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Auto blogMon, 21 Jul 2014
While the tide of bigger-is-better SUVs has been in recession since, well, the recession, fullsize utes are still very much with us. Conservative creatures that have been loathe to evolve, fullsize SUVs nonetheless remain enduringly popular among large families, livery customers, and anyone with lots of friends, relatives, and toys to tug around. With respect to Toyota and Nissan, the only players that really matter in the segment are the new-for-2015 Chevrolet Tahoe/Suburban, the GMC Yukon/Yukon XL, and this truck: the Ford Expedition, the latest evolution of which we just drove for the first time at a press preview in West Virginia.
Unlike the General Motors utilities, the standard Expedition and the long-wheelbase Expedition EL are not all-new, but rather are heavily refreshed versions of the same basic truck Ford started selling way back in 2007. The front fascia is where most of the exterior update happens for 2015, with a new three-bar grille design, halogen projector headlamps, and new bumper design with available LED foglamps. Despite all the new bits, the facelift breaks exactly zero ground in terms of design; in fact, it already looks dated, and will only look older once the macho 2015 F-150 bows later this year. Even less has changed out back, where the tailgate gets a wide chrome band spanning the taillamps and a new chrome exhaust tip. Other exterior changes are generally limited to colors and an all-new wheel lineup that includes a gleaming set of six-spoke 22-inch polished wheels on high-end models.
Speaking of high-end models, a new Platinum trim is positioned above the cowboy-spec King Ranch model for 2015. Both the Platinum and King Ranch get their own color combos and exterior trim finishes (satin metal for the Platinum, chrome everywhere and ginormous badges for the King Ranch) and posh, leather-lined interiors with their own aesthetic. The Expedition family also now includes a price-leading XL model, as well as XLT and Limited grades.
General Motors and Ford can have all the success they please, but it doesn't seem like America's two largest manufacturers are going to topple Toyota in the first half of 2013. According to Reuters, Toyota moved 4.91 million vehicles in the first six months of 2013, representing a 1.1-percent drop from the same period in 2012.
GM is on the rise, though, with a four-percent increase in global sales, to 4.85 million. Volkswagen, still sitting in third, saw a 5.5-percent jump to 4.7 million vehicles in the first half of 2013.
If this pace continues for Toyota, it'll finish 2013 in the top sales spot for the second year in a row. The manufacturer fell to third, behind GM and VW, in 2011 after earthquakes and tsunamis ravaged its production capacity.
Ford has released the full list of pricing and specs on its new Transit, the replacement for the long-lived E-Series cargo van. Prices are set to start at $29,565 and can increase rapidly from there, depending on length, engine and wheelbase, among other options.
Let's talk first about those new engines. The base is the familiar 3.7-liter, naturally aspirated V6. It boasts 275 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque and can return up to 14 miles per gallon in the city and 19 mpg on the highway. This engine can also be adapted to run on LPG or compressed natural gas. Of course, there are better alternatives, for a price, the first of which is Ford's well-received, 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6. It packs 310 hp and a best-in-class 400 lb-ft of torque (available at just 2,500 rpm) while matching the naturally aspirated engine in both city and highway fuel economy.
Then, there's the diesel. With a 3.2-liter, five-cylinder diesel mill at its disposal, the Transit generates 350 lb-ft between 1,500 and 2,500 rpm, along with 185 hp. This engine hasn't been rated by the EPA, although we'd be really, really surprised if it didn't handily best either of the gas-powered engines in fuel efficiency. A six-speed automatic is standard, regardless of engine.