and go over virtually any kind of terrain while giving a great sense of isolation from the outside world. After all, isn't that what makes the Expedition so desirable?