The 2018 Ford Expedition Platinum 4x4 is almost as big and broad as a half-ton pickup truck, but it really feels more like a station wagon. A station wagon that got a healthy dose of superhero serum and is ready to take your family (or Uber XL passengers) around in far more comfort than they probably deserve.
(Full Disclosure: I asked Ford if I could borrow the new Expedition for a few days, and it had the nicest one you can order dropped off at my apartment with a full tank of fuel.)
What is it?
The Expedition is one of the few remaining full-sized SUVs built on a robust frame, just like a work truck. Its primary competitor is the Chevy Tahoe and that vehicle’s brother the GMC Yukon.
With an impressive tow rating and passenger capacity, the ideal application is “weekend lake house run” with a family filling the seats and a boat being dragged by the trailer hitch. And I guess if you can swing the $76,740 asking price, you probably can afford to buzz off to the water once in a while.
This top-spec Platinum trim is plenty powerful and comfortable no doubt, but it comes up a little short of “luxurious.”
Specs That Matter
A base two-wheel drive 2018 Expedition starts at about $50,000 with Ford’s ubiquitous 3.5-liter V6 EcoBoost engine rated at 375 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque. Platinum spec trucks like this one get bumped to 400 HP and 480 lb-ft. All Expeditions have 10-speed automatics.
The vehicle is a gargantuan 83.6 inches wide with its mirrors folded in and 210 inches bow-to-stern (an Expedition Max also exists, and is almost a foot longer). The 4x4 Expedition has a 9,200 pound towing capacity rating while the two-wheel drive version gets an extra 100 pounds there.
At least the Expedition’s size pays dividends though: even the way-back seats are not just livable, but actually decently comfortable, for a six-foot adult. I climbed back in there and hung out without scrunching my knees or bending my neck, which is a rare treatment in the third row of anything.
The EPA claims you can squeeze 17 mpg out of the Expedition 4x4 in combined driving, without specifying if that’s guesstimated with the 375 HP or 400 HP version. In the higher output Platinum, I’d say that’s ambitious. But a vehicle this size was never going to hype the hypermilers anyway.
Did I mention how impressive it is that the third row is actually not a coffin of misery? I’d have no problem sitting back there for hours from the suburbs to a car-camping site or wherever the next Griswold family expedition is headed for.
In fact, the Expedition is something of a master of space utilization. Which is doubly great, because the interior volume of this thing is bigger than most Brooklyn apartments.
There are cupholders, storage pockets and power ports everywhere. You could squirrel away an entire Best Buy’s worth of phones and wires in this thing and it’d still look tidy. When you’re hauling more cargo than humans, the third and second row seats can easily be flipped down flat from the back of the vehicle with a convenient set of buttons. And finally, the cherry (literally) on top of this thing; the panoramic sunroof makes the already-cavernous interior feel like the size of a concert hall.
Behind the wheel, I was most impressed by the Expedition’s turning radius. No, I’m not kidding at all. The power steering rack on this thing must have been developed alongside the Iron Man suit because it’s a marvel of effectiveness. Roll up to a parking space and you’ll think, surely, you’re going to need to three-point turn this boat to avoid clipping anyone or taking a tree down. But no! The steering wheel spins, and spins, spins until the truck almost feels like it’s about to pivot like a damn tank. It’s downright remarkable.
The 360-degree camera lets you witness the Expedition’s miraculous parking jobs from on high, which is good, because you might not believe what you’re seeing out the windshield.
Loaner cars have a hard life, but it was pretty disappointing to see the threads unraveling on the passenger seat of a sport utility vehicle with just over 6,000 miles on its odometer. I don’t need the Expedition to survive an extreme off-road, uh, expedition, but I sure as hell hope the interior can stay sewn together before the truck needs its first oil change.
The rest of the cabin, though spacious and comfortable, is executed with an inelegant bluntness that keeps the Expedition from being a true luxury vehicle like the Mercedes GLS or even a smaller Infiniti QX50. The Expedition’s buttons and surfaces are pretty much all just big squares, whereas the cockpits of those other vehicles I mentioned are artfully appointed with interesting shapes.
As for the vehicle’s fuel economy, the thing is thirsty but it’s no worse than any other vehicle this size. I drive gently and landed just shy of 16 mpg according to the dashboard over a couple hundred miles of mainly city driving.
The only real concern I had about the Expedition’s road manners were with its adaptive cruise control. Setting it to its maximum follow distance, the Ford really seemed to take its sweet time slowing down when traffic in front of me put on its brakes. I kept chickening out and overriding the cruise with my foot.
The 2018 Expedition’s crowning achievement is probably how well it hides its size. Once you get over the intimidating leap from the ground to the driver’s seat (the power-retracting step helps, even if you’re six-feet tall) the cameras and steering I already mentioned do a great job of making this mighty machine feel managable.
Visibility is superb, too. I mean, your eye-line is above mid-sized pickup trucks from the command deck of the Expedition.
The 10-speed automatic barely makes a blip, which is impressive considering the fact that it must be shifting a whole lot to justify its existence. Shifting with the rotary dial felt easy and intuitive to me and interestingly I noticed that the other dial, which cycles between drive modes, really made a significant difference to the Expedition’s behavor.
The “eco” mode sucked all responsiveness out of the throttle, forcing you to really think long and hard about every gallon of gas you were dumping into the EcoBoost engine’s combustion chamber. “Sport” mode made the truck leap into the passing lane with a real fire under its ass, and “normal” was kind of in the middle.
The 400 HP Expedition was certainly not wanting for power, but there wasn’t much to be gained by pushing this vehicle aggressively. Between the vehicle’s ride height and impressive sound-sealing, the sensation of going 15 mph or 75 is largely the same.
The transmission is theoretically overridable with little “+/-” buttons next to the knob, but there’s a huge delay between pushing and shifting. It seemed like the vehicle was going to do its own thing regardless of how ambitiously I mashed these.
Otherwise, that super-assisted steering that’s great in parking lots kind of sucks when you’re linking turns. Not that anyone would try to make this vehicle’s massively tall wagon wheels squeal on Angeles Crest Highway, but there’s essentially no feedback in the steering wheel.
Off-road, the Expedition would be let down by its all-season tires but mostly I’d be really nervous to drive anything with power-retractable side steps through too many mud puddles or over sharp rocks.
This thing’s certainly got plenty of power to get through rough stuff though, and I bet it’d be pretty capable on a set of all-terrain tires.
Even the most basic 2018 Expedition XLT 2WD isn’t exactly a “cheap” vehicle at $51,790, and you’re all the way up to $76,740 for the up-spec’d Expedition Platinum 4WD which you need to enjoy most of the goodies I wrote about in this shakedown.
For your reference, a Chevrolet Tahoe starts at $47,500 and one equivalent to our test Expedition would be around $70,945. But, you could also spec a more frugal 5.3-liter V8 in the Chevy Tahoe Premier and get the list price down to $66,000.
But. Once you start adding in options to really make the Tahoe as well appointed as the Ford we’re featuring here the prices are pretty dang close.
The range-topping Expedition is incredibly comfortable and capable. It costs a fortune, but is it seven-times better than a used one you could pick up for $10,000? ...Yeah, I think so. Whether or not it actually makes sense to spend $70,000 on a vehicle is a separate question.
The 2018 Ford Expedition Platinum is an impressive machine. It may not be as fanciful as some other luxury vehicles, but it’s well laid-out, easy to use and true to its utilitarian nature. For the task of transporting a large family and a lot of stuff, it’s going to be hard to beat. For anything else, it doesn’t make a lot of sense though. Daily driving something that gets 15 mpg is going to hurt, to say nothing of how wasteful it is.
And even though the seats are plush and the steering’s gentle, the Expedition still feels more primitive than the import luxury vehicles in this price range. Or even a Cadillac Escalade, for that matter.
But it delivers what it promises: a cushy variant of a utility vehicle with plenty of pulling power. This is your father’s SUV, so to speak. It’s just bristling with driver safety aids and loaded with a whole lot of padding.