2020 Ford Expedition Review

Christian Wardlaw, Independent Expert | Jul 02, 2020

Introduction - Find the best Ford deals!

For many people, a full-size sport/utility vehicle is the ultimate vehicle. Ready for just about anything, huge 3-row SUVs can tow plenty of weight, can haul plenty of cargo, and can carry plenty of people. But some of these SUVs are better than others.

The 2020 Ford Expedition does not lead its class in terms of sales, but it deserves to – for now. Its unique combination of characteristics makes it one of the best big SUVs you can buy, and it comes in both standard- and extended-length body styles and in XLT, Limited, King Ranch, and Platinum trim levels.

2020 Ford Expedition King Ranch white front quarter view

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

For this review, J.D. Power evaluated an Expedition King Ranch equipped with Star White paint. The price came to $75,185, including the $1,695 destination charge.

What Owners Say… - Find the best Ford deals!

Before we discuss the results of our evaluation of the 2020 Expedition, it is helpful to understand who buys this large SUV, and what they like most and least about their vehicles.

According to J.D. Power data, 67% of Expedition owners are male (vs. 63% for all full-size SUVs); Expedition owners have a median age of 56 years (vs. 53 for the segment); and Expedition owners enjoy a median annual household income of $195,313 (vs. $154,768) for the segment.

In terms of vehicle ownership psychographics, Expedition owners are, for the most part, in lock-step with other full-size SUV owners. However, minor variances in attitudes and opinions are evident in a handful of areas.

For example, 87% of Ford Expedition owners agree that they prefer to buy a vehicle from a domestic company (vs. 81% for the segment). Expedition owners are slightly more likely to agree that they like a vehicle with responsive handling and powerful acceleration (96% vs. 94%), and that they need a versatile vehicle to accommodate a busy lifestyle (94% vs. 91%).

Expedition owners are more likely to strongly agree that they will pay extra to ensure their vehicle has the latest safety features (43% vs. 37%). Fewer Expedition owners agree that a vehicle is just a way of getting from place to place (25% vs. 29%).

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

In the J.D Power 2019 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, the Expedition was the top-ranked model out of six large SUVs.

What Our Expert Says… - Find the best Ford deals!

In the sections that follow, our expert provides his own perceptions about how the 2020 Ford Expedition measures up in each of the 10 categories that comprise the APEAL Study.

Exterior

Almost by definition, a full-size SUV is a box on wheels. These vehicles are about utility first and style second, and while the mission can restrict design creativity, it also helps these types of vehicles to age gracefully.

2020 Ford Expedition King Ranch white rear quarter view

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

As far as the Expedition goes, clean design combines with elements of flair to give the SUV a sense of style. The King Ranch test vehicle, for example, had unique dark gray trim on the lower bumpers, side mirrors, and roof rails, combined with a handsome set of 22-inch split-spoke wheels. The textured grille insert adds an upscale look to the Expedition King Ranch. 

Interior

Ford uses the dashboard from the F-150 pickup truck in the Expedition, with logically laid out controls and plenty of hard plastic panels. In King Ranch trim, exclusive Mesa brown leather with caramel piping and stitching adds an upscale look and feel, and the cabin is decorated with King Ranch branding marks.

2020 Ford Expedition King Ranch interior dashboard view

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

The end result is a cabin only partially suitable for a $75,000 vehicle. However, Expedition owners love this SUV’s interior, no doubt due to its simplicity, its generous and practical storage, and its impressive comfort.

Seats

It is difficult to be uncomfortable when you’re inside of a Ford Expedition. Excellent for six people, good for seven, and acceptable for eight, comfort is standard in each of the SUV’s three rows of seats. It’s like a rolling living room, this SUV.

One of the major contributors to comfort levels is the Expedition’s independent rear suspension. Ford has employed this type of engineering for more than a decade, allowing the SUV to have a lower cabin floor. In turn, this means the second- and third-row seats provide lots of thigh support combined with good foot room under the seats in front of them.

General Motors adopts this kind of suspension design for its upcoming redesigned full-size SUVs, so the 2021 Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe and 2021 GMC Yukon will offer dramatic improvement on this front.

Climate Control System

Ford knows that Expedition owners battle inclement weather on either side of the scale. From brutal blizzards to sweltering summer days, this SUV’s climate system is engineered to perform.

During summer testing near Los Angeles, a heat wave with temperatures near 95 degrees put the air conditioning to the test, and it passed with flying colors. The King Ranch’s ventilated front seats also helped to keep occupants cool. Had we faced a frigid winter day in the Sierra Nevadas north of the palm-lined metropolis, the King Ranch’s heated front- and second-row seats and heated steering wheel would no doubt have come in handy.

Infotainment System

Ford uses its Sync 3 infotainment system in the Expedition, and the maximum touchscreen display size is 8 inches across. On this SUV’s huge dashboard, the recessed display looks old and small. And by automotive industry standards, it is not only increasingly undersized but also fairly slow to load.

With that said, the simple user experience is agreeable and the available B&O Play premium sound system by Bang & Olufsen impresses. Physical controls for the stereo reside under the touchscreen, making it easier to operate.

FordPass Connect service offers a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot, and Sync 3 supplies standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Navigation is available, too, along with SiriusXM satellite radio and Traffic and Travel Link services. The voice recognition system doesn’t support completely natural voice commands but does give you prompts to follow to make using voice control easier.

Six different USB ports stand ready within the Expedition, as well as wireless device charging. In some Expeditions, second-row occupants also get their own media controls, located above a rear climate control panel. 

A rear-seat entertainment system is also available, complete with dual displays, a DVD player, streaming capability from a mobile device, Slingbox compatibility to stream live TV, and gaming capability.

Storage and Space

You need places to put things? You’ve got lots of cargo to haul for road trips and weekend projects? The 2020 Ford Expedition stands ready to serve.

Within the cabin, you’ll find bins and trays and cubbies galore, including a second glove compartment deftly hidden behind the dashboard trim panel in front of the passenger. Just remember not to put things that will melt in the tray on the top of the instrument panel.

With the standard-length Expedition, cargo volume measures 19.3 cu.-ft. behind the third-row seat, 57.5 cu.-ft. behind the second-row seat, and 104.6 cu.-ft. behind the front seats. With this version of the SUV, you can use the third-row seat or you can carry lots of cargo, but you can’t do both at the same time.

That’s where the extended-length Expedition MAX comes in handy. In this version of the SUV, 34.3 cu.-ft. of cargo space exists behind the third-row seat. Fold it down to create 73.3 cu.-ft., or fold both rear rows to maximize volume at 121.5 cu.-ft.

Visibility and Safety

Climb into the Expedition King Ranch’s driver’s seat, and you’ll feel like the king of all you survey. And you’ll survey plenty, thanks to the expansive glass, giant side mirrors, and available oversized dual-pane sunroof and surround-view camera systems. 

Ford also offers its Pro Trailer Backup Assist technology for the Expedition, making it as easy as twisting a dashboard knob to expertly reverse a trailer. An active parking assist system is available, too, autonomously steering the big SUV into a parking space while you operate the brakes, transmission, and accelerator pedal.

Thanks to standard Ford Co-Pilot360, a collection of advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS), the 2020 Expedition is ready to help drivers and to prevent collisions. In this SUV, the technology worked well during testing, though with the lane departure warning system set to its medium level, the steering wheel vibration was difficult to discern given the amount of road vibration caused by the King Ranch’s big 22-inch wheels.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety had not performed crash tests on the Expedition as this review was published. In tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the SUV earned 5-star ratings in every crashworthiness assessment, plus a 4-star rollover resistance rating.

Engine/Transmission

Ford offers just one engine in the 2020 Expedition, and it’s terrific. The twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6 generates 375 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and makes 470 lb.-ft. of torque at a low 2,250 rpm. A 10-speed automatic powers the rear or all four wheels, and depending on body length and equipment, the Expedition can tow a trailer weighing up to 9,300 pounds.

If you think a full-size SUV needs a V-8 engine, go drive a Ford Expedition and see if you still feel that way. This is a terrific power plant, supplying effortless acceleration underscored by a pleasantly guttural note. You should have no complaints with this twin-turbo V-6, especially if you live at higher altitude where thinner atmosphere can have a negative effect on a normally aspirated engine’s ability to make power.

There is one thing you need to know, though. In the Normal driving mode, the 10-speed automatic transmission is sometimes reluctant to downshift, instead focusing on maximizing fuel economy. Switch to Sport mode, and this characteristic disappears.

Fuel Economy

The King Ranch test vehicle had rear-wheel drive, giving it an official EPA rating of 19 mpg in combined driving. On my testing loop, the SUV returned 17.7 mpg. Certainly, a heavy right foot was partially responsible for this showing, as the twin-turbo V-6 is just too much fun to run through its torque band.

Driving Dynamics

No doubt thanks in part to its massive 22-inch wheels, the Expedition King Ranch proved enjoyable to drive on the winding mountain roads near Malibu, Calif. Especially on smooth blacktop with banked, constant-radius curves, the SUV supplied remarkable hustle. 

However, in spite of the King Ranch’s standard adaptive damping suspension, the big wheels and tires also allowed plenty of impact harshness to intrude upon the SUV’s cabin when the road surface was less than perfect. For example, on local expressways, the 22s amplified the expansion joints between slabs of Southern California freeway concrete. Additionally, on undulating pavement, the Expedition exhibited plenty of head toss and body motion, which is to be expected of a vehicle with a high center of gravity and weighing in at more than 5,500 lbs. 

Steering response is slow, requiring lots of whirling and twirling in parking lots, but the turning radius is fairly tight. When you’re on the highway, there is no on-center play and the wheel feels good in your hands, through plenty of vibration filters up through the column to the rim.

While driving with enthusiasm on a twisty 2-lane mountain road, the brakes faded just a bit. This happened with just the driver aboard and with early morning temperatures right around 70 degrees. It deserves mention because with more passengers or cargo aboard, or a heavy trailer attached, stout fade-resistant brakes are a necessity. With this said, they were otherwise a model of perfection under normal driving circumstances.

Final Impressions - Find the best Ford deals!

Among the full-size SUVs on sale for the 2020 model year, the Ford Expedition is an impressive vehicle. Collectively, it tows, it hauls, and it seats people better than does the competition. If you need this type of vehicle for these types of activities, the Ford Expedition should be on your consideration list. 

Christian Wardlaw is a veteran digital automotive journalist with over 25 years of experience test-driving vehicles. In addition to JDPower.com, his work has appeared in numerous new- and used-car buying guides, newspapers, and automotive industry trade journals.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2021 J.D. Power

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