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PowerSteering: 2018 Ford Expedition Review

PowerSteering: 2018 Ford Expedition Review

By Liz Kim, March 07, 2018

When some of my friends ask me about getting a new car, they say the want a big SUV, something like a Chevy Suburban or Tahoe. When I ask why, they say they want a large, roomy vehicle that they can throw sporting gear or bulk-sized toilet paper into and that can hold their kids and their friends. No mention is made of Airstream trailers, boat docks, horse shows, or other heavy-duty requirements.

I tell them that what they want is a minivan or a crossover, but most of them don’t believe me. They think that their lifestyle is more aligned with a big, powerful SUV, and don’t seem to care that they’ll pay much more than they need to while getting worse fuel economy, lesser refinement and diminished driving dynamics. Not to mention that the Chevrolet Tahoe is actually less capacious than the Chevrolet Traverse crossover, which, of course, isn’t as roomy as a minivan.

But there are people who actually need the towing and hauling capability a full-size SUV supplies, and for them Ford presents the newest and greatest Expedition. It’s bigger and more nimble than before, and for when big isn’t nearly big enough, there’s the Expedition MAX, which is a full foot longer overall, with an 8-inch stretch in wheelbase, along with a commensurate increase in cargo capacity.

For this review, J.D. Power evaluated a Ford Expedition MAX Limited equipped with White Platinum paint, second-row bucket seats, a reversible cargo mat, a Cargo Package, a Heavy Duty Trailer Tow Package and Package 301A. The price came to $72,095, including the $1,195 destination charge.

What Owners Say

Before we discuss the results of our evaluation of the Ford Expedition, it is helpful to understand who bought the previous version of this Large SUV, and what they liked most and least about their Expeditions.

Among Large SUV owners, people who choose the Ford Expedition are typically older and less affluent. J.D. Power data shows that 63% are male (vs. 62% for the segment), that their median age is 58 years old (vs. 53 years old), and that they enjoy a median annual household income of $132,979 (vs. $157,498).

Expedition owners are more likely to agree that they prefer buying a vehicle from a domestic company, compared to all owners of Large SUVs (91% vs. 80%). They are also more likely to agree that they avoid vehicles that think will have high maintenance costs (89% vs. 85%).

The data shows that Expedition owners are less likely to agree that their friends and family think of them as someone who knows a great deal about autos (64% vs. 68%). They are also less likely to agree that they like a vehicle that stands out from the crowd (70% vs. 78%).

Owners report that their favorite things about the previous Expedition were (in descending order) the engine/transmission, driving dynamics, exterior styling, visibility and safety, and interior design. Owners indicate that their least favorite things about the previous Expedition were (in descending order) the seats, storage and space, infotainment system, climate control system, and fuel economy.

What Our Expert Says

In the sections that follow, our expert provides her own perceptions about how the Ford Expedition measures up in each of the 10 categories that comprise the 2017 APEAL Study.


I own a midsize, 3-row crossover SUV, and it was absolutely dwarfed by the Expedition. The two, both in white paint, sat side by side on my driveway, the Ford a Great Dane towering over my own yellow Lab.

Aside from being obviously big, I loved that the Expedition MAX was unapologetic about it. There were no design tricks to make it seem more svelte or dynamic. It’s brick shaped, it weighs a lot, so get out of its way.

Styling-wise, the Expedition is a handsome vehicle with a beefy presence, and the Limited trim’s big 20-inch wheels helped cement the effect. But I think I’d prefer the even fancier Platinum trim.


Taking cues from the exterior, Ford keeps things simple and linear when it comes to the design of the cabin. There are no extraneous swoops or curves; all the controls and vents are businesslike and no-nonsense. Except, of course, for the fake wood, which tends to cheapen cabins more often than dress it up.

While the upper part of the interior was composed of quality materials, the lower part is covered in hard plastics that weren’t exactly becoming of a vehicle priced at more than $70,000. Everything was assembled with care, though, and if you want a luxe version of the Expedition, you can always upgrade to a Lincoln Navigator.


The Expedition Limited’s front seats are wonderfully comfortable, with just the right amount of cushioning and support, and my test vehicle’s heated and ventilated seats certainly helped matters. Getting in and out of the high-riding vehicle is surprisingly easy, too, facilitated by power-deployed running boards.

The test vehicle’s second-row seating consisted of two heated bucket seats, with a good space in between for third-row passengers to clamber through, even grown-ups. And they won’t be dismayed by their seat assignment because the Expedition’s third-row seat is actually habitable by adults, unlike most three-row vehicles – including some of this big Ford’s direct competitors.

Climate Control System

Separate climate controls for the rear seat passengers are always helpful for keeping a family happy, and the Expedition provides them as standard equipment. In my Limited test vehicle, dual-zone front temperature adjustment further made living with the Expedition satisfying.

As far as the controls themselves are concerned, the two big temperature adjustment knobs flanking the climate function buttons are easy to use, but the buttons themselves are rather small.

The system itself was quite effective, in spite of the test vehicle’s panoramic glass roof and unseasonably warm temperatures in Southern California.

Infotainment System

In a cabin this big, even an 8-inch touchscreen display seems small, but that’s the largest one offered with the Expedition’s Sync 3 infotainment system.

Nevertheless, Sync 3 is pretty easy to use, and Ford wisely separates commonly used radio functions from the screen with two burly power/volume and tuning knobs anchoring either side of a set of radio station preset buttons. While the extra buttons do make the center stack look busy, they’re far easier to use than systems that require interaction with the touchscreen.

When you must use the screen, it works similar to your smartphone, making it seem familiar. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone projection furthers that impression, and the Expedition is available with a subscription-based 4G Wi-Fi hotspot. Six USB charging ports await to power up your devices, as does an available wireless charging pad. And yes, a rear-seat entertainment system is an option, along with a 110-volt AC power outlet.

Limited trim also adds a Harman B&O Play premium audio system with 12 speakers, more than enough to fill the cavernous interior with decent sound.

Storage and Space

It’s a bit puzzling as to why storage and space didn’t rank higher on Expedition owners’ list of favorite features, because the outgoing model had the largest cargo capacity of any full-size SUV. With this redesign, the Expedition continues to offer more interior room than the competition, and if you choose the Expedition MAX you should never complain about storage again.

With all three rows in use and filled with people, the MAX still provides a maximum of 34.4 cu.-ft. of space. Fold the third-row seat down and you’ll have 73.3 cu.-ft. of volume at your disposal. That’s about what many midsize SUVs offer behind the front row. Use the Expedition solely to haul stuff, not people, and 121.5 cu.-ft. avails itself to you. You might as well be driving around in a U-Haul at this point.

There are plenty of storage solutions around the cabin, too, and not just a huge glove box and giant center console storage area. The door panel bins are more useful because they’re sectioned off. And in the rear, an optional cargo management system supplies a two-tiered shelf giving you the ability to avoid piling grocery bags on top of one another.

Oh, and Ford thoughtfully designed the Expedition’s cargo floor to prevent items from rolling out when you open the liftgate, whether we’re talking soccer balls or Halloween pumpkins.

So go ahead, bring whatever you may. Most likely, it’s going to fit.

Visibility and Safety

From the driver’s seat, the Expedition provides a commanding view of the road, and your perch behind the wheel allows you to see over the roofs of most other vehicles – including some of the Expedition’s primary competitors.

Parking is also remarkably easy, thanks to the Expedition’s square corners, impressive outward visibility, tight turning radius, and various systems designed to aid your vision. You can even equip this SUV with semi-autonomous parking assist to help you squeeze it into and out of parking spaces.

The Expedition also offers a full suite of active safety technologies, several of which are new for 2018. Highlights include adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go traffic management capability, forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning with lane keeping assist, and much more.

At the time of this writing, neither the NHTSA nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety had performed crash testing on the 2018 Expedition. This SUV does weigh nearly three tons, though, and is equipped with a more robust steel frame than ever, so chances are good that it will protect its occupants in crashes with smaller vehicles. And most other vehicles are smaller than this SUV.


Motivating this beast is Ford’s twin-turbocharged, 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 that makes 375 horsepower (400 hp for the Platinum trim level) and 470 lb.-ft. of torque kicking in at just 2,250 rpm (480 lb.-ft. for the Platinum trim level). Despite the Expedition’s weight, power delivery is strong and broad throughout the rev range, with zero turbo lag or any unflattering gaps in the power band.

A 10-speed automatic transmission powered the test vehicle’s rear wheels; a 4-wheel-drive system with Terrain Management technology is an option. The automatic, despite its number of gears, performed its task well except for frequent and unflattering clunks during low-speed downshifts. To shift gears, you use a rotary knob on the center console.

Towing capacity measures 9,300 pounds when the Expedition is properly equipped, the most that any full-size SUV can pull. And to make trailering even easier, Ford provides its Pro Trailer Backup Assist technology to make reversing the attached load a snap.

Fuel Economy

Owners of the previous Expedition cited fuel economy as their least favorite aspect of ownership, but my test vehicle met expectations – especially considering its size and near 3-ton bulk. The EPA says to expect about 19 mpg in combined driving from an Expedition MAX with rear-wheel drive (17 city/23 highway). I got 18.3 mpg, which is well within reason.

No, it’s not ever going to be fuel efficient, and you will be making expensive stops at the gas station. Luckily, the Ford Expedition MAX has a massive 28.3-gallon fuel tank (the regular Expedition’s tank holds 23.3 gallons), which means that you can go more than 500 miles between fuel ups.

Driving Dynamics

The biggest compliment that you can give a big car is that it drives smaller than it is. Such was the case with the Expedition MAX.

Not that you could actually forget its Brobdingnian proportions and weight. Indeed, you’d be advised to get it slowed down before pitching it into a corner, and to mind lane markers and keep the SUV securely within them. Nevertheless, the Expedition MAX did manage its considerable heft well under all driving circumstances.

Around town, the Expedition is a bear when prowling tight parking lots for a space, and you have to be mindful of how much real estate it takes up when you park. You’ve got to ask yourself: “Will the owner of the car next to you be able to open its door?” As such, I took pains to park at further distances from the stores I shopped, leaving the Expedition with a clear conscience. 

Where the Expedition is at home is on the highway. It is remarkably easy to blast down the freeway, the SUV swallowing up bumps and harshness thanks in part to its independent rear suspension. Then you look down at the speedometer and realize that you’ve been going faster than is legally prudent.

No matter the situation, the Expedition’s steering is remarkably direct, and the brakes are easy to modulate. It’s easy to see why the Expedition’s driving dynamics are among owner’s favorite features, and this new Expedition should make them even happier.

Final Impressions

Whether you need its hauling and towing capability or its interior size for cargo or passengers, the new 2018 Ford Expedition shines in almost every aspect. With this redesign, it sets the standards for the segment.

Of course, my test vehicle was quite pricey, so if you don’t absolutely need the Expedition’s significant talents on a regular basis, you can save yourself a bundle of money by choosing a minivan or a 3-row crossover SUV. They’re less expensive, more fuel efficient, and much easier to drive and park.

Ford Motor Co. supplied the vehicle used for this 2018 Ford Expedition review.
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