A fellow mom that I chat with at my kids’ pickup time took notice of this test vehicle, the redesigned 2018 Ford Expedition Max.
She said she loved the looks of it, and was considering purchasing one for her family to replace a 10-year-old GMC Yukon in which she ferries her three kids, along with all of their gear. She also told me that she gets about 10 mpg with GMC, and that her husband henpecks her when she needs to go further than just down the street for errands. “Do you really need to go there? It’s a waste of gas.”
I can’t imagine dealing with that every day. Not her husband’s griping about wasting gas. I’m talking about fuel consumption, and stopping at the gas station more than is absolutely necessary.
Given the situation, I mentioned that I thought she should get a minivan with its greater cargo flexibility, superior fuel economy, and better handling. “You’d probably get at least 20 mpg, maybe more,” I told her, knowing what would come next.
She scrunched up her face and said, “I just don’t think I’m a minivan kind of gal.” Her tone implied defensiveness that anyone would think that she was a minivan kind of gal, and was tinged with a bit of pity for the poor souls who are defanged enough to own one. “Also, one of these days, we might rent a trailer to go camping!”
Thus remains the state of affairs in my little corner of suburban Los Angeles. But hey, if she’s going to be spending extra on a full-size SUV she probably doesn’t need, along with the extra money on fuel she really doesn’t need to burn, she might as well get one of the best ones on the market. And that’s the redesigned 2018 Ford Expedition.
For 2018, Ford improves upon the already impressive and unwisely overlooked old Expedition in almost every measure. In the process, it has created the best vehicle in the full-size SUV segment.
Take one of the biggest SUVs you can buy, and add another foot of length in the back. Now you’ve got the dreadnaught that was my test vehicle for the week, the 2018 Ford Expedition Max. It was furnished with the Limited trim level, and with options priced out at $72,095.
Squeezed into my driveway next to my own midsize crossover, I easily got a sense of just how massive the Expedition is. It dwarfed my own car.
You’ll further note its gargantuan size when you’re crawling through crowded parking lots, looking for a space that will accommodate it and leave enough space for you and the kids to exit without smashing the doors into the vehicle that had the ill luck to park next to you.
So then, it’s big. Ford wears the mantle proudly. Nothing about the Expedition’s styling hides the generous dimensions. There are no curves or swoops to minimize its angular appearance. From the glittering grille to its block-shaped rear, 90-degree angles are the governing force behind its design. Further cementing its bulk are the Limited’ model’s 20-inch wheels (which somehow look small) and shiny White Platinum paint job.
The T-squared theme continues throughout the interior, with little in the way of extraneous ornamentation. The Expedition Limited’s cabin is based on the Ford F-150 interior (which is nice for a truck), and in spite of its upgraded materials there’s no question of its lineage. That may serve as cold comfort for someone who is paying well over $50,000 for a vehicle, and at my test SUV’s price might be expecting something a little more posh.
Alas, for substantial upgrades in terms of the interior environment, you’ll have to move up to the 2018 Lincoln Navigator, which is also redesigned and shares the Expedition’s bones but has a completely different and far more glamorous cabin.
My test vehicle’s interior also had a boring black-on-black color scheme, but hints of chrome and a curiously patterned faux wood trim added some visual interest. And all of the bits and pieces were assembled with care.
Stepping into the Expedition’s towering cabin is easy, thanks to the power-deployed running boards.
Once you’re inside, you’ll note the wonderfully comfortable and wide seats, as well as the vast gulf between you and your front passenger. In spite of their girth, the front seats are decently bolstered to keep you from sliding around, and offer good thigh support. The test vehicle’s heating and ventilation functions were especially nice.
Something was wonky with my test vehicle’s second-row seating. They appeared to be captain’s chairs, but they were missing inboard armrests, suggesting that this example of the Expedition was actually equipped from the factory with a rear bench seat but that the center section had been removed. In any case, the seats themselves were comfortable and offered plenty of legroom, but my kids did miss having armrests.
What’s especially noteworthy about the Ford Expedition is third-row seat comfort. Unlike most multi-row SUVs, the Expedition’s last row is actually habitable, even for full-sized adults. Supplying decent leg and shoulder room, along with good thigh support, the Expedition’s third-row seat is not reserved for those who drew the short straw.
Ford bucks the trend toward minimalism with the Expedition’s control layout; it looks like someone sneezed plastic buttons all over the dashboard.
However, even though it makes for a bit of clutter, I much prefer to have all of the Expedition’s buttons and knobs at my disposal than to consult a touchscreen for commonly used functions. Most of them are easy to find and are clearly marked, too. Thanks, Ford, for not buying into the minimalistic approach.
Between the gauges, you’ll find a remarkably comprehensive driver information center. You can program various settings, consult various vehicle details, and stay up to date on a variety of towing and off-roading functions. Plus, it is intuitive to use via steering wheel controls.
My primary complaint with the Expedition is that in a cabin of this size, some of the controls are a bit of a reach from the driver’s seat. I’m also not a fan of novelty transmission shifters, and the Expedition’s rotary knob on the center console is no exception.
Carrying lots of cargo, along with lots of people, is the only reason the Expedition Max exists, and it excels in both areas.
Sway your foot under the rear bumper to use the hands-free power tailgate and you’ll find 34.3 cubic-feet of space behind the Max’s third row seat; that’s 16.9 cu.-ft. bigger than the standard Expedition, thanks to that extra foot of length.
My test vehicle was also equipped with the optional cargo management package, which installed a shelf for 2-tier storage. Not only does this upgrade extend the SUV’s versatility, but it also keeps items from rolling out of the Expedition when the liftgate is opened. Additionally, the Expedition’s rear window glass opens separately, which is a nice feature to have for hauling long items or simply creating a flow-through feeling on balmy summer days.
If you don’t need maximum passenger capacity, power the third-row seat down to create 73.3 cu.-ft. of space, which is nearly as much as a midsize SUV supplies after you’ve kicked everyone out.
Fold the second-row seats to maximize the Max’s cargo room at 121.5 cu.-ft. That is some serious space. If you need something bigger, a U-Haul may serve your needs. Or a minivan, because believe it or not, they typically hold more than the Expedition Max can.
Interior storage is generous, too. Thanks to the huge center console bin and dual glove box design, along with plenty of bins and cubbies pretty much everywhere, you’re not going have trouble finding spots to stash things.
Taking up a little bit of real estate in the huge subdivision known as the Expedition’s dashboard, an 8-inch touchscreen display serves as the interface for this SUV’s infotainment system.
Ford’s current Sync 3 system is a model of relative simplicity, and because beefy knobs flank a row of radio station preset buttons on the dashboard, you need not use the screen to operate the stereo. When touchscreen interaction is required, it works with the familiarity of a smartphone, the display recognizing pinches and swipes in addition to fingertip stabs.
Almost every one of your passengers can charge up their devices at once thanks to six USB charging ports and an available wireless charging pad. The Expedition also provides Siri, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone projection. And through the optional Sync Connect services package, a subscription-based 4G Wi-Fi hotspot is available along with a FordPass smartphone app providing remote access to certain vehicle functions, a vehicle locator feature, and more.
A premium 12-speaker B&O Play sound system is available, along with a navigation system. A dual-screen rear entertainment system is also optional, playing DVDs, accommodating gaming devices, and supporting mobile streaming. Plus, it is Slingbox-compatible for viewing live TV on the go.
Given the Expedition’s size, the optional semi-autonomous parking assist technology comes in handy, as does the available 360-degree camera system. Those who intend to pull trailers with their Expedition will definitely want to look into the Pro Trailer Backup Assist, which automatically steers the truck and trailer backward to simplify what can be a complex process.
For the most part, I took no issue with the Expedition’s on-board tech, though on one occasion my husband discovered that the navigation system’s GPS did not recognize his actual location, which resulted in faulty directions to a destination. Thankfully, Siri and Apple CarPlay came to the rescue.
In addition to the tech discussed above, Ford offers a full slate of driving assistance and collision avoidance systems for the Expedition.
With Limited trim, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert is standard equipment. Based on my experience reversing from my driveway, the rear cross-traffic function needs to emit warnings sooner than it does.
Bundled into a Driver Assistance Package ($715), adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability, forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic forward emergency braking, lane departure warning with lane keeping assist, and automatic high-beam headlights are available for this SUV. That’s a relative bargain.
During my driving these various systems performed well. The lane keeping assist technology is, however, rather forceful about nudging the Expedition back toward the center of the lane, which isn’t always desirable.
I haven’t rated the Expedition for safety because, at the time of this writing, neither the NHTSA nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has performed crash testing on the new Expedition. But, given its size, weight, and robust new vehicle architecture, chances are good that it will be safe in a crash with any vehicle smaller than it is.
Motivated by a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6, the Expedition is surprisingly fleet of foot. In standard tune, it generates 375 ponies and 470 lb.-ft. of torque (Platinum trim makes 400 and 480). If you’re skeptical of a V6’s ability to move a big, heavy truck, you can relax. When this twin-turbo V6 flexes its muscles, it’s just as brawny as any V8, and sounds just as satisfying.
With rear-wheel drive, like my test SUV had, the EPA says you can expect about 19 mpg in combined driving (17 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway). I averaged 18.3 mpg, which is fairly good for a vehicle this size. Hopefully, this assuages concerned husbands worried about their wives running errands and wasting gas.
The 10-speed automatic transmission transferred power to the rear wheels with ease, shifting smartly when necessary. And, when properly equipped, the Expedition can tow up to 9,300 pounds, a class-leading number. Horses? Boats? Camping trailers? No problem. What else ya got?
The laws of physics dictate that a heavy, near-3-ton vehicle will behave like a heavy, near-3-ton vehicle, but Ford gives defying those laws its best shot.
Even with its aluminum body on a steel frame structure, the Expedition’s 4-wheel independent suspension allows it to ride and handle quite gracefully. It reigns in untoward wallow and unwanted movement, its steering is light but reasonably precise, and the brakes stop the SUV with authority.
And while it can’t hide its bulk on twisty roads, on the highway, it’s easy to forget that this is a big, heavy truck, thanks to its placid demeanor and poised, quiet ride. Bumps are easily quelled and the commute is smooth and serene. Make sure you take note of the speed limit, too, because it’s remarkably easy to go way faster than you intended and not notice.
As my test vehicle lacked the optional 4-wheel-drive system, and the associated Terrain Management traction technology, I did not venture off the beaten path. Suffice it to say, especially when properly equipped with the optional FX4 Package, this truck can handle the rough stuff, no problem. Just make sure that its width and girth can fit whatever gnarly trail you tackle, because they usually tend to be tight and narrow.
With its efficient and powerful engine, massive interior, superior drivability, impressive technologies, and creature comforts, we would have no problems recommending to anyone who might need a full-size SUV the 2018 Ford Expedition over its competition.
Eh, who are we kidding? It looks cooler than any minivan, which is good enough for many families. And just in case you decide to use its prodigious skills for towing a trailer one of these days, well, it will be there for you.
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