Engine Improvements Make These Updates Worthwhile
Ford Inside News
July 21, 2014
By: Austin Rutherford
“Almost Heaven, West Virginia” was where FIN was invited to drive the new 2015 F-Series Super Duty and Ford Expedition. The scenery and serenity beautifully mixed with the beast-like nature of the vehicles tested. Also, with steep grade hill climbs and switchback narrow country roads, it turned out to be the perfect place to test the capabilities of the refreshed truck and SUV.
Although it does not appear to have changed at all for the 2015 model year, the most important part of the F-Series Super Duty has: the volume selling Scorpion 6.7-liter Diesel V-8 Powerstroke engine. The engine is now rated at a mind-blowing 440 horsepower and 860 foot-pounds of torque. We had the privilege to both drive and be driven in the Super Duty in different weight classes and different tow weight hauls.
One of the key improvements to the engine was the replacement of the turbocharger from the GT32 to the GT37 model. This uses a single, much larger compressor than the GT32’s duel compressor allowing for more power. The turbo heats up to 900 ˚C. Yes, Celsius, not Fahrenheit.
The first segment of the test drive was pulling fifth wheel RVs up the 7-8-% grade of I-64. The top speed (the pedal was pushed to the floor) and MPG of the Chevy Silverado 3500, Ram 3500, and F-350 were compared during the climb at the same point near the top of the steepest grade of the climb.
The Chevy Silverado 3500 was equipped with the 6.6-liter V-8 Duramax Diesel, which is rated at 397 horsepower and 765 foot-pounds of torque. Both horsepower and torque are much lower than the F-350’s and it showed on the climb. The max speed was 58 MPH with 8.5 MPG.
Next was the Ram 3500, which was equipped with the Cummins 6.7-liter Diesel rated at 370 horsepower and 800 foot-pounds of torque. This faired somewhat better on the climb with a max speed of 63 MPH and 7.8 MPG.
Finally came the F-350. The higher difference of horsepower and torque between it and other trucks showed on the climb. The F-350 achieved a max speed of 67 MPH with a recorded 7.3 MPG.
From the test, the Super Duty clearly showed it had more power, however, it had the inverse relationship with fuel economy. The latter probably will not matter much to the buyer who actually chooses a truck for power is typically considered the key in this class.
The same test path was completed using a gooseneck trailer and deadweight with a total towing weight of 24,500 lbs. However, the Silverado was not included in this test for its max tow rating is only 23,200 lbs. The two trucks competing were the Ram 3500 and F-450. A second F-450 was also in the group, but towed an even higher 26,800 lbs. We were personally not able to drive either of the vehicles for weight rating only allowed CDL licensed drivers.
This test was completed in our group three times over with the Ram 3500 always given a head start for the climb.
The Ram 3500 completed the grade climb with a max speed of 44 MPH, while the F-450 with 24,500 lbs completed the grade climb with a max speed of 51 MPH. Though the Ram was given the head start, the F-450 was always able to pass the Ram on the climbs that we witnessed.
Showing off the power of the new Scorpion even further, on two of the three tests, the F-450 towing 2,300 lbs more than the Ram still pasted the Ram on the climb.
A F-250 towing a hitch trailer was given to us to test drive on a 42.4-mile loop. The loop mostly included narrow country roads of the New River Gorge. Many parts included steep grades and switchbacks. The total weight of the trailer was about 9,000 lbs.
On the test, the Super Duty showed ample amounts of power on any part of the road with good handling and steering feel despite the weight. The fuel economy average for the loop was 9.2 MPG.
Though unchanged for 2015, the RV test gave us a chance to compare the Ford’s interior with the newer Chevy and Ram. Though almost no one buys these vehicles for their interior quality or design, it is still good to give an impression where owners will spend most of their time with the truck.
The Chevy was frankly, though arguably, the worst of the bunch. We found the design ungainly and poorly engineered with its floating center console. Further, the passenger side features a second storage box above the glove box. Unlike the Ram, which hides the handle effectively, the handle is in plain sight on the dash. This is just simple poor designing. The rubber pad buttons on the steering wheel are of a low-grade quality and will, we imagine, crack in the heat after a few years. Though you could not go wrong with any of the seats offered between the three trucks, the Silverado felt slightly less comfortable than the Ram and Super Duty.
The interior of the Super Duty carries mostly the same design as the 2008 model and it shows. Though carrying a good ergonomic design, the quality of the materials of the dash and console leaves a lot to be desired. The seats of the Super Duty are the interior’s biggest winner. In either the King Ranch or Platinum, an owner cannot go wrong. The only problem would be choosing between the two leather styles.
The best interior in the class belongs to the Ram. The truck has a great design with class-leading quality. Ram designers even went so far as to wrap the A-pillar handles in same leather as the Laramie leather. One of the best parts of the interior is the feel of the steering wheel. It is much thicker than the Silverado’s or Super Duty’s and it leads a more satisfying driving experience. Though not quite up to the Super Duty’s seats, the Ram’s still provide plenty of support and the leather is of a good quality.
Unless one buys a truck purely on an interior, due to the differences in power compared to the competition, we are left to believe that the Super Duty is the best truck in its class. If you have the money, buying a King Ranch or Platinum series Super Duty should be the way to go.
The new 2015 Expedition receives a light amount of upgrades. Ford’s goal with the 2015 model was to keep the vehicle competitive with the all-new full-size SUVs from General Motors. The Expedition exceeds and accomplishes some of this goal, but fails in other regards. That said, FIN came in with very low expectations for the Expedition seeing that much of its engineering dates back to 2003. We ended up being delightfully surprised of how well it held up.
Both the front and rear of the Expedition has been refreshed. For the grille, gone are the think, bold chrome bars and in their place are thin, more refined chrome bars. The headlights now have a new design with halogen bulbs. The circle fog lamps in the lower fascia have been replaced by modern LED running lights. A total of six LED bulbs, or three per running light, are used on the Expedition. Pretty much the only difference for the rear of the Expedition is the addition of a new chrome bar, which has “Expedition” blazon upon it.
The side profile has been left untouched, however, with the addition of new wheel designs, it has not been left to rot. In particular, the new 22-inch wheels are offered on the Limited, Platinum, and King Ranch trim levels gives off a very posh, prominent stance. More on these special wheels later.
If the Expedition fails in any regard, it would have to be the interior. The interior design mostly stayed the same for the 2015 model. With a design that was originally used for the 2004 F-150, it has long been dated. Ford has made improvements, however. The interior has a sea’s worth of hard plastic on the dash and paneling with any soft touch surfaces regulated to where one’s arms would normally be placed.
The driver display now finally features the dual display screens that have spread to almost every other Ford model already. These are easy to read and can be personalized to what the driver wants to see. This display works hand-in-hand with another all-new feature to the Expedition, MyFord Touch, which has replaced the old “brick radio” in the center council.
As you know, MyFord Touch features an 8-inch display in which the driver can alter the air/heat, entertainment, and navigation. Gone is the touch sensitive screen below this and back are the buttons. The buttons featured on the Expedition’s center consul are the same glove-friendly buttons seen on Ford Trucks.
The steering wheel is also all-new to the Expedition. It has a nice, modern feel with easy to use buttons. The wheel is power tilting and telescoping.
The Expedition still features a center-console shifter, unlike the GM SUVs, which only come with a cost-cutting column-mounted shifter.
The seats, though comfortable and made of quality luxurious leather in our Platinum tester, we found need extra support on the sides for thinner drivers and passengers. Seemingly made for America’s ever expanding appetites, the seats were not made for the G-forces experienced when driving the vehicle in switchbacks. This caused a lot of seat movement for both passengers and drivers.
Like with the last generation of GM SUVs, the Expedition, whether in regular or EL length, continues to offer more cargo space with up to 130.8 sq. ft. This is due to the Expedition’s IRS, which also allows the Expedition to have adult sized third row seating, unlike the more child only seats the GM SUVs use. Both cargo room and the seating space are due to GM still using a solid rear axle.
For 2015, the Ford Expedition loses the ancient 5.4-liter V-8 Triton and gains the 3.5-liter V-6 EcoBoost as the standard and only engine. The new engine is rated at 365 horsepower and 420 foot-pounds. of torque at 2,200 RPM compared to the 310 horsepower and 365 foot-pounds of torque at 3,600 RPM. The max torque in the 2015 is therefore available at a much lower RPM than comparable 5.3-liter V-8 at GM, whose max torque is at 4,400 RPM.
Ford says the 3.5-liter will increase fuel economy by 15 percent or more. The current 5.4-liter achieves 14/20/16 MPG combined, so it could be expected that the 2015 model could achieve a rating of around 16/23/18 MPG combined.
While starting our drive with Expedition EL 4x4 Platinum conveniently to John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” the test drive on mostly back roads of West Virginia was the perfect place to test the capabilities of both the new engine and the updated suspension.
The engine had ample amounts of power and torque. We found it almost easy to come out of a switchback and speed up to 90 MPH on a straightaway before another switchback appeared. Low-end torque was terrific from a stopping position. Braking was firm and engaged evenly.
Ford says it has improved sound dampening material for the cabin and it shows. Road noise and passing vehicle noise was very low, however, the engine noise was slightly louder. This was actually welcoming for unlike the old loud Triton, the EcoBoost had a nice, refined purr to it.
To improve the driving dynamics of the Expedition, the SUV now offers Continuous Control Dampening, or CCD, which is the same technology behind Lincoln Drive Control. This technology has 46 inputs that check the driving dynamics of the SUV 500 times per second. Though the Ford system uses the same driving mode names (comfort, normal, and sport) as the Lincoln system, the two systems actually have different tuning for each mode. In other words, expect the driving dynamics for the Expedition to be somewhat different than the Lincoln Navigator. Note that CCD is only offered with the top-of-the-line 22-inch rims noted above and is not available on the XLT trim.
We kept our tester in mostly sport mode. The handling was firm and it actually made it fun to drive on the switchbacks. We always felt in control of the vehicle even at speeds of up to 90+ MPH. On the highways, we found it best to put the vehicle into comfort mode to get the best ride with the bumps that we experienced. This dampened the bounce the bumps caused. Also helping, power assisted steering is now standard.
The new 6-speed SelectShift transmission comes standard on the 2015 model and has the capability of running in a manual mode. We tested this mode, but found it rather unneeded. The transmission, at least in Sport mode, seemed to shift the best in automatic as designed. Though it is at least a nice feature to have for those who want it, we would suggest just keeping it in automatic.
On our around 118-mile test drive, we achieved between 13 and 14 MPG. Our overly aggressive driving through mostly mountainous country roads admittedly hampered the fuel economy.
The Expedition retains its best-in-class towing rating of 9,200 lbs. This is the same as the outgoing model and is 700 lbs more than the GM SUV ½ tons. Towing was not made available on our test drive.
The Expedition also features sway control with Hill Start Assist and Hill Descent Control.
In short, if one is looking for a comfortable SUV with modern interior feel, fit, and finish, we advise them to look elsewhere. If one is looking for a full-size SUV power, handling, and towing, we would advise them to take a strong look at the 2015 Expedition.
Our tester was a pre-production model and Ford told us it was the last batch made before actual production started.
Though official pricing has not been released, Ford says the starting price for the 2015 Expedition should start around $40,000 and top off at around $64,000.
Platinum vs. King Ranch
The King Ranch has been a staple of the Ford Truck and Expedition lines for many years, now with the introduction of Platinum line to both models now or recently, you may be wondering what the difference is between the two luxurious trims.
The main difference is the leather pure and simple. The company that shares its name and runs the ranch in Texas makes the King Ranch leather. Though not all the leather may come from the heads on the actual King Ranch, it is made with the same standard. This is firm leather and is ideal for a buyer who either likes this feel or needs it for their business.
The Platinum’s leather is much softer and refined. It actually almost makes one believe that it has extra padding compared to the King Ranch, even though it does not. This leather is sourced from Eagle Ottawa based in Auburn Hills, Michigan and Ford tells us the leather in the Platinum is some of the softest the company makes.
Though the improvements appear to be small for both vehicles, they are the improvements that were needed in order to compete. The powertrain improvements, especially with the Expedition, are extraordinary compared with the older models. If one looks past certain interior issues, the rest of the vehicles engineering can lead to serious purchase consideration.
Full disclosure: Ford paid my travel, food, and hotel expenses to West Virginia to test drive their vehicles.