Each key vehicle development stage from styling all the way through mass-production, leaves its own impression on the vehicle’s overall personality. True success depends on whether they all carry the same tune. In the case of the Expedition, all teams contributed to a confident and very capable machine, although, its $72,000 price tag will be difficult for most to justify.
Powertrain – Amazingly Powerful and Efficient
The relaxed can-do nature of the Expedition’s turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 feels at home in this large SUV which never portends any desire to go whipping down canyon roads. Ford’s 10-speed automatic transmission also contributes to the powertrain’s reserved essence as it methodically skips gears and holds on to others as the engine’s turbo churns a heavy dose of torque low in the rev-range.
From a stop or at 70 mph, the Expedition accelerates impressively without fuss or having to run the engine up to redline. Usually, a single gear downshift is all that’s needed to shove past slower moving traffic. Also noteworthy is the excellent low-speed throttle control – a blessing when positioning a trailer.
The powertrain’s easily accessible power and the civility are even more impressive considering the EPA’s estimate of 19 mpg which feels easily achievable in mixed driving.
Interior Quality and Design
The interior carries a close resemblance to the F-150 and its large angular shapes and flat surfaces feel rather utilitarian despite the leather with contrast stitching coverings and wood trim.
The dated feel to the interior is brought on by the many cut lines and small buttons. Beyond that, there are several layout oddities that feel out of place such as a steering wheel that feels far too large for this vehicle, a coin holder that takes up prime real estate below the middle-left HVAC vent, and the lack of a center armrest for the second-row passengers.
The layout of the controls also raises some questions. For instance, the automatic engine start/stop cancel button is placed high up on the dash instead of closer to the other powertrain switches and the gear number selector frustrating to quickly locate without looking down. Furthermore, it feels as though some of controls’ designs were driven more by some requirement to sharing parts instead of creating something more in tune with the rest of the interior.
Passengers Room and Cargo Capacity
Despite the Expedition’s heavy-duty body-on-frame construction, which brings a host of packaging constraints, the interior is very roomy. There is good storage space for the front row occupants with dual glove box bins, a large center console, and wide door pockets. Second-row passengers enjoy plenty of legroom while even the third row is a comfortable place to ride once one has folded and twisted their bodies to get back there.
There is, obviously, a significant step-up to get inside. Ford has mitigated that with a power deployable running board, however, the FX4 trades those in for fixed units that have better clearance and offers a level of body protection from kicked-up rocks and such. The big grab handles are helpful too. Loading cargo in back is also affected by the body on frame construction by its high lift-over height – essentially how high one needs to lift a bag of groceries in the back.
Overall, space behind the raised third-row seat is plenty sufficient for rows of grocery bags and when that’s not enough, the second and third-row power-folding controls (located in the cargo area) make quick work of the expansion project.
For pulling items out of the cargo area without having to lift the entire tailgate (or for transporting extra-long items inside), the rear glass can be separately opened. It’s a feature that is becoming more rare as it adds cost and weight but it is very practical. However, be sure to not operate the power tailgate with the glass already open as the spoiler comes in contact with the roof panel. That experience left a bit of a sour note for the thoroughness of the design reviews.
Ride and handling
The simplified description of the Expedition’s ride and handling is truck-like. Not helped by this example’s stiff off-road shock absorbers, the big SUV feels like it does little to actually absorb bumps. Rather, it feels on a mission to never bottom-out. Thankfully the softly padded seats isolate any sharp impacts but side-to-side motions result in significant head-toss.
While the suspension tuning feels a bit old-school, the Expedition’s independent rear suspension layout represents forward-thinking and its attributes are notably realized on pot-marked roads. In the case of the traditional design that uses a solid axle, one wheel moves to absorb the impact which sends unwanted motion directly to the other wheel as well, creating a larger disturbance in the overall control of the body’s motion. However, because the wheels are suspended independently, the Expedition shows none of the secondary wiggle and it manages mid-corner bumps without any side skipping or need for steering corrections. This is a big deal, especially when towing, where unwanted body motions are exaggerated by the trailer.
This Limited trim sits mid-pack among the Expedition line-up, despite the precedent set by the F-150, where the Limited trim is top tier. Still, it has a whole host of impressive standard and available features to make the large SUV ready for nearly any situation.
Parking maneuvers are aided by the 360-degree camera and power-folding mirrors. Cold winter mornings are made less cringe-worthy with remote start, heated (and ventilated) front seats, heated second-row seats, a heated steering wheel, and a windshield wiper deicer. Favorite tunes are heard and felt through the very powerful B&O 12-speaker stereo system and refueling is less cumbersome thanks to the capless fuel filler. Last but certainly not least, the Expedition is equipped with the full safety suite that includes automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, blind-spot warning, and optional adaptive cruise control. It’s easy to be impressed by the level of available features.
For those expecting a highly capable large SUV with the heart of a pick-up truck, the Expedition feels born-ready. Its commitment to the truck design also brings along a stiff ride and less refined interior that make it feel slightly over-priced – that is unless towing and people hauling is on your list of needs.