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    Two SUVs With Big Capabilities

    By Philip Ruth–

    As new cars slowly transition to electric power, muscular gas-powered engines are falling out of fashion. Even Hemi-happy Dodge signaled its pivot with new electrified products and concepts. Wither the high-revving hijinks of yore, as our silent and smooth future unfolds. 

    Right, tell that to this week’s Land Rover Defender 110 V8 ($107,700), as its supercharged V8 engine exhales a burbling rumble from its four exhaust tips. It puts 518 horses under your right foot, and they’re wide awake, whether you’re skipping off the line or surging through traffic. 

    Oddly, Land Rover does not offer the V8 with its recently debuted Defender 130, which extends the body more than 13 inches. This puts the longer Defender directly in the sights of our other big SUV this week, the Ford Expedition Limited 4×4 ($83,000 on the dot). 

    Though they are stylistically very different—the Land Rover hews to its heritage with flared wheel arches and a short front overhang, while the boxy Ford is the king of slab sides and straight lines—these trucks align very closely in overall length (around 211 inches) and width (around 79 inches). 

    The Expedition can be had in guises that hit within striking distance of the Discovery’s superlatives: the Stealth Performance Package on this Limited (part of a $9,880 option package) amps up the 3.5-liter turbocharged V6’s output to 440 horsepower, 60 above the garden-variety version. Serious off-roaders would look to the Expedition Timberline for its 10.6-inch ground clearance, which is within a few pebbles of the Defender’s 11.4-inch measurement. The Timberline comes standard with the Stealth Package’s enhanced turbo V6.

    The bill for this accelerative fun comes due at the pump, with ratings of 16 mpg EPA city for the Stealth Performance Expedition and 14 mpg for the V8 Defender. Gas prices rise and fall, but these two will drink heartily either way. 

    Both have adaptive suspensions that prepare for the road ahead, and both absorbed San Francisco’s ruts and potholes with ease. Of course, both trucks are way overbuilt for the urban duties they will actually undertake, in the reality that exists apart from the trail-charging images in their press kits. 

    In the tradition of muscle-bound American cars, the Expedition’s Stealth Performance package complements its extra cojones with an aggressive look. The tester’s Rapid Red Metallic ($395 option) seemed to punch out the Stealth’s gloss-black wheels and trim. It’s an unexpectedly racy look for a big-box SUV. 

    The Ford is classified as a “non-premium” SUV, but its huge center screen is among the biggest you’ll find in any vehicle, and it works well. The Land Rover’s interior had a more functional vibe, with exposed screws and beam-like structural details.  

    Ford says Millennials are the fastest-growing segment of buyers for full-sized SUVs, as well as “more women seeking family adventures to balance the stress of their overprogrammed lives.” For now, it appears the plus-sized and powerful Expedition and Defender still have futures within the increasingly electrified automotive landscape. 

    Philip Ruth is a Castro-based automotive photojournalist and consultant with an automotive staging service.

    Published on March 23, 2023