Expert Reviews

First Drive: 2018 Ford Expedition in Alberta

LAKE LOUISE, Alberta – Ford’s Expedition, which was introduced 20 years ago, takes the crown as the king of the hill when it comes to their current SUV line-up. The long-gone Excursion was bigger, but was too much for most buyers. Considering the Explorer isn’t a featherweight to begin with, it begs the question: who needs – and is buying – the Expedition?

A modern, premium, and confident large SUV, secure in knowing its mission.

Basically anyone who needs more room, and the ability to tow things. Big things. The Expedition expands on the Explorer’s game in every way, and adds true towing capacity.

I spent a couple of days in the Alberta foothills and Rockies, putting some kilometres on the all-new 2018 Ford Expedition. We had access to two trims – the Limited and the Platinum – and both sizes – the “short” wheelbase and the MAX model. You can also get the entry-level XLT trim.

The Expedition’s new styling is sleek and clean. Its chunky, muscular lines follow the Explorer’s lead – a no-nonsense, handsome approach to carving out an on-road presence. It’s distinctive enough to be recognizable, yet not off-the-wall in any way. It looks good and will age nicely.

I appreciate the upscale swagger that the new Expedition’s styling exudes without having to get too bling-y, and the Platinum trim’s 22-inch rims are stunning. We got a lot of looks from other drivers, in parking lots and on the road.

Although the interior will feel familiar to anyone who has been in a recent Ford truck product, it’s a fresh start for the Expedition. Materials are decent, with some nice soft-touch surfaces. With that said, I’d like a few more – certain parts still feel more like a truck with the amount of hard, black plastic you’ll find there. Unfortunately the woodgrain accents are an appliqué – when a vehicle sneaks north of $90,000, I’d like to see some real wood trim. Fit and finish seemed to be excellent.

The heated and cooled seats were very comfortable and the Platinum’s massaging function had me feeling refreshed, even after hours on the highway.

There’s plenty of in-car tech. The touchscreen uses Ford’s newest Sync 3 system – it’s simple and effective. You can plug your phone in to access Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and premium audio comes via the 12-speaker B&O Play system in the Limited and Platinum trims. Yep, it sounds good. The Expedition has a Wi-Fi hot-spot that supports up to 10 devices up to 50 feet away.

Driver assistance technology is pretty complete too. Blind-spot monitoring, 360-degree camera with parking sensors, park assist, pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection, cross-traffic alert, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control – it’s all available, depending on the options or trim level you pick.

There are a ton of places to put your stuff, including two glove compartments, a massive bin under the armrest lid, and plenty of door bins. The available panoramic sunroof is huge and brightens things up considerably.

The Expedition plays its size trump card well. The amount of space and flexibility in this vehicle is tough to beat. The second row seats in our test vehicles were optional captain’s chairs. They’re heated, remarkably comfortable and can slide fore and aft and recline. A second-row bench is standard, which makes it an eight-seater. There’s a separate climate control zone for the rear. These are all great things, but there are plenty of vehicles that can compete with the Expedition.

You can easily tilt and slide the second-row seats forward (even while keeping a child seat in place), allowing for easy access to the third row. But the real win is when you sit down, and this is where I feel the Expedition gets the gold medal. This is likely the most spacious third row I’ve ever sat in. The amount of head- and legroom is remarkable, and thanks to the low floor, the seating position is very comfortable. And the third row reclines, a first-in-class feature.

The optional rear entertainment system adds two 8-inch screens in the front headrests and wireless sound-cancelling headphones. Devices can connect via USB, HDMI plugs, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi – that’s pretty cool! You’ll also find charging points in every row. There’s a total of six USB plugs, four 12V plugs, a 110V household plug and even wireless charging at the front of the centre console.

The regular-size Expedition does offer a usable amount of room behind the third row seats, but the MAX boasts a truly gargantuan cargo area. Both second and third rows fold flat – this is achieved quickly with power buttons in the trunk. Once you’ve folded them, you can access up to 3,439 L behind the front seats!

Ford loves their new cargo management system in the trunk which lets you move a divider horizontally as a shelf, place it vertically as a divider and on and on. Honestly, I found it a bit of a chore to work with. I was more impressed with the cargo defender which is a simple lip at the back of the trunk to keep things from rolling/falling out when you open the trunk. Why every manufacturer doesn’t do this is beyond me.

Ford’s EcoBoost 3.5L twin-turbo V6 provides the Expedition’s motivation. The XLT and Limited trims put out 375 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque – the Platinum trim gets a bump of 25 hp and 10 lb-ft of torque.

The engine is mated to an all-new 10-speed automatic transmission (the first in this segment) and an all-wheel drive system. New aluminum construction methods and materials save 300 pounds, and the Expedition achieves best-in-class fuel-efficiency ratings. Yes, it’s still thirsty but better than you might expect. We averaged around 13.5 L/100 km after mostly highway cruising.

Short wheelbase models get a 95 L tank – MAX models increase that to 114 L.

The base engine has more than enough power off the line and when passing on the highway. I felt the Platinum’s more powerful engine did provide a little more oomph, although it’s not a huge difference, nor is it necessary. The transmission is buttery-smooth and very intelligent. It was always in the right gear, and the extra cogs allowed me to cruise at 120 km/h at around 1,500 rpm.

The suspension is very well sorted. Expedition’s full box frame now has an independent rear suspension and the package rides beautifully. I found the cabin to be extraordinarily quiet, even at highway speeds with winter tires on. The Platinum trim’s continuously controlled damping – the selectable modes are comfort, normal, or sport – did smooth out the ride even more. Of course, this thing is huge and heavy as you would expect, but its handling is surprisingly good on the highway and it tackled undulating mountain passes and elevation changes with ease. The steering is heavier than expected, which I appreciated.

There’s a terrain management system which allows you to optimize driving dynamics for the usual suspects of differing terrains – snow/wet, grass/gravel, sand, mud and ruts. I suspect that kind of thing is generally left alone. Left to its own devices, I found the automatic all-wheel drive to be fantastic. Equipped with winter tires, our test vehicles were nearly impossible to upset in the snow and the traction was impressive.

I was surprised to find the Expedition quite easy to park thanks to a relatively tight turning circle for its size. Visibility is mostly excellent except for a couple of sore spots – the third-row headrests cut into your rear vision and the driver’s side B-pillar completely blocks your view and makes for some terrifying shoulder checks.

There are two key option packages. The Heavy Duty Trailer Tow package incorporates all the necessities to allow you to tow up to 4,173 kg/9,200 pounds – the best capacity in this vehicle class – including the Pro Trailer Backup Assist, which makes for a much more intuitive trailer parking experience. Of note, the Expedition will still tow up to 4,082 kg/9,000 lb without this package. The FX4 Off-Road package which adds aesthetic goodies, and additional hardware in the suspension department and underneath the Expedition, lets you to tackle some heavier-duty terrain if that’s your thing. Both packages include a trick electronic limited-slip differential.

The new Expedition struck me as a modern, premium, and confident large SUV, secure in knowing its mission. It felt smart, capable, and adaptable during the two days I spent driving it. Ford says they didn’t compromise on this all-new SUV – they can’t think of anything they could’ve added that they didn’t. That’s pretty strong talk, but I couldn’t really come up with much they missed.

If you’re after the maximum amount of passenger and cargo space and a minivan isn’t your thing or you need to tow, consider the 2018 Expedition a worthy contender.

Pricing: 2018 Ford Expedition

XLT: $60,149
Limited: $73,149
Limited MAX: $76,149
Platinum: $81,349
Platinum MAX: $84,349

Destination & Delivery: $1,790