2018 Ford Expedition Review and First Drive

When I was a kid, my mom – all five-foot-one of her – drove my brother and me around in an old ¾ ton GMC Suburban with a 454 cubic-inch V8 under the hood. Standing beside the truck, I’m pretty sure she could’ve rested her chin on the hood.

It was an enormous truck and certainly overkill for day-to-day duties of a family of four, and yet my mom loved that thing. She loved looking down on lesser machines and enjoyed the sense of power driving a machine as large as that bestowed upon her. 

Ford has just released its new full-sized Expedition and extra full-figured Expedition Max SUVs. These are machines designed to appeal to folks who need (or believe they need) the space of a rig that’s large enough to dominate over the throngs of crossovers at the supermarket parking lots and PTA meetings. It’s favored by those with large families who don’t want a minivan or those who want a real truck-based sport-ute that’ll haul a lot of stuff.  

The Expedition battles in a segment occupied by the likes of the Nissan Armada, Toyota Sequoia, and, of course, the venerable Yukon, Tahoe, and Suburban contingent from General Motors. Change in this segment occurs at an evolutionary rate, so when a model is completely new, like the Expedition, it can have revolutionary effects.  

Huge Improvements

Although Ford introduced its EcoBoost V6 to the previous-generation Expedition in 2015, the 3.5-liter engine has been enhanced with greater power. Both XLT and Limited trims provide 375 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque. Those who opt for the top-shelf Platinum trim will receive 400 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque. The latter figure is a significant 60 lb-ft greater than its predecessor (50 more on the lower trim trucks) and puts it ahead of even the optional 6.2L V8 in the General’s trucks.  

2018 Ford Expedition Review-Jeff WILSON-13

But in addition to being more powerful, the new Expedition is more efficient. With ratings of 17 mpg in the city (13.8 L/100km) and 23 mpg on the highway (10.7 L/100km), Ford is claiming best-in-class efficiency.  

This improvement is largely attributed to an impressive weight loss program derived from the implementation of an aluminum body. In Platinum trim, more than 200 lbs have been shaved.  

Auto stop-start technology has been applied to do its part and an all-new 10-speed automatic transmission contributes as well. This new transmission is a very good addition with smooth but swift gear changes and none of the gear hunting one would expect with so many cogs to choose from. Being co-developed with GM, it should be noted the Yukons and Tahoes also benefit from this great gearbox.  

My parents bought their big SUV all those years ago with the intent of hauling our trailer around on summer vacation road trips. Ford anticipates more than half of the Expedition’s buyers plan to tow with their trucks. “Truck” is the operative word here since the Expedition remains constructed on a heavy steel truck frame. This means that when equipped with the appropriate towing package, it’ll pull up to 9,200 lbs (4,200 kg), putting it well ahead of the rest of its class, and making that dream of hauling a 26’ Sea Ray in and out of the lake a reality. In the U.S., where a 2WD Expedition is available, that number actually goes to 9,300 lbs. (Only AWD Expeditions are available in Canada.)  

2018 Ford Expedition Review-Jeff WILSON-13

Towing with the Expedition is easier than my parents could’ve ever dreamed of, too, thanks to Ford’s Pro Trailer Backup Assist. The system essentially takes care of steering by enabling the driver to direct where they want the trailer to go with a small rotary dial. For the roughly 15 percent who will use their Expedition to regularly tow, they probably already know what they’re doing, but for the rest of us who find hauling an infrequent and sometimes intimidating task, this feature could help stave off some public displays of ineptitude at the boat ramp.  

ALSO SEE: 2018 Lincoln Navigator Review and First Drive

Driving Dynamics

The Expedition’s weight loss has the added benefit of driving performance, too. Acceleration, while not as energetic as the more luxurious Lincoln Navigator (with its 450 hp and 510 lb-ft of torque), is nevertheless imposing in the big Ford. We drove each a mid-level Limited trim in standard length and the top-level Platinum trim in Max length and could feel little to no difference in thrust despite the extra 25 ponies.  

2018 Ford Expedition Review-Jeff WILSON-13

There’s no way any vehicle weighing 5,700 lbs (2,600 kg) is going to be considered a spritely handler, but the Expedition manages its bulk well. Still, many buyers actually appreciate a vehicle of size and substance on the road, offering them a sensation many still equate with safety. With luxury being less of a priority for the Expedition than its Navigator cousin, the Ford’s suspension is stiffer translating into better composure on the curves. That said, the ride, especially in the Expedition Max, is smooth and luxurious, if not quite as cloud-like as the Lincoln, and the big Ford is wonderfully quiet, too.  

Interior Impressions

Those who find Ford’s F-150 interior appealing will be pleased with the look of the Expedition. The dashboard layout, gauges, and materials are all very familiar. The one key difference is Ford’s decision to swap out a traditional shift lever for a rotary gear selector, which I certainly prefer over the Navigator’s odd piano-key approach.

2018 Ford Expedition Review-Jeff WILSON-13

In top Platinum trim, the Expedition still feels like a premium truck, not a full-on luxury machine. It is a truck, but it also comes with a price tag of more than $72,000 ($81,000 in Canada), placing it right on top of the pricing of an entry-level Navigator and its nicer trims and greater power.  

Still, in all of the Expedition’s trims, the ergonomics are very good. Large knobs fall easily to hand for audio and climate controls. The infotainment system utilizes a touchscreen to operate the latest Sync3 operating system with voice-activated navigation and USB ports distributed around the cabin for all three rows of seating. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also well-integrated here.

ALSO SEE: 2018 Ford F-150 Review 

Cargo capacity for the Expedition falls short of the Toyota Sequoia, and with the seats folded, short of the Tahoe as well, despite both competitors being smaller in exterior size. The Ford, however, makes use of its space for its passengers, creating comfortable accommodations in all three rows. Those who need more room for people and stuff can opt for the gargantuan Expedition Max.

Ford also offers a modular floor structure in the cargo area that can be reconfigured to help organize smaller items in the trunk and to even help prevent your load of cantaloupes from rolling away down the driveway when the liftgate opens.   

2018 Ford Expedition Review

The Verdict: 2018 Ford Expedition Review

Ford is expecting its share of the segment to grow with this new Expedition. And while the segment sales volume is nowhere near where it was a decade ago, given how much of a dramatic improvement this new Expedition is in terms of passenger space and refinement, efficiency and capability, there’s no reason to doubt it will. In fact, the Kentucky plant has already increased production an additional 25 percent to keep up with initial demand from dealerships.  

This new Expedition delivers everything a full-size, real-truck SUV should but with a level of refinement and capability that raises the bar in the class. With all that power and so much luxury, my mom – and plenty of other buyers of grandiose SUVs – are sure to love this all-new Expedition.  

The 2018 Ford Expedition is available at dealerships now.

2018 Ford Expedition Pricing (Canada):

XLT 4WD:   $60,149

Limited 4WD: $73,149

Limited MAX 4WD:   $76,149

Platinum 4WD: $81,149

Platinum Max 4WD: $84,149

(pricing does not include a $1,890 destination fee)

2018 Ford Expedition Pricing (United States):

XLT 2WD/4WD: $51,695 / $54,705

Limited 2WD/4WD: $62,585 / $65,705

Platinum 2WD/ 4WD: $72,935 / $76,080

XLT Max 2WD/ 4WD: $54,385 / $57,390

Limited Max 2WD/ 4WD: $65,270/ $68,400

Limited Platinum Max: $75,625 / $78,770

(pricing does not include a $1,195 destination fee)

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