The Ford Expedition full-size SUV, redesigned in 2018, is in some ways a Ford F-150 pickup truck with three rows of seats instead of a bed in the back. Like the F-150, it uses aluminum body panels to save weight, not that that makes it light. It also borrows the truck’s face and chiseled-in-stone styling, and brings its own excellent performance to kill the class it’s in. It all works.
Acceleration, ride and handling are all commendable. Maybe even fuel mileage at 20 miles per gallon combined, consider this is a 5,400-pound vehicle that than can hold its own in the quarter-mile and tow 9,300 pounds.
Up to seven passengers can share up to 172 cubic feet of space; or two people can ride with 121.5 cubic feet behind them, for stuff. If that’s not enough, there’s the long-wheelbase Expedition Max.
Every Expedition uses a 3.5-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6 coupled to a smart-shifting 10-speed automatic, with rear- or four-wheel drive. Most models take that engine in a state of tune that makes 375 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque, but the engine in the Platinum is boosted to 400 hp and 480 lb-ft. The engine throbs with a performance-car heartbeat.
The EPA rates a rear-wheel-drive Expedition with the base engine at 17 mpg city, 24 highway, 20 mpg combined; with four-wheel drive it’s 17/22/19 mpg.
The long-wheelbase Expedition Max gets 17/23/19 mpg with rear-wheel drive, and 16/21/18 mpg with four-wheel drive.
The four-wheel-drive Expedition earns a five-star overall safety score from the NHTSA, with four stars for calculated rollover resistance. The IIHS hasn’t crash-tested it.
Ford makes some of its latest safety features an option on the Expedition. Blind-spot monitors, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, forward-collision warnings and automatic emergency braking will add more than $6,000 to the price of an XLT, because you have to buy other features to get the safety equipment. These features come on the top model Platinum, which costs about $21,000 more than the XLT.
The base Expedition XLT comes with power features, a power driver seat, a power-folding third-row seat, cruise control, climate control, 18-inch wheels, parking sensors, an AM/FM/satellite/CD audio system with a handful of USB ports and nine speakers, and a very small LCD touchscreen. A rearview camera is also standard, with another very small screen. As we mentioned, active safety features cost more. That’s also true for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. If you add those things you’ll be looking at nearly $60,000 for the bottom-model Expedition.
If you want to boost the price even higher, there are many more options: leather upholstery, power front seats, an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, blind-spot monitors, heated and cooled front seats, keyless ignition, and a power hands-free tailgate. Off-roaders can get tougher shocks, a low-range transfer case, all-terrain tires, underbody protection, running boards, and an electronic limited-slip differential.
All Expeditions are available with four-wheel drive and/or a long-wheelbase chassis, as well as a heavy-duty tow package with an automatic trailer-assist controller that makes hitching up as simple as the turn of a knob.
The Expedition Limited adds 20-inch wheels, premium B&O audio, power running boards, hands-free tailgate, heated and cooled 10-way power front seats, leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, parking sensors, and blind-spot monitors, as well as in-car wireless internet access, and a rear-seat entertainment system with SlingTV. If you buy all those things, which you might not want, you can get automatic emergency braking for a mere $715.
Other options on the Limited include navigation, a panoramic sunroof, 22-inch wheels, LED headlights, automatic park assist, and adaptive cruise control with active lane control.
The Platinum offers nearly all this equipment standard, as well as a surround-view camera system. But it still has many options that jack the price even higher, such as leather second-row captain’s chairs and power-fold second-row bench seats.
The lines are crisp, cohesive and appealing. They’re similar to the F-150 truck, but the edges and details look better when there’s a whole body to go with them. The C-shaped headlamps still look like tools, if expensive ones, while the Expedition’s softer grille avoids the razor-sharp look of the truck.
At its best in profile, the Expedition wears an arrow-straight belt line and slab-sided body panels that look retro and cutting-edge, all at once. The tall doors and thick welts of chrome block out a shape that’s long on substance as well as size.
The base wheels are 18 inches, but because of its size, the Expedition can carry its 20- and 22-inch wheels.
Too bad the view from the rear lets the clean styling down. A big gratuitous chrome strip spans the liftgate, stamped with a giant EXPEDITION. Optional LED taillamps offer some distraction.
The XLT cabin is dark but neatly composed, and might be mistaken for either that of the F-150 pickup truck or a Lincoln, depending on what part of the country you’re from. In fact, the instrument panel is a copy of the F-150, with better fit and finish. The standard rearview camera displays on a small screen.
The center console is busy, with a rotary shifter and chunky controls for the four-wheel-drive system. There are lots of cupholders and charging points. It’s nearly as generous as a minivan.
The driver’s seat is wrapped in a rugged fabric, comfortable with nice-fitting bolsters; it is power-adjustable, and its high driving position affords excellent forward visibility. Leather upholstery and 10-way power adjustment for both front seats are an expensive option.
The Platinum replaces the XLT’s cloth seats with beautifully stitched leather on the seat bolsters and door panels, real wood trim, and fine chrome details.
The Expedition’s huge doors make access to the second and third rows easy. The second row can be configured with a split-bench seat or with a pair of captain’s chairs on Limited and Platinum models. They offer more support than the standard second-row bench, and slide forward for excellent access to the third row.
If you must have a vehicle with a third-row seat, because you use it often, the Expedition is probably your best if not least expensive choice. We say “for kids only” all the time in our reviews, but not here. The third row is actually roomy enough for adults, even on a long trip. There’s plenty of leg room (plus four cupholders). Head room is a bit tight for very tall passengers, but the power-fold and power-recline seat can accommodate them.
Behind the third row, the Expedition has 20.9 cubic feet of storage space, with a relatively low cargo floor thanks to its compact independent rear suspension. The Max model has 36 cubic feet. Fold down the third-row seat and there is 63.6 cubic feet (Max, 79.6). With both seats folded, offers 104.6 cubic feet (Max 121.5).
Most Expedition buyers go for the available hands-free power tailgate, and a nifty cargo management system isn’t very expensive.
The Expedition has the best performance of all full-size non-luxury SUVs. Its 3.5-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6 makes 375 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque in the XLT and Limited models, and 400 hp and 480 lb-ft in the Platinum. Even with its 5,400 pounds, the Expedition’s power gives the big SUV a point-and-shoot feel. It never feels challenged, thanks to those whistling turbos spinning inside a wide torque band that begins at a low 2250 rpm.
The slick-shifting 10-speed automatic helps. It can downshift a few gears at a time for sudden acceleration, while its upshifts under normal acceleration are seamless.
The standard independent suspension gets upgraded on some Expeditions with adaptive shocks that react to driving conditions by changing their stiffness and rebound. This helps smooth the ride.
The handling is as good as it gets in a vehicle this size. It’s relatively precise and progressive, easy to drive quickly in corners, and that’s saying a lot. It still leans a bunch in those corners, but it doesn’t fight or surprise the driver.
The electric power steering is fairly quick and stays firm through the whole corner, which makes the huge vehicle feel smaller. The steering doesn’t have great feedback, not surprising given the wheelbase and all-season tires, but it feels natural enough.
The tow rating of 9,300 pounds leads the class. A heavy-duty tow package includes extra cooling for the engine and a transmission oil cooler. An FX4 off-road package for four-wheel-drive models offers beefy tires and shocks, and gets the most from the standard traction-control system, with more aggressive programming of the throttle and shift response in the mud and sand modes.
The line blurs, between a Ford Expedition with all the equipment it should have, and a super-expensive luxury SUV like the Lincoln Navigator. But the Expedition nails it on all the important stuff: engine, transmission, ride, handling, styling, passenger room, and cargo space.