The compact SUV/CUV game has been heating up for quite some time now in North America, as more and more buyers realize that they can get so many features they love about these vehicles, but with half the footprint. By “footprint,” of course, I’m referring to both the fact that compact utility models take up less space on the road and thus are easier to park and thread through city traffic, and how they lessen their carbon footprint as well thanks to small, often turbocharged engines.
At the same time, however, North America and its large swathes of wide open roads still love SUVs and trucks—look no further than the sales figures of the Ford F-150 pickup to see what we mean.
What both these larger vehicles and compact CUVs all have in common, however, is significant. We’re not talking about the availability of AWD, although that is a factor. What really links these vehicle types, making the smaller cars more attractive to buyers and the larger cars more feasible, is the increasing availability of those evermore trusty turbocharged V6s and inline fours, even turbo threes. With advances in turbo technology, consumers are becoming less and less weary of what could happen to their engines—once a major concern due to all the added moving parts a turbocharger represents. Again, take the F-150 for example: models equipped with the optional twin-turbocharged 3.5L EcoBoost V6 are the most popular choice.
For 2018, Ford has developed two exciting new propositions at either end of the SUV/CUV spectrum. On the traditional full-size SUV side, we see the arrival of an all-new, aluminum-bodied Expedition; and on the CUV side, we have the launch in Canada of the sub-compact EcoSport, a vehicle that has been selling like hot cakes in various markets as far back as 2003.
The power of three (or four)
The 2018 Ford EcoSport will go on sale early next year, finally getting Ford a foothold in the North American compact CUV market. Asked why it’s taken them so long, Ford is insistent that their timing is just right, and they’ve been sure to put to good use the time taken to bring the EcoSport to our market.
Power production is the big news. You see, FWD EcoSport models will be powered by a segment-exclusive 1.0L EcoBoost 3-cylinder engine. The 2.0L EcoBoost 4-cylinder we’ve seen before in the likes of the Escape will also be available. In fact, Ford has made powertrain selection very simple: you want FWD, you get the 1.0L engine; you want AWD, you get the 2.0L. Furthermore, a 6-speed automatic transmission will be your only choice, although you can opt for paddle shifters.
In terms of styling, the North American EcoSport looks exactly like the European model, which is technically in its second generation. That means an easily recognizable 6-point grille flanked by narrow headlights, sporty 16” or 17” wheels pushed to all four corners and a subtle roof spoiler.
Our EcoSport will also get the side-hinged rear tailgate seen in other markets, another first in the segment. The advantage is more accessibility for shorter folks (while taller folks won’t be bumping their heads on a lifted tailgate), not to mention fewer issues in low-ceiling parking garages. Speaking of which, will such an outwardly swinging door cause a problem when parking? Considering it has worked for years in the tighter confines of European roads and streets, it should all be fine.
Once open, the hatch leads the way to an adjustable cargo floor and near fold-flat 60/40 split rear seat. The latter will likely be put to good use, as rear passenger room is cramped.
Inside, you’ll notice the “floating” infotainment screen, available in both 6.5” and 8.5” sizes. Ford says its floating style provides a more modern look, and it’s your conduit to an optional 10-speaker B&O Play sound system (quite the speaker count for such a small space). Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will be supported, and Ford’s latest SYNC 3 infotainment will also be making an appearance.
Four trim levels will be available: S, SE, SES and Titanium. Prices will be announced near the end of this year.
4x4 or bust
Switching to the other end of the spectrum we come to the completely redesigned 2018 Ford Expedition, an all-aluminum behemoth that has not forsaken brains for brawn. Still, though, the numbers are staggering: 300 lbs saved, seven AWD modes, 16 cup holders, up to eight passengers—yep, there’s a lot of content here.
But first, the behemoth part. Just look at it: The massive grille, huge headlight and taillight lenses—especially the taillight lenses, which look bigger than Andre the Giant’s head—and broad body panels rival anything in the segment for presence. Inside, you’ve got three rows of perfectly usable seating with a tilt/slide system for the second row, meaning you don’t have to remove a baby seat to get to the third row. The modifiable storage floor in the rear cargo bay, meanwhile, also provides a deployable shelf.
Whatever you can’t fit in the cavernous trunk can get towed behind you, to the tune of 9,000 lbs. That’s a lot of cargo, or a very big boat. The increased towing capacity partly results from the weight saved by the transition to an all-aluminum body; the less body weight the engine and chassis have to haul around, the more can be added without flouting regulation tow/haul loads.
Speaking of the engine, a grand total of one will be offered when the 2018 Ford Expedition comes to market later this year. We turn once again to the venerable 3.5L V6 that does so very well under the hood of the F-150 with which the Expedition shares a platform. There are, however, two versions available: base XLT models as well as mid-range Limited models produce 375 hp and 470 lb-ft (increases of 10 and 50, respectively, over the outgoing model), while top-line Platinum models are rated at 400 hp and 480 lb-ft (up 35 and 60, respectively).
Unlike our American friends who get a RWD option, we Canadians only get AWD editions, which come equipped with a 10-speed automatic transmission and electronic limited-slip differential. We do get both the short wheelbase and long wheelbase MAX models, however, each with an all-new Terrain Management system that can be set to normal, sport, tow/haul, eco, grass/gravel/snow, sand and mud/rut.
Going back to the “brains over brawn” thing: The new Expedition will be the first Ford vehicle equipped with wireless charging for your phone or tablet. You’re going to need that if you plan on making use of the Expedition’s ability to pair with up to 10 devices, and those that don’t get charged wirelessly can make use of one of six USB ports. As is the case with the EcoSport, SYNC 3 will come standard as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. A 4G hot spot will also be available.
Production of the 2018 Ford Expedition begins this fall at the Kentucky Trunk Plant in Louisville. Prices will start at 59,999.