The 2018 Ford Expedition is the first ground-up redesign for Ford’s traditional body-on-frame SUV in 20 years. Like the current F-150, the Expedition uses an aluminum body over a high-strength steel frame. The weight saved by the new materials is offset by a whole suite of interior upgrades and features for both front and rear passengers. Still, the new model is up to 300 pounds lighter than the outgoing version. At Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn, Mich., we had a deep dive with Ford engineers about what’s new inside the Expedition.
The Expedition has only a few true competitors, mainly the GM Tahoe and Yukon twins. The Toyota Sequoia and Nissan Armada make up a small portion of sales in an already small class of vehicles. GM rules here, with combined sales of short- and long-wheelbase Expedition models barely exceeding Chevrolet Suburban sales, much less the combined sales of Tahoe, Suburban, Yukon, and Yukon XL. Crossovers may be on the rise, but if you want to haul four kids and tow a trailer, options are limited.
Sitting in the passenger seat, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re just in another Ford F-150. From the B-pillar forward, both models look and feel identical. That’s generally a good thing, as the interior is quiet, comfortable and spacious. Some of the materials on the lower trim models are a little disappointing, but the top-tier Platinum model is trimmed in fine-feeling leather and nice open-pore wood.
The back seat is where the Expedition sets itself apart. A bench seat comes standard on all models, but the model we were in today had the optional captain’s chairs. Legroom and headroom are decent, even with the panoramic moonroof. The seats slide for extra room, but the real party trick is the tip-and-slide feature. You can use either a button or a lever on the seat back to move the seat forward, allowing easy access to the rear. You don’t even have to remove a child’s seat to do so. The seat tracks are flush with the floor, so there’s no tripping on anything while climbing inside.
The third row is surprisingly roomy. The packaging on the independent rear suspension means the seats can sit lower and further back than competitors, improving both knee and headroom. It’s a little tighter in the cargo area, but the long-wheelbase Expedition Max is available for those than need the extra room with the third row in place. Another great feature is the power tilting seat backs. Padding is light, but it’s comfortable enough for short stints or for those smaller than 6 feet tall.
Power and entertainment are vastly improved over both the last Expedition and the competition. Each seat in the Expedition has at least one USB port. A 110V outlet is placed in the center of the second row. The second row has an optional two-screen entertainment system with both USB and HDMI inputs. The 110V outlet means you can easily hook up a gaming console in the back. The system also comes with wireless headphones. The really neat feature is the integration of live TV streaming courtesy of SlingBox.
With the rear seats in place, cargo space is limited. The load floor is relatively low for a body-on-frame SUV, but still higher than many crossovers. To help make use of the limited space, there is a panel that can be adjusted for several configurations, including a high-placed shelf. With the seats folded flat, the cargo area is cavernous. Both the second and third row can be electronically folded from the hatch. The panels on the sides of the cargo area are mostly flat to help prevent cargo from snagging on anything.
Compared to the GM models, the Expedition feels roomy and far more modern. Ford has spent a lot of time talking to customers and focusing on rear passengers. Most Expedition shoppers place vacations and family outings high on their list of priorities. That’s why Ford spent so much time on the rear passenger area. By comparison, the Tahoe feels cramped for a vehicle of its size. We’re sure all of that will be fixed with the replacement model sometime in the future, but until then Ford will have the upper edge. We’ll just have to wait to see if the same thought and care went into ride, handling, and power.