Test drives are so instantly illuminating. Writing (and reading!) car reviews, you can think you know all about a machine from afar.
Then you slide behind the wheel and buckle in, tap the start button and are surprised beyond belief.
In some cases, the car or truck you think you will love is not quite all you hoped.
In other scenarios, a full-size SUV that looks pretty mature and dull outside can actually be the best-driving, most-satisfying and best-value truck you've ever driven!
This 2015 Expedition EL Platinum falls into the latter category.
So incredibly amazed was this driver that it took days to realize he would pick it over a Yukon XL or Suburban in a heartbeat.
How can the 2015 Expedition Platinum be so vastly superior to the all-new GM SUV triplets on the road and in the cabin, yet so unassuming outside?
Let's dig into why the new 2015 Expedition became such a favorite -- with the standard headings: Exterior, Interior, Performance, Colors, Pricing and Summary. In addition, we have a trio of video reviews and 150 photos of this hunter green charmer.
HD Drive Review
The exterior of the new Expedition is both a strength and a weakness. On the plus side, this loaded Platinum on its 22-inch wheels is more premium and exclusive than any other truck with a Ford badge.
The Expedition fits into premium country-club settings nicely due to its sheer scale. You know that the family who owns this beast is fairly wealthy right off the bat because this EL -- for extended length -- model has seating for for up to eight people.
You also notice the new LED foglamps glowing white in the new-shape lower bumper. Oh, that whole nose is actually fresh, isn't it!?
The 2015 Expedition is indeed all-new up front, with a double stack of chrome lower grille inserts and a reshaped upper grille. These three horizontal bars now have far more 3D sculpting in their form, with a flip in the corners to emphasize the tall hood and new headlamps. The lighting is now by halogen projectors for the low-beams, with halogen reflector high--beams.
Here is where the wishlist comes into play. A premium, full-size SUV with a base price of $63,000 should have xenon lights, should it not? In this regard, the loaded Platinum shares a bit too much with its $44,000 base Expeditions than we would like.
The profile of the Expedition for 2015 is almost carry-over aside from the Platinum trim's brushed-alloy accents and these optional 22-inch wheels.
In back, a strip of brightwork on the liftgate is almost all the distinguishes the new Expedition from the previous model. As noted in the above LED wishlist video, the brake lights are still incandescent-bulb units.
The Expedition style is therefore premium by default thanks to its size, but not nearly as flashy as almost every other full-size SUV out there. For people who like to fly under the radar, then, the Expedition is an all-star.
Those LED foglamps, by the way, are actual foglamps instead of a DRL. In order to have them on, you need to have the parking lights in amber on as well. A bit of a let-down, then, on the modern and new-feeling style fronts.
If the exterior of the Expedition feels like a missed opportunity, the cabin of this Platinum model makes up for it.
Smooth and double-stitched french seams on the chocolate brown seating is touchably soft, with a silver edge of the seats giving some premium sizzle to the seats. An embroidered Platinum script in the seatbacks is nice, as are the optional captains chairs in the second row for a well-worth-it $800 extra.
A moonroof is also present on this topline model, but it is just for the front seats. No full-length glass on this roof or skylights for backseaters.
Besides that, the experience inside is comfortable in all seating rows -- especially the first two. The captains chairs have a huge range of adjustment and an extra comfy seat base. A truly limo-like comfort is possible back there.
The floor of the Expedition feels far lower than the Tahoe/Suburban and Yukon, which have very compromised seating positions in their second rows as a result. The Expedition lets you sit with your legs down and not splayed out. This lower floor also makes the Expedition easier for third-row occupants. Access is simpler but both are fairly tight on the ankles in the third row.
One area where the GM trucks have caught up with and actually passed the Ford is in control of the seats from the luggage area. The Tahoe etc have a powerfold third row (like the Expedition) but also have power-tumbling for the second row -- controlled via button in the trunk. The Expedition does not have this feature.
Where the Ford delivers major advantages in its EL size is the way-back trunk space with all the seats up. It is gigantic back there - yet the Ford is more nimble and smoother than the GM triplets in this long length.
The final treat for the 2015 Expedition Platinum is the all-new suspension with adaptive dampers. This makes for a magic-carpet-ride of smoothness versus even the 2015 Escalade. The Ford is smooooooooth -- all the way back to that third row. No more bucking bronco ride for those in back over big bumps.
This new Continuously Controlled Damping setup is one of the 2015 Expedition's aces, along with its new twin-turbocharged EcoBoost engine as standard.
The adaptive dampers on this Expedition Platinum make for such a smooth and controlled ride, you would not believe it was riding on 22's. Normal, Sport and Comfort settings are selectable from the steering-wheel controls. Great roadholding in Sport mode is pretty entertaining, while the airy and pillowy feel in Comfort is the best non-air-suspension we've ever felt. Truly sublime.
This suspension is truly outstanding. It is standard on the Platinum test truck, and available on the Limited and King Ranch trims as well. We highly recommend it.
The second ace-in-the-hole for the 2015 Expedition is its new engine and transmission. This EcoBoost and six-speed auto is standard on all sizes and trim levels -- delivering more torque, more speed and more efficiency than either of the V8's previously offered. Heavy-duty torque ratings and tuning use the intercooler to even let the Expedition tow more than before. It is fast and smooth and responsive -- check out the brake-torque launch video for proof!
Brake-Torque Launch Demo
A drop of 150 pounds from the nose means the Expedition suddenly feels eager to pivot and fairly sprightly in corners. The steering is still extra relaxed, though, so despite its lightness it requires some fancy wheelwork to change direction quickly. This slow steering rack is an advantage on the highway, but a bit tedious in parking lots.
Power-operated adjustments for reach and rake are joined by power-adjustable pedals. Truly comfy for all sizes of drivers, thanks also to the quick and easy power-deploying running boards.
Lastly, as the video above and below mentions, the independent rear suspension means traction is abundant even in 2WD modes. The GM trucks need to be in AWD or 4-Auto to avoid massive wheelspin and some axle tramp to be driven with more than half throttle.
The Expedition Platinum is a delight to drive, feeling far more luxurious, quiet and serene than we ever thought possible.
The Expedition tested here is completely loaded, with an as-tested total of $68,000.
The 2015 Expedition starts from about $44,000 for the standard length model, and $47,000 for the EL.
Check out the features, colors and trim options over at Ford.com via the below link.
In summary, the Expedition Platinum is an amazing achievement for Ford. It is just a fantastic truck that rides like a limo, but hauls like a tractor and fits families like a bus.
We wish the exterior were fresher and more clearly an all-new model, but there is a charm to the simple and smooth lines of the EL.
But where we are torn is if the Expedition would be as impressive without the 22-inch wheels and the Platinum trim's CCD adaptive suspension. Being adjustable among Sport, Normal and Comfort is handy -- yet they all ride with more give than standard springs could ever achieve.
Then again, all Expeditions benefit from the new LED foglamps and exceptional new drivetrain. They are all quieter inside and all have the fantastic roominess and luggage room combination that makes this a cross-country hero.
Where we can be definitive in recommending the Expedition EL Platinum is its value. Even with a loaded tally of $68,000, this Expedition feels worth every penny. It is also a cool $20,000 less than the Escalade, $10,000 less than the Yukon Denali and $5,000 less than the Tahoe.
So before you pre-judge the 2015 full-size SUV class based on exterior freshness, go for a quick spin. You will be as wide-eyed and amazed at the Expedition as we are! A best of 2015 truck, to be sure.