MALIBU, CA – Yes, the Expedition still is a behemoth among SUVs, but Ford’s all-new fullsizer drives considerably smaller after shedding a few hundred pounds, adding driver assistance technology and retaining its well-tuned fully independent suspension.
Upgrades to the ’18 Expedition include a lightweight aluminum body that shaves 300 lbs. (136 kg) off the curb weight, a more fuel-efficient powertrain, a revamped interior and a wide range of trim and option levels to accommodate everyone from adventurous off-roaders to long-distance travelers towing trailers.
All Expeditions are powered by the same turbocharged 3.5L EcoBoost V-6, now producing 375 hp and 470 lb.-ft. (637 Nm) in XLT and Limited trim and 400 hp and 480 lb.-ft. (651 Nm) of torque in Platinum models. The carryover engine is upgraded since its introduction in the’15 Expedition when it made 365 hp and 420 lb.-ft. (569 Nm) of torque.
The standard gearbox is a 10-speed automatic compared with the previous model’s 6-speed, contributing to a 5% gain in fuel efficiency.
The upgraded engine feels up to the task, with the extra torque providing good pull from a standstill and the added power sufficient to comfortably maintain cruising speed. The new automatic is smooth and quick-shifting, readily jumping as many as a half dozen gears to match the engine’s sweet spot when extra power is demanded.
The body-on-frame Expedition retains 4-wheel independent suspension, an innovation introduced more than 15 years ago that improves ride and handling, aids off-road wheel articulation and provides class-leading passenger legroom.
On-road balance and control is a high point as we pilot the big rig through winding roads in the foothills, the electrically assisted power steering helping lighten the load without making the truck feel disconnected. Brakes are particularly responsive. The ride is steady and quiet.
Off-road, the Expedition is relatively easy to thread through a hilly and twisty gravel route, and is particularly impressive tackling steep downhill grades with Hill Descent Control activated and handling all the braking to limit speed between 2 mph (3 km/h) and 20 mph (32 km/h). In addition to HDC, the FX4 Off-Road package includes an electronically locking rear differential and a front skid plate.
Connectivity Showcase; Fighting for SUV Share
Inside, the Expedition is all about creature comfort for up to eight passengers, with sliding second-row seats for legroom flexibility, 15 cupholders, two USB ports in each row and Wi-Fi connectivity for up to 10 devices.
Drivers will note the elimination of a center shift lever, replaced by a rotary shift knob and the Terrain Management Control knob allowing easy selection of powertrain assistance depending on conditions. We deliberately tested the electronic shifter’s ability to automatically switch to Park as we attempted to step out of the driver’s seat with the vehicle still in Drive. Thankfully, yes, it works.
At 210 ins. (5,334 mm), the new model is 4 ins. (102 mm) longer than the current version and 1.1 in. (28 mm) wider. The long-wheelbase Expedition MAX (previously EL) adds an extra foot (305 mm) of length and 16.9 cu.-ft. (479 L) behind the third row. Maximum towing capacity is 9,200 lbs. (4,173 kg) in 4x4s, 9,300 lbs. (4,218 kg) in 4x2 models.
The new Expedition launches into a challenging market. As much as Ford’s F-150 is the perennial truck sales leader, the Dearborn automaker’s Expedition can’t make a dent in the annual deliveries of body-on-frame fullsize SUV competition from General Motors.
After hitting a high-water mark of 233,125 deliveries in 1999, Expedition sales steadily declined, dipping to just 31,655 units in 2009, WardsAuto data shows. The numbers improved to nearly 60,000 last year, but GM’s combination of Chevrolet Suburban/Tahoe and GMC Yukon/Yukon XL totaled more than a quarter of a million sales during the same period.
“New competition came in, gas prices started rising, the segment shrunk and we lost share,” says a matter-of-fact Joe McCarty, Expedition brand manager.
While midsize CUVs are all the rage, Ford research indicates Millennials starting families and Baby Boomers seeking taller ride height are gravitating back to traditional SUVs. McCarty says the all-new Expedition’s improved and best-in-class fuel economy, torque, towing and second- and third-row legroom give it a strong position in that growing market.
“Ford is projecting this segment to grow for the foreseeable future,” McCarty says. “We’re projecting both growth in this segment and growth in our share of this segment.”
[email protected] @bobgritzinger
'18 Ford Expedition Limited 4X4 Specifications
|Vehicle type||8-passenger, 5-door SUV|
|Engine||3.5L twin-turbocharged, DOHC dual-injection all-aluminum V-6|
|Power (SAE net)||375 hp @ 5,000 rpm|
|Torque||470 lb.-ft. (637 Nm) @ 3,500 rpm|
|Bore x stroke (mm)||92.5 x 87.6|
|Wheelbase||122.5 ins. (3,112 mm)|
|Overall length||210 ins. (5,334 mm)|
|Overall width||81.6 ins. (2,073 mm)|
|Overall height||76.4 ins. (1,941 mm)|
|Curb weight||5,692 lbs. (2,582 kg)|
|Base price||$65,705 (Limited, not including $1,195 destination and handling charge)|
|Fuel economy||17/23/19 mpg (13.8/10.2/12.4 L/100 km) city/highway/combined|
|Competition||Chevrolet Suburban/GMC Yukon XL, Nissan Armada, Toyota Sequoia|
|Aluminum body cuts 300 lbs.||Are big SUV buyers worried about weight?|
|Major interior makeover||Base XL model pushes $50K|
|Powerful turbo V-6 engine||No V-8 option|