Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2018 Ford Expedition Limited

AutoTrader SCORE
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car
  • Safety

About four years ago, Ford completely re-designed its massive-selling F-150 pickup, with the main addition being that all-aluminum body. The weight savings the material provides made for better fuel economy as well as better towing and load-bearing ability, as the lighter body weight meant more room for your load within the truck’s gross vehicle weight rating limits. Lots of the press liked it, some didn’t but of course the thing sold – and continues to sell – in droves.

It felt like I was moving through a motorhome.

Fast forward to 2018, and it was time for Ford to take the lessons learned and take it up a notch to the fully enclosed world of the full-size SUV. And so they have done with this: the 2018 Ford Expedition.

It comes in two sizes: the regular model seen here, as well as the Max model that adds a further 230 mm to the wheelbase. The added length is only really felt in the cargo department as it’s the only thing you really get more of inside, to the tune of an additional 477 L. The legroom in the first and third rows (a third row is standard in both Max and regular models) remains by and large the same, while the shorter truck actually has more legroom in the second row.

Once you have a look inside, however, you can see why, as it’s positively cavernous in here. Even more so in my Limited tester, whose optional second-row heated captain’s chairs make it seem even roomier. Seriously, moving from the third row to the second takes very little effort, even for my 6'3" frame. It felt like I was moving through a motorhome.

More practically, it makes for some third-row seats that are absolutely usable for adults, but come with child seat anchors, too, if you’d rather go that way. Or, if you’d prefer to use the second-row seats for your child seat, know that their tilt and slide action means you can still access the third row with the car seat in there.

Other neat features that come as standard on Limited models include B&O Play Premium Audio with Sync Connect Wi-Fi hotspot, 22-inch wheels in two styles, 360-degree parking camera, hands-free liftgate and a whole lot more. There are options for more safety features and towing capability, but there’s so much kit as standard that they become a little tougher to justify for me, though I’m sure many will buy the crap out of pretty much all of them.

The wheels round out what is otherwise a classy and luxurious styling package – it also gets some added toughness like the C-clamp headlights shared with the F-150, chrome grille and chiselled hood and door panels. You can tell it’s a truck, but one that may go about its business in a somewhat stately manner, perhaps more akin to its Lincoln Navigator cousin than its Chevrolet Tahoe/GMC Yukon or Nissan Armada competition. If it’s fitted with the heavy tow package as ours was, meanwhile, not only does it look chiselled, but can haul up to 9,200 lb.

That feeling of surprising luxury is backed up by the interior: in addition to all that space, you get supple leather seating (seats are a little flat, however, and there are some inconsistencies in the leather quality), contrasting stitching, faux wood inserts, adjustable ambient lighting (no kidding) and digital modifiable gauge cluster. Add that Sync system and its Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility (not to mention the optional rear-seat entertainment system my tester had), and you’ve got a full-size SUV that ticks all the right boxes when it comes to occupant amenities.

It should come as no surprise that the only engine available for the Expedition is a 3.5L EcoBoost turbo V6; the V8 still available in the F-150 is a distant memory for the Expedition, which hasn’t had one for quite some time now. Making 375 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque (470 and 480, respectively, if you select the Platinum trim), it helps an unladen Expedition surge forward with surprising gumption, no doubt helped by the weight savings afforded by the aluminum body. Heck, there’s even a sport mode. This is a truck that feels much faster than it looks. The engine even emits a bit of a growl when you get on it, which should somewhat appease those still lusting for the burbly report of a V8.

Transmission duties are also handled by a single, solitary option: a 10-speed automatic also shared with the F-150. The cogs are smoothly swapped, and you can lock out higher gears to prevent too much gear hunting in heavy-stress situations, such as towing. You can also swap the gears by yourself, but doing so requires the use of a pair of buttons mounted below the gear select dial. It’s weird, but that doesn’t really matter as I imagine most owners will use this feature just a handful of times throughout the truck’s tenure. Let it do its thing, and you’ll be rewarded with smooth progress, if some that isn’t all that economical: we managed 16.4 L/100 km of combined usage after our test. Most of our time was spent in the city but still, it will cost you at the pump.

Of course, towing will cause those figures to rise even more, but that’s just about the only blemish in what is otherwise an immensely capable tow vehicle. With its larger radiator and 3.73 rear axle, the heavy tow package we had is fantastic on the mechanical front, but it also adds a key electronic feature: Pro Trailer Back-Up Assist (PTBA). The goal? To make towing accessible for the whole family. Once activated, all it takes is the turning of a console-mounted dial in the direction you want your trailer to go, and much like the park assist feature, the computers do the rest.

When I attended the launch of this vehicle earlier this year, I managed a flawless three-point turn while towing a pair of ski-doos – and I’m not an experienced tower. It’s a great system, and it’s nice that you don’t have to add it in addition to the heavy tow package. I guess it’s a shame that you can’t get PTBA without also getting the heavy tow stuff, but I have a feeling those buyers that want PTBA are going to want all the other tow goodies anyway. You can set the blind-spot monitoring system to cover the trailer, too, while uploading numerous trailer profiles will allow it to work with various trailer lengths.

So, it can tow. It can haul keister and cargo – but what about the ride? Is it a viable everyday vehicle for the family?

For the most part, yes. The big vehicle keeps its human cargo well insulated and comfortable, the independent rear suspension keeping everything in check and doing a pretty good job of following-through on what the interior quality promises. It can even keep itself in check as you leave the straight and narrow of the freeway for the twists and turns of a mountain road; that’s an impressive feat for a vehicle that – aluminum body construction or no – still weighs in at over 2,500 kg.

That’s all well and good, but it’s not all perfect.

It’s strange; I’ve tested numerous versions of this vehicle, and they all displayed a penchant for bobbing up and down on their dampers as you come to a stop, and of course as you travel over repetitive undulations. I’m not talking about during the undulations, either; I’m talking about the Expedition taking time to settle itself even after you’ve re-joined smoother tarmac. It may sound like a bit of a nitpick, but it remained one that nagged at me.

Not much else during my time with the truck did, though. This is an exemplary effort by Ford that’s capable, accessible, powerful, surprisingly luxurious, and just all-around well-sorted. Seems the manufacturer took its time with this one, and nailed it.

Engine Displacement 3.5L
Engine Cylinders V6
Peak Horsepower 375 hp @ 5,000 rpm
Peak Torque 470 lb-ft @ 3,500 rpm
Fuel Economy 13.8/10.7/12.4 L/100 km city/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space 592/1,628/2,962 L behind 3rd/2nd/1st row
Model Tested 2018 Ford Expedition Limited
Base Price $72,999
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,790
Price as Tested $85,534
Optional Equipment
$10,645 – Equipment Group 302A (22” wheels, LED headlights/fog lights, enhanced active park assist, 360-degree camera) $5,000; all-weather 1st/2nd row floor mats $150; heavy duty trailer tow package (heavy-duty radiator, Pro-Trailer Assist, 3.73 electronic limited-slip differential, trailer brake control, two-speed automatic 4WD) $1,400; 2nd row headrest entertainment screens $2,100; Driver Assistance package (adaptive cruise w/stop and go, active lane-keeping system, pre-collision assist with pedestrian and forward collision warning, automatic high-beams, rain sensing front wipers) $1,195; cargo management system $400; second-row bucket seats $400