First Drive: 2018 Ford Expedition

Sir Isaac Newton and the 2018 Ford Expedition would not have been friends. The latter’s utter disregard for the seminal laws that define modern-day physics would have been too much for the man to take. What I mean by this, is that the Ford Explorer looks like a Sumo wrestler and drives like a ninja. It does not, however, cut like a razor blade.

The Expedition is utterly untroubled by your demand for more momentum. Ask, and ye shall receive.

The Expedition drives small. Really small. It feels much, much smaller than this monstrous SUV really is. There are monocoque chassis SUVs that feel bigger on the road than this body-on-frame dinosaur. Where they are ponderous and lumbering, the Expedition is surprisingly agile. And let me be clear: I don’t mean sports-car agile, I mean that it drives like a smaller car would. So on tighter roads, you don’t feel at sea.

We even had the opportunity to take out a unit equipped with the $2,000 FX4 off-road package with its 18-inch Michelin Primacy XC tires through some tight, twisting, and technical off-road trails, which only accentuated the diminutive characteristics of the big Ford.

Part of this is the aluminum. New for 2018, and much like its F-150 sibling, the Expedition has an all-aluminum body on its frame. That frame is the same as the F-150’s from the B-pillar forward, but wider at the rear to accommodate the independent rear suspension. That suspension makes for a reasonably low load point in the trunk, but more importantly, does a better job of hiding the trials and tribulations of the road from the third-row passengers.

If you were worried that a rig this big would be in any way difficult to drive, worry not. It’s exceptionally easy.

Drivetrain

The 3.5L EcoBoost also helps to minimize the Expedition. In partnership with the new 10-speed automatic, the V6 turbo hauls the 2,628 kg SUV off the line with authority. That weight is for the 3,342 millimetre long-wheelbase units labelled “MAX”. Starting weight for the smaller (lol!) Expedition with a 3,112 mm wheelbase is 2,551 kg.

It helps that the EcoBoost is now tuned for 375 hp and 470 lb-ft in base trims; in Platinum trim that engine is calibrated to run up to 400 hp and 480 lb-ft when fed premium fuel. The engine is a brute, with far more lungs than even those ratings suggest, and the Expedition is utterly untroubled by your demand for more momentum. Ask, and ye shall receive.

The automatic felt smooth and changed gears without drawing attention to itself, on the highway the Expedition settles into a gentle rhythm and stays there. In the mountains, what faint engine noise and vibration there is has a pleasing resonance. It’s got more than enough grunt.

Less pleasing, perhaps, is the fuel economy. Short-wheelbase trims are rated at 15.9/12.0/14.1 L/100 km city/highway/combined. Long-wheelbase Expeditions fare worse, of course, with ratings of 16.1/12.2/14.3 L/100 km. Range is still impressive, courtesy of a 94.6 L or 113.5 L fuel tank.

Towing Stuff

The Expedition is capable of towing 9,000 lb (4,072 kg) for LWB models and 9,200 lb (4,173 kg) for SWB models when equipped with the $1,400 Heavy Duty Trailer Tow Package. That package adds a heavy-duty engine radiator, 3.73 ratio electronic limited-slip rear axle, integrated brake controller, and two-speed transfer case.

But that’s only half the story. The tow package also includes the Pro Trailer Back-up Assist system. By inputting a set of measurements into the car’s computer, and applying a special visual reference sticker to the neck of the trailer, the driver can back up the trailer using a dial on the dash and regulating speed with the pedals.

I tried backing up a relatively short (and therefore easily jackknifed) trailer into a cone-marked bay with the system. First, with the system, I managed to back up the trailer easily and quickly. Trying myself, without the system I took several times longer, and even had to reset once to have another go. On my third run, I parked the trailer confidently and easily using the system. I was skeptical, to be honest, but you can consider me a back-up assist convert.

When you consider the types of rigs people pull these days, and the money attached to them, I think this a good investment. Less stress = more better.

Regular towing with the Expedition is easy too. The only thing I’d ask for is an option for two wider mirrors, as the large Airstream I towed on a short, 30-minute loop severely impeded my rearward vision. The SUV itself is unfazed by the extra weight, with only a mild amount of driveline shudder and resistance when setting off, and a small amount under the final phase of braking.

We’ve often expressed fear of towing in my household. Every time we toy with the idea of towing something on one of our family road trips, we shy away. In this thing, it was easy enough to make me rethink that position.

Space

Massive car means massive passenger volume, 4,868 L in this case. That grows a surprisingly small four litres when you move up to the LWB model. Thankfully, it’s not necessary. Even in shorter Expeditions the third row is totally usable for adult passengers, with me sitting behind myself easily. Eight- and seven-seat configurations are available, with the front seats tilting forward with either a manually operated lever or a power button. The manual lever is faster to operate, but either way you get a cavernous opening to access the final row.

Opting for the seven-seat config means getting captain’s chairs in the second row, and kids will have no problem sliding between those into the back. In fact, it’s how I got in and out to do my testing of the back row.

Where the longer wheelbase comes in is in volume. Cargo volume with all rear seats folded flat is a whopping 2,962 L, ballooning to 3,340 L when the longer wheelbase is selected.

Behind the second row there’s 1,627 L or 2,077 L, but sliding those seats fully forward will get you 1,800/2,254 L in a pinch. Behind the third row there’s 546 L (SWB) or 973 L (LWB) with the seats reclined. Make your kids sit upright and you get 593 L, or 1,019 if it’s the longer one.

Each row gets its own storage compartments and power, including a 110V household outlet in the centre console. The back row has two USB ports on each side and a long storage tray with two cupholders up toward the front.

That large cargo volume means a whole family or crew can take a road trip and still have room for all their gear.

Watching Hockey and Other Neat Tricks

But what if there’s a game on? Well, in Canada you can use Sling and an internet connection (i.e. the Expedition’s Wi-Fi hotspot connection) to stream TV to the optional $2,100 dual headrest Invision DVD system. We were watching hockey during the launch event (statically, with the car parked). The Leafs won 3–1 over Minnesota. Good times.

The automatically descending running boards are a cool touch, as is the optional advanced cargo management system. That nifty little gadget creates a shelf out of some pre-formed supports and a section of the cargo area floor – the shelf even has a backstop to prevent things sliding out. It can also be used to form a cargo divider, or to form a trough by sealing off the front of the cargo compartment.

Off-Road Capability

With the FX4 package, drivers get the Terrain Management System. You also get 18-in Magnetic Metallic-painted cast-aluminum wheels fitted with Michelin 275/65R18 all-terrain tires, a 3.73 electronic limited-slip differential (eLSD), premium off-road front shocks, two-speed automatic transfer case with neutral towing capability, heavy-duty engine radiator, fuel tank underbody protection, skid plates, FX4 decal, and tubular chrome-trimmed running boards.

The Terrain Management System and two-speed automatic transfer case allow drivers to choose between RWD and all-wheel drive, and the eLSD can be manually activated by a button next to the Terrain Select wheel. That wheel puts the Expedition in seven different modes: normal, sport, tow/haul, eco, grass/gravel/snow, sand, or mud/rut.

We put the Expedition in Mud/Rut and sent it out through some rigorous trails. Uneven terrain, tight turns, loose surfaces, and steep descents were all more extreme than the majority of owners will do, but the Expedition was comfortable throughout. Using hill-descent control on a hill that registered a 26-degree incline in the dash was a bit hairy, especially given the surface changing from rocky to deep sand halfway down, but the hill-descent system managed our speed well.

The hefty engine made short work of some steep inclines, but I was disappointed in how little wheel slip Mud/Rut mode allowed. I would have put the Ford into Gravel mode if I was doing that one section of the course again. A long wheelbase makes for tricky going when approaching and departing from steep hills, but I only scraped the underside once, and the long wheelbase also helped damped the jouncing and buffeting to a minimum.

Trim Walk

There are three trims of the Expedition, starting with the $59,999 XLT. All trims are four-wheel drive in Canada, and the Limited and Platinum trims are available in MAX form, which means long-wheelbase, for a $3,000 premium.

Options include the aforementioned Heavy-Duty Trailer Tow ($1,400), and $2,000 FX4 off-road packages.

Perhaps more useful to the majority of drivers, the $1,195 driver assistance package adds rain-sensitive windshield wipers, adaptive speed control with stop-and-go, lane-keeping aid (includes lane-keeping assist, lane-keeping alert and driver alert), head-up display, auto high-beam headlights and pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection and forward collision warning.

The $400 Cargo package adds roof-rail crossbars and the Advanced Cargo Management System.

The panoramic sunroof is a $1,325 stand-alone option.

The value unit, for me, is the Limited, but it’s likely in Canada you’ll see a lot of Platinum MAX’s on the road.

For an easy-to-drive, well-sorted and feature-packed unit that can also transport up to eight adults in proper comfort: the Expedition is a compelling option.

The 2018 Ford Expedition is available in dealers as of writing.

Pricing: 2018 Ford Expedition

2018 Ford Expedition XLT: $59,999
2018 Ford Expedition Limited: $72,999
2018 Ford Expedition Limited MAX: $75,999
2018 Ford Expedition Platinum: $80,999
2018 Ford Expedition Platinum MAX: $83,999

Destination & Delivery: $1,790

Big footprint, little effort. 11/10/2017 12:01:00 AM