Earlier this year, nearly eight years after Ford started divesting its controlling interest in Mazda, the Japanese brand finally replaced the last of the products that shared hardware with the Dearborn brand. Mazda’s biggest vehicle was also its oldest with the original CX-9 lasting nearly a decade before a complete redesign. Now that the CX-9 is new and fresh, does it finally fit in with the rest of the family from the brand that says “driving matters?”
As the western coast of the United States rises up from the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean, a 655-mile stretch of the boundary between land and water is marked by a strip of pavement known as California Route 1. Known in various locations as the Pacific Coast Highway or Cabrillo Highway, the road winds, climbs and falls as it seeks purchase along the perimeter of the continent. It’s the ideal road for the kinds of cars built by Jaguar and I recently spent some time there in one of the venerable British brand’s newest products. But rather than a car, I was driving the all-new F-Pace S.
If a vehicle is built continuously for 75 years with updates every decade yet it’s still instantly recognizable as the original, can it be considered retro? That’s certainly a question that applies to the Jeep Wrangler. Today’s Jeep Wrangler has a direct lineage back to the Willys MB/Ford GPW that supported millions of allied troops in World War II and the conflicts that followed. Today’s Wrangler is immediately recognizable and shares many of the attributes of those originals, but is also different in so many ways.
The Jeep Cherokee brand now has more than 40 years of history behind it and in many respects was responsible for transforming the SUV from a minor niche of the automotive market to a mainstream juggernaut. Following a decade during which the former DaimlerChrysler inexplicably re-branded the Cherokee as the Liberty in North America while keeping the original badge intact in the rest of the world, an all-new fifth-generation arrived last year with the old-school badge but some of the most radical changes yet to the skin and the platform.
At 18.4-feet long and well over three tons of mass, the 2015 Ford Expedition EL King Ranch is not a vehicle that says downsizing. In fact, as Ford’s largest SUV, the only aspect of the substantially updated Expedition that has shrunk is the powerplant, the twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6. Everything else about this beast is as huge as the home state of the eponymous ranch it is named for.
The EL is the longer of two Expedition variants that have been available since the heavy-duty Excursion was discontinued in 2005 after a six-year run. While the current Expedition is related to the mid-2000s era F-150 pickup, it’s actually pretty substantially different and can really considered a distinct platform. Unlike Ford’s pickup trucks that continue to support solid rear axles on leaf springs, the Expedition utilizes a multi-link independent rear suspension which gives it an important advantage over the segment leading Chevrolet Suburban in third-row room, but I’ll come back to that later.