Go large or go home – that must be the mantra of American carmakers when designing full-size SUVs, because the really big family shifters from GM, Ford and the like are cars in only the loosest sense of the word. They're more like mobile real estate and only a small handful of countries possess roads wide and straight enough for them to be usable, which makes the UAE's highways ideal for these behemoths.
It’s no secret that GM’s big guns – the GMC Yukon, Chevrolet Tahoe and Cadillac Escalade – are all basically the same vehicle with slightly differing external and internal trim being the main ways to tell them apart. And so it is with the new Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator – shared platforms and oily bits, almost identical side profiles and similar interior dimensions.
But don’t be put off by the reputations of their forebears for mediocrity, because these all-new models have completely turned the tables and represent the pinnacle of humungous motoring. Having spent a few days driving both of them, I can safely join the chorus of praise – while neither would be considered as a potential wagon for my family of three, they really are excellent in every respect.
Physically they’re easy to differentiate. The Ford is, to my eyes at least, the more handsome of the duo, with a horizontal chrome slash across its nose, while the Lincoln gets the full Americana treatment. From the outset it’s obvious that, as good as the blue oval version is, it was never going to be allowed to fully usurp its more prestigious cousin. But in this part of the world, Lincoln is yet to be embraced by the masses, so its badge might not be the big sway that it would be stateside.
Interior-wise, the Expedition is more utilitarian than the upmarket Navigator, but it's still a luxuriously appointed cabin. Leather covers the two front rows of seats, with the ones at the far rear being faced with soft vinyl, and there's a chunky look to the dashboard, with analogue gauges, whereas the Lincoln gets a much more refined look and modern, configurable displays. Both are exceedingly well-designed for families, and the rear seats have screens available in the headrests in front, while a plethora of USB charging points mean devices will be kept at optimum working condition for even the lengthiest journeys.
Both machines are whisper quiet when on the move, but become pretty vocal when the taps are opened. Under the expansive bonnets are twin-turbo, 3.5L EcoBoost V6 units where you might expect to find V8s. Essentially the same motor that powers Ford’s incredible GT supercar, in the Expedition it’s tuned for 400hp. The Lincoln gets an extra 50 horses, but in everyday use at least, you would be hard pressed to tell the difference between the two. Both move with almost supernatural alacrity, the delivery of prodigious amounts of silky torque (650Nm and 691Nm respectively) never anything other than delightful and the imperceptible shifts provided by the 10-speed automatic transmissions make everything seem utterly effortless.
Chassis control is exemplary, too, with either car suffering only minimal body roll under braking or cornering, although the Ford does feel firmer than the Lincoln – my wife complains that the latter makes her feel rather sea sick when on the move. Bumps and ruts are smoothed out as though they’re not there and the continuously controlled damping makes an extremely decent fist of managing all that weight and physical mass. True to its more utilitarian vibe, the Expedition is available with an optional towing package that gives it a hauling capacity of 4,219 kilograms – there really isn’t much it can’t turn its hand to.
Behind the wheel, little separates the two vehicles, although the uninitiated will struggle to make a quick getaway in the Lincoln. While the Ford’s automatic is controlled via a centrally located rotary gear selector (a bit like a cheaper-feeling version of those found in contemporary Jaguars), the Lincoln’s P, R, N and D are relegated to a series of toggle switches along the lower line of the dash. It genuinely took me a minute or two to find them before managing to drive away from the dealership on Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai, but at least they feel super-expensive when you use them, like the damped switches on a really high-end hi-fi.
Ultimately, it will come down to your preference regarding details such as this when making a decision between the two as a potential purchase. That and the price, obviously. Ford starts its Expedition pricing from Dh173,250, and you can go crazy with the options, resulting in another Dh90,000 being dropped on it. As for the Lincoln, factor in a starting number of Dh351,750 and you get some idea of the gap between it and the equally capable Ford, which might be available for half the price, but is definitely not half the car. Either way, you would own a truly excellent vehicle that has set a new benchmark in the full-size SUV arena.