Let’s get it out of the way up front: This is big (BIG) news. Even in its short wheelbase, 3-row form, Ford’s newest Expedition dwarfs the Subaru Forester it’s parked next to on the driveway. And when sitting adjacent to Honda’s CR-V in a parking lot, the Honda looks like this precocious 8-year old asking Shaq O’Neal for an autograph. Without beating a big horse to death, the Expedition is (perhaps) larger than life…unless it’s your life.
After 20+ years of production, Ford’s biggest SUV remains available in both long and short wheelbases variants, in the same way as General Motors continues to offer both a Tahoe (SWB) and Suburban (LWB) versions. Born from a combination of F-150 bones and wagon-esque sheetmetal in the mid-90s, and building on the success of Ford’s midsize Explorer, for most of its life the Expedition has been as simple as that…an F-Series with four doors and three rows.
Later, however, the engineers at Ford adapted an independent rear suspension to the big truck, creating what is arguably less truck and a better SUV. Not only is handling and roadholding improved with the IRS, but the third row will (typically) fold flatter, while leg and headroom are more expansive.
In this, its 4th generation, the Expedition team took another page from the F-Series, replacing steel with an all-new high-strength aluminum-alloy body, while at the same time redesigning its steel frame. The end result is a stronger, stiffer structure, while paring some 300 pounds from that structure. If, however, you think this thing can be tossed and turned like a go-kart, be sure and think again. Subjectively, this is one big piece of nicely sculpted sheetmetal. There’s the aforementioned big box stance, an imposing (natch) grill and the obligatory big wheel/tire combo. The sides of the Expedition are oh-so-subtly sculpted, and those variations – while not hiding the Expedition’s 210 inches – do a reasonably job of minimizing those inches. At the rear a mammoth hatch will swallow both mom’s overstuffed sofa and, if necessary, your overstuffed mom.
In Ford’s Platinum trim you’ll be excused if you confuse Ford’s Expedition with Lincoln’s upmarket Navigator. This is one upmarket sled, and looks fully appropriate to touring America’s West or navigating America’s Swamp. Just don’t ask the valet to park it up front, as the Expedition is longer than most DC restaurants are wide.
Inside, Ford touts its best-in-class second and third row legroom and flexible seating. We were impressed by the expanse of perforated leather, heated this and cooled that. The Expedition’s infotainment is passable and its nav navigable, while the big Ford’s second-row tip-and-slide seating wasn’t as intuitive as we had hoped. Obviously, if you own the Expedition you’ll have figured it out, but we think first-time users should be able to figure it out. Once in the third row our tallish 13-year old – nephew Jack! – was comfortable, as was his 5-year old cousin Rhys.
Under the hood, Ford’s team has tossed out the expected V8 in favor of its EcoBoost V6. And while we have no argument with the V6’s power or temperament, we’d wonder why Ford goes to the trouble of comparing its efficiency to that of GM’s. The Expedition 4X4 with its EcoBoost V6 (and all of the attendant complication with its turbocharger) delivers 17 City/23 Highway, while a Tahoe 4X4 with its 5.3 liter V8 gives you 16 City/22 Highway. Whether gas is cheap (now) or expensive (later), we’re hard-pressed to understand Ford’s efforts in both reducing weight and complicating the powertrain when the net result is so small. Maybe someone at Ford can suggest an answer, as we continue to scratch our collective *sses.
If towing a boat or trailer you’ll appreciate the Expedition’s 9300 pound towing capability. We also think you can appreciate the Expedition’s value, with a well-equipped Expedition starting at just over $50K. Our Platinum test vehicle was, of course, more – just north of $75K. Online, however, we were able to ‘build our own’ Expedition XLT 4X4, with leather but none of the nanny adds, for under $60K. And that, in the context of 2018, is a deal for what should be a 10-year truck.
However, if not towing there are SUVs, crossovers and – dare I say it – minivans offering both better efficiency and more utility. In today’s urban environs 210 inches of overall length (the longer Max is almost 20 feet!) is simply too big to be viable. We’d spend that $60K on an Explorer. Or Shelby’s GT350 – and rent a minivan when making the (inevitable) airport runs.