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Although the current Ford Expedition has been on sale since the 2007 model year, its presence has been little felt over the past several years while the large utility segment’s share of the industry has dwindled. Between 2009 and 2013, the automotive market grew by 59% and dwarfed the 14% growth of the large SUV segment, which shrunk to a 1.7% share of the industry’s sales in 2013. Remarkably, the Ford Expedition accounted for a mere 15% of the segment’s sales during that time compared to the 72% share enjoyed by rival products from General Motors. However, Ford Motor Company has exhibited much change since the recession and its product portfolio has improved greatly as a result. Now with the Ford Expedition finally set to receive some T.L.C. in the form of its 2015 refresh, the large SUV’s future promises to be brighter than its past.

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The arrival of an all-new Ford Expedition model is only two years away; however, the upcoming refresh for the 2015 model year separates itself from the outgoing vehicle much like a new model would. Not only is it impressive in how superior it looks and drives relative to the 2014 model, but in a lot of ways it sincerely feels like a vastly different vehicle. From a vehicle design standpoint, the exterior shows a lot more personality with a sharper, more defined chrome grille along with an aggressive front fascia highlighted by a sporty honeycomb design and standard LED fog lamps. Despite maintaining the same structure and shape, the interior features higher quality materials and better fit and finish than before, making it a more inviting and enjoyable place to be. The new center stack is also a welcome addition while a very modern gauge cluster, fitted with a digital screen on each side of the speedometer, is light years ahead of the current model and improves the experience from the driver’s seat.

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Designed to be a family hauler, the Expedition not only seats up to eight people, but does so quite comfortably. Although third row seats in many vehicles tend to be unpleasant, particularly for full-grown adults, my 6’3” frame found ample room for my head and legs when seated in the back row even when accompanied by two other passengers. The leather seats also feel good to the touch and the stitching is well executed, which makes the cabin feel more premium, similar to those in other leading large utilities.

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With a portfolio featuring the nation’s most popular vehicle, the F-Series truck, Ford undoubtedly has the engineering and know-how to develop a world-class utility vehicle. The 2015 Expedition will share even more in common with the F-Series as it will be solely powered by the acclaimed 3.5L EcoBoost V6 with 365 horsepower and a class-leading 420 lbs. ft. of torque that utilizes direct injection and twin air-to-air intercooled turbochargers. Consequently, the upcoming model will boast a torque curve that that eclipses that of its Chevrolet Tahoe rival and the 2014 Expedition by a considerable margin out to 5,500 rpm, which translates to a best-in-class maximum 9,200-lb. towing capacity.

During a visit to Ford’s Michigan Proving Grounds in mid-August, I experienced the new capabilities of the Blue Oval’s large utility first-hand and was impressed by how easily it towed a trailer both uphill and on windy roads. In off-road testing as well, the Expedition proved remarkably composed and thoroughly conquered the muddy forest terrain, performing comparably to the popular F-Series. On the basic durability course, the large SUV drove very comfortably and was easy to control unlike many vehicles similar in size, but what makes the vehicle unique is how it offers Continuously Controlled Damping (CCD), which uses electronic sensors to continuously monitor steering, suspension, braking and body motions and make necessary adjustments to achieve optimal performance. Not only is the 2015 Expedition the first Ford model to offer CCD, but it’s also the only vehicle in its class available with this type of technology, offering three driver-activated modes: normal, comfort and sport.

Ford’s pricing strategy for the Expedition also looks to be much more effective with the refreshed model for a few reasons. Whereas the 2014 model competed against its Tahoe rival more so from a pricing angle, the 2015 model emphasizes a significant upgrade with regards to value aside from maintaining a sizeable price advantage. For example, while a showroom equipped ’15MY Limited 4x4 is priced about $1,500 higher than last year’s model and has a $59,145 MSRP (including $1,195 for destination and delivery), it is actually a tremendous value considering its price bump comprises of nearly $2,500 worth of new standard equipment. Additionally, that configuration will tout roughly a $4,350 edge in MSRP versus a showroom equipped Chevy Tahoe LTZ 4WD, but the pricing wouldn’t be nearly as meaningful were it not for the 2015 Expedition having improved substantially from a design, engineering and comfort standpoint.

Through the first seven months of 2014, Ford sold 26,470 Expeditions, which is 29% more than a year ago. However, an examination of incentives year-to-date reveals average spending per unit for the Expedition increased by 20%, up to $6,253 per Autodata, while every other model in its segment exhibited a decrease in spending. The 2015 Expedition is a much improved product though and it is very well possible that Ford will be able to build toward its future sales targets without being heavily reliant on incentives. Vehicle styling is undeniably better than before and ties to the F-Series’ strengths makes Ford’s large SUV a more capable family hauler than ever before, no matter the terrain, while the addition of CCD is a major differentiator considering similar technology cannot be found elsewhere in the segment. General Motors has dominated the large utility market for years and Ford has its work cut out for it, but with its dramatically improved 2015 Expedition about to hit dealerships, the Blue Oval’s footprint in the large SUV segment may grow noticeably going forward.