With an all-new 2020 Escape already showing up at Canada’s blue-oval dealerships, it’s time to say goodbye to a third-generation Escape that’s been with us since 2013. The version seen here was dramatically refreshed to look more like its larger Edge sibling for 2017, and it’s served its many owners well since then.
Of course, with a redesign arriving there’s opportunity to save money on the outgoing 2019 model, and being that it’s still so very good, and that plenty of Ford retailers still have various trims new in stock, you may want to consider your options. At the time of writing, CarCostCanada was reporting $1,200 in additional incentives over and above any personal discount you can work out with your friendly local sales manager, which is a great conversation starter you can back up further by knowing the 2019 Escape’s actual dealer invoice price before arriving at the dealership. The best way to do this is by going to CarCostCanada where you can also discover the various features and prices of each trim, options package and individual upgrade. You can also check out pricing and features for the new 2020 Escape and even last year’s 2018 model, making CarCostCanada a vital resource when buying a new vehicle.
The top-line 2019 Escape Titanium you’re looking at has changed one iota since introduced in 2016, as witnessed by my 2017 Ford Escape Titanium AWD Road Test, a compact crossover SUV that was virtually identical to this new one, even down to its Ingot Silver exterior colour. Don’t worry, as smart as silver or white is for resale values (more people buy these shades than any other), Ford offers this 2019 model in seven additional colours, with some of the standard no-cost hues even quite vibrant such as Sedona Orange and Lightning Blue, while $450 Ruby Red and $550 White Platinum look downright rich.
I can’t say I liked this 2017-2019 grille design as much as its 2013-2016 predecessor, which was totally unique and even futuristic looking when it debuted. I remember how taken aback I was, not sure what to think initially yet warming up to it quickly enough, so that it quickly became my favourite small SUV. I understand why Ford changed up the look, both from a prospective customer’s need for something new and a requirement to visually align its SUV lineup, but for reasons not necessarily related to styling the Escape has lost a little ground to the now top-selling Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V in recent years.
Only four years ago the Escape was number one in this class, a position it had held for years. In fact, look back a bit further and the Escape nearly doubled annual sales of the RAV4 and CR-V, but it’s been on a steady slide downhill since this refresh, from a high of 52,198 units in 2014 to 47,726 in 2015, the last time it topped the category, falling to 46,661 deliveries in 2016 when the RAV4 leapt to number one, and then 47,880 sales in 2017 when both the RAV4 and CR-V passed the 50,000 threshold. The two Japanese branded SUVs kept luring in more and more new customers in 2018 when each models’ sales neared 55k, but the Escape only managed 43,587 deliveries that year, while at the close of September 2019 the Escape only pulled in 30,817 new buyers to the CR-V’s 43,464 and RAV4’s 49,473, the redesigned Toyota on target for another record year.
While this 2019 Escape is starting to show its age, especially when put beside that new RAV4 and the entirely new 2020 Escape that Ford hopes will inspire its once loyal customer base to come back to the domestic brand, it’s still a very good compact SUV that can be had for considerable savings. You won’t have your choice of colours, while available trims will come down to what’s left in stock, but with such a wide variety to choose from there’s bound to be something you’ll like.
At the start of this 2019 model year the Escape was available in base $26,399 S trim, as a $29,349 SE and $30,849 SEL, the latter designation added this year, and finally top-line $37,699 Titanium. The Titanium comes standard with all-wheel drive, while the SE and SEL can be had with AWD for an extra $1,500, and the S is only available in front-wheel drive.
If this wasn’t confusing enough, the Escape offers the choice of three gasoline-fueled four-cylinder engines, and strangely not one of them is electrified despite this model being first to market an SUV hybrid. The base model labours forward with Ford’s dozen-year-old 2.5-litre mill making 168 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque, which are respectable numbers for a base model, but most Escape buyers will pay a bit more for one of the brand’s turbocharged Ecoboost engines, the 1.5-litre making 179 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque and standard in SE and SEL trims, and the 2.0-litre version good for a very spirited 245 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque, this one standard with as-tested Titanium trim and available with the SE and SEL. So as you can likely imagine, just what you’ll find at your local Ford retailer will be anyone’s guess, although if you’ve got your heart set on a particular trim powered by a specific engine they can phone around to other dealers on your behalf.
At least the Escape’s sole six-speed SelectShift automatic makes your choice of transmission easier, which is two speeds less impressive than the new 2020 model’s eight-speed automatic, but the outgoing gearbox is proven reliable and certainly capable enough when fitted to either Ecoboost engine. The 2020 Escape will get the 1.5-litre turbo-four as standard equipment, with auto start-stop technology no less, which shuts the engine off when it would otherwise be idling, while the 2.0-litre continues to provide a performance option in a compact SUV class that’s in dire need of some excitement.
Speaking of drivetrain options, the long lost Escape Hybrid I previously complained about not being available is finally back for 2020, which is great news for those willing and able to spend more for better air quality, let alone saving some money on fuel.
While Ford isn’t providing fuel economy numbers for the new 2020 Escape just yet, the 2019 model does quite well in all trims. The 1.5-litre is the best choice for those on a budget, with the FWD version achieving a claimed 10.2 L/100km in the city, 7.8 on the highway and 9.1 combined rating, and that engine with AWD good for an estimated 11.2 city, 8.4 highway and 9.9 combined. The FWD-only base S, on the other hand, does pretty well despite its age with a rating of 11.0 city, 8.0 highway and 9.6 combined, and finally the top-tier AWD-only Titanium is extremely thrifty considering all the performance available, with a claimed rating of 11.5 city, 8.7 highway and 10.2 combined.
Looking past the 2019 model’s aging body style and just as classic interior design, its quality of materials, fit and finish, and general goodness is hard to argue against. Even its electronic interfaces are better than a number of more recently redesigned competitors, its primarily analogue gauge cluster filled with a very crisp, clear and colourful high-resolution multi-information display at centre, and its centre stack-mounted Sync 3 infotainment touchscreen soldiering on as one of the more graphically attractive and easy to use, not to mention wholly functional. It’s incorporated Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration longer than most rival systems, while its navigation/route guidance is amongst the sector’s more accurate, the system’s tap, pinch, and swipe gesture controls working ideally with the nicely detailed map, and dynamic guideline-equipped backup camera easy on the eyes. There’s much more to it, such as Bluetooth streaming audio, mobile apps, voice control, a WiFi hotspot, 911 assist, etcetera, so only those looking for premium-level options like overhead surround cameras and Near Field Communication (NFC) short-range wireless connectivity will find themselves wanting.
The centre display provides all the expected audio functions too, like AM/FM/satellite radio plus MP3 and WMA compatibility, but no HD radio, although the 10-speaker Sony system it all plays through is very good for this class. Some quick access controls sit on an angled interface just below the touchscreen, this just above a large user-friendly dual-zone automatic climate control panel, all the kind of premium equipment expected in a luxury brand, and the Escape’s top-tier Titanium trim line. Still, compared to some competitors that have digitized these controls under touch sensitive interfaces, the Escape’s look pretty dated, but a tiny pull switch for engaging the electromechanical parking brake makes it clear that Ford did everything it could to keep this model current.
Advancements in mind, my tester featured a $2,500 optional Safe and Smart + Roof Package including a panoramic sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic brake support, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, plus lane departure warning with lane keeping assist. A number of these features are also available as part of a separate package in the two mid-range trims, so you don’t need to go full tilt with a Titanium model in order to benefit from these advanced driver assistive systems.
I’m not going to bother going into each and every standard and optional feature with this SUV, because as explained earlier it’s now a WYSIWYG affair, but over and above everything already mentioned this Titanium includes 18-inch alloy wheels, HID headlights with LED signature lighting, a heatable steering wheel, leather upholstery, an auto-dimming centre mirror, front parking sensors, a 110-volt household-style power outlet, a foot gesture-controlled hands-free liftgate and plenty more, while highlights pulled up from lesser trims include extra chrome exterior trim, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a powered liftgate, rear parking sensors and more from the SEL; fog lamps, body-colour exterior details, proximity-sensing keyless access with pushbutton ignition, Ford’s exclusive keyless entry keypad, one-touch up/down power windows all around, a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, dual-zone auto HVAC, heated front seats plus more from the SE; and finally auto on/off headlamps, a windshield wiper de-icer, remote engine start, keyless remote entry, MyKey, variable intermittent wipers, powered windows, air conditioning, an overhead console with sunglasses holder, SOS Post-Crash Alert System, all the usual airbags including one for the driver’s knees, and much more from the base S model.
Some Escape Titanium materials quality highlights include a mostly soft-touch dash top that nicely wraps all the way around the infotainment controls before crossing over to the front door uppers. The door inserts and armrests are nicely padded too, as is the centre armrest/bin lid, while at least the mid-door panel niceties extend into the rear seating area as well, but that’s about it for soft synthetic pampering. Ford spiffs up the instrument panel with some piano black lacquered trim that extends across the dash and down each side of the centre stack, while a tasteful assortment of aluminized accents added a bit of brightness to my tester’s mostly black cabin, but other than a touch of blue and red for the temperature controls, the lovely aqua blue needles within the gauge cluster, the dark blue and sky blue backgrounds used for the multi-info display and centre touchscreen respectively, this Escape won’t exactly stimulate one’s colour-craved senses.
The leather upholstery is nice, and features what looks like cream-coloured contrast stitching, while the driver’s seat is plenty comfortable and the SUV’s driving position much better than some others in this class. In fact, I’d call its ergonomics excellent thanks to a tilt and telescopic steering column with enough rearward reach to make my long-legged, short-torso frame feel right at home. This isn’t always the case, as anyone who reads my reviews regularly will know, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a competitor with as much driver adjustment as this Escape. Visibility is excellent all-round too.
The rear seating area is spacious and reasonably comfortable too, especially if positioned in the outboard window seats, but take note you don’t exactly sit in the seats, but rather on top of them, and there’s not much lateral support at all. Fortunately, taller teens will have no problem fitting in thanks to reclining seatbacks, while the folding armrest at centre improves comfort and provides a place for drinks. Rear ventilation can be found on the backside of the front console, where the aforementioned 110-volt outlet features a more useful three-pronged socket. I was surprised not to see heatable seats in back, especially in this top-of-the-line model, but those wanting such luxuries can ante up for Lincoln’s MKC, soon to be renamed Corsair, which is basically a 2019 Escape Titanium with more glitz and glamour.
The rear hatch powers up out of the way via foot-activated gesture control as noted earlier, revealing a sizeable 964 litres (34.0 cubic feet) of cargo space behind the 60/40-split rear seatbacks, or 1,925 litres (68.0 cu ft) when these are lowered. I’d prefer a 40/20/40-split, or even a centre pass-through to provide room for longer items like skis down the middle while rear passengers enjoy the more comfortable and scenic window seats, but such configurations are rare outside of the premium sector, so this can hardly be seen as a deal-breaker. Ford doesn’t include any mechanisms for automatically folding the rear seats down while loading in cargo either, unlike some rivals, but on the positive a flap drops down to cover the gap between seatbacks and cargo floor so smaller items don’t slip between the cracks, so to speak, and the expanded cargo area does provide a fairly flat load floor.
Before it starts sounding like I’m beating up on this poor old Escape, the fact of the matter is it remains a very good compact crossover SUV with the best performance in its class by far. Its arguably old school transmission might be short a couple of gears compared to some competitors (and its own replacement), but it goes about its business with a level of smooth refinement that would make a JATCO engineer proud, although my tester’s steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters combined with a manual mode affecting real gears makes it a lot more enjoyable to drive than most competitors that are now using continuously variable transmissions (hence the JATCO reference, which is one of the world’s largest suppliers of CVTs). The Escape’s shifts are comparatively crisp and quick, resulting in a much more engaging experience than any of its top challengers, all of which use CVTs.
On this sportiness theme, a slightly firmer suspension means the Escape Titanium isn’t the smoothest riding model in its compact SUV class. It’s hardly rough or uncomfortable, but you’ll notice each bump and road imperfection in a fairly pronounced manner, unlike a RAV4 or CR-V that better isolate driver and passengers, but keep in mind the Escape Titanium’s more capable driving dynamics will have you smiling at speed on a winding back road. Of note, all Escapes incorporate torque-vectoring control and Curve Control that senses if you’re going to fast when entering a corner and, if so, automatically slows you down via throttle reduction and anti-lock braking.
That pretty well sums up the 2019 Escape, particularly in Titanium trim. It remains a solid competitor that’s stood the test of time because it was well conceived in the first place, and would be a good choice for someone who’d rather save money than be seen in the most modern compact SUV currently available. I can’t say whether or not its replacement will be worth paying more for as I haven’t even sat in it, but it make gains mechanically and now offers a hybrid, plus its infotainment systems appear to have made a step upward as well. This is important, because it will need to last for six years as well if Ford plans to follow its past upgrade schedule, which is one year longer than its main rivals. Now we’ll have to see how well it does against the RAV4, CR-V and an ever-improving crop of compact SUVs.
If you like the current Ford Explorer, or more accurately the outgoing Explorer, now is the time to act. The version I’m referring to is the unabashedly Range Rover-inspired fifth-generation introduced…
If you like the current Ford Explorer, or more accurately the outgoing Explorer, now is the time to act. The version I’m referring to is the unabashedly Range Rover-inspired fifth-generation introduced in 2010 for the 2011 model year, and it’s now being replaced by an entirely new 2020 model that’s quickly making this well-seasoned SUV sort of forgettable, just like most ground-up redesigns of decade-old vehicles do.
Let’s be reasonable, the sport utility on this page isn’t exactly a spring chicken, so it was beyond time to send it to pasture. What’s more, it rides on the Ford D4 platform that dates back to the 2004 Five Hundred/Taurus family sedan (a low point for the once-great designer J Mays, the Five Hundred looking geriatric when it was brand knew) and 2007 Freestyle/Taurus X (I was on the private Five Hundred unveiling as part of a Mercury event, and the Five Hundred and Freestyle launch trips), and that D4 architecture actually dates back to the 1999 Volvo S80 (P2 architecture), introduced the year before (Ford purchased Volvo in 1999). The D4 has served blue oval product planners very well since then, underpinning a couple of US-only Mercurys (RIP), the Lincoln MKS and MKT, and Ford’s Flex.
Despite its age the 2019 Explorer remains a very handsome and mostly up-to-date SUV. As its styling has developed over the years, it has taken on more Ford DNA and eschewed its once copycat Range Rover look, which is a good thing as it was important for the American brand to proudly display its own identity rather than aping a premium image pulled from a brand once owned. I particularly like the look of this Limited model, as it’s chrome-enhanced exterior features large 20-inch alloys and plenty of other styling upgrades, yet it’s still less optioned out when compared to its pricier siblings, making its design ideally clean and elegant.
This generation of Explorer has served Ford and ultimately its loyal owner base well throughout its nine-year tenure, with a number of exterior styling updates, new powertrains, and improved infotainment interfaces keeping it fresh and modern. Every time I spend a week with one I’m reminded why it’s so incredibly popular, with Canadian sales consistently in the top three or four amongst mid-size SUVs and number one as far as three-row entries go, but despite looking good, delivering strong performance, and providing all the features buyers in this class expect, it’s starting to show its age in other ways, particularly some of the rubberized soft-touch and harder composite materials chosen inside.
The 2019 Explorer shown on this page looks identical to last year’s refreshed 2018 model, that version a subtler styling update of the more comprehensive 2016 mid-cycle makeover. Of course, Ford changed up the wheels and plenty of features since then, but it’s pretty much the same under the skin.
Three engines are available, starting with Ford’s standard 2.3-litre Ecoboost that makes a healthy 280 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque, this turbocharged four-cylinder followed up by a 3.5-litre Ti-VCT V6 good for 290 horsepower and 255 lb-ft of torque for $1,000 extra (interestingly the opposite of last year’s powertrain lineup that made this comparatively old-school V6 standard), its advantage being towing capacity that moves up from 2,000 pounds standard and 3,000 lbs maximum (907 and 1,360 kilos), depending on the inclusion of its Class II tow package or not, to 2,000 and 5,000 lbs (907 and 2,268 kilos), the latter with its Class III trailering upgrade, which are the same tow ratings given to the top-line turbocharged 3.5-litre Ecoboost that turns this family workhorse into a fiery thoroughbred thanks to 365 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque.
My tester was trimmed out in $46,034 Limited grade, one above the new base XLT that now starts at $39,448 (last year’s no-name front-drive base model is history, along with its more affordable $34,899 entry price), these two versions offering the first two engine choices, whereas $49,683 Sport and $55,379 Platinum trims come solely with the more formidable powertrain (check out CarCostCanada for all 2019 Ford Explorer pricing including trims, packages and individual options, plus available rebates and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands).
Fortunately for me and my wallet Ford left my tester with its base powertrain, its standard engine providing good economy at 13.1 L/100km in the city, 9.2 on the highway and 11.4 combined, which is great for such a large, capable and powerful SUV, and much better than the normally aspirated V6 engine’s rating of 14.5 city, 10.6 highway and 12.7 combined, and infinitely easier on the budget than the V6 Ecoboost’s V8-like 15.2, 10.9 and 13.2 respectively. You’ll need to fill it with 93-octane premium fuel to achieve those numbers with both Ecoboost engines, by the way, but not so with the lesser V6, so real-life running costs between the base and mid-range engines are probably very close.
Before you start comparing the Explorer’s base fuel economy with its challengers you’ll need to factor in that this SUV now comes standard with Ford’s Intelligent 4WD, not front-wheel drive like it used to in Canada, and most competitors still do. Along with its standard 4WD, the Explorer also features the domestic brand’s Range Rover-like Terrain System that manages all types of on- and off-road surfaces, simply by its driver turning a console-mounted dial. Not a serious 4×4 like Ford’s own full-size Expedition, the Explorer nevertheless is quite capable over light- and even medium-duty trails by using its Snow, Gravel, Grass Mode, Sand Mode, or Mud, Rut Mode terrain management selections, optimized by standard Hill Descent Control and the SUV’s regular traction and stability control systems, while default Normal Mode is optimal for everyday use.
Off-road capability in mind, the Explorer rides higher than most crossover SUVs in the mid-size segment, feeling more like a true truck-based utility, yet as mentioned earlier in this review it’s based on a regular unibody platform architecture. This helps it maintain a tight, rigid body structure, something that’s noticeable as soon as bumps, dips and other road surface irregularities try to impede forward momentum, the result of Ford’s fine tuning over the years, as well as its inherently stable independent front strut and rear multi-link suspension design that comes complete with a 32-mm stabilizer bar up front and a 22-mm one in the rear, all providing an excellent balance of ride quality and handling.
The as-tested Explorer Limited is no lightweight, hitting the scales at 2,066 kg (4,556 lbs) despite only harnessing its base 2.3-litre Ecoboost, but the previously noted thrust and twist figures make for a powerful punch off the line, and the sole six-speed automatic transmission is certainly a good match to the engine, not to mention much more proven than all the new eight-, nine- and even 10-speed autoboxes showing up on the market these days; the redesigned 2020 Explorer getting the latter. I found the six-speed shifted smoothly and positively, aided by a thumb rocker switch on the shift knob for manual mode, and therefore I’d have no problem with its performance for reliability tradeoff.
Comfort is one of the Explorer’s greatest assets, and it comes with room to spare. It seats seven in standard trim or six with its second-row captain’s chairs, the latter providing an easy passageway for kids to climb through, which can be helpful if you’ve got a child strapped into a booster or safety seat. My tester seated three abreast comfortably in the second row, the outboard positions benefiting from two-way heatable cushions with switchgear located on the backside of the front centre console next to a manual HVAC interface, two USB charge ports and a three-prong household-style 110-volt socket, while each 60/40-split side of seats flip forward almost completely out of the way when needing to access the third row. The two rearmost passengers should be comfortable enough unless particularly tall, with my five-foot-eight frame finding room enough in all directions.
Those 50/50 split folding third-row seats can be lowered into the deep luggage well via available power controls on the cargo wall, and they stow much like they would in a high-end minivan (something Ford no longer sells), while the second-row seats need to be manually lowered via the rear side doors. When completely laid flat the Explorer’s cargo capacity expands from 595 litres (21.0 cubic feet) behind the third row, or 1,240 litres (43.9 cubic feet) behind the second row, to a maximum of 2,313 litres (81.7 cubic feet) behind the first row. That’s pretty sizeable, and easily on par with most three-row competitors.
Back up front, the Explorer Limited’s 10-way powered driver’s seat should be comfortable for the majority of body types, with a good inherent design and plenty of adjustments including four-way powered lumbar support and memory. The powered steering column provides plenty of reach, which allowed me to set up my driving position for optimal comfort and control, while the majority of buttons, knobs and switches across the instrument panel and console were within easy reach.
The centre touchscreen comes filled with Ford’s excellent Sync 3 infotainment interface. Its white and black (and sometimes maroon) on light blue graphics continue to look fresh and attractive, and it remains fairly fast reacting if not the highest in resolution compared to some newer systems in more recently updated models offered by competitors as well as Ford itself, such as the new 2020 Explorer. Still, despite its matte display, which helps limit fingerprint smudges, it’s bright and clear, unlike some rival interfaces that are so washed out you can’t see any details on a sunny day due to glare. For instance, I found it near impossible to read a 2019 Toyota Highlander’s centre display in certain lighting conditions (which incidentally was not yet equipped with Toyota’s latest Entune system), and it became even worse when wearing my polarized sunglasses. In the Explorer this is not a problem.
The quality of all Explorer switchgear is certainly up to par with others this class too, some of it actually quite special. The rotating audio dial, for instance, features knurled metal-look edging that gives it a premium appearance and feel, while I was also impressed with the woodgrain trim’s density, this spanning the dash and each door panel, and I love the way the satin-finish aluminum accents wrap around the wood before butting up against each piece of door trim. It would’ve been better if said sections of decorative dash and door inlays matched up with each other, these pieces not aligned properly during assembly (see photos 28 and 29 in the gallery), but Ford should get kudos for the quality of materials and overall design just the same (you can request that your dealer properly hangs the doors at the point of sale, so all the interior trim bits line up better).
The woodgrain and metallic trim is standard, while over and above features already mentioned the base XLT also comes with LED signature lighting around the otherwise automatic LED low-beam headlamps, plus LED fog lamps, LED taillights, 18-inch alloy wheels on 245/60 all-season tires, silver roof rails, Ford’s Easy Fuel capless refueling filler, remote engine start, proximity keyless access with pushbutton ignition, Ford’s SecuriCode entry keypad, MyKey, forward and reverse parking sensors, a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, a leather-clad shift knob, an eight-way powered driver’s seat, heated front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment with a rearview camera, seven-speaker AM/FM/MP3 audio with satellite radio, FordPass Connect with a Wi-Fi Hotspot, a media hub with a smart-charging USB and four 12-volt power points (two in the first row, one in the second row, and one in the cargo area), filtered dual-zone automatic temperature control, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and much more.
Also standard is an amply strong body shell and enough safety equipment to achieve an NHTSA 5-star crash safety rating, while Ford also offers a new (last year) $1,000 Safe and Smart Package that includes rain-sensing wipers, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with brake support, and lane-keeping assist.
Ford added the Safe and Smart Package to my Limited tester, which otherwise gets upgraded with a fair bit of extra chrome trim outside, two-inch larger 20-inch alloys on 255/50 rubber, power-folding side mirrors with integrated LED turn signals, ambient interior lighting, a heatable steering wheel rim, a powered tilt and telescopic steering column, a universal garage door opener, standard perforated leather upholstery featuring three-way forced ventilation and memory (that also controls the mirrors and steering column), a 10-way powered front passenger seat, a 180-degree split-view front parking camera, voice-activated navigation with SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link, a hands-free foot-activated powered liftgate, great sounding 12-speaker Sony audio, the 110-volt AC power outlet, heated second-row seats, and power-folding third row I mentioned earlier, plus Ford added a $1,750 dual-pane powered panoramic sunroof overhead, all of which kept this particular Explorer below the $50k threshold, including its destination charge.
Plenty of additional options and packages are available, including a $1,500 XLT Desert Copper Package that adds special 20-inch alloys, chromed side mirrors, and black/copper leather upholstery to the entry-level XLT trim; plus the $1,600 XLT Sport Appearance Package with special “EXPLORER” block lettering on the lip of the hood, unique Magnetic Metallic-painted (black) 20-inch rims, additional exterior accents painted in the Magnetic Metallic hue, black roof rails, “EXPLORER” embroidered front floor mats, special door trim panels with Fire Orange contrast stitching, exclusive black leather upholstery with perforated Miko inserts, Foxfire scrim and the same Fire Orange contrast stitching, etcetera.
My Limited tester could have included a $2,900 301A package that includes the Safe and Smart Package plus a set of Multicontour front seats with Active Motion massage, enhanced active park assist, and exclusive inflatable rear outboard safety belts.
As for aforementioned Sport trim, the much more powerful and notably sophisticated looking model replaces any exterior chrome with high-gloss black trim, including the mirror caps and door handles, plus adds a unique blackout treatment to the headlamps and taillights, while also adding its own set of black 20-inch alloys, upgrades the cabin to include perforated leather seating with red stitching and an enhanced Sony audio system with Clear Phase and Live Acoustics, while including all of the Limited trim’s features as well as the Safe and Smart Package as standard.
Lastly, top-tier Platinum trim includes everything already mentioned except for replacing all of the black trim with satin-chrome silver and adding a set of quad tailpipes to its backside, this variation on the Explorer theme being the most Range Rover-esque from a design perspective, but nevertheless a very sharp looking family hauler. The Explorer Platinum also makes the twin-panel moonroof standard, adds power-adjustable foot pedals and active park assist, plus upgrades the interior with Ash Swirl hardwood trim bordered by genuine aluminum accents as well as rich Nirvana (not the band) leather upholstery featuring micro-perforations and quilted bolsters. Also included are the massaging Multicontour front seats from the previously noted 301A package, an upgraded instrument cluster, a leather-covered instrument panel and door uppers, more leather over the door and centre console armrests, a special headliner, and active noise reduction.
Certainly the Platinum would’ve been a nicer ride than my Limited-trimmed tester, but for about $6k less it was still very good looking, enjoyable to drive, fuel-efficient, loaded with luxury features, incredibly accommodating from front to back, and pretty well finished inside, give or take a couple of unaligned trim bits.
All in all the outgoing 2019 Explorer is still a great three-row SUV that no doubt can be had for quite a bargain now that it’s life-cycle is ending and an all-new Explorer is in the midst of launching.
To say that Ford leads SUV sales in this country is almost as big an understatement as merely stating that the F-Series is Canada’s best-selling pickup truck. F-Series sales were 145,694 units last…
To say that Ford leads SUV sales in this country is almost as big an understatement as merely stating that the F-Series is Canada’s best-selling pickup truck.
F-Series sales were 145,694 units last year compared to 108,569 total full-size GM trucks (55,097 Chevy Silverados and 53,472 GMC Sierras), and 77,951 Ram pickups, with sales actually picking up from January through May 2019 at 59,511 F-Series units to GM’s 41,207 large pickups and Ram’s 37,152 deliveries over the same five months. As for Toyota and Nissan, the full-size Tundra sold 11,738 units in 2018 and 4,238 as of May 31, 2019, while Titan found just 5,445 buyers last year and a scant 1,399 by the end of May this year.
In the commercial van sector Ford’s lead is even stronger, obliterating its competitors with 22,214 Transit, E-Series and Transit Connect models through 2018 plus 10,658 units up until May 31, 2019, compared to 10,796 total GM vans delivered last year and 4,215 over the first five months of this year, 6,538 Mercedes-Benz vans sold through 2018 plus 2,166 from January through May, 4,362 Ram vans delivered last year and 2,627 more up to the close of May 2019, plus 2,527 Nissan vans down the road in 2018 and 1,122 from January through May this year.
How about mainstream SUVs? While Ford benefited from a less comfortable lead in total crossover and SUV sales across Canada last year, it nevertheless remained out front with 92,418 EcoSport, Escape, Edge, Explorer, Flex, and Expedition models delivered, but with just 36,861 units from January through May of 2019 compared to 86,964 last year and a new lead of 37,125 units from Nissan up until May 31, 2019, not to mention 85,830 from Toyota throughout 2018 and another higher number of 37,348 sales through May, Ford has its work cut out for it if it plans to stay ahead of its closest rivals this year.
While we’re talking SUV competitors, I should also point out that FCA (Jeep, Dodge and Fiat) sold 84,387 SUVs last year and 35,776 up until May 31 this year, whereas GM’s three brands (Chevrolet, GMC and Buick) managed 78,002 and 39,407 units respectively, Honda delivered 72,022 and 32,802 new SUVs respectively, and Hyundai found 67,171 and 29,613 new SUV customers during the same two periods of time.
Take note that one of Ford’s better-selling SUVs, the Explorer, saw its sales slip by a significant 45.14-percent over the first five months of 2019 in preparation for a totally redesigned model being launched now (they wouldn’t want to stick their dealers with too many older examples when the new one arrives), while Nissan and Toyota had new high-volume subcompact and compact models come online, so we should expect Ford to regain its SUV sales leadership over the final seven months of this year.
Of course, every other volume brand sells into the crossover SUV sector too, and new models designed to disrupt the status quo are arriving regularly, so we’ll just have to wait to see if the blue-oval brand manages to stay on top over the long run, but keep in mind that Ford’s all-new retro-inspired Bronco 4×4 will soon go up against Jeep’s Wrangler, while its rumoured Baby Bronco will provide an off-road alternative in an even smaller package, and likely be more appealing to Canadians than Jeep’s Renegade that’s been an unparalleled flop (only rivaled by its Fiat 500X platform-mate).
Two of Ford’s lowest performing models on the sales charts include the incredibly resilient three-row Flex crossover that surprisingly found 115.71 percent more customers during the first five months of 2019 than it did over the same period last year, its total year-to-date deliveries at 1,812 units as of May 31, 2019, which probably won’t be enough to cause Dearborn to keep the unique model in the lineup after being slated for cancellation next year, while the full-size three-row Expedition being reviewed here (you were probably wondering when I’d get around to talking about it) saw its sales increase by 29.4 percent from January through May, up to 2,007 deliveries, albeit that’s after year-over-year Expedition sales fell by 12.67 percent throughout 2018.
You might remember me using the word “obliterate” to describe Ford’s dominance in the commercial van segment earlier in this review, but that doesn’t even begin to sum up how dramatically GM outperforms Ford and all others in the Expedition’s full-size SUV segment. Where Ford only offers its Expedition and longer Expedition Max to large utility buyers, the General has Chevrolet and GMC anteing up with their Tahoe/Suburban and Yukon/Yukon XL regular and long-wheelbase models respectively, Ford’s aforementioned 2,007 Expedition deliveries over the first five months of 2019, and 2,798 sales throughout 2018 looking pale by comparison to 4,617 deliveries of the four GM models in 2019 (comprised of 1,357 Tahoes, 1,255 Yukons, 1,058 Suburbans and 947 Yukon XLs), and 11,629 total units sold through 2018 (including 3,576 Tahoes, 3,061 Yukons, 2,789 Suburbans and 2,266 Yukon XLs).
The best of the rest is Nissan’s Armada that saw its sales rise to an all-time high of 1,435 units last year, followed by a rather scant 321 units sold up until May 31 of 2019, while the trailing Toyota Sequoia’s sales fell to 684 units in 2018, and have only managed 248 deliveries over the same five months of 2019.
Interestingly, the same scenario plays out within this full-size SUV category’s competing luxury brands, with the Lincoln Navigator doing well thanks to an 80.52-percent year-over-year bump from 2017 through 2018 totaling 1,177 units, plus another 21.83-percent increase from January through May 2019 resulting in 720 deliveries, but despite Cadillac’s Escalade sales having fallen by 5.43 percent last year it still managed a much healthier 2,767 total units, while Escalade deliveries bounced back by 4.90 percent over the first five months of 2019 to 1,050 unit sales.
Now where were we? Oh yes, the difference between the now decade-old Flex dying and the latest Expedition, which was totally redesigned last year, continuing to live, come down to plant availability and profit margins, with the Flex produced at Ford’s Oakville Assembly plant in Oakville, Ontario, along with the highly popular Edge, impressive new Lincoln Nautilus, and the equally long-in-tooth and ancient D4 platform-sharing Lincoln MKT that only remains alive to serve in airport limousine and funeral service fleets (oh gods of the universe please don’t let me go to my place of rest in that horrid looking contraption), plus truly unlucky marrying couples and graduates (hopefully the powers that be within Lincoln will find a replacement for the MKT soon—the fabulous looking, wonderfully outfitted, and strong performing Continental anyone?), whereas the new fourth-generation Expedition rides on the same much more recently introduced body-on-frame and aluminum-skinned T-Platform as the F-Series pickup truck mentioned earlier, albeit the larger Super-Duty versions, and therefore gets produced at Ford’s Louisville, Kentucky Truck Assembly plant, alongside the just-noted heavy-duty pickup and Lincoln’s just-noted Navigator.
That Navigator adopted the same aluminum body construction as the Expedition last year, both full-size SUVs having received ground-up redesigns for 2018, hence their recent growth in sales. The mostly alloy (and I must say very good looking) skin joins up with a high-strength lightweight boron steel and aluminium frame to further reduce the Expedition’s curb weight by 44 kilograms to 90 kg (97 to 199 lbs) depending on trim, or 135 kg (just under 300 lbs) for the longer Expedition Max (EL in the U.S.), yet despite such a significant reduction in overall mass the upgraded SUV is more than 100 mm (4.0 inches) longer than the outgoing model in regular wheelbase form, and 28 mm (1.1 inches) lengthier than the old SUV in its larger Max body-style, while its wheelbase gets stretched by nearly 90 mm (3.5 inches) for the regular-length model and by 15 mm (0.6 inches) in the Max, plus it gains more than 25 mm (1.0 inch) from side to side.
The regular-wheelbase Expedition’s size and its lightweight aluminum design are reasons you may want to consider this newest version over the best-selling Tahoe/Yukon pairing, all of these more rugged truck-based SUVs often chosen over unibody car-based crossovers for their passenger carrying and load hauling capabilities, so therefore the more the merrier in this respect.
The new Expedition’s larger dimensions make for an even roomier cabin than the previous generation’s already generous proportions, while the cargo compartment grows to a maximum of 2,962 litres (104.6 cubic feet) in the regular length model, or 3,439 litres (121.4 cubic feet) in Expedition Max form, the latter providing 477 litres (16.9 cu ft) more gear-toting space than the regular Expedition. This means 4×8 sheets of building material can be laid flat on top of the load floor with the tailgate closed.
Addition cargo dimensions include 1,627 litres (57.4 cu ft) behind the regular Expedition’s second row and 2,077 litres (73.3 cu ft) behind that in the Max, or alternatively 1,800 and 2,254 litres (63.5 and 79.6 cu ft) respectively for the same area when the second row is pulled all the way forward, and lastly 546 litres and 972 litres (19.3 and 34.3 cu ft) behind the regular Expedition’s and Expedition Max’s third row respectively, or 593 and 1,019 litres (20.9 and 36.0 cu ft) in the regular and Max models’ rearmost compartment when the third row is fully upright. Got that?
Incidentally, both second- and third-row seats can be powered up and down individually via rocker switches on the cargo wall, a really helpful feature in such a large vehicle, and standard with Limited and Platinum trims (third-row PowerFold seats are standard across the line). What’s more, those rows fold completely flat so that all types of cargo have a better chance of remaining upright throughout the journey.
When compared to the Tahoe and Suburban it’s easy to see the Expedition and Expedition Max are considerably more accommodating, with the Chevy’s shorter wheelbase model’s 2,682 litres (94.7 cu ft) of maximum cargo space shy by a whopping 280 litres (9.9 cu ft), its 1,464-litre (51.7 cu-ft) capacity aft of its second row down by 163 litres (5.7 cu ft), and its 433 litres (15.3 cu ft) of gear-toting space behind the third row short by 160 litres (5.6 cu ft).
As for the Suburban, its 3,446 litres (121.7 cu ft) of maximum cargo capacity is actually 7 litres (0.02 cu ft) larger than the Expedition Max’s grand total, or more or less a wash, while the 2,172 litres (76.7 cu ft) behind its second row make it less accommodating by 82 litres (2.9 cu ft), although the big GM climbs back on top with 94 litres (3.3 cu ft) of extra storage room behind the third row thanks to 1,113 litres (39.3 cu ft) of cargo volume.
If towing is more on your agenda, take note the regular wheelbase Expedition can now trailer up to 4,218 kilos (9,300 lbs) when upfitted with its $1,400 Heavy-Duty Trailer Tow Package (the base model is good for 4,173 kg/9,200 lbs with the same package), which is an increase of 45 kg (100 lbs) over its predecessor, plus this is the full-size SUV segment’s best result by a long shot. Standard is trailer sway control, which works together with AdvanceTrac traction control and Roll Stability Control (RSC) in order to maintain total command of both SUV and trailer.
Once again comparing the Expedition to the current Tahoe shows 3,901 kg (8,600 lbs) of capacity, but that’s with its most capable version in rear-wheel drive trim, whereas the Expedition comes standard as a 4×4 in Canada. The best the Tahoe 4×4 can do is 3,810 kg (8,400 lbs), a considerable 408 kg (900 lbs) less than the Expedition. Likewise the Expedition Max is good for a maximum of 4,082 kg (9,000 lbs) of total trailer weight, whereas its Suburban rival can only tow up to 3,765 litres (8,300 lbs) in its two-wheel drive layout and just 3,629 kg (8,000 lbs) with its more directly competitive four-wheel drive configuration.
A key reason the Expedition is such an effective beast of burden is its updated twin-turbocharged 3.5-litre Ecoboost V6 that’s now good for 375 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque in base XLT and mid-range Limited trims, the latter shown here, while an even more potent version puts out 400 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of torque in top-tier Platinum trim. These two powerplants are mated to a brand new 10-speed automatic transmission that, together with standard idle start/stop technology that automatically shuts off the engine when it would otherwise be idling and then quickly restarts it when lifting your foot from the brake, helps deliver much better fuel-efficiency than the outgoing model.
By comparison, the Tahoe offers full-size SUV buyers 20 horsepower and a shocking 87 lb-ft of torque less performance with its base 5.3-litre V8, which comes mated to a reliable albeit less sophisticated six-speed automatic, while its top-line engine is a massive 6.2-litre V8 mated up to a version of the same 10-speed automatic used in the Expedition (Ford and GM smartly developed this advanced gearbox together in order to save money), this combination providing 20 more horsepower than the most potent Ecoboost V6, albeit 20 lb-ft of torque less twist.
As noted, the Expedition’s 10-speed really helps reduce fuel economy, something I noticed during my weeklong drive. I actually had no trouble getting close to Transport Canada’s rating of 14.1 L/100km city, 10.6 highway and 12.5 combined when going easy on the throttle, which compares well against the heavier steel-bodied 2017 Expedition with its six-speed automatic that only managed a 15.9 L/100km city, 12.0 highway and 14.2 combined rating in its regular length form. The new Expedition is much thriftier than the 2019 Tahoe 4×4’s best Transport Canada rating of 15.8 city, 11.1 highway and 13.7 combined too, despite the Expedition’s significant power advantage.
Likewise, the long-wheelbase 2019 Expedition Max’s claimed rating of just 14.7 city, 11.2 highway and 13.1 combined beats its steel-bodied predecessor that could only manage 16.1, 12.2 and 14.3 respectively, a significant improvement, while the best Transport Canada rating for the base Suburban 4×4 is 16.8 city, 11.3 highway and 14.3 combined, worse than the old Expedition Max if driven around town most often. Also notable, there’s no stated difference in fuel economy from the base Ecoboost engine to the more powerful version, but the larger optional 6.2-litre V8 in the Tahoe and Suburban slightly increases fuel consumption to 16.4 city, 10.7 highway and 13.8 combined or 17.1, 11.3 and 14.5 respectively.
Along with standard four-wheel drive, the new Expedition also gets a version of the Explorer’s terrain management system, allowing the choice of driving styles, the capability of maximizing traction on various road and trail surfaces, plus the ability to set the SUV up to either tow a trailer or have it hauled behind a larger vehicle (although the latter is a bit hard to imagine given the size this SUV), all from a dial on the lower console.
On pavement, where I spent most of my time with the Expedition, I found its Ecoboost V6 nice and smooth, albeit complemented by the sound of a pleasant V8-like rumble emanating throughout the cabin. Step on the throttle and it feels even stronger than the majority of V8s thanks to all the aforementioned horsepower and torque, and therefore would be my choice in this class unless Ford opts to offer the Expedition with a Powerstroke diesel at some point, but that won’t likely ever happen due to emissions regulations.
The new 10-speed automatic might be an even smoother operator than the engine. It’s truly almost as seamless as a CVT, shifting often albeit without commotion, and responding well to more aggressive digs at the pedal, with fairly quick downshifts and continued silky operation. Likewise, I never tried to defeat the auto idle start/stop system as it shut itself off at stoplights without much notice and restarted immediately, again without even a hiccup.
Speaking of smooth, the Expedition’s ride is a comforting mix of pillows, clouds and whip cream. Ok, that was a stretch, but it nevertheless soaked up bumps, dips and other road imperfections wonderfully around town, out on the highway and pretty much everywhere else, even during some quick tests on gravel roads and wily trails. The Expedition is probably best on the open freeway where it’s ability to cruise for hundreds of miles upon miles in any given stint is superb, this ability made even more relaxing via dynamic cruise control that makes life behind the wheel as easy as can be, while its handling around sharper curves is nevertheless very good for this class, its rear suspension being an independent multi-link design unlike the Tahoe’s non-independent solid rear axle, plus the Expedition’s road and wind noise pretty nominal considering it’s shaped like a big brick.
I even found my Expedition tester quite nimble through traffic, aided by the excellent visibility its extremely tall ride-height provides. This said parallel parking in the inner city or trying to find a large enough spot in a parking garage can be challenging, but then again most of the folks I know who own a full-size SUV have a smaller vehicle for getting around town.
Along with all the performance and luxurious ride is a cabin that’s improved so much over its predecessor that I’m really wondering why there’s a need for a Lincoln Navigator in the lineup. Okay, I probably shouldn’t go that far because the 2019 Navigator I recently tested really impressed me with authentic hardwood and a lot of premium materials all-round, more than making up for the $12k or so price upgrade needed to get into a similarly equipped model, but I certainly wouldn’t need all the fancy stuff in a family hauler like this, and found my Expedition Limited test model incredibly comfortable, especially the driver’s seat that was about as supportive as can be found in this full-size segment. It only includes two-way lumbar support, mind you, although to Ford’s credit that lumbar pad powered in and out exactly where the small of my back required it, so it’s hard for me to complain (but you should to try the lumbar support on for size). I found the driver seat’s squab fit nicely under my knees too, although can’t say how it would feel for someone with shorter legs.
Back to the subject of materials quality, Ford finishes most of the dash top ahead of the driver and front passenger in attractive, soft-touch stitched and padded leatherette, this premium material actually flowing all the way around the sides of the primary gauge cluster, and also forming a separate horizontal strip ahead of the front passenger between chromed metallic inlays. Likewise the top of each door upper was furnished in the same high quality padded and stitched leatherette, front and back no less, while the tops and sides of the armrests are nicely padded as well.
The Limited trim’s woodgrain is finished with a matte treatment, but Ford didn’t even try to make it feel real. I have to say it looks pretty good though, so I can’t see many complaining as this is the way they’ve offered up the Expedition since day one, and if you want more you can move up to the new Navigator as mentioned a moment ago. One thing I like more than the Navigator is the knurled metal rotating dial for swapping gears, this a lot more intuitive than the latest Lincoln’s horizontal row of buttons.
Ford complements its gear selector with a smaller rotating knurled metal dial for choosing drive modes, which include Normal, Eco, Sport, Tow/Haul, Mud and Ruts, Sand, and Grass/Gravel/Snow. I set it to Normal for most of my time behind the wheel, but found that Eco was a good choice when driving around town in busy traffic as well, plus I’m sure there were fuel savings from doing so.
Eco mode retards the 10-speed transmission’s shift points so it doesn’t hold gears as long, amongst other things, although if you need to move off the line quickly to get ahead of slower moving traffic the engine certainly responds well enough. Sport mode doesn’t allow the auto start-stop function to work, so the engine is always primed and ready to go, while shift points are higher in the rev range resulting in more responsive performance. Also important, when still in Sport mode yet driving in a more relaxed manner, the transmission won’t simply hold engine revs high for no apparent reason, making this gearbox design a lot more intelligent than many others I’ve driven.
I scrolled through the other drive mode functions for testing purposes and all seemed up to their various tasks, although only a true test over specified terrain would verify. This said I’ve experienced Ford’s Terrain Management System in other models before, such as the Explorer, and can only imagine it would work even better in this true body-on-frame 4×4.
Back to interior niceties, the instrument panel includes an impressive analogue/digital gauge cluster. It smartly shows a row of 10 gears right next to the tachometer, which move up and down as they slot into place. The standard multi-information display between the two analogue gauges is very large at 8.0 inches in diameter, and extremely high in resolution, plus it’s filled with an eye-arresting array of attractive graphics boasting excellent contrast and depth of colour. Functions include an off-road status panel with an inclinometer and more, a real-time fuel economy average that showed 18.3 L/100km when taking notes (fortunately not my weeklong average), a comprehensive trip mileage panel, some engine information such as driving hours and idle hours (my tester showing 209 total hours of which 63 were idling, so the need for an idle start-stop system in a vehicle like this is understandable), a turbo boost gauge, and more.
If you’re not familiar with the Ford Sync 3 infotainment system then you probably haven’t read many of my other reviews about Ford products, because I’ve been raving about this infotainment system since it was introduced a few years back. I won’t say that it’s still best of the best, but it was at one point and now remains one of the better electronic interfaces in the mainstream industry, continuing forward with stylish light blue graphics and simple, straightforward commands, plus loads of useful features including a very accurate navigation system and, in the case of my tester, an excellent parking camera system with backup and overhead views.
Surprisingly, all Expeditions come suited up with a fabulous 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system, while its controls were once again comprised of knurled metal-like dials and tight fitting buttons, as were all the HVAC system controllers that neatly featured temperature readouts within the middle of each dial. Most of the Expedition’s switchgear is nicely made, tightly fit and well damped for a premium feel, with only the steering wheel buttons coming across a bit low rent.
Also, don’t look for premium composites below the beltline, Ford even finishing the glove box lid in shiny hard plastic. That might be good news for those looking to their Expeditions for hard work or play, being that the lower door panels, while hard shell plastic, appear rugged enough to sustain plenty of kicks from steel toed boots. Likewise, you won’t need to worry about grabbing hold of the A-pillar with dirty, sooty gloves or unwashed hands while swinging yourself into the driver’s seat, because Ford doesn’t wrap any of the Expedition’s roof pillars in fabric, so once again look to Lincoln’s Navigator if you’re interested in a higher level of premium pampering.
The Expedition’s passenger compartment is about as spacious as you’re going to get in any class, and no different than the Navigator’s from a size perspective. My tester came with two rear buckets featuring a wide passageway in between to get to the third row. You can also tilt either bucket seat forward to access that rearmost row, which might be easier for some, but I expect smaller kids will just run through the middle. This makes it easier for parents still strapping a child seat into that second-row bucket. Nevertheless, the new Expedition is actually the first full-size SUV to incorporate tip-and-slide second row seats, so kudos to Ford for bringing this convenient feature to the largest SUV segment. No one will complain about third-row seat comfort no matter how they climb in back, because its as accommodating as any large minivan, if not more so.
No one should complain about second-row seat comfort either, plus these lucky folks benefit from a comprehensive rear automatic HVAC and audio system panel on the backside of the front console featuring two USB ports, a three-prong household-style socket for laptops, entertainment/gaming consoles or whatever else you might want to plug in, plus buttons for the heated seats, and more. Even third-row passengers can use the aforementioned sidewall-mounted power controls for reclining their seatbacks, while they also benefit from an available USB charge point for each outboard passenger (highly unusual but wonderfully welcome), good standard overhead ventilation, and wonderful visibility out each side through large squared-off glass, not to mention from above via the massive panoramic sunroof, all helping to minimize any claustrophobic-like feelings of being stuck in the very back.
Additional Expedition tech worth mentioning includes wireless device charging (if you have a smartphone new enough to make use of it), Wi-Fi hotspot capability, and rear-seat entertainment, my tester featuring a separate monitor on the backside of each front headrest. This isn’t ideal for third-row passengers, so you may get some complaints from the very back about not being able to see the movie (my recommendation is to crank up the B&O audio system and not worry about it). In total, the Expedition provides six USB ports, four 12-volt power outlets, and the single 110-volt power outlet just noted, which should be enough for most families’ needs. Lastly, Ford includes 17 cupholders for holding all those personal devices, or alternatively for keeping all occupants’ thirst quenched.
That would be a total of eight occupants, by the way, although as noted my tester’s second-row captain’s chairs reduced the big SUV’s people hauling capacity to seven, and by seven I’m referring to seven adults.
The eight-occupant layout comes standard in $53,978 base XLT trim, by the way, with other standard features including 18-inch machine-finished alloy wheels, fog lamps, black running boards, black roof rails with crossbars, Ford’s exclusive SecuriCode keyless entry keypad, Ford MyKey, illuminated entry with approach lamps, pushbutton start/stop, rear parking sensors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel rim, a windshield wiper de-icer, an eight-way powered driver’s seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, an overhead console with a sunglasses holder and conversation mirror, a universal garage door opener, tri-zone automatic climate control, Sync 3 infotainment with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a backup camera, navigation, voice activation, and 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio with satellite radio, with yet more standard features including powered rear quarter windows, a flip-up tailgate window, a useful cargo management system, power-folding third-row seats, Ford’s Easy Fuel capless fuel filler, a Class IV trailer hitch receiver and wiring, tire pressure monitoring, SOS Post-Crash Alert System, all the usual active and passive safety features, and much more.
My tester’s Limited starts at $65,288 and includes 20-inch alloys, additional chrome embellishments including chrome detailed door handles, bright stainless roof rails, LED taillights, remote engine start, passive keyless entry, power-deployable running boards in body-colour with polished stainless accents, power-folding side mirrors with driver’s side auto-dimming, ambient lighting, woodgrain appliqués, a powered steering column, power-adjustable pedals, driver-side memory, a heatable steering wheel rim, 10-way powered front seats with heat and forced ventilation, perforated leather upholstery, the aforementioned heatable second-row outboard seats with Tip-and-Slide and PowerFold (albeit a 40/20/40-split bench), the previously noted powered panoramic sunroof, a Connectivity package that includes wireless smartphone charging, a FordPass Connect 4G WiFi modem, and the two smart-charging USB ports in the third row noted earlier, plus the Limited also gets additional first/second-row and cargo area power points, a hands-free foot-activated powered tailgate, front parking sensors, blind spot monitoring with cross-traffic assist and trailer-tow monitoring, plus more.
My tester also included a $5,000 302A package featuring 22-inch alloys, LED headlamps, LED fog lights, and a Driver’s Assistance Package that would otherwise cost $1,200 while adding automatic high beams, rain-sensing front wipers, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, Pre-Collision Assist with forward collision warning and pedestrian detection, lane keeping alert, lane keeping assist, driver alert, a Split View 360-degree parking camera, and the Enhanced Active Park Assist system with Auto Park.
Lastly, $72,552 Platinum trim makes everything from the 302A package standard while adding its own 22-inch alloys, a unique satin-mesh front grille insert, additional satin-aluminum trim details including its mirror caps, satin-chrome door handle trim, brushed aluminum scuff plates, a similar set of multi-contour front seats as found in the Navigator including an Active Motion massage function, inflatable second-row outboard safety seatbelts, and more (all pricing was sourced from CarCostCanada, which provides full details about each trim, package and standalone option, plus otherwise difficult to find rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands).
Considering the 2019 Chevy Tahoe starts at $59,500 with 4WD, which is $5,522 (or about 10-percent) more than the Expedition’s base price, with even the Tahoe’s base 2WD model starting higher at $56,200, the much more advanced 2019 Ford Expedition should really do a lot better than it does from a sales perspective. After all, its powertrains provide more performance plus greater efficiency, its Terrain Management four-wheel drive system is more sophisticated (originally sourced from Ford Motor’s previous Land/Range Rover ownership and since improved upon), its suspension system is fully-independent, its body shell is constructed mostly of lightweight aluminum, its third-row access is much easier and rearmost seat more accommodating, its cargo capacity is mostly larger, and the list goes on and on. If you’re in the market for a new full-size SUV, you may want to consider all of the above before choosing yet another Tahoe, Yukon or Suburban.
You’re looking at the only car in Ford’s lineup not scheduled for cancellation within the next two years. What a bizarre thought. Many correctly guessed that Lincoln’s MKZ and Continental would…
You’re looking at the only car in Ford’s lineup not scheduled for cancellation within the next two years. What a bizarre thought. Many correctly guessed that Lincoln’s MKZ and Continental would eventually get the axe, or for that matter Ford’s own C-Max (already gone) and Taurus, but eliminating blue-oval favourites like Focus and Fusion, not to mention Fiesta, is something few outside Ford’s inner circle would likely have considered. Yet here we are, and only time will tell whether this decision from Dearborn’s upper management is shortsighted or eventually revered as sage-like wisdom.
Of course, I’m happy they chose to save the Mustang amid such blue-oval carnage, but don’t think I missed the irony of it being the sole car in Ford’s lineup not to wear a blue-oval badge. In fact, there’s no mention of the automaker at all, from the galloping stallion within the front grille and “5.0” engine designation on the front fenders, to the big “GT” model insignia taking centre stage at the rear, you’d be hard pressed to know its parentage if the car weren’t so legendarily Ford.
Likewise inside, where the same airborne steed crests the steering wheel hub, and in my particular example “RECARO” takes claim to the sculpted front sport seats, there’s no sign of the brand behind this iconic symbol of American ingenuity.
The Mustang was the first pony car after all, and continues to lead its rivals by a wide margin in prestige and sales. In fact, it doesn’t just lead its small contingent of pony car challengers (pun intended), but out muscles every other sports up the sales chart car as well.
Of course, sales leadership is nothing new for Ford, with its boldly branded F-Series pickups dominating the light truck market, its Edge and Explorer collectively controlling the mid-size crossover SUV category, its Expedition outselling everything else in the large SUV segment, its Transit on top of the commercial van industry, and its Escape consistently amongst the top three compact crossover SUVs. If you’re shaking your head in disbelief, you owe it to yourself to drive one of the above, as each is worthy of its success.
Likewise, if you haven’t taken a Mustang for a spin in a while, you’re in for an even greater treat. And I didn’t mean spin a Mustang literally, being that it’s a lot more difficult to get the rear end sideways now that Ford has fitted a highly stable independent rear suspension (IRS) between the rear wheels.
That change came as part of an exhaustive 2015 model year redesign, and the move caused a great deal of controversy amongst diehard Mustang fans that loved the old car’s lighter weight live rear axle and its benefit to drag racing, but for the majority of sports car fans, who’d rather go fast around corners instead of just in a straight line, it was a gift from the mechanical gods, or at least a bunch of blue-oval engineers.
It was and still is the most hooked up Mustang in history, something I previously claimed in a 2015 Mustang GT Premium Convertible review, not to mention subsequent road tests of a 2016 Mustang Ecoboost Fastback, 2016 Mustang GT Convertible, and a 2017 Mustang GT Convertible, and something I attest to again with this 2018 Mustang GT Premium Fastback.
Take note the 2018 model saw a new optional 10-speed automatic in both turbocharged 2.3-litre Ecoboost four-cylinder trims and 5.0-litre V8-powered GTs, the former of which I recently tested in 2019 Premium Fastback guise, while this GT, priced from $47,288, and the base Mustang, which starts at just $28,988, come with a six-speed manual gearbox.
And by the way, I sourced all of my pricing at CarCostCanada, where you’ll find detailed trim, package and option pricing, as well as info on available rebates and otherwise hard to get dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands.
Other 2018 updates include a meaner looking new grille that melds ideally with a more aggressive hood design, while stylish LED headlights are now standard across the entire Mustang lineup. Additionally, new LED taillights provide a fresh take on the Mustang’s classic triple vertical lens design, while these are underscored with a new bumper and lower fascia.
A number of changes improve the Mustang’s interior too, highlighted by upgraded materials quality including contrast-stitched leather-like soft-touch synthetics used for most of the dash top, each side of the centre console and much of its top surfacing, plus the door uppers, inserts and armrests, engine turned-style medium-grey metallic inlays across the entire instrument panel, some really upscale satin-metal detailing brightening key points throughout the cabin, and a new fully digital TFT primary gauge cluster.
The high-resolution display is plenty colourful, especially on the left dial where the temperature gauge shows a light blue for cool, aqua blue/green hue for medium and red for too hot. The same aqua gets used to highlight the area just below the tachometer needle, while just to the right an orange line represents the highest engine rev point from your most recent acceleration run (mine boasting 7,200) just ahead of all the red markings noting the engine’s no-go zone. The centre area houses a multi-information display that’s filled with functions.
Ford places a sweet looking set of analogue meters on top of the centre stack for oil pressure and vacuum (in turbocharged trims it gets substituted for a boost gauge), the latter useless unless you’re mechanically inclined, but cool looking for sure.
Just below is Ford’s Sync 3 touchscreen interface, which remains one of the better infotainment systems within the mainstream volume sector despite others catching up, complete with a clear rearview camera featuring dynamic guidelines, accurate navigation with detailed mapping, climate settings, apps and much more, while you can adjust the dual-zone automatic HVAC system’s climate settings from analogue switchgear just below too, or perform other functions from a slick row of aluminized toggles just underneath. It all melds retro and modern nicely, while all of the buttons, knobs and switches fit together well and are properly damped for a quality feel.
The Recaro-sourced front seats noted earlier are sensational, with excellent support in all the right places. When combined with the tilt and telescopic steering column I was able to adjust everything for near perfect comfort and control, which is critically important in a car that can go a quickly as this GT. I was actually surprised the rear seats had enough room for smaller sized adults, because most 2+2 sports cars don’t. Likewise the trunk is a decent size for a sports coupe, and includes 50/50 split-folding rear seatbacks for stowing longer cargo.
Practicality is one of the reasons the Mustang sells so well, however, drool-worthy styling aside, most ante up to this GT for its performance benefits. Certainly the previously noted base four-cylinder turbo is plenty quick for its low entry price, with 310 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque on tap, the GT’s 460 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque is hard to argue against, nor is the soul-soothing gurgle emanating from its twin tailpipes.
Does it make sense to buy a car just for the sound of its exhaust? If so, the Mustang GT is probably your best choice this side of an Aston Martin Vanquish S. Of course, along with its delectable sounds the GT provides insanely fun straight-line acceleration, superb high-speed stability and sensational handling. It locks into its lane like no previous pony car, Mustangs feeling a lot lighter and nimbler than their competitive stable mates that comparatively seem to overdose on muscle with less finesse, which is the key reason I’d opt for a GT over one of its rivals. This choice is personal for sure, so I can appreciate why someone might choose a Challenger or Camaro, but sales numbers speak for themselves, and I believe the Mustang keeps winning the pony car popularity contest for good reason.
Still, it’s not perfect. Remember that row of aluminized toggle switches on the centre stack? The rightmost one swaps driving modes from a Normal mode that defaults automatically, to Sport Plus mode that merely takes a flick of the toggle upward. One more toggle up chooses Track mode, while another is optimized for the Drag Strip, or in other words it removes all traction and stability controls. Flick the toggle upwards again and you’ll access a mode for Snow/Wet conditions, before it all goes back to Normal, and you can start all over again as desired.
Sounds good so far, right? While seemingly smart on paper, in application this setup is anything but. The problem lies in execution, with Ford having chosen to only allow the system to toggle upwards. This means you’ll need to flick through all of the performance modes that remove traction and stability control when trying to optimize the driveline for slippery conditions. Crazy huh? What would happen if you were having some fun at high speeds in Sport Plus mode when coursing through a winding riverside road at lower elevations and then, when the road started to climb and snow appeared on the pavement, you needed to access Snow/Wet mode, forcing you to pass through Track and Drag Strip modes along the way? That might actually be quite dangerous. All Ford needs to do to remedy this is provide downward movement to the toggle, which would let you go from Sport Plus to Normal and then Snow/Wet mode in two easy steps. Seems like a simple enough idea to me.
Now, regarding Dearborn’s shortsighted or sage-like decision over its car lineup. I think we can all agree that the Mustang should stay, and not just because it’s legendary, iconic, brilliantly fun to drive, fabulous to look at, and so on. As mentioned a moment ago, similar accolades will be claimed by fans of the Mustang’s key competitors, which could be reason enough to keep the Challenger and Camaro in the respective fleets of Dodge and Chevrolet, but as usual truth lies in those just noted sales numbers along with the long-term viability of the various plants that produce them.
At the close of Q3 2018, year-to-date U.S. sales of this trio registered 61,619 units for the Mustang, 52,313 for the Challenger, and 39,828 for the Camaro, while Mustang deliveries in Canada were actually stronger per capita at 7,298 units, and Camaro beat out the Challenger north of the 49th with 2,320 units compared to just 1,966.
While Canadian pony car sales don’t look too bad compared to U.S. numbers, YTD Q3 2018 Mustang sales are actually down 4.6 percent compared to the same nine months of last year, whereas Camaro deliveries have dropped by 8.0 percent and the Challenger has lost a whopping 32.0 percent of year-over-year sales. Comparing calendar year 2017 sales numbers to modern-day highs forces us back to 2005 for the Mustang when it found 10,045 new buyers in Canada, which is a 16.9 percent drop compared to 2017’s 8,348-unit tally, while comparing Camaro’s high of 4,113 units in 2010 and 2,952-unit 2017 total reveals a popularity pullback of 28.2 percent. Interestingly, 2017’s total of 3,422 units is the newest Challenger’s all-time high, which would be a good sign if it weren’t for sales south of the border.
Ford sold 166,530 Mustangs in 2006 (still a far cry from the 607,568 they built in 1966), which makes its 81,866 total in 2017 seem paltry by comparison and represents a 50.8-percent pummeling over the past dozen years, while Chevy’s 88,249-unit Camaro tally in 2011 shows a less drastic fall of 23.0 percent thanks to 67,940 deliveries last year. When it comes to percentages the Challenger looks best, with its 66,365-unit all-time high merely 2.7 percent healthier than its 2017 number of 64,537.
Whether or not a pony car lives or dies in today’s SUV-crazed market might actually come down to where it’s built. The Mustang gets a pass thanks to its Flat Rock, Michigan assembly, a plant that will become even more available when the aforementioned Continental goes the way of the dodo in 2020. That Ford is planning to replace the Conti’s spot on the line in 2021 with an autonomous EV should mean there will be plenty of room for the Mustang to flourish well into the future, being that EVs are microscopically small sellers at best, but who really knows what the future will truly bring.
As for the Camaro, its Lansing Grand River Assembly plant appears to be on shaky ground due to sharing space with two discontinued Cadillacs, the ATS and CTS, so who knows where Chevy will build it if they retool the plant for new SUVs as is being suggested, or shutter it completely as some in the rumour mill are touting. The Challenger may be in even worse shape, mind you, being that it suffers from two challenges, sharing space and underpinnings with the Chrysler 300 that most expect will be cancelled (although a recent upsurge in sales might change FCA’s mind), and being built here in Canada where very real tariff issues and trade uncertainties are causing automakers to rethink their production strategies. No doubt even Ford hopes these two muscle car competitors survive, as competition is critical in the pony car paddock.
With such business out of the way, all that’s left to do is hightail it down to your Ford dealer in order to snap up one of the last few 2018 Mustangs left or one of the new 2019s. Being that you’ll probably find more of the latter, don’t expect to see my tester’s Triple Yellow paint, a $550 option that’s no longer on the 2019 menu. It’s not the only colour nixed from the new model year, with Lightning Blue having made way for Velocity Blue, and beautiful $450 Royal Crimson substituted for loud and proud Need for Green, a no-cost option.
You can add various stripes if you want, and “upgrade” the transmission to the aforementioned 10-speed auto for either year, but take note the GT’s six-speed manual is rev-matching capable for 2019, so you’ll sound like a pro when swapping cogs. I should also mention the GT’s variable active exhaust is now available with the 2.3-litre Ecoboost four, while California Special and Bullitt trim packages add style and substance, the latter available in special Highland Green paint, just like Steve McQueen’s original.
I won’t go into detail about all of the higher-end performance trims for either model year, but suffice to say the sky’s almost the limit when it comes to upgrading your future Mustang, so study up and ask lots of questions when visiting your local dealer. Trust me when I say that this pony car can dramatically change its persona from trim to trim, so you’ll want to figure out which version is best for you before deciding. Have fun making up your mind.
If you haven’t driven a Mustang for a while, I highly recommend you take one out for a spin. Not literally, the spin I mean, but then again it’s a lot more difficult to get the rear end sideways now…
If you haven’t driven a Mustang for a while, I highly recommend you take one out for a spin. Not literally, the spin I mean, but then again it’s a lot more difficult to get the rear end sideways now that Ford has fitted a highly stable independent rear suspension (IRS) between the rear wheels.
That change came as part of an exhaustive 2015 model year redesign, and the move caused a great deal of controversy amongst diehard Mustang fans that loved the lighter weight live rear axle and its benefit to drag racing, but for the majority of sports car fans, who’d rather go fast around corners instead of just in a straight line, it was a gift from the mechanical gods, or at least a bunch of blue-oval engineers.
Rather than delve into just how good the Mustang’s handling became four years ago and how much better it drives since its most recent 2018 update in this “In Our Garage” segment, I’ll admit that it’s easily the best hooked up Mustang in history and, until my full road test review comes out, I’ll point you to an old road test of the 2015 Mustang GT Premium Convertible to learn how I felt about it when the IRS initially arrived, or you can reread my reviews of the 2016 Mustang Ecoboost Fastback, 2016 Mustang GT Convertible, and 2017 Mustang GT Convertible).
Take note the 2018 model sees a new optional 10-speed automatic in both turbocharged 2.3-litre Ecoboost four-cylinder trims and 5.0-litre V8-powered GTs, the former of which I recently tested in Premium Fastback guise (review coming soon), while this GT, priced from $47,288, and the base Mustang, which starts at just $28,988, come with a six-speed manual gearbox (check CarCostCanada.com for all the trim, pricing and options details, plus rebate info and dealer invoice pricing).
Other 2018 updates include a meaner looking new grille that melds ideally with a more aggressive new hood, while stylish LED headlights are now standard across the entire line Mustang lineup. New LED taillights provide a fresh take on the Mustang’s classic triple vertical lens design, these underscored by a new bumper and lower fascia.
A number of small changes improve the Mustang’s interior, highlighted by upgraded materials quality and a new optional fully digital TFT primary gauge cluster.
The aforementioned base engine makes a substantive 310 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque, so there’s no need for the long gone V6 anymore, while this GT’s V8 puts out a sensational 435 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque, not to mention a soul-soothing gurgle from the twin tailpipes that’ll make your adrenaline surge.
I’ve said too much, so make sure you join me back here in short order for a full review of this fabulous 2018 Mustang GT Premium Fastback…