2018 Ford Expedition Test Drive Review: A Tamable Goliath

Test Drive

Ford’s largest SUV’s, now in its fourth generation, is genuinely pleasant to drive.

My little urban family moved recently. We’re officially free from the constraints of condo living and now have a house with an honest-to-goodness driveway.

So, what’s the first thing I do? Secure some time in the largest vehicle I can find, of course, and dance in a circle all the way around it as soon as it’s parked. I have a 2018 Ford Expedition in my driveway, and it fits and I can walk all the way around it! Oh, happy day!

That’s not to say I wasn’t concerned that I’d regret the decision for other reasons, though. I still live in a big city, which means that as soon as I pull out of said driveway I immediately have to contend with crowded side streets, stop-and-go highway traffic, and mall parking lot labyrinths.

Admittedly, coming around in this respect to the new Expedition, now in its fourth generation for the 2018 model year, took a little longer. But I dutifully drove it around town for a full week, and I’m glad I did because it took me that long to conclude that, for a buyer who really does need absolutely everything that the Expedition has to offer, it’s currently the best product on the market.

By everything, I specifically mean its unique combination of towing features, drive dynamics, and massive amounts of interior space. The ability to absorb its price is a key factor as well, which starts above that magical $50,000 figure – $51,790, to be precise, and that’s before you get into the XL long-wheelbase configurations – and has the highest starting price in its class. That isn’t cheap any way you slice it, so if you’re shopping for this car you really need to mean it.

But those who do need and want these things will find that the Expedition is a great fit for them. The towing features are a key attraction: on top of a class-leading peak of 9,300 lbs. of capability with rear-wheel drive – that goes down to 9,200 with all-wheel drive and 9,000 lbs. either way on the XL – as well as standard trailer sway control, available blind spot information system with trailer monitoring, and a 3.73 electronic limited-slip differential and dash-mounted trailer brake system included in the heavy-duty trailer tow package among other features, the Expedition is also available with Ford’s pro trailer back-up assist, a feature that’s been popular on the F-150 since it launched in 2016.

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Perhaps more remarkable, though, is its handling. Considering its size, the Expedition is a relatively easy Goliath to tame. The redesign gave Ford the opportunity to stuff some high-strength steel and aluminum alloy into the structure and go a long way to improve torsional rigidity and flatten out the ride. I expected to wrestle with some body roll, but it really isn’t too bad at all. The one aspect that can be difficult is parking, a problem that’s easily solved by having the 360-degree camera, which can be called on anytime at the touch of a button. (You’ll need to pony up for at least a Limited model to get access to this feature, though.)

The closest thing I’ve driven to the Expedition that’s similar in size and handles this well is the new Chevrolet Traverse, which has been through a similar overhaul. But while it’s a lot more affordable, it’s also not in the same class and doesn’t come with the same breadth of features. Still, for those who don’t need quite so much size and capability and consider handling an important selling point, the Traverse could be a smart alternative.

Relative to its direct competition, the Expedition is 210 inches long in its standard configuration and 221.9 in XL; even the shorter-body version is longer than a Chevrolet Tahoe (204 in.), Nissan Armada (208.9 in.), and the aging Toyota Sequoia (205.1 in.). As one would expect, this makes for a noticeably roomier interior in every aspect, including a third row that adults could feasibly use.

The ridiculously opulent Platinum model I tested has power-tilting third-row seatbacks and second-row heated bucket seats, but the standard 40-20-40 split bench comes with power-folding tip and slide movement. The button-activated third-row drop and lift and second-row drop from the cargo compartment is a nice convenience feature as well, and the third-row portion of that is standard all the way down to the base model. However, I find that the shape of the front seats tends to make me slouch and gets uncomfortable a little too quickly.

Power comes from Ford’s 3.5-litre EcoBoost V6 across the board, but it’s tuned to deliver 375 hp at 5,000 rpm and 470 lb-ft of torque at 3,500 rpm on the base XLT and the Limited trims, while the Platinum trim, which is the one I tested, gets a boost to 400 hp and 480 lb-ft, the latter of which comes fully available at 3,250 rpm.

I’ll happily sit here and rave about how nice and torquey the engine feels in the Platinum trim and how the grunt shows up just when you need it, but I feel as though the amount of power my test unit has is just about right and fully acknowledge that it comes at a serious premium. (A Platinum unit starts at a whopping $73,030.) I haven’t driven a Limited or XLT so I can only speculate, but I suspect the power, though only slightly lower, wouldn’t feel nearly so delightful under the right foot.

It’s also worth noting that Ford has put the 10-speed automatic transmission from the F-150 to use here across the board. With the tuning in the Platinum trim, at least, it’s very well-behaved and smooth. However, as is becoming a trend, shifting functions have been moved into a rotary dial, which may rub some potential buyers the wrong way.

Connectivity features are very good, as long as you’re able to spend a bit. The front and second rows come with two USB charging ports as standard, and third-row ports are optional on XLT and standard on higher trims. But to get the Sync 3 system and add Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, you’ll need to look at the Limited trim or pay for an upgrade. This will be worthwhile for most buyers who have the budget; the system is one of the easiest to use while driving, and the touchscreen in my test unit is noticeably low-glare and pleasant to live with. Navigation with pinch-and-zoom functionality is available, though unless your phone plan forces you to be data-shy or you frequently travel outside of mobile service areas, it’s probably not worth the extra money.

Ford’s also catching up to GM by offering an available on-board Wi-Fi hotspot that supports up to 10 devices at one time. A wireless phone charger is standard in Limited and Platinum models and optional in XLT, and the rear seat entertainment system with screens mounted on the backs of the front-row headrests allows passengers to watch live TV using SlingPlayer, an automotive first.

Although the cost proposition goes up quickly, any version of the new Ford Expedition offers a combination of features and attributes buyers are looking for in a truck of this class that can’t currently be matched. For now, if you’re looking for an SUV with a lot of space, technology, and towing capability, put this one at the top of your shopping list.

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