What's New for 2012
For 2012, the Ford Expedition gains standard blind-spot mirrors. The XLT can now be equipped with heated second-row seats, and front parking sensors are standard on the Limited and King Ranch trim levels.
Size is the 2012 Ford Expedition's best asset, but it's also likely to be this SUV's biggest disadvantage in today's social and economic climate. However, there remains a viable consumer market that needs an SUV this big for moving both people and cargo.
Ford's full-size SUV actually comes in two sizes: large and extra large (fittingly known as the EL). While both offer enough space for eight passengers, the EL extends the space aft of the third row for greater cargo capacity. Think of it as Ford's answer to the Chevy Suburban. The Expedition has a few advantages over its main rival, including a comfortable third-row seat that folds into the floor and a superior ride quality.
However, the Ford Expedition isn't alone in these advantages. The Toyota Sequoia is even better in these areas, and although it isn't quite as spacious as the EL, its cabin essentially lines up between the two Ford models. Furthermore, the Sequoia (and the Chevys) is offered with a more powerful V8 engine than the Expedition's aging V8. With only 310 horsepower on tap, this is certainly the big Ford's greatest weakness.
We should also mention that if towing or the EL's extra cargo space aren't priorities, a large crossover like the Chevy Traverse or Ford Flex will almost certainly meet your people-hauling needs while being more fuel-efficient and easier to drive. Still, the 2012 Ford Expedition remains a well-rounded vehicle best suited for vacations, long road trips and recreation outings that need a certain degree of heavy-duty hauling capability.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Ford Expedition is a full-size body-on-frame SUV available in two body lengths: regular and the EL, which adds 15 inches of overall length. Each is offered in four trim levels: base XL, midrange XLT, upscale Limited and top-of-the-line King Ranch edition. Every Expedition comes with standard seating for eight except the regular-length XL, which comes standard with five. Optional second-row captain's chairs lower capacity to seven.
The XL comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels (18 inches on the EL), automatic headlights, foglamps, a roof rack, running boards, heated mirrors with integrated blind-spot mirrors, keyless entry (both remote and door-mounted keypad), cruise control, air-conditioning (with rear controls), cloth upholstery, a six-way power driver seat (manual recline), a leather-wrapped tilt-only steering wheel, a sliding and reclining 40/20/40-split second-row seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack and rear audio controls.
Upgrading to the XLT adds 18-inch alloy wheels to the regular body style, plus rear parking sensors, power-adjustable pedals, power rear-quarter windows, a trip computer, the voice-operated Sync system (includes Bluetooth phone connectivity and an iPod/USB audio interface among other functions) and an upgraded sound system with satellite radio and steering-wheel-mounted controls. XLT models can also be ordered with the Sport Appearance package that includes a body-colored grille, black running boards and black interior trim.
The Limited trim level packs on 20-inch polished alloy wheels; a heavy-duty tow package; front parking sensors; power-folding mirrors; driver-side auto-dimming mirror; a power liftgate; a rearview camera; automatic wipers; dual-zone automatic climate control; leather upholstery; eight-way power front seats with heating, cooling and driver memory functions; heated second-row seats; a power-folding third-row seat; a house-style electric outlet and a premium sound system with subwoofer.
The Western-chic King Ranch edition sports features similar to the Limited while adding special two-tone paint, 20-inch painted alloy wheels, upgraded headlamps, upgraded "Chaparral" leather upholstery and wood trim.
Many amenities found on upper trim levels can also be had as options on the less expensive models. Other major add-ons, depending on trim level, include 20-inch alloy wheels, a load-leveling rear air suspension that is great for towing, a sunroof and a rear entertainment system with two headrest-mounted screens. Available on all but the XL trim level is a touchscreen navigation system that includes HD radio and Sirius Travel Link service (provides real-time information on traffic, weather, sports, movie listings and local fuel prices).
Powertrains and Performance
The standard powertrain combo for the 2012 Ford Expedition and Expedition EL is a 5.4-liter V8 and six-speed automatic transmission. It produces 310 hp and 365 pound-feet of torque.
Buyers can opt for four-wheel drive with low-range gearing. The last Expedition we tested (it produced 10 hp less than the current model) accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 8.9 seconds, a below-average time for this segment. Properly equipped, the Expedition has a maximum tow rating of 9,200 pounds. This is solid, but more powerful competitors will feel more capable while towing up grades.
The EPA-estimated fuel economy for a two-wheel-drive Expedition is 14 mpg city/20 mpg highway and 16 mpg combined -- average for a full-size SUV. EPA estimates for 4WD versions drop to 13/18/15.
The Ford Expedition comes standard with antilock disc brakes with brake assist, stability control, traction control, trailer sway control, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Ford's programmable MyKey system, which allows parents to specify speed limits and stereo volumes for their teenage drivers, is also standard. Parking sensors and a rearview camera are optional.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2012 Ford Expedition's versatile passenger cabin can be configured to comfortably accommodate five, seven or eight passengers. The standard second-row bench seat features reclining seatbacks and is split 40/20/40, which allows the center portion to slide forward to put young children within easy reach. Second-row bucket seats are an option, except on XL models.
The third-row seat is similarly versatile. The standard seat folds down with a simple tug on the release mechanism. The available power-folding seat is push-button-friendly. The Chevy's Tahoe and Suburban (and their GMC twins) require owners to physically remove the heavy third-row seats if they want to open up cargo space.
With the third-row seat up, the Expedition offers an ample 18.6 cubic feet of storage and the EL provides a generous 42.6 cubic feet. Drop both the second- and third-row seats and those numbers jump to 108.3 and 130.8, respectively. In this manner, the Expedition has a clear advantage over large crossovers that offer similar space for people.
The Expedition's interior design is generally inviting, though the dash features controls that are out of date in appearance and functionality compared to those found in Ford's F-150 pickup. For example, the navigation system features a rather small touchscreen. Some low-quality interior materials also disappoint, particularly when you've paid the extra money for a premium trim level.
Thanks to an independent rear suspension, the 2012 Ford Expedition doesn't feel like a 5,500-pound behemoth rolling along on such a massive footprint. The ride quality rates an overall pleasant experience. Relatively precise and responsive steering also makes the Expedition more nimble than you'd expect.
The 5.4-liter V8 under the hood is sufficient for everyday driving, but performance suffers when you've packed up the Expedition with full load of passengers and cargo or you're towing a trailer, much less both. Unlike its competitors from GM and Toyota, there is no upgrade V8 available. The six-speed automatic transmission gets the job done with minimal hassle, but shifting manually on steep roads may be required to hold the desired gear.