This story has been updated with additional information.
Ford has seen a sharp increase in sales of the big Expedition line since the current generation was introduced in 2018 — and it’s hoping to gain even more momentum with a significant midcycle update of the full-size SUV.
The upgrades to the 2022 Ford Expedition will play out both on- and off-road, the automaker adding both the new rock-crawling Timberline edition, as well as BlueCruise, a high-tech system letting the SUV operate hands-free on more than 130,000 miles of U.S. highways.
The Timberline edition is meant to take advantage of a big surge in outdoor activities among Americans, noted Jeff Marentic, the general manager for Ford passenger vehicles. According to company data, 36% of baby boomers and 56% of millennials say they’ve gone biking, hiking, camping or kayaking, among other activities, and that’s created an “outdoor industry” worth $900 billion and growing 5% annually.
Marentic noted during the vehicle’s debut at Motor Bella, the scaled-down version of the Detroit Auto Show, this morning the new Expedition is “the pinnacle of our SUVs.” He added sales of the big beast have doubled since the current-gen model arrived in 2018 and its market shares is up three-fold during that time.
The goal is to make the Expedition “more aspirational” to those buyers, said Marentic, with a version that can handle more than just a gravel road.
Expedition goes off-road
Billed as the “most off-road capable Expedition ever,” Timberline adds features like a front skid plate borrowed from the F-150 Raptor, 33-inch Goodyear Wrangler off-road tires, a two-speed transfer case and a higher, 10.6-inch ground clearance, said Mike Kipley, the program’s chief engineer, during a media backgrounder. The suspension, including spring and stabilizer bars, also are upgraded.
A limited-slip differential comes standard, as well, and Timberline drivers will be able to switch vehicle settings instantly with seven different drive modes. Trail Turn Assist, a feature borrowed from the new Ford Bronco, helps the big SUV handle hairpin turns by applying brake pressure on the inner rear wheel.
The Expedition Timberline is powered by a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 making 440 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque. The same engine is used to power another new package for 2022, the Stealth Performance Package.
In this case, performance means towing capacity, as well as off-the-line launch power, however. The 4×2 version of the Stealth can handle up to a 9,300-pound trailer — which, Ford notes, is 900 pounds more than a comparable Chevrolet Tahoe with a 5.3-liter V-8.
Stealthier than ever
The Stealth package adopts extensive blackout trim, “including grille, mirror caps, roof rails, running boards, tailgate appliqué, rear bumper skid plate, fog lamp bezels, plus headlamp and taillamp housing,” Ford noted in a release describing the 2022 line-up. But there are bright red, oversized brake calipers underneath the black aluminum wheels. And, in sharp contrast to the off-road-oriented Timberline, the Stealth Edition suspension is tuned for on-road handling.
Lower trim packages are powered by a V-6 making 380 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque. Ford officials said they are looking at the possibility of adding a hybrid in the future, though no plans are yet in place.
Depending upon the trim package, the 2022 Expedition adds a number of other features, including a smart suspension system that scans the road up to 50 feet in front of the vehicle and uses what it sees to automatically adjust the active damping.
All models get an extensive suite of advanced driver assistance systems, including road edge detection to keep the big SUV from running off the pavement, intersection assist, which helps prevent a driver from turning into oncoming traffic, and reverse brake assist, helping a driver avoid backing out of a driveway or parking spot into oncoming traffic. It also can spot bicycles and pedestrians.
But the big news on the technology front is the launch of Ford’s new BlueCruise system on the 2022 Expedition Platinum trim. The system allows a driver to operate completely hands-free on more than 130,000 miles of carefully mapped, limited-access roadways. But BlueCruise also requires the driver to remain alert and ready to retake control in an emergency.
The system’s basic hardware and software come installed on all Platinum models — but BlueCruise does require an annual subscription to use.
Plenty of competition
Ford isn’t the only automaker hoping to tap into the boom in outdoor activities. Brands like Jeep and Chevy have expanded their off-road lines while there’ve been several new entrants, Honda with the new TrailSport sub-brand, and Subaru with its own Wilderness line.
In the full-size SUV segment, Ford has traditionally lagged behind Chevrolet, with models like Tahoe and Suburban. Meanwhile, Jeep is getting back into the full-size game with the return of the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer badges for 2022. But the Expedition has doubled sales since the completely new 2018 model was launched, and Marentic said he’s confident Ford will gain even more ground with the introduction of the Timberline and Stealth models this coming year.
The 2022 Ford Expedition will reach U.S. showrooms during the first quarter of 2022. Pricing and mileage information will be released shortly before then.