THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Good: Spacious third row; 10-speed automatic delivers smooth seamless shifts; powerful V6.
- What’s Bad: Platinum trim priced too close to the luxurious Lincoln Navigator.
A few weeks before picking up the Ford Expedition press car I spent some time in its upscale sibling: the Lincoln Navigator.
I came away quite impressed with it and its swanky cabin that’s easily one of the nicest interiors to grace a modern American vehicle.
The Expedition cabin, on the other hand, more or less mimics the F-150 pick up, on which it’s based, but ditches the traditional shifter for a rotary dial on the centre console, adds leather-covered surfaces, and three rows of flexible seating with multiple USB ports, power outlets, and WiFi to satisfy even the most unruly bunch of little whippersnappers.
This is a family hauler extraordinaire designed to bring the fight directly to GM and its sales-leading Tahoe and Suburban. The question is, has Ford done enough with the new-for-2018 Expedition?
For starters, it weighs less than the outgoing model. Not a whole lot, but it’s worth mentioning ‘cause the new one is quite a bit bigger. Largely thanks to a body that’s now made from aluminum and a stout frame that benefits from extensive use of high strength steel.
The Ecoboost 3.5-litre twin turbo V6, in Platinum trim, spits out 400 hp and a hefty 480 lb-ft of torque and is a tower of power in every single application I’ve tried it in. Just in various states of tune. Crank all its settings up to 11 and it’s good enough to power the race-ready Ford GT. If there’s an engine that will make the V8 obsolete, this is it. Except, it doesn’t please the ear. Call upon full thrust and the gruff engine note is uninspired. Not bad, just lacking that aural symphony of explosions that those two extra cylinders bring.
The Tahoe’s V8 sounds better but runs out of puff sooner and can’t quite keep up with the Ecoboost’s plateau of never-ending torque. A 10-speed automatic provides quick seamless shifts and will even skip gears going up or down depending on the situation.
Dividing the torque into ten slices plays dividends at the pump, where this bus achieved a respectable 12.7 litres per 100 km during my time with it. It didn’t take much effort either and all this makes for an impressive powertrain that makes the Chevy feel a bit long in the tooth. The Expedition can tow too. Up to 4082 kg (9000 lbs). An impressive amount and more than the General’s twins can muster.
Inside the expanse that is the Expedition’s cabin, you’ll find all the tech and luxuries you’ll ever need from comfy leather-lined multi-contour front seats and a thumping B&O play stereo to the powerful SYNC 3 infotainment system and a rear entertainment system that mounts TV screens on the front seat headrests complete with built-in Blu-ray players.
An available WiFi hotspot can connect up to 10 devices negating the need to spring for that entertainment system which remains a $2100 option even on the range-topping Platinum trim.
The second-row seats are powered and can be tipped forward allowing easy access to the back. A handy feature, especially if you have a child seat installed. Once seated back there I found ample head and legroom for my 6-foot frame, and since I was driving the even longer Max model there were just over 1000 litres of cargo area behind me.
If you decide to fold the third row down, which can be done with the touch of a button, that cargo capacity doubles to over 2000 litres. The Max stretches the wheelbase and tacks on nearly a foot of length over the standard Expedition that was in no way lacking in the space department. You’ll have to decide if you need all that extra room, which comes at quite a premium. Since you can’t have the Max with the base XLT trim you have to move up to at least the Limited, and a Limited Max will cost $16,000 on top of an XLT.
Even with the added length, the Expedition remains an easy vehicle to drive. The steering is one-finger-light and it makes maneuvers in tight spots easy. Parking something this big can be a challenge sometimes, but the light steering helps and so did the 360-degree cameras that provided a clear overhead view of the vehicle and its surroundings on the centre screen.
It’s good if you decide you need to hustle a bit too. For something that weighs almost 6000 lbs the Expedition corners surprisingly well aided by a new independent rear suspension and adaptive dampers that keep unwanted body motions in check delivering a supremely comfortable ride.
This class of giant SUVs is as American as Chuck Norris and apple pie and largely irrelevant in most other parts of the world. Yet there’s a feeling of comfort and security that you can only get from driving around in something that’s larger than most Japanese hotel rooms.
Ford has largely run away from its immediate competition with this new Expedition but its biggest problem might just be that Navigator
Starting at a hair under $85,000 the range-topping Platinum Max model I was driving is only $3000 cheaper than the base Navigator. And the Lincoln doesn’t need any extras tacked on. It already comes with every conceivable option and an interior that’s quite frankly in a different league.
My tester had a few extras like that rear seat entertainment system ($2,100), a heavy-duty tow package ($1,400), and second-row bucket seats ($800) that drove the price over $90,000. And that’s just a thousand bucks shy of the up-level Navigator Reserve, and well into Mercedes GLS territory, a smaller but much more premium vehicle that still offers three rows of seating and comes with a snooty badge and the bragging rights associated with it.
The good news is that you can get your Expedition with most of the options you actually want without spending Navigator money. The XLT starts at $60,149 and uses the same powertrain but in a slightly detuned state that makes a smidgen less power that you’ll never feel.
Check option group 202A for $6,000 and you get heated and ventilated leather seats, SYNC 3, blind spot monitors, rear cross traffic alert, dual zone climate controls, a heated steering wheel, a remote starter, a power folding second row, and power adjustable pedals.
This also allows you to tack on the Driver Assistance package ($1,200) that adds a lane guidance system, active cruise control that works in stop-and-go traffic, pre-collision assist, auto high beams, and rain-sensing wipers. You stay just under $70,000, a more agreeable price and a much smarter way of building the Expedition.
You don’t get power running boards or that 360-degree camera system but they’re not really necessary and you won’t miss them.
What you will get is a rugged, durable, and luxurious SUV and one of the best ways to go on an adventure and take the entire (extended) family along for the ride.