The automotive world is in constant flux. New technologies are continually being developed, and new or updated models are released on a regular basis. But not all segments move at the same breakneck pace as the rest of the industry. The full-size SUV class, for example, sees change at a much slower rate. Before the 2018 model year, the Ford Expedition had soldiered on with few updates since the second-generation SUV was introduced in 2003. Now, after 15 years, there’s finally an all-new Expedition—and it moves the class forward significantly.
Like the related F-150 pickup, the 2018 Ford Expedition gets a new aluminum-intensive body, which drops weight by as much as 300 pounds. Just as before, the Expedition comes in two wheelbase lengths, a regular and a Max version that’s stretched by nearly a foot. We sampled a standard-wheelbase 2018 Expedition XLT 4×4 model, which is already plenty big at 210 inches long.
Our SUV came equipped with the $1,650 FX4 Off-Road package and the $5,605 Rapid Spec 202A equipment group, which includes the Sync 3 infotainment system, blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert and trailer-tow monitoring, hands-free keyless access, heated front seats, and a heated steering wheel. Other options include the $740 navigation system and $285 cargo package, which brought the as-tested price to $64,220. That’s definitely a lot of cash, but this is also a lot of car.
The new Expedition shares much of its underpinnings with the F-150, but the similarities don’t stop there. Inside, you’ll notice the dash and cabin design bears a strong resemblance to the pickup, complete with big, blocky HVAC vents, a chunky steering wheel, and an in-cluster TFT screen with intuitive menus. The Expedition also borrows the tiered double-compartment glove box from the Super Duty. It’s handy for storing small things, but I can’t help thinking one big glove box would be more useful more of the time. Our car came equipped with Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system, which features a large capacitive touchscreen with swipe capability. The interface is easy to use and navigate, and the system is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The front seats are comfortable, and both occupants will have plenty of armrest space thanks to a large padded center console storage lid. One big difference between the Expedition and the trucks is that the SUV gets a rotary knob instead of a traditional center console gear selector or column shifter. The dial is fine in most situations and could just take some getting used to, but I had to look down to see what I was doing when performing a three-point turn.
The front of the cabin is a nice place to be, but people buy these massive things for the space behind the front seats. Ford was more than generous when it came to legroom for the second row. “Amazing second row space,” executive editor Mark Rechtin said during a recent comparison test between the Expedition, Toyota Sequoia, Dodge Durango, Nissan Armada, and Chevrolet Tahoe. “This thing is a giant inside.” Features editor Christian Seabaugh said it has the “best second row of the group by far. It not only tilts back but properly reclines. Really super comfortable. Plenty of leg-, head-, and knee room.”
The third row is just as impressive, offering space that’s more than livable for adults. Sliding the second row forward to access the rearmost seats is simple and intuitive, and climbing out is easy, too. Once you’re back there, you won’t feel like you’re in a penalty box like in some other SUVs. “The third row is for real adults,” associate editor Scott Evans said. “I’ve got space back here, and the seats aren’t uncomfortable.” Your legs rest at a near 90-degree angle rather than in your chest as they would be in the back seat of a Tahoe. The Expedition’s lack of a rear live axle likely has something to do with that. Legroom is reasonable for a third-row bench, but taller passengers might find it tight. Long rides are made more tolerable, however, by reclining seat backs, USB ports on either side, plenty of storage space, and rear automatic climate control. If you need space for things, not people, the Expedition offers a cavernous 104.6 cubic feet with both rows folded down.
All of that is important, but how does the new Expedition drive? For a big honking SUV, pretty dang good. Highway ride is smooth and quiet, making this a very comfortable cruiser. Steering feel for the most part is accurate, with good on-center feel. I did have to make frequent corrections to stay in the lane on gentle bends, however. Ford’s available lane keep assist, which works very well in the similar F-150, might help with that.
The only engine available in the Expedition is the 3.5-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V-6, which feels more than adequate in this application. Power comes on almost immediately and continues to deliver buckets of torque throughout the rev range. The second-gen EcoBoost 3.5 makes 375 hp at 5,000 rpm and 470 lb-ft of torque at 3,500 rpm—an increase of 10 hp and 50 lb-ft over the previous Expedition equipped with a Gen 1 EcoBoost. Throttle response is sharp, and the 10-speed transmission jointly developed by Ford and GM is quick to kick down several gears when you press the right pedal. That transmission has a tendency to want to upshift into high gear as soon as possible, even when going uphill. It was odd to be going up a grade in sixth, but the engine never felt like it was lugging. Engine stop/start comes standard, and is surprisingly smooth on restart.
In testing, the Expedition hit 60 mph from a dead stop in 6.2 seconds. Not bad at all for a vehicle weighing more than 5,700 pounds. The quarter mile came in 14.8 seconds at 91.7 mph, and the SUV needed 129 feet to come to a halt from 60 mph. The 390-horse, V-8-powered 2018 Nissan Armada matched it in acceleration but stopped 6 feet shorter. The Nissan also has the Expedition beat on engine note. The boosted V-6 doesn’t sound bad, but it won’t sing at full throttle like its eight-cylinder competitors. On the plus side, it’s very quiet when cruising. Another benefit of having the V-6 is efficiency. The EPA estimates the 2018 Expedition achieves 17/22 mpg city/highway, though our own Real MPG tests put it at 14.6/22.3 mpg, which is still decent for the class.
Although it lost to the Nissan, the Expedition beat the Durango, Sequoia, and Tahoe in acceleration. And although it was one of the quickest of the group, the only large SUV it outbraked was the Tahoe, which needed an anomalous 137 feet to stop.
People don’t buy these vehicles for their handling, but we test that anyway here at Motor Trend. The Expedition took 27.6 seconds to complete our figure-eight course, putting it right in the middle of the pack. From behind the wheel, though, the Expedition feels more at home on a curvy road than you might expect. “Impressive body control,” Evans said. “Surprisingly little body roll for such a big vehicle.”
Despite mixed results at the track, the Expedition’s subjective off-road performance was undisputed. After driving all five SUVs at Hungry Valley State Vehicular Recreation Park, editors agreed that the Ford was the best option if you plan to venture off the beaten path. “The Ford put every other truck back on the trailer at the off-road park … waltzed right through as if everything was paved,” Evans said. “Nothing else came close.” Rechtin concurred, saying it was “by far the best off-road—just walked right up the steep, slippery hill obstacle.”
I didn’t have a chance to tow with the Expedition, but those who did reported that it was a pretty effortless affair. Our trailer weighed 4,700 pounds, well below the Expedition 4×4’s 9,200-pound max towing capacity, and editors said they barely noticed it at all. The Expedition’s excellent visibility and clear backup camera made hooking up the trailer very easy. Our tester didn’t come with the $1,570 Heavy Duty Trailer Tow package, so it didn’t have a trailer brake controller. Although that would have helped to adjust the trailer’s brakes, the Expedition stopped just fine without it on a 93-mile trip to Lebec, California. Road test editor Erick Ayapana said the powertrain does a good job of engine braking when going downhill, and the transmission finds and holds the appropriate gear when going uphill. With the trailer attached, the Expedition needed 12.2 seconds to reach 60 mph and 18.7 seconds to complete the quarter mile—again, just about matching the V-8-powered Armada.
The 2018 Ford Expedition’s blend of performance (both on- and off-road), comfort, utility, and tech easily make it the new benchmark for the full-size SUV class. It doesn’t mark a giant leap for big SUV-kind, but given that the segment has been so stagnant for so long, the competition has some catching up to do.
|2018 Ford Expedition XLT (4×4) FX4|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$64,220|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, 4WD, 8-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||3.5L/375-hp/470-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||5,763 lb (50/50%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||210.0 x 79.9 x 76.4 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.2 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||14.8 sec @ 91.7 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||129 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.76 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||27.6 sec @ 0.62 g (avg)|
|REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB||14.6/22.3/17.2 mpg|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||17/22/19 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||198/153 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||1.02 lb/mile|