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2018 Ford Expedition first drive: Bigger, badder and bolder

by Danny Zepeda | December 24, 2017December 24, 2017 9:00 am PST

For nearly my entire life, I’ve stayed away from big cars. It’s nothing personal against them, they’re just clunky and too big for my use. At least that’s my personal view of them.

When Ford invited me to check out the 2018 Mustang in sunny Malibu, that also meant I got to check out the gargantuan 2018 Expedition. I was excited about the Mustang because it’s a Mustang, but the Expedition was something else. I went into the event with an open mind, and once I got behind the wheel of the Expedition, I came away thoroughly impressed.

Disclaimer: Ford invited TechnoBuffalo to participate in a two-day event in Malibu. Meal and hotel accommodations were provided.

The slight facelift goes a long way

Before I jump into my experience driving 2018 Expedition, let’s talk about what changed with the redesigned model.

Expeditions have always been known for their excessive frame. More room and more space means it is a perfect family vehicle, especially if you want to skip the minivan. This is at the heart of Expedition’s mission statement: You get a plus size SUV without sacrificing looks to fit the quaint little family of yours.

This year, Ford decided to revamp the design. It’s nothing too major; the front and back fascia got a facelift with redesigned bumpers, grilles, head and taillamps while the overall design got a little more rounded and aerodynamic. Ford even threw in a gorgeous panoramic sunroof that runs from the front drivers to the third row.

For better or worse, it looks similar to other plus-size SUVs you’d find on the road, but that’s the going rate for mass appeal right now.

Ford is offering the 2018 Expedition in two options: long wheelbase MAX version that adds 12-inches length to the overall frame and 8-inches to the wheelbase and the smaller short-wheelbase variant. The longer version adds more cargo space in the back. Each of these models will be available in three trims: XLT, Limited, and Platinum.

Its drive is powerful and agile

The XLT and Limited Expeditions will come with the standard 3.5-liter V6 EcoBoost engine that will produce 375 horsepower and 470-pound-feet of torque. That’s nice and all, but the Platinum ramps up the stakes with a spec bump up to 400 horsepower and 480-pound-feet of torque in case you want some more power. I’m not going to buy an Expedition any time soon, but I’d go with the more powerful version. The extra power isn’t life-changing, but it is very much welcomed and good to know you have.

Some other features added to the new model include a brand new electronic limited-slip differential system.

Driving the Expedition was much different than what I expected. Instead of a clunky and stiff drive, it delivered a powerful and agile experience. That’s in part due to the engine pulling its weight. Cruising down the Pacific Coast Highway wasn’t as fun as it is with a Mustang, but it was a lot more fun than what you’d expect from a family SUV. Speeding up takes a bit longer, but once up to speed, the Expedition flies.

I was also pleasantly surprised with the handling of the Expedition. For as big and heavy as the Expedition is, it drives like a car that is a fraction of its size. Ford did a hell of a job with the powertrain to make this possible.

Where the Expedition’s driving abilities truly shine is with off-road driving. During one of the available tests we could put the Expedition’s four-wheel-drive through, I got a chance to go off-road and up a steep hill with rough inclines and the Expedition traveled through this course admirably. This was done on the Mud/Rut mode with the help of a terrain intelligence system. Driving down the sunny Malibu coast was fun, but this was even more so.

Packed to the brim with tech

One of Ford’s big upgrades with the 2018 model is infusing every nook and crack inside the Expedition with tech.

Ford failed to carry over the same gorgeous all-digital instrument cluster that’s found in the 2018 Mustang, instead opting for a hybrid system. The speedometer and tachometer gauges are still analog, but the center is all digital. You can choose what information you want to be displayed in this area, be that driving information or navigation directions.

The center console 7-inch touch display that runs Ford’s SYNC 3 system that supports both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which has quickly become a standard feature for every car. It offers the ability to bypass the car manufacturer’s clunky user interface (that includes Ford) and use Google or Apple’s version.

Other details that Ford added include wireless charging, six USB charging ports (two for each row) and four powerpoints throughout the car, 100V AC outlet, optional headrest entertainment system that adds two eight-inch displays to the front driver headsets and a 360-degree camera.

In terms of technology that enhances the driving experiences in the Expedition, it’s mostly autonomous driving features that are not only helpful when driving, but also when towing. One of the tests Ford put on display was the trailer backup assist. You can just put the car in the specific mode, take your hands off the steering wheel and just move a nob on the dashboard in the direction you want the trailer to move. It worked flawlessly. In case this appeals to you, the Expedition tows up to 9,300 lbs with the available Heavy-Duty Trailer Tow package.

For driving assistance, there’s the usual suspects of modes: Enhance Active Park Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go and Pre-collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection Lane-Keeping System.

Ford is really proud of the Expedition’s versatility. It put extra focus into refining parts the SUV that make a big difference.

The Expedition’s three-row layout comes in seven-seat and eight-seat versions, with the third rows being adjustable. It’s the only SUV to offer this feature. This is that much more impressive when you consider the third row can fold down, opening up the cargo space. Speaking of cargo space, Ford added what it calls Advance Cargo Manager that make its super easy to manage the cargo space. Little touches like the cargo defender prevents moving items from rolling out of the car.

A car for the family

So who is this car for? Strictly for families, because there is a lot of space to fill.

You will need a lot of bodies to fill the seats of the Expedition to justify the price that starts off at $51,695 and can get as high as $82,090 with all the bells and whistles. But if you need a family vehicle, the Expedition is a worthy option. It comes with a ton of available options and features that will keep that big family of yours happy in everyday driving or long road trips.


Danny Zepeda

Born and raised in Southern California, Danny grew up on a steady diet Pixar, Star Wars and Steven Spielberg movies. Unbeknownst to him, this was...

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