When we arrived at eM the Venue in the Dallas Design District on the evening of Feb. 18, I thought my colleagues and I had pulled up to a school. The building certainly looked like one from the outside.
I was partly right. I ended up learning a lot about the 2015 Ford Expedition at its world premiere. (For instance, Texas is Ford's biggest market by sales volume. Dallas and Houston are the SUV's two top-selling cities.)
Inside, the structure looked like a hip nightclub. Blue light did its best to calm the assembled journalists, who were eager to see the shroud come off of Ford's newest offering. The waitstaff floated around, making used appetizer plates and silverware disappear. Attractive bartenders served beer and cocktails to writers whose idea of a party is discussing dealer networks and 0-60 times. My kind of place.
John Felice, vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, said that Ford sold 1.2 million SUVs world-wide last year, a company record and a 35 percent year-over-year increase. The 111-year-old manufacturer will introduce 16 new products for North America in 2014.
After the cover was pulled away, the full-sized rig's chief engineer, Jackie DiMarco, touted its luxury, performance and technology. Ford certainly brought the right specimen to D-Town. The Expedition was decked out with glitzy 22-inch wheels, retractable running boards and a leather interior with French stitching in the Platinum trim. Ford will offer XLT and Limited Expeditions, as well. Word on the King Ranch treatment will be relayed at a later date.
Performance for all 2015 models will come from the 3.5-liter, direct-injected and turbocharged EcoBoost V6. It's proven its merit to V8-loving truck owners over the past three years by being installed in more than 425,000 F-150s. Output should be around 365 horsepower and 420 lb-ft in the Expedition. Official specs will be announced later.
DiMarco said gas mileage should be about 10 percent better than that of the outgoing 5.4-liter V8, which earned 14 city and 20 highway miles per gallon. Doug Scott, Ford's truck group marketing manager, said to expect something close to the 16/22 of the F150's EcoBoost (4X2). However, Ford does not yet have certified numbers, according to DiMarco.
She expects her team's project to be a towing leader in its segment. It will have to beat the 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe's maximum rating of 8,500 pounds.
According to Ford, the new Expedition's independent rear suspension will help deliver better ride and handling characteristics, and will leave room for "the lower, more convenient fold-flat third-row bench seat."
A Blind Spot Information System with cross-traffic alert and SYNC with MyFord Touch is some of the tech bundled into the upcoming Blue Oval SUV. The latter will give buyers the option of using voice commands, an 8-inch touchscreen or traditional knobs and buttons to access infotainment and other features.
Ford's new body-on-frame people hauler was definitely handsome. At first glance, it looked a lot like the 2014. Upon closer inspection, though, the differences became clearer. The grille went from four to three bars. Horizontal LED fog lamps replaced the old round units. And Platinum brightwork made the 8-seater more Lincoln-like. Scott said, "These people don't want to think they're driving a minivan. They want a vehicle with some style, with some elegance, something that makes a statement."
The interior definitely made a statement with its dynamic blend of soft hides, metallic tones and woodgrain trim. It reminded me of a King Ranch Ford's cockpit. Cargo capacity will range from 108.3 cubic feet in the standard wheelbase model to 130.8 in the extended-length Expedition.
The six-speed SelectShift automatic will be able to operate in manual mode through the use of a rocker switch on the gear lever. Continuously controlled damping, a Ford first, will provide a choice among comfort, normal and sport driving modes.
Expeditions with the Platinum package will offer customers the choice of two leather colors, including Brunello with tuxedo-stripe accents.
Ford's 2015 Expedition will launch this fall in standard (119-inch) and long wheelbase (131-inch) models. Rear-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive will be available. In terms of price, DiMarco said, "it will continue to be a value in the segment."
Head over to F150online for more photos!