- By Mathieu Godin Instagram @pathfinder_overland

Totally redesigned in 2018, the 2019 Ford Expedition doesn’t see many changes. However, new this year is the Stealth Edition package, available on the Limited models only. Wherever you’d normally get chrome, this package mostly blacks it out, including the 22inch wheels that come with it. You also get LED headlamps and fog lamps, as well as power-deployable running boards, and front and second-row floor mats. Among other visual features, you get black lettering on the hood displaying “Expedition”– it’s a nice touch, and now the Expedition almost looks like a Range Rover. Not surprising, since not so long ago Ford owned the Land Rover brand.

With winter never ending here in eastern Canada, I had rented an 'EXP. cabin' for one night in Mont-Tremblant

National Park for a micro-vacation in the mountains. Sometimes that’s all you need, a few days in the mountains so that you can recover from your cubicle life. It would end up being a great opportunit­y to test-drive the Expedition on twisty, icy, slushy and muddy mountain roads. It turned out that the spring weather finally decided to show up that week, so everything turned into a melting mess.

Mont-Tremblant National Park is about a two-hour drive from Ottawa. The Expedition was a pleasure to drive on that stretch. The heated and ventilated front seats were very comfortabl­e, and the great sound quality from the B&O sound system by Bang & Olufsen (the best sound system I experience­d so far) also made for a more enjoyable road trip.

I found the cabin was very well equipped and it included a panoramic sunroof. Fit and finish were excellent. Frankly, I don’t see what’s missing in there. Perhaps that touch screen could get a refresh as it looks a bit dated (compared to the one in the new Ram 1500), however, it works great and is pretty straight forward. I liked the carbon fiber appliqué on the console of my unit. It looked much better than the faux-wood I am used to seeing.

The only available engine is Ford’s 3.5L EcoBoost delivering 375 horsepower and 470 lb.-ft. of torque paired to a 10-speed automatic transmissi­on. This engine gives you plenty of power for passing maneuvers. And I found that the transmissi­on shifts pretty smoothly. If you opt for a Platinum model, you get the same engine, but it’s been tuned to provide 400 horsepower and 480 lb.-ft. of torque. Shifting is done via a rotary

dial on the centre console, and while you can choose to shift manually, the commands to shift gears are just below that nub, which is kind of an odd location. The brake pedal is on the soft side, but the braking system performed well.

The Expedition is a full-size SUV, but surprising­ly, it doesn’t feel that big. The heated steering wheel is massive though. It reminds you that you’re not in a crossover vehicle, but in a body-on-frame SUV. The Expedition sits on a modified version of the F-150 frame to accommodat­e its independen­t rear suspension. It has room for up to eight passengers. However, my tester came with the optional captain’s chairs for its second row, for a maximum of seven passengers. Those second-row seats are adjustable so that you can slide them back and forth, and you can tip them forward to access the third row, and this without the need to remove a child seat from them. The third-row seats are reclinable and can easily accommodat­e adults. At 5,10" I found that I’d have enough room to be comfortabl­e for a long trip back there, even if the people in front of me would be of my size.

If the regular size Expedition doesn’t provide enough cargo room for you, you can opt for an extended-length MAX model, which is about a foot longer for an additional 16.9 cu. ft. (0.48 cu. m.) of cargo space.

With Ford’s Terrain Management System (TMS), you can choose between Normal, Sport, Tow/Haul and ECO for your day-to-day commute. I most often used the Sport mode to spice things up as it provides improved engine response. It also tunes the steering as well as the suspension for improved handling. While it doesn’t turn the Expedition into a Mustang GT, you’ll notice quite a difference. Thanks to the independen­t rear suspension, the Expedition handles the road like a big sedan for more comfort on a long trip. When the road conditions get messy, you can select one of the off-road modes: Grass/ Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, or Sand. And if your unit is equipped with the heavyduty trailer tow package, in addition to a two-speed transfer case with automatic 4WD, you get a 3.73 electronic limited-slip differenti­al as well as an electronic rear

locker. All Canadian models come with a 4WD system. Without doing any real offroading, I had the opportunit­y to test the automatic 4WD system under the Grass/ Gravel/Snow mode. Ford’s TMS does improve things off-road. The Grass/Gravel/ Snow mode helps minimize wheel spin at take-off, and I found that it worked great when driving on some icy back roads. The fact that my tester was equipped with snow tires also made a huge difference. You also get hill start assist and hill descent control standard on all models.

Equipped with the heavy-duty trailer tow package, you’ll be able to tow up to 9,200 lb (4173 kg). If you’re not that great backing up with a trailer, the trailer backup assist function will help you out. By turning a button on the console, you get to control where you want your trailer to go and the steering wheel will turn to the correct direction on its own while you’re backing up. You also get a trailer brake controller, and standard on all models is a trailer sway control system.

My tester was equipped with plenty of driver assistant technologi­es. I was impressed with the front and rear sonar systems, as even after getting all dirty during my trip to Tremblant, the sensors were still operating, and the snow didn’t seem to affect them. The sonar systems remained spot on. Complement­ed by the bird-eye view camera system, it helped a lot with parking maneuvers.

BUT, can you go on an expedition with the new Expedition? If you want to turn this SUV into an overland platform, you might be interested in the FX4 package. It’s only available on the XLT however. The FX4 package comes with most of the features from the heavy-duty trailer tow package, plus: off-road front and rear shocks, skid plates, all-terrain tires, 18inch wheels, running boards, front and second-row floor liners and the FX4 badge. However, those running boards are not rock sliders, so they’re likely to get damaged offroad. And the suspension doesn’t provide any lift. The Expedition’s ground clearance is 9.8 inches with an approach angle of 23.3°°, a departure angle of 21.9°° and a breakover angle of 21.4°°. Realistica­lly, this SUV was not designed to be an off-road monster. However, it’s a real body on frame SUV, so give it a good set of LT tires, rock sliders, skid plates, add a two-inch suspension lift, remove that front air dam (if you can), and this thing will turn into a pretty legit overland vehicle. Not a cheap one though. Starting price for the Expedition XLT is $59,549 CAD, and my tester in the Limited trim ended up at $85,805 CAD. It had most of the options available for the Limited.

Fuel consumptio­n is rated at 14.1 L/100 km city, 10.6 L/100 km highway and 12.5 L/100 km combined (17/22/19 mpg). I averaged 14.4 L/100 km (16 mpg) during my week with the Expedition. Not bad considerin­g that I mostly used the Sport mode.

If you need to tow big, and need people carrying capability, a minivan is not going to cut it. I suggest you take a good look at this full-size SUV. Of course, also look at its competitor­s, but you’ll probably find out that the Expedition stands out, and it might be the perfect setup for your needs.

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