Henry Payne: Ford Expedition Timberline, all-terrain liner | Economic news

HOLLY OAKS, Michigan — With dark skies above my head, I drove through a muddy ravine in Holly Oaks’ toughest off-road vehicle park in Michigan. ROARRRR! I charged up a muddy 20-degree incline, the 440-horsepower twin-turbo V-6 engine spinning all four wheels. GRONCH! The front skid plate cushioned the blow of the front bumper on the healed turf. RRWAAAWWR! At the top of the grade, I nail the throttle, spinning the 122.5-inch-long wheelbase on a dime with Trail-Turn Assist.

I’m driving the 2022 Ford Expedition Timberline. You know, a family vehicle.

With underbody armor, 33-inch all-terrain tires and a ladder frame similar to the Ford F-150 Tremor, Expedition isn’t your average three-row family hauler. This beast is as happy off-road as it is on-road. So when heading north on I-75 for the weekend, be sure to take a detour to Holly Oaks. The kids in the third row will love it.

I don’t invent anything. Bringing its Timberline trim — first seen on the Explorer SUV in 2021 (more on that later) — to the Expedition, Ford has created a three-row Frankenstein monster akin to the 710-hp Dodge Durango Hellcat SUV. But where the Hellcat will drag racing sports cars out of red lights in Woodward, Expedition Timberline can chew trees with Broncos in Holly.

Where the Sedan Epoch brought us on-road capable cyborgs like Charger Hellcats and BMW Ms, the Era of Ute brings muscle on and off the road. No one exploits this more than Ford.

As the SUV population has exploded over the past decade, Ford has shifted the ST performance badge from hot hatchback infernos like the Focus and Fiesta to utes like the Ford Edge and SUV Explorer. It’s a stretch considering the inherent, heavy limitations of SUVs. Although badges have proven popular, nobody takes their Explorer ST to Waterford Raceway for a track day like Focus ST owners have done for years.

But taking your SUV off-road? Now we are talking.

Go to Holly Oaks Park or Flint ORV or Silver Lake – and you’ll see lots of Subaru Outbacks mixing it up with Broncos and Jeep Wranglers and Toyota TRDs. Ford’s Timberline Explorer – introduced late last year with upgrades such as off-road skid plates and tires and a gruff 2.3-litre engine – fits that mode. I took it out on the muddy landscape of Holly Oaks and it knew its way, the Mud and Ruts ride mode helping all four wheels through mud, ruts, water and incline.

But slapping the Timberline badge on Expedition is a whole new level. You will pay for the privilege. Going from the $47,530 three-row Timberline Explorer to my $80,255 three-row Expedition tester is more than a step—it’s a leap.

Timberline is now part of a forest of Expedition trim offerings starting with the $54,315 XL STX followed by the XLT, XLT Max, Limited, Limited Max, King Ranch (pants, stop to breathe) King Ranch Max, Platinum and Platinum Max. A new, more road-oriented Stealth performance model joins Timberline for the 2022 model year.

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