GET OUT THERE

An all-new Ford Ex­pe­di­tion Sa­fari is around the cor­ner, but for those who like the old-school charm of the cur­rent model, here’s some added rea­son to con­sider buy­ing one.

Friday - - Motoring - By wheels’ Sony Thomas

It might come as a sur­prise to you, but Ford reck­ons more than 20 per cent of those who own its Ex­pe­di­tion full-size SUV, use it for se­ri­ous of­froad­ing. It’s en­cour­aged by this not in­sub­stan­tial slice of loyal clien­tele that the Blue Oval is of­fer­ing its all-new 2018 Ex­pe­di­tion with an FX4 Off-Road Pack­age right from the start. Al­though it’s be­ing po­si­tioned as a more suave and re­fined fam­ily SUV, Ford says this spe­cial pack­age will add enough tech­nol­ogy and 4x4 hard­ware to make it even more ca­pa­ble on trails and un­paved sur­faces. The prob­lem is, it’s go­ing to be months be­fore you could get your hands on one.

How­ever, if you’re a Ford fan who has al­ways been al­ler­gic to the over­load of tech­nol­ogy that has per­vaded the new crop of SUVs, you’re in luck. Lo­cal dealer Al Tayer Mo­tors is of­fer­ing a spe­cial Sa­fari Pack­age with the cur­rent ver­sion of the Ex­pe­di­tion. Based on the XLT trim, the Sa­fari adds a 3.0in lift kit, lev­el­ling kit, off-road jack with roof car­rier mount, a roof rack in­clud­ing el­e­vated adapters, axe and shovel car­rier, on-board com­pres­sor, black bull­bar with built-in LED lights and spe­cial set of wheels wrapped in 305/65R 18in Nitto off-road tyres. These changes add quite a bit to the Ex­pe­di­tion’s al­ready im­pos­ing pres­ence. And if for some rea­son, these ad­di­tions aren’t enough for your off-road pos­tur­ing, then there’s the un­miss­ably large graph­ics on ei­ther side that pro­claim its ‘Off-Road’ cre­den­tials. I didn’t take it dune-bash­ing or rock climb­ing as, oddly, my tester did not come with an off-road in­sur­ance. How­ever it stood up im­pres­sively to the chal­lenges thrown at it by our usual sand and gravel test­ing patch off Al Ain Road. An old-fash­ioned ro­tary knob lets you se­lect from among four dif­fer­ent modes – 2H, 4A, 4H, and 4L. How­ever, de­spite Ford’s claims, it is a fact that most Ex­pe­di­tion buy­ers, at least in our re­gion, use it mainly to haul a large fam­ily or tow heavy things. The Sa­fari Pack­age will in­deed give them the re­as­sur­ance that if they ever need to ven­ture off the beaten track, it will be up to the task. But in its pri­mary role of haul­ing peo­ple in com­fort, this par­tic­u­lar model makes a few com­pro­mises.

While the Ex­pe­di­tion in its stock form of­fers one of the most com­fort­able rides in this seg­ment, the off-road bi­ased tweaks made to the Sa­fari edi­tion makes it jumpy and ner­vous on the high­ways. So if your main in­ten­tion in buy­ing a large SUV is trans­port­ing fam­ily in com­fort, then the Sa­fari isn’t a good op­tion.

There’s no V8 un­der the bon­net, but the 3.5-litre tur­bocharged V6 serves up an im­pres­sive 390bhp and 629Nm of torque. The six-speed auto ‘box is smooth and quick in its shifts, and de­spite its large di­men­sions and bulk, the Ex­pe­di­tion is quite nippy. There’s plenty of low-end torque, al­though it runs out of steam as the revs climb higher.

The cabin is still pretty much the same as when this model came out nearly a decade ago. Ev­ery­thing from the lay­out to the plas­tics used look dated. And they are. But then again, if you’re plan­ning to buy a model which has just been re­placed, it’s only safe to as­sume that you have a thing for out­moded stuff. Al­though un­fash­ion­able, the cabin is spa­cious and the fab­ric seats are com­fort­able and sup­port­ive. The sec­ond row seat­ing is a 40:20:40 split bench that will re­cline or fold flat, while the third row also splits 60:40 and folds flat. Don’t ex­pect fancy touch­screen in­ter­faces or con­ve­nience fea­tures like au­to­matic cli­mate con­trol. Be warned, it’s as ba­sic as they come.

But if you find charm in things rudi­men­tary, then the Ex­pe­di­tion Sa­fari will be right up your al­ley. Buy the Sa­fari Pack only if you find your­self in the 20 per cent that take the Ex­pe­di­tion off-road. If you know for a fact it’s not go­ing to leave the tar­mac, and you still want a 2017 Ex­pe­di­tion, then get the King Ranch or Plat­inum.

If you find CHARM in things RUDI­MEN­TARY, then the Ex­pe­di­tion Sa­fari will be right up your al­ley. Buy the Sa­fari Pack only if you find your­self in the 20 per cent that take the EX­PE­DI­TION off-road

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As the name sug­gests Ford Ex­pe­di­tion Sa­fari is con­sid­ered ideal for off road­ing

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