The 1990s was a special time for Ford SUVs. The Explorer toppled down the popularity of the minivan and the Expedition carried on the popularity of the Bronco. It seemed that everybody was following the stride of Ford globally. The Philippines got the Expedition in the late 1990s and solidified its badge as the “ultimate status symbol.” We then were treated to the Explorer in two body styles during the early 2000s.
Since their introductions into the Philippine market, the Expedition and the Explorer have done nothing but win over the hearts of Filipinos despite the rising fuel costs and the tight driving space on the streets of Metro Manila.
How Filipinos still love these vehicles even when everything seems to be working against them is quite mind boggling.
A look back at the Ford Expedition
Now in its fourth generation, the Ford Expedition has become lifeblood for the blue oval. You cannot say Expedition without Ford and vice versa. In the Philippines, upper class families fell in love with the presence it brings on the road and the undisputed comfort this full-sized SUV offered. The luxury of space without being driven in a van was something definitely to fall in love with.
Globally, it was clearly being marketed as a safe vehicle merely because of its size. It’s true, because if ever you get into an accident, you’d want to be in the bigger vehicle. There was no other vehicle in the 1990s that was sold locally that could trump the sheer size of the Expedition. With every generation that passed, the Expedition kept on growing larger, becoming more comfortable and keeping a step ahead of its competition.
A look back at the Ford Explorer
The Explorer model can be dated back to 1990. Much like the Expedition, the Explorer was made as a replacement to the Bronco II. This made it the first four-door SUV produced by Ford.
As mentioned earlier, the Philippines got the Ford Explorer later in its production life. The 2002 third-generation Explorer was to hit the streets of the Philippines. This was a welcomed delay since the first and second generations were plagued with rollover issues. The inclusion to sell the Sport Trac pick-up truck variant alongside its regular SUV body in the Philippines made the Explorer name plate even more successful. With an almost two-decade history in the Philippines, the Explorer’s appeal of sports and luxury hasn’t faltered.
Driving vs riding
This writer had the great opportunity to test both vehicles back to back. Driving and riding both vehicles were a treat, especially with my affinity to larger vehicles. Let’s start with the 2019 Expedition.
Expedition passengers will be treated to a private jet-like interior with supple leathers and tactile chrome buttons and knobs. Natural wood grain accents tie the whole cabin together, giving it a touch of executive class. Thanks to its large nature, the Expedition is the vehicle you want to be chauffeured in. Hopping in and out of the rear cabin isn’t a climb to Mt. Everest, all thanks to the automatic retractable side step. You’ll have enough space to comfortably sit with six other friends while being driven around. The third row is something to revel about, because regular-sized humans could sit in comfort at the rear without having to be a contortionist of Cirque du Soleil.
Don’t mistake the size of the Expedition and think it is a slouch. Powering this city block-sized SUV is a 3.5-liter V6 EcoBoost engine producing 365 horsepower and 638 Nm of torque. Mated to the engine is a 10-speed SelectShift automatic gearbox that helps the Expedition’s EcoBoost engine run 15-percent more efficiently than the previous generation’s 5.4-Liter engine. The primary material that makes up this land yacht is aluminum, making the 2019 Expedition one of the biggest aluminum-bodied production vehicles. This helps in fuel efficiency even in the large MAXX model because it shaves up to 300 pounds off the previous generation. Its diet is also great for propelling it to high speeds. Though the engine tone is fed through the sound system to give you a faux-V8 sensation, the Expedition can still pin your back to the seat under acceleration.
Handling of this full-sized SUV is a hitch and isn’t intimidating even in the tightest of spaces. It traverses the roads of the metro with a commanding presence and needs no announcement upon arrival.
The Explorer has since departed from the first generation’s ruler-like styling. Gone are the days of mundane boxed styling, replaced by aggressive sports styling. For the lack of a better description, it’s like a Jordan basketball shoe. It’s as functional as it is beautiful.
This specific Ford Explorer Sport has extra trimmings to separate it from the Limited variant. Also, there are the EXPLORER letters spread across the hood similar to the branding of the Range Rover. In the rear, you get quad exhausts to hear the symphony of the V6 EcoBoost engine. It sits on special 20-inch Drak Tarnish-painted aluminum wheels, giving it that touch of sport. The trimmings that were chrome or matte silver on the Limited are now black for the Explorer Sport.
Being a passenger in the 2019 Explorer still gives you ample rear cabin space, but it is smaller than the Expedition. In terms of size, it slots in right between the Escape and the Expedition.
Much like its bigger brother, the Explorer’s interior is wrapped in plush leather with soft touch materials. Accentuating the predominantly black material inside are silver and chrome trimmings along with red stitching on the seats. As compared to the Expedition’s suspension, the Explorer Sport is stiffer because of its sporting characteristic. But don’t let this sway you, because the Explorer is still quite a comfortable vehicle. Creature comforts in the rear include a DVD entertainment screen incorporated into the headrest, a power twin-panel moonroof, and power-folding third-row seats.
Stepping on the gas pedal and waking up all 365 hp from the 3.5-liter V6 EcoBoost is an experience to behold. The instant serving of power pulls this SUV using its 475-Nm of toque effectively putting the “Sport” in sport utility vehicle. Not to worry, because the handing of the Explorer is much like a sedan, but be mindful of the extra weight during heavy braking. This isn’t the soccer mom vehicle that you stereotyped it to be.
Of course, both SUVs aren’t perfect especially with preconceived judgement on their fuel efficiency and cost. Yes, both SUVs can drink like a drunken sailor and, yes, there are cheaper diesel vehicles on the market but there is no vehicle that can command presence like a Ford imported directly from the United States. Currently, you could choose to purchase from three iconic models that are brought in from the proud assembly lines in the US from your local Ford dealership.
The Explorer, Expedition and the motoring icon of Americana, the Mustang, are the models to choose from. You’ll get a sense of the pride that the assembly line workers have in their products. A sticker on the windshield identifies which Ford plant your vehicle was proudly assembled in.
The three models imported into the Philippines from the US aren’t just plain old Fords they wanted to get rid of. These are quality models that police forces and state patrols use on a regular basis. Of course, the most recognized police vehicle is the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor, so Ford has been around to make special vehicles for the community.
The Ford Explorer Special Service Vehicle (SSV) was used in police forces from 1993 to 2010 and continued under the model name Ford Police Interceptor Utility. Its bigger brother, the Ford Expedition, also has an SSV model serving America’s police forces since 2003. If these two SUVs are durable and utilitarian enough for nabbing criminals, what’s to say they aren’t good enough for you toddlers?
Asia has been following a trend of larger and larger vehicles. China, for example, has the affinity for large luxury SUVs like the Expedition and Explorer increasing their sales in the segment by 38 percent even with rising fuel costs. It simply boils down to the status symbol it carries. For the Philippines, on the other hand, we spend a majority of our time on the road in traffic. Having an Expedition or an Explorer will give you a safe haven from all the stresses of the day. It’s an oasis for you to rest your head and marvel in the achievements you have done in life to be able to afford an Expedition or Explorer.
Though it isn’t impossible to buy them, especially when Ford Group Philippines has extended a P200,000 cash discount for the Explorer, it is nice to look at the fruits of your labor come to life.
PHOTOS BY MATTHEW EMMANUEL B. BUHION