First Drive

QUICK TAKE: Ford’s all-new 2018 Expedition

Ford’s big SUV gets aluminum body, Ecoboost engine and 10-speed transmission

2018 Ford Expedition

It has taken 20 years, but Ford has finally brought its largest SUV up to date and back into contention with its full-size competitors.

When it was introduced as a 1997 model, the Expedition was North America’s best-selling full-size SUV, but it has since lost that position to the Chevrolet Tahoe, which starts at $54,520, and the larger Suburban, which tops out at $78,475. Its most significant changes in the past two decades have been the adoption of an independent rear suspension in 2003, for a cushier (and lower) ride, and a new transmission in 2007.

The latest generation of the Expedition now has a new 10-speed automatic transmission and a 3.5L V-6 Ecoboost engine, both shared with the F-150. It’s also built on the same body-on-frame platform, though the pickup truck has a solid rear axle. Like the F-150, much of Expedition’s bodywork is now aluminum, which cuts about 135 kg from its weight.

It is not cheap, however, with an MSRP starting at $59,999 and rising through two more trim levels and into a stretched wheelbase version to top out at $83,999, plus taxes and $1,790 Destination and Delivery.

Space for eight

The new Expedition offers plenty of space for up to eight passengers, depending on which seating plan is fitted – a seven-passenger configuration replaces the second row 60/40 bench with two captains’ chairs.

The lower floor height in the rear means the third row is comfortable and spacious for three normal-sized adults, while the second row can be slid forward and tipped upward for easy access to the back without having to remove children’s car seats. There’s even a clever and versatile optional ($400) shelving unit in the back to keep everything in place.

Passengers have about the same space in both the regular and stretched models, and all three rows recline but also fold flat individually as needed; put them all down and there’s 2,962 litres of cargo space in the regular wheelbase model, and 3,340 litres in the stretched model. That’s almost minivan territory.

Connectivity is completely up to date, of course. The new Expedition can be a wifi hotspot and offers six USB ports for mobile devices – two for each row. Ford’s Sync3 media connection software grows simpler to use with each generation, and this iteration is more seamless than it’s ever been.

Powertrain and towing

The stock engine creates 375 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque, but the top-of-the-line Platinum trim boosts that output through recalibration to 400 hp and 480 lb-ft. This means towing capacity is now 9,000 lb (4,082 kg), or up to 9,300 lb (4,218 kg) with the optional ($1,400) Heavy Duty tow package, which is the best in its class.

A drive on some local mountain roads here showed the new 10-speed automatic transmission to be well matched to the engine, with little strain or hunting for gears. It also showed the SUV to be unusually quiet inside – its designers have used every trick in the book to muffle road noise, from acoustic glass to next-generation sound-deadening materials. The big truck makes for a quiet and comfortable ride, and an easy drive.

All Canadian models are all-wheel drive, but there’s also a $2,000 option for the FX4 off-road package, which has 4WD and a two-speed transfer case with a limited slip differential. It comes with up to seven different drive modes for handling a variety of road or off-road surfaces and driving styles, and made light work of some steep and loose dirt trails in the area.

The drive mode selector knob is on the centre console below the gear selector knob. Now that selection is electronic, the shifter doesn’t need to be a giant stalk that sticks out from the steering column or the console. Just set it and forget it.

Fuel consumption is improved from the previous model, and it’s good for such a large SUV. The official Canadian rating is 13.8 L/100 km City, 10.7 Highway, and 12.4 Combined for the regular wheelbase, and 14.9 City, 11.2 Highway, and 13.2 Combined for the longer model.

MSRPs for the various models are:

XLT: $59,999

Limited: $72,999

Limited MAX (LWB): $75,999

Platinum: $80,999

Platinum MAX (LWB): $83,999

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