THE PROS & CONS
- WHAT’S BEST: Surprisingly capable on-road handling; massive interior space; excellent towing capability.
- WHAT’S WORST: Equally massive on the outside — you might need two parking spaces; so-called ‘Normal’ suspension setting is abysmally abnormal — avoid at all costs; did I mention it’s huge?
- WHAT’S INTERESTING: If you ever get evicted, this is the vehicle you want to live in.
Malibu, Calif. – Give me a few short hours on the fabulous roads of Malibu in sunny Southern California, and the choice of a 460 horsepower sports car or a 2,600-kilogram SUV; which do you think I’d rather drive?
But given that the 2018 Ford Mustang only really has a new 10-speed automatic transmission as its major news, and the 2018 Ford Expedition is about as all-new as it gets — well, duty calls. More on the Mustang elsewhere in Wheels today.
The 2018 Expedition is officially the fourth generation of this nameplate since its launch for the 1998 model year, although one Ford executive confided to me that it really is only the second all-new one ever.
Whatever, all-new this one definitely is, among other things borrowing the aluminum body structure technology from the F-Series pickup.
Expedition is the biggest SUV in the Ford family. Exactly why anyone could possibly want, let alone need, anything this large is perhaps beside the point. They seem to, and Ford has made a potful satisfying this demand.
The new Expedition is on sale now, starting at $59,999. Fair warning — order the range-topping long wheelbase model, and check every box on the order form, and you can run this thing to darn near six figures.
Expedition comes in three trim levels: XLT, Limited, and Premium. The latter two are available in your choice of wheelbases, huge (3,112 millimetres), and really huge (3,342 mm). The latter is dubbed MAX. No arguments there.
My test vehicles all had the deployable running boards which automatically slide out from under the rocker panels to ease ingress and egress. Not that I couldn’t clamber up into the truck easily enough myself, but older or less agile (ahem …) people will find these useful.
The only available engine is the 3.5-litre, direct-injection twin-turbo V6, producing 400 horsepower at 5,000 r.p.m., and 380 pound-feet of torque at a usefully low 2,250 r.p.m. A truck this big without a V8 engine? A sign of the times, my friends.
To this is bolted Ford’s 10-speed automatic transmission. Full-time, four-wheel drive is standard in Canada; no rear-drive-only Expeditions for us, which makes sense, although you can switch this system into rear-drive to save a bit of fuel. As if that’s top-of-mind for an Expedition owner.
The interior is obviously massive with gobs of room for everyone, and even more so in the MAX edition. All the mod cons (“modern conveniences,” don’tcha know …), including on-board Wi-Fi, are on hand or available.
The vehicle can be set to different drive modes, including — and I’m not kidding — ‘Sport.’ But in truth, that’s the setting you’re going to want to use, unless you have a lifetime supply of Dramamine on hand. The “Normal” setting is downright laughable; the big beast just wallows all over the place.
In Sport, the steering is sharpened up a little while the ride is much more controlled, never even close to being harsh, and the vehicle actually handles the twisties remarkably well.
Ford’s PR people laid on a handful of General Motors’ competitors, GMC Yukon and Chevrolet Tahoe, for back-to-back comparison. You know they weren’t going to do this unless they knew they could win, and it wasn’t close. The big GMs handle — well, like the massive SUVs they are. Calling them ‘whales’ would be an insult to our Cetacean friends.
By comparison, the Expedition is a sports car.
One area where the GMs did surpass the Fords was in the visibility and legibility of the SatNav system. Ford’s ‘roads’ on its maps are tiny and hard to see; GM’s are big and much clearer.
There are a lot of horse ranches in this part of the country, and trailer-towing is one thing Expedition does very well, with a maximum capacity of some 4,173 kg for the standard wheelbase models, and 4,082 kg for the MAX models. Don’t know why there’s a difference due to wheelbase, but that’s a lot, regardless.
Expedition also has the trick backup camera system for trailers that we tried in the F-Series a couple months back, whereby you use the rearview camera and a special knob on the dash to control the steering. This knob works backwards from regular steering when reversing — turn it to the left and the trailer swings left — which will initially be confusing to seasoned trailer backer-uppers, but makes it duck soup for neophytes. Those pros can just use the regular steering wheel, but I think even they will eventually get used to this new system.
A not-terribly-challenging but still entertaining off-road course was swallowed up by the Expedition, proving its 4×4 credentials. I still think its weird to put chrome alloy or mag wheels on an off-road capable vehicle — they’d be turned into scrap after just a few klicks. But that’s not what these vehicles are designed to do.
In summary (and this from a guy who owned a Suburban for 10 years; I had four kids, I had no choice. At least it was a Diesel …), the Expedition is far, far bigger and — nevermind the aluminum body — far, far heavier than any vehicle has any need to be. You can get the capability that all but a handful of Expedition owners will ever need in vehicles that are smaller, lighter, less impactful on the earth (not to mention our roads), and way easier to park.
But it is still a free country. If a vehicle like this winds your watch, Ford’s Expedition is currently as good as it gets.
2018 Ford Expedition
BODY STYLE: 4 doors, 7/8 passengers, beyond-full-size SUV. Switchable rear/full-time four-wheel drive. Regular unleaded fuel.
PRICE: XLT — $59,999; Limited — $ $72,999; Limited MAX — $75,999; Platinum — $80,999; Platinum MAX — $83,999. Freight and PDI — $1,790.
ENGINE: 3.5 l V6 double overhead camshafts, 4 valves per cylinder, variable valve timing, twin turbocharged, direct injection.
POWER/TORQUE, horsepower / lb-ft: 1.5 l — 400 @ 5,000 r.p.m. / 380 @ 2,250 r.p.m.
FUEL CONSUMPTION, Transport Canada City/Highway, l/100 km: Short Wheelbase — 13.8 / 10.7; Long Wheelbase MAX- 14.9 / 11.2. Regular fuel.
COMPETITION: Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon, U-Haul.