While SUVs may not be at the top of my vehicle preference
list, I do somewhat have an appreciation for large, full-size SUVs because the
majority of them are still proper SUVs. What’s a proper SUV? It’s one that has
a body-on frame, or rides on a truck platform. The common “SUV” you see on the
road today likely rides on a car-based platform and is therefore classified as
a crossover to my mind.
Plus, full-size SUVs are relied upon for premier
chauffeuring of passengers, celebrities and politicians alike. They tend to
make use of them due to their intimidating and attention-seeking presence on
top of their roomy interiors. They often carry a design that is agreeable to
most to boot.
And Ford is betting a lot on the popularity of SUVs in
general, having axed every single traditional car in the lineup save for the
Mustang. By the way, if you still are a fan of the blue oval and traditional
passenger cars, Ford is still offering the Fiesta, Fusion and Taurus for the
2019 model year but this year will likely be your last chance.
Since Ford is putting all of its proverbial eggs in one basket, now is a good time to take a closer look at their SUV offerings, and the biggest one currently being offered is the Expedition. Well, technically the Expedition MAX is the biggest, adding an extra 12 inches in length over the standard Expedition.
Since full-size SUVs are often status symbols and used for special occasions, it was particularly fitting that Ford sent an Expedition my way on the week of our joint bachelor/bachelorette party. Not only would it offer a commanding presence for the occasion but it also provided the ability to haul five more party goers if needed.
That commanding presence is partially due to the much needed recent redesign. Prior to a year ago, the Expedition was soldiering on with the same design that originally debuted back in 2007. That’s a long time to go on a single design. Thankfully Ford finally gave the Expedition some attention and it now sports a much more modern design with LED lighting, new wheel designs, and new front and rear fascias. My tester came equipped with the stealth pack, which is a cool sounding name, but it does not make this big honker stealthier – quite the opposite. It enhances by adding rather nice looking black painted 22-inch wheels, a five-bar gloss black grille, gloss black power-deployable running boards, tailgate appliqué, rear bumper skid plate and trailer hitch cover, black Expedition lettering on the hood, unique red interior stitching and gloss black housing around the headlights, fog lights and tail lights. Matched with my tester’s awesome looking silver spruce paint job and you certainly get a vehicle that looks the part for a bachelor/ette party.
Inside, it is absolutely vast – as it should be – but it is a bit overwhelming at first. My tester featured optional captains chairs for the second row, which made accessing the third row a breeze. You don’t need to hunch over too much to access the third row either.
I usually harp on most “SUVs” (crossovers) that offer third row seating because, generally, the third row is never usable to anyone except perhaps small children. I then go on to recommend that if you truly need three rows more often than not, then bite the bullet and buy a minivan – they are much more roomy and practical. However, this is one SUV which is the exception. Not only can adults easily access the third row, but they can be seated comfortably for longer trips.
Being based on a truck platform, the interior design itself is quite similar to the current F-150, which isn’t really a bad thing. For instance, the door handles are housed inside of the door pull. This small but significant detail which allows you to more easily open the door. The steering wheel design is nice and bulky and the centre stack is straight forward and easy to get used to. Ford’s Sync3 continues to be easy to use and decently responsive. The interior is premium feeling however, unlike the Ford Explorer Platinum I tried last month, I don’t think you could slap a Lincoln badge on this particular Expedition without anyone questioning it. My tester, as the mid-trim Limited model with the added stealth pack, really is more for those wanting sportiness with a bit of premium added in here and there.
As one would expect in a vehicle of this size, cargo room is more than plentiful, but of particular note is how good it is with all rows up seating up. The Expedition has just under 21 cubic feet of space while its direct competitor, the Chevrolet Tahoe, only has 15.3 cubic space. With all seats folded down the Expedition comes in with an impressive 105 cubic feet, besting the Tahoe’s 95. That discrepancy could be chalked up to the fact that the Expedition comes with independent rear suspension while the Tahoe is relegated to a torsion beam.
So it’s odd then that the Expedition felt noticeably bouncy at times – enough for even my mother to comment on it, and she never notices such things. I’m puzzled as to why. I have a feeling it may have something to do with the dampers because even when you come to a complete non-emergency stop, it will bobble up and down before it settles. And to make for even more of a head scratcher, the Expedition actually feels relatively composed and planted for its mass when you take it into a corner. There’s some body lean but it’s still well within an acceptable amount for a vehicle this size and you still feel as if you have complete control. It keeps its composure well in the bends. Very strange.
But getting back to the cargo for a moment. The area can be accessed by lifting the glass portion only – which is something SUVs used to offer back in the day but don’t seem to anymore. This is great if you just want to quickly chuck something into the back. Of course, if your hands are full you can make a kicking motion underneath to open the tailgate for hands-free access. My only issue with the glass access is that it didn’t seem to want to close about half the time, no matter how hard I slammed it down. This would cause the “tailgate is ajar” warning message to constantly come up on the dash. The only upside to this was that it gave me the opportunity to make my future wife groan with relentless “it’s not a jar, it’s a tailgate!” jokes. (It’s a wonder she has stayed with me this long).
Powering this beast is two versions of the 3.5 litre ecoboost (Ford speak for turbocharged) V6. The version in the base and mid-trim makes 375 horsepower and 400 pound foot torque, but if you pony up to the Platinum you get even more ponies, specifically 25 more for a total of 400 and torque gets a boost to 480. Both versions of this engine come with a newly developed 10-speed automatic. As tempting as it is to get the platinum for the extra power and torque, I have to say the 375 horses and 400 was more than adequate, in fact, the Expedition felt downright quick at times. The transmission is actually quite good and it allows for smooth shifts at appropriate times. However even Ford will admit that having a lot of gears is sometimes not ideal, such as when towing. So they gave the ability to lock out the higher gears. You can also shift them manually, but to do so is done via foolish buttons next to the transmission dial, which is not great in and of itself. I doubt anyone will take advantage of this feature, but I suppose it’s nice knowing it’s there.
Speaking of towing, the Expedition holds its own. It once again bests rival Tahoe in this department with an ability to tow 9,300 pounds compared to the Tahoe’s 8,600 pounds. It even has Ford’s famous Pro-Trail Assist which essentially uses a dial to take care of steering for more precise adjustments.
Our bachelor/ette party was being held in Hubbards, Nova Scotia, about a 40 minute drive from Halifax. This gave us ample opportunity to be coddled along the way. This is a smooth ride with and engine and transmission that largely stays out of the way until you go out of your way to wake them up.
As you’d expect for a vehicle of this size, fuel consumption figures are well into the double digits. Official numbers come in at 14.1 L/100 kms city and 11.2 highway with a 13.1 combined average. My real world mixed driving came in at 13.7, which isn’t bad at all to be honest and it is one of the few times I’ve driven a modern day Ford that actually demonstrated some eco to go with its boost.
In the end, we pulled up to the bachelor/ette party in style thanks to this commanding beast. It was the envy of most who attended who couldn’t wait to take a closer look. And while we didn’t end up hauling any passengers in the end, I know it could have done so with little fuss. Add in the great exterior style, sporty interior design, oodles of passenger and cargo space along with a strong engine/transmission pairing and you’ve got yourself one hell of a proper SUV that is 100% worthy of your consideration. The new Expedition left me feeling impressed – a tough feat to achieve considering I’m a fairly tough critic against SUVs.
Price As Tested: $85,805
- Handsome, especially with stealth pack
- Roomy for both passengers and cargo
- Strong engine/transmission combo
- Relatively decent on gas
- Bouncy at times despite independent rear
- Lots of body movement when coming to a stop
- Dial shift transmission
- Finicky glass tailgate
- Chevrolet Tahoe
- GMC Yukon
- Nissan Armada
- Toyota Sequoia