The new Ford Expedition sets new standard for SUVs

The 2018 Ford Expedition
The 2018 Ford Expedition

Ford Motor Co.’s Expedition, its largest SUV, has languished for two decades without a full redesign.

The full-size family hauler was freshened in 2003, but was relegated to the fringes of the automaker’s product development plans later in the decade as Ford focused on building small, fuel-efficient sedans.

But the redesigned 2018 Expedition, unveiled last week in Dallas, could signal the big utility’s return to prominence in the Ford SUV lineup. It shares a common front structure and suspension with the venerable F-150 pickup, which means the Expedition could share in any product updates slated for the F-150.

That’s welcome news for dealers across the country, especially in Texas, Ford’s biggest market for large SUVs.

“I think Ford’s very well-positioned going forward,” said Brandon Tomes, vice president of Bob Tomes Ford in McKinney, Texas. “It’s not going to get stale again.”

The Expedition’s sweeping overhaul includes a slimmed-down aluminum body, updated powertrain, more interior legroom and 40 new technology features designed to make long drives more comfortable. While its U.S. sales rose 44 percent in 2016, in recent years, it has trailed competitors such as the Dodge Durango, Chevrolet Tahoe and Chevrolet Suburban.

Ford officials are counting on the makeover to make the Expedition more competitive in a large SUV market that grew 15 percent to 621,277 vehicles in 2016.

“It really sets the new standard in the segment,” said Craig Patterson, Ford’s large SUV marketing manager.

The Expedition went on the same diet as its F-150 and Super Duty counterparts. The new aluminum body shaves about 300 pounds, a weight savings Ford expects will result in better fuel economy, although it did not provide specifics. The current model gets about 15 mpg city/21 highway.

The SUV comes with an independent rear suspension and continuously controlled damping. It will feature the same 3.5-liter V-6 EcoBoost engine the current model has, paired with Ford’s new 10-speed transmission.

Ford expects the eight-seater will come with best-in-class towing numbers as well as increases to other power figures, although officials declined to offer specifics. Pricing also was not announced.

The interior features more legroom, with sliding second-row seats and reclining third-row seats. Both rows of seats have power-folding options. It has twice the cubby space as the current model and features charging ports at every seat, including six USB charging ports, four 12-volt power points and a 110-volt power outlet. The center console also features a wireless charging pad.

“There’s now no bad seat in the house,” said Todd Hoevener, the SUV’s chief engineer.

The Expedition will come with a Wi-Fi hot spot that extends 50 feet around the vehicle.

Ford stretched the wheelbase in its extended-length model by about 4 inches, giving the utility enough space to fit a 4-by-8 piece of plywood if the seats are down. The rear, which includes customizable storage spaces, also features a raised lip so loose grocery items or soccer balls won’t roll out when the liftgate opens.

It has a new electronic shifter with a separate, similar knob to switch between drive modes. And, for the 15 percent of Expedition customers who tow on a weekly or monthly basis, Ford is adding the pro-trailer backup assist feature found on its F-150 pickup.

The grille received a complete makeover and now features a five-bar design where the grille seamlessly transitions to the headlights. The pattern within the grille is similar to that of the current Explorer crossover.

Built in Kentucky, the Expedition will come in three trim levels: XLT, Limited and Platinum. An XL trim will be available to fleet customers only. All trim levels come in an extended-length MAX version, which is called EL on the current model.

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