2018 Ford Expedition Platinum 4x4 Review - First Drive

Tackling winter in the new Expedition

Mar. 05, 2018 By Matthew Guy. Photos by Ford and Matthew Guy.

Sibling rivalry is a conundrum older than time itself. Often, the little brother gets the short end of the deal, inheriting hand-me-downs like worn out clothes and broken hockey sticks but there are advantages to being the less prominent sibling. You can bet Taylor Crosby used some of the primo hockey gear bought for Sidney when he wasn't looking, for example. The same applies to Ford's new full-sized SUV, the Expedition.

Ford Motor Company shoveled untold cubic yards of cash into its corporate furnace to turn around the Lincoln Navigator and make it relevant again. It worked, too. Refurbished unto the zenith of plushness, the Nav is experiencing sales success unlike any it has seen since the early 2000s. The Expedition, riding on the same platform, benefitted in a big way from those same development dollars.

Thanks, big bro.

Let's start under the hood, where customers will find not a rumbling V8 but instead an EcoBoost V6 making 400 horsepower in Platinum trim and 375 hp in the XLT or Limited. The same mill makes 450 hp in the Navigator, so there's definitely room for tuning. Torque is measured at 480l b-ft in the Limited, ten less in its mundane brethren. Eight cylinders are not offered, nor planned.

READ MORE: 2018 Ford F-150 Review

It wasn't long ago that engines relying on turbocharged boost delivered the same amount of lag one would find at a Bosnian airport. Not here. The Expedition delivers its turbo V6 power smoothly with a good bottom-end punch, a healthy combination both on- and off-road. Most of the credit for this snappy behavior can be given to the superb 10-speed automatic, a unit jointly developed with General Motors, of all brands. Efficiency makes for strange bedfellows. Ford's programming is on the money, always seeming to serve up the right gear at the right time.

Applying aluminum to its bodywork has helped the Expedition shed weight as if it were guzzling Slim Fast. Ford says nearly 300 pounds have been cut out of the machine compared to last year's model, but that's mostly in the long wheelbase Expedition Max. Bank on a weight loss of between 100 and 200 pounds in the standard Expy, depending on trim and options. Some of these savings have been plowed back into the truck's capability, with the Expedition's maximum tow rating now topping out at a substantial 9300 lbs.

We hooked up a trailer loaded with two Ski-Doo Summit X mountain snowmobiles, complete with 850cc engines and 3-inch paddles on their tracks. Checking in at a bit over 2000 lbs total, our load didn't tax the Expedition but gave us a good idea of its towing prowess. Numerous cameras and sensors made reversing and lane changing a simple task, while the Ford's reconfigurable dashboard screen served up towing and gain info for trailers equipped with electric brakes (ours wasn't). Deep wells of torque from the EcoBoost mill made 30mph-50mph and 50mph-70mph pulls keenly even with the trailer in tow. A set of electrical receptacles for 4- and 7-pin trailer wiring harnesses hide neatly behind a removable cover on the truck's bumper, along with a factory installed hitch receiver.

If you take no other piece of buying advice out of this review, take this: make sure to order the $1570 Heavy Duty Trailer Tow package. Available on all three trims, it brings a host of goodies in and this is the important part a stand-alone package. An integrated trailer brake controller and Pro Trailer Backup Assist are expected, but the package also bundles in a stouter rear end gear, heavy-duty rad, and a two-speed 4WD system with low range. Downhill descent control works as expected.

This is most of the kit that's found in the FX4 package, a $1650 item with which another $5600 option group must be selected. One can easily install the FX4's tires and shocks for a lot less than $5600. I mentioned the appeal of the HD Tow package as a stand-alone unit to a Ford exec, who indicated the ability to configure the Expedition in such a manner wasn't going away any time soon. Good.

With that amount of largesse on Ford's option list, one would expect starting prices to be similarly dear, and they would be correct. A base model Expedition XLT 4x2 commands $52,890. Our tester, a long wheelbase Platinum Max 4x4 loaded to the gunwales with kit including the HD Tow group but missing a rear seat entertainment system, stickered at an eye-watering $81,535. Forgoing the Max addendum and its extra length will save buyers $2690.

Ford crafted a snowy off-road course at Kicking Horse Trail on which to pilot the Expedition, a track that included a few tight turns and a 15-degree uphill grade. Thanks to an off-road display feeding gradient, pitch, and steering angle information to the driver, it was easy to place the big brute's wheels where they needed to be. Ground clearance stands at 9.8 inches for standard versions, and 9.7 for 4x4 Max models.

A machine measuring 210 inches in length is generally not the recipe for trail busting, and no one will mistake the Expedition for a 2-door Rubicon, but with 35-degrees of steering angle and a 360-degree camera system, one will at least be able to make it off the trailhead. As suggested, don't bother with the FX4 package; simply get the HD Towing group and equip a good set of LT tires after you take delivery.

Comparing to the competition, the Chevy Tahoe is half a foot shorter than the standard length Expedition, giving up some cargo and real-world passenger room to the Blue Oval. The Expedition's second row legroom measures a generous 41.5 inches, while third row passengers still get 36.1 inches of legroom. That compares well to the much less commodious Tahoe, which offers 24.8 inches of legroom in the third row, though its brother the Chevy Suburban does have 34.5 inches in the back.

So what do the numbers mean in the real world? Ford's Expedition aces the mission statement levelled at all full-sized SUVs: to carry people and all their stuff. Thanks to its independent rear suspension, the Expedition has an honest-to-real third row, inhabitable by actual humans and not simply children or garden gnomes. This is a feat not duplicated by the GM duo, thanks to its log of a solid rear axle that hikes the cargo floor and eats up space. Cementing this machine as a family hauler is the second-row captain's chairs ability to tilt and slide forward to allow third-row access while retaining a child's car seat.

The Expedition's interior sings from the Book of F-150, which is a good thing. Front thrones are all-day comfortable, providing ample resting space for this flu-addled author on a two hour highway drive, during which I nevertheless achieved a respectable 21 mpg. Half a dozen USB ports pepper the interior, including two in the third row. This reinforces Ford's assertion that actual humans are intended to inhabit the most rearward seat. These are in addition to a quartet of 12v outlets and a 110v receptacle. There is no shortage of opportunities to plug-in here.

An abundance of cargo solutions are baked into the Expedition, including a clever shelving system in the rear and a lip right on the edge of the cargo area assuring ones groceries (or parts for your race car) don't tumble out when one summons the power-assisted rear hatch to rise. A great feature is the separate rear glass that swings up independently, allowing the main gate to remain closed while you reach in to retrieve your gear.

All of these marks in the plus column are, of course, thanks to Ma & Pa Ford buying the Expedition's more prominent brother some new gadgets and a modern outfit. Being in bro's shadow isn't so bad after all.


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