The All-New Ford Expedition Is Better Than It Needs to Be
Fully updated from tip to tail, the Blue Oval’s biggest sport-ute leaps to the head of the Giant SUV class.
Admit it: You don't care what it's like to drive the all-new Ford Expedition.
If you clicked on this story (which, by the way, thanks for doing), odds are good you're at least considering bringing one of these Brobdingnagian beasts into your life. And if that's the case, you almost certainly have far greater concerns than how well you can pitch the Expedition into a fast corner. Which, as it turns out, is quite well—at least, by XL-sized truck-based sport-ute standards, as Ford baked a surprising amount of fun-to-drive into the new Expedition. While the steering may be feather-tied-to-a-helium-balloon light—a prerequisite for easy maneuvering through the crowded parking lots and suburban subdivisions that most of these rigs will call home—the chassis and suspension are far more willing and able than you’d expect in turns. And the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 beneath the hood and the 10-speed automatic passing power to the wheels does a fine job hustling this Ford along at velocities that, from the driver's lofty perch, seem mildly improbable.
But 2018 Ford Expedition buyers will be far more interested in this big rig's powertrain and suspension for its other capabilities. Like towing, for example. According to Ford, roughly half of Expedition buyers use their sport-utes to haul trailers at least occasionally, so every example to roll off the Kentucky Truck Plant factory floor comes capable of towing at least 5,900 pounds. (True towing aficionados can opt for the $1,570 Heavy-Duty Trailer Towing Package, which adds items like a heavy-duty radiator, an integrated trailer brake controller, a 3.73 rear axle, and an electronic limited-slip diff to boost the towing capacity to 9,000–9,300 pounds, depending on how you spec your Ex.)
All-new Expedition is surprisingly good off-road
Those who never hitch their Expedition's 400 horses to a wagon might be more impressed with this Ford's off-road capability, especially on versions equipped with the new-to-Expedition FX4 Package, which throws together a dual-range 4WD system, skid plates and fuel tank armor, off-road wheels, tires, and suspension, and the towing package's more potent radiator and electronic LSD. To prove its worth, Ford released a gaggle of journalists loose in FX4-equipped Expeditions on a tight, dusty mountain trail of the sort usually reserved for Wranglers and FJ Cruisers. Apart from a beam that meant the flanks often scraped against encroaching brambles, the big SUV handled itself with surprising aplomb, in spite of the independent rear axle that Tahoe and Suburban fans have often derided for a reported lack of toughness. I saw dive angles as high as 25 degrees on the handy off-road gauges that can be summoned up on the 8.0-inch screen between the instrument panel's speedo and tach. (It felt steeper.)
Should the assorted munchkins crammed inside decide to look up from their screen long enough to notice the world around them, they'll be able to see out better than they can from most of these behemoths, in spite of the newly-raised belt line that makes the truck look look a tad like a GMC Yukon from the rear 3-4 angle. (The effect is doubled with the optional moonroof, which is roughly the size of the Hayden Planetarium.) But if they'd rather stare at screens as most damn kids these days do, the Expedition is prepped and ready for their tech-driven needs. With up to six USB ports, four 12-volt plugs, and a 110V outlet available, there are places for everyone to recharge their devices; if you've got one of those new iPhones, you can also use a wireless charging pad tucked into the center console. And not only does it offer built-in WiFi, the new Expedition also has an available SlingBox connection that lets occupants stream live TV to the second-row's screen or to another device, a fact I luxuriated in by watching the Rangers beat the Bruins on a big-screen TV erected in the open cargo bay during the launch drive dinner event.
For the driver, though, the technological features are a little less impressive. Sure, all the 21st Century safety and driver assistance features you'd expect are there, either standard or as an option—lane departure prevention, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go functionality, an EZ-trailer-back-up system that works the gas and pedals for the driver—but other features are a little less than cutting-edge. The rotating shift knob that's become the Troy McLure of Ford's corporate interior (Hi! I'm Rotary Shifter. You may remember me from such cars as the Ford Fusion, and the all-new Ford GT!) works well enough, but the plus and minus buttons just behind it used to manually shift the new transmission are the least-friendly manumatic since the Chiclet-sized buttons found on the steering wheel of the Dodge Ram. (Odds seem good at least a few owners will mistake them for volume buttons, then wonder why the engine is getting louder instead of the radio.) And even the new Sync 3 infotainment system and supplemental digital gauge display cluster already seem outdated, compared to systems from Mazda, Chrysler, and General Motors.
Better, then, for the driver to take comfort in the simple features designed to make life easier when the car is stopped. Aptly-named "Tip-and-Slide" seats—standard on most Expeditions, optional on the rest—make clambering into the shockingly-roomy third row seat fairly easy even for the long of limb. That third row, by the way, powers itself upright or flat with the touch of a button in every Expedition. The load floor behind the last row of seats can be flipped up into a cargo shelf with a few seconds' work, too, serving double duty as a handy raised shelf...or triple duty as a cargo over, to keep prying eyes from peeping in.
But this Ford can get pricey
Of course, all good things come at a cost—and in the case of this new Ford, it's a literal one. The sole 2018 Expedition available for less than $50,000 is the two-wheel-drive, short-wheelbase stripper that goes by the in-this-case-pointed name of XL—a vehicle so clearly aimed at fleet buyers, it's not even on Ford's online car configurator. XLT models start at a range between $51,695 and $57,390; the Limited model above that bases between $62,585 and $68,400; and the top-tier Platinum starts out between $72,710 and $78,545. That latter model comes well-equipped, including with an extra 25 horsepower and 10 pound-feet you'll never notice; still, add on the handful of remaining options and the $1,195 destination and delivery fee, and you're staring down the barrel of a Ford with an $83,000 price tag. Granted, the company sells F-Series trucks with beefier price tags...but those don't have to deal with an in-house luxury rival the way the Expedition has to compete with the equally-new Lincoln Navigator, which starts at $72,055 and offers the sort of fancy-pants interior you'd expect from a vehicle at that price.
Still, unless you really need the glamour of giant wheels, massaging seats, or wood trim, the lesser Expeditions should be more than enough for your eight-passenger, all-weather, most-terrain needs. Every Expedition seats eight people, as standard; every Expedition features the same EcoBoost powertrain with best-in-class fuel economy; with both back rows folded flat, every Expedition has enough room to stack men the size of me like cordwood and still close the hatch. (Or, in the case of the longer-wheelbase Expedition Max, enough space to stack sheets of 4-foot-by-8-foot plywood.)
In fact...much as you'll probably never come close to pushing its limits on a winding road, odds are good you'll never need all of its other capabilities, either. But you'll be glad to know it's all there if you need it.
2018 Ford Expedition - The Specs
Powertrain: 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6, 375–400 horsepower, 470-480 pound-feet of torque; 10-speed automatic; rear-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive
Fuel Economy: 16-17 city, 21-24 highway, depending on size and drivetrain
0-60 MPH: Unknown, but probably quicker than you'd think
Largest wheel diameter available: 22 inches