We discussed the Lincoln Navigator Concept a couple of times last year, noting its crisp styling and massing, business class interior, and enormous gullwing doors. Now the Navigator concept has re-emerged: On Tuesday at an event in Dallas, Texas, the vehicle was introduced as the revamped 2018 Ford Expedition, which will go on sale this autumn.
A New Generation of Dreadnought
The Expedition, which is based on the same platform as the best-selling F-150 pickup truck, has been long overdue for a refresh, as its last overhaul was back 2003 (a minor facelift occurred in 2007). Like its sibling, it has a new aluminum body – given its size, it may be the largest aluminum-bodied production vehicle ever made – yet will be 300 pounds lighter. And also like its sibling the Expedition retains its body-on-frame configuration.
The styling and massing, like the Navigator concept, is crisp and more tailored than its predecessor. The strong character line at the shoulder and slightly smaller glasshouse lend a stronger horizontality to the overall form of the truck. The horizontal feel is also reinforced by the additional length of the Expedition, which grows four inches in the basic version and one inch more in the extended length version. The grille at the front is, of course, massive, but more integrated with the headlight assembly for another strong composition at the front mask.
At the interior, there is a strong influence from the F-150 in terms of instrument panel and interior appointments. The business class seats, so prominent in the Navigator concept, have been replaced by more traditional, but very luxurious, bench seats, with three rows and seating for eight available. And, at this size, even the back row can deliver a comfortable ride.
Electronics, not a strong suit in previous generations of the Expeditions, are especially advanced in the new generation with an available wireless cell phone charging pad, six USB ports (two for each row of seats), four 12 volt and one 110 volt electrical outlets. Wifi connectivity is available as well and works within a 50 foot radius of the vehicle. Seatback screens for video, as well as SYNC 3, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are featured entertainment systems, as well as a luxury offering, the B&O Play audio system.
The Expedition is powered by Ford’s EcoBoost 3.5 litre V-6 with a 10 speed automatic transmission. Ford’s Intelligent 4WD system with a new limited-slip differential assures solid footing in off-road conditions. And because towing is an essential part of the Expedition brief, Ford’s Pro Trailer Back-Up Assist aids in manoeuvering trailers.
Pivot to the SUV
The move to refresh the Expedition seems both surprising and inevitable. Surprising, because for much of this decade Ford has been focusing on smaller cars, fuel economy, revamped turbocharged engines and more eco-friendly versions of its traditional offerings. The company’s big push in the CUV/SUV space has been the very successful C-segment Escape (Kuga in Europe).
This, along with other manufacturers’ retreat from the big SUV, has meant that General Motors has had the market virtually to itself. GM outsells Ford by 4 to 1 in the big SUV space, and controls nearly 70 percent of the overall market. That means an estimated extra $2billion in annual revenue, which has helped General Motors recover from the disaster of the last recession and also allows the company to cover the shortfalls of such experimental cars as the Volt and the new Chevrolet Bolt, both of which are drags on the company’s bottom line.
Ford has watched this develop over the last few years, especially as petrol prices have lowered, and so the new Expedition has a sense of inevitability about it. It also taps into Ford’s formerly strong position in this market. Besides the new Expedition, a new Ford Bronco two-door SUV is planned, as well as the baby EcoSport CUV which was introduced at the Los Angeles Auto Show. And the perennial strong seller, the Explorer, and the mid-sized Edge SUVs have been refreshed in recent years.
And the Lincoln Navigator?
The production version of the Lincoln Navigator is also expected this fall. The Navigator should hew closer to its concept version, with similar exterior styling and a version of the massive panoramic sunroof. The business class interior, including the famous 30-way Lincoln bucket seat, individual seat screens, a Lincoln-only instrument panel, and a slew of electronic wizardry should highlight the interior appointments. One thing that may not be carried over from the Expedition is the third row seating. Comfort in business class is what is important here, not the number of bodies one can fit in the enormous cabin.
Also not making the transition from concept to production will be the enormous gullwing doors and the fabulous concertina steps. Alas, some things must remain in the realm of fantasy…