2018 Ford Expedition First Drive | Edmunds

2018 Ford Expedition First Drive

The New Class Leader Among Large SUVs


Smaller crossovers are hot right now, but that doesn't mean that large SUVs are about to go extinct. The introduction of the fully redesigned 2018 Ford Expedition is proof that these behemoths with wide-ranging capabilities are still relevant. This latest Expedition keeps all of the strengths from the previous generation while addressing its shortcomings. So if you truly need the impressive people-hauling, cargo and towing capabilities of a full-size SUV, the Expedition is now as good as it gets.

From Basic to Deluxe
Under the hood of all but the most expensive version of the 2018 Ford Expedition models is a 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6 that produces 375 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque. It's paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission that sends power to the rear wheels, with four-wheel drive available as an option. There are three trim levels to choose from: XLT, Limited and Platinum. Within those trims, you can also specify the long-wheelbase Max body style (formerly the EL) that increases overall length by almost a full foot.

The base eight-passenger XLT Expedition starts around $53,000 and features 18-inch wheels, heated mirrors, roof rails, running boards, rear parking sensors, a trailer hitch receiver, selectable drive modes, a six-way power driver seat, power-adjustable pedals, a 40/20/40-split folding second-row bench, 60/40-split folding third-row seats, and a nine-speaker CD player with satellite radio and USB ports for both the front and middle rows.

Stepping up to the Limited trim adds 20-inch wheels, front parking sensors, power-folding mirrors, power-deployable running boards, a hands-free liftgate, keyless entry and ignition, remote start, a larger driver information display with added content, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated 10-way power front seats with driver-seat memory functions, a power-folding tip-and-slide second-row bench with heated outboard seats, power-folding third-row headrests, Ford's Sync 3 infotainment system, limited remote system controls through a smartphone app, a wireless charging pad, two USB ports for the third row, a Wi-Fi hotspot, a household power outlet, and a 12-speaker premium audio system with HD radio. It also comes with blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.

At the top of the range, the $73,000 Platinum trim increases the power output of the 3.5-liter V6 to 400 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque. Added features include 22-inch wheels, a panoramic sunroof, LED exterior lighting, automatic high beams, an adaptive suspension, an automated parallel and perpendicular parking system, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go function, multicontour front seats, a navigation system, a configurable cargo management shelf and active noise cancellation. On the safety front, you also get a surround-view camera system, forward collision warning and mitigation, and a lane-keeping assist system.

Many features are available on supporting trims as options. Other add-ons include second-row bucket seats (reducing seating capacity to seven), a Heavy-Duty Trailer Tow package (an automated trailer reversing system, a trailer brake controller and other mechanical enhancements) and a dual-headrest rear entertainment system. The XLT is the only trim level that offers the FX4 Off-Road package that includes specific shocks, an electronic limited-slip differential, a two-speed transfer case, underbody skid plates, all-terrain tires, and front and middle-row floor liners.

2018 Ford Expedition

On the Road
Depending on the model and options, the 2018 Expedition weighs between 5,400 and 5,800 pounds. The idea of moving that kind of mass conjures images of a heavily laden container ship, but in reality, it feels far more agile. All that weight becomes apparent on rare occasions; otherwise the Expedition is very easy to drive and surprisingly maneuverable. Power from the V6 is more than adequate in a variety of conditions, and the transmission does an admirable job of making the most of its output. The throttle is responsive, and getting up to highway speeds doesn't require pinning the pedal to the floor. You certainly feel the weight shift forward under braking, but even when you give the pedal a firm stomp, the big SUV remains composed and controllable.

There's some body roll when cornering, but it's not excessive. The available adaptive suspension will stiffen the shocks, but not to a noticeable degree. At low speeds, the steering effort is light and the Expedition has an unusually small turning radius. In many cases, a U-turn is possible where you'd expect to need a multipoint maneuver. Combined with decent outward visibility, it's much easier to back into a tight parking space than you'd assume.

Road noise at highway speeds is noticeable but not annoying. Turning on the stereo, even at low volumes, overcomes the din of the tires on the asphalt. When that pavement becomes less than smooth, the suspension easily absorbs imperfections, but dips or bumps will cause considerable passenger jostling. These motions emphasize the Expedition's tall ride height, but considering its truck-based frame, it rides exceptionally well.

2018 Ford Expedition

U for Utility
Thanks to the Expedition's truck origins, it can tow up to a class-leading 9,300 pounds if equipped with the Heavy-Duty Trailer Tow package. Besides having a helpful trailer brake controller, this option also includes Ford's automated trailer reversing system that takes all of the stress and guesswork out of hooking up a trailer. Simply affix a locating sticker on the trailer arm, push a button to engage the system, and follow the on-screen directions. Steering is accomplished through a small dial on the dash as the rearview camera and other sensors expertly spin the steering wheel to turn or straighten out the vehicle and line up the trailer hitch.

For more adventure-bound owners, the FX4 Off-Road package allows the Expedition to wander far from paved roads. What's even more impressive is how easily it conquers challenging terrain. There are numerous drive modes that are suited for different surfaces, varying how power is delivered and how much wheel slippage is allowed. It's definitely not up to rock crawling over the Rubicon Trail, but steep climbs over slippery terrain are easily conquered. The small turning radius also pays dividends on narrow roads.

2018 Ford Expedition

Comfort and Convenience
As adventure-capable as the Expedition is, it's far more likely it will be taming the wilds of suburbia, and it fills that role with minimal effort. The running boards, whether fixed or power-deployable, make getting in or out easy whether you're short or tall. The interior shares much of its design and components with higher-trimmed F-150 pickups for a utilitarian yet refined look and feel. Once seated, you're struck by its spaciousness in every direction, especially between the front seats where a extra wide center console resides. The airy impression is further accentuated by a sprawling panoramic sunroof.

The front seats in the top Platinum model are well-cushioned and supportive for hours of comfortable touring. Finding your optimal driving position is assured thanks to power-adjustable pedals and plenty of travel from the steering column and seats. Outward visibility is decent, considering how big the Expedition is, with the roof pillar directly behind the driver the most significant obstruction. Thankfully, wide mirrors and blind-spot monitoring help keep tabs on what's lurking there.

The second-row bench seats are less plush, but they are still very comfortable. Optionally, you can have two captain's chairs in place of the bench, too. Either can be had with the tip-and-slide function that allows access to the rear seats without having to remove a child seat that's already latched in place. The passage is wide enough to squeeze past without having to crawl, and sliding the seat back into position can likely be done by a child. The third-row seats can accommodate adults, but they're designed more for smaller passengers.

Behind those seats is a cargo area that can hold about 20 cubic feet of cargo. The long-wheelbase Max version increases that capacity to about 35 cubic feet. An available organizer allows you to make the most of that space by configuring it as a split-level shelf or as a barrier to keep items in place. There's also a handy angled lip at the edge of the cargo area to help keep items from rolling out. With the power-folding seat feature, stowing the seats is a one-touch affair, leaving you with a flat load floor all the way to the front. In that mode, capacity tops out at 104 cubic feet (121 cubic feet for the Max).

2018 Ford Expedition

Best in the Small Big Class
There aren't a lot of alternatives to the 2018 Ford Expedition when it comes to size and capabilities. Its closest direct competitor is the Chevrolet Tahoe/Suburban and it's already 3 years old. The Expedition not only has the latest features, but it also has a 1,000-pound towing advantage, a more refined ride quality, exceptional maneuverability and impressive engine performance. It's a combination that makes it the clear front-runner in a class with few rivals.

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