Damn I’m cold. I’ve just left the climate-controlled comfort of a 2018 Ford Expedition to set out on foot on the frigid streets of Banff in search of Evelyn’s Coffee Bar.
The temperature on the Expedition’s electronic information display reads minus 26C.
My face is beginning to freeze into a grimace. Do I really need coffee badly enough to walk four blocks?
It’s not far, they said. It’s a neat spot, they said. You’ll like it, they said.
Okay two out of three ain’t bad. Evelyn’s is warm and welcoming, the coffee is good and by the time we get there I do need coffee. To warm up.
But we still have to walk back to that Expedition.
This is the first stop in two-day Expedition expedition Ford has organized to show off the abilities, ambience and pleasures contained in their brand new take on their full sized sport utility vehicle intended to win a larger share of the market currently ruled by the Chevrolet Suburban.
Our kicking off point was the Marriott Hotel at Calgary airport, so we’ve had a couple of hours to get a feel for our test vehicle, the line-topping Platinum MAX model.
This thing is big with tons of room for people and their gear. Overall length is 18.5 ft. long (5.6 m) with 121.5 cu. ft. (3,440 L) of cargo space behind the front seats, 73.3 cu. ft. (2,076 L) behind the second row and 36 cu. ft. (1,019 L) behind the third row. No need to fold the second row captains chairs or third row bench to store two small suitcases, a backpack and a computer bag.
There’s not a bad seat in the house. A family of four would each have their own captain’s chair with second row riders able to watch movies or play games on video screens mounted in the front seat headrests. Second row tip-and-fold seats give easy access to row three seats, even for tall adults.
Ford bills this Expedition as the smartest, most capable and most adaptable version ever, with tech goodies to keep every passenger connected. Its all-new aluminum body and high strength steel frame saves up to 300 lb. (136 kg) which was “reinvested” in more technology and convenience features.
Both my co-driver and I were moved to comment on how quiet the Expedition is on the highway. Wind noise is negligible and there was little tire noise even though the SUV was wearing winter rubber.
The power from its 3.5L EcoBoost V6 gets to all four wheels through a smooth new 10-speed automatic and transmission. It’s rated at 400 hp and 480 ft-lb of torque.
Given that it tips the scales at 5,793 lb. (2628 kg), this is a relatively quick vehicle. At no time during my two days with it did I wish for a V8 under the hood.
Headed west from Banff, our next stop is in the town of Field, B.C., in Yoho National Park. Here the snow is deeper and Highway 1 tends to have more slippery spots.
After lunch at Truffle Pig Bistro and Lodge, it’s onward and westward to an off-highway course near Golden at Chancellor Peak Chalets, the jumping off point for an off-highway expedition followed by an off-road course.
From the chalets, the view gets increasingly more awesome as we climb higher along a graded logging road that becomes narrower the further we go.
The icy road is no problem for the Expedition which makes the climb in 4WD Auto with nary a glitch, due in part to being equipped with proper winter tires. Only occasionally do we drop into 4WD Hi to make the climb and subsequent descent.
All the while, the ride is incredibly smooth considering the rough surface. At no time does the transmission hunt for gears.
A brief stop for photos and we are on the way back down again. The electronic power steering responds instantly to steering inputs and the bulky people-carrier doesn’t try to gain speed on the downhill grade.
Back at the chalets, we queue up to take a run at an off-road route that snakes its way up and down through the snow-laden trees. It’s not a long route, but it’s tight and hilly.
Manoeuverability is crucial here because the MAX is a long vehicle and the course is extremely tight. Hill descent control maintains a crawl pace down the steeper inclines leaving the driver to concentrate on negotiating the sharp bends in the trail. It’s all very civilized in a rather remote course.
Course complete. It’s time to head for our last stop of the day: The historic Post Hotel at Lake Louise via Highway 1.
It’s a straight shot and another opportunity to relax and play with the systems aboard Expedition Max as we roll quietly and smoothly along. At an as-tested price of $89,054, there are a lot of them.
Base price for Platinum Max 4×4 is $84,149 plus taxes and delivery. Our tester has $4,905 in options, including heavy duty trailer towing package with 3.73 ration limited slip axle ($1,400), second-row captain’s chairs ($800), headrest DVD entertainment system ($2,100), cargo management system ($400), first and second row all weather liners ($150) and reversible cargo mat ($55).
Some of the more impressive features in a long list of standards are: Pro Trailer Backup Assist, MyKey system, SYNC 3 with eight-inch LCD touch screen, active park assist, 360-degree camera and all the usual power features to go with all the usual electronic safety aids.
After the two-day Expedition expedition, I think it’s possible that Suburban might be facing some tough competition. Time will tell.
2018 Ford Expedition
Trim levels: XLT, Limited, Limited Max, Platinum, Platinum Max
Price before taxes: XLT ($60,149.00), Limited ($73,149.00), Limited MAX ($76,149.00), Platinum ($81,349.00), Platinum Max (84,349.00)
Configuration: front engine, 4WD
Available engines: 3.5L EcoBoost V6
Available transmissions: 10-speed Automatic
Power/torque: V6: 400hp/480 lb. ft.
Fuel economy ratings: Short wheelbase: 13.8 L/100 km city, 10.7 hwy; long wheelbase: 14.9 city, 11.2 hwy.
Warranties: 3 years/36,000 km (basic), 5 years/100,000 km (powertrain)
Competitors: Chevrolet Suburban, GMC Yukon, Nissan Armada, Toyota Sequoia
CAR (Canadian Auto Review)