The Ford Expedition full-size sport-utility seats up to eight people, hauls a mountain of gear, and can pull heavy trailers. When equipped with four-wheel drive, the Expedition will get there whether the road is dry, wet, snowy, or even when there's hardly any road at all.
The Expedition makes an excellent tow vehicle. With the optional towing package, the standard 4WD Expedition is rated at 9,000 pounds, the 2WD at 9,200 pounds, the 2WD EL at 8,900 pounds, and the 4WD EL at 8,700 pounds.
Inside are rich materials and generous space for passengers in all three seating rows. The second- and third-row seats fold flat to create a useful rear cargo area.
With its independent rear suspension, the Expedition offers a smooth ride that is more car-like than most big, truck-based SUVs. That's nice on long drives. With its combination of utility, a smooth, stable ride and a pleasant interior, the Ford Expedition is a fine choice for families that tow or take driving vacations.
The Ford Expedition comes in two lengths, the standard model with a 119-inch wheelbase, and the Expedition EL with its 131-inch wheelbase. Extended-length Expedition EL models add more cargo-carrying capacity, especially noticeable when trying to load groceries or gear behind the third-row seats.
Expedition is powered by a single-overhead-cam 5.4-liter V8 rated at 310 horsepower and 365 pound-feet of torque. A 6-speed automatic transmission is standard equipment. There's a choice of rear-wheel drive (2WD) or electronically engaged ControlTrac four-wheel drive (4WD) that can be driven on dry pavement and includes low-range gearing. We recommend getting the four-wheel drive.
All Expedition models include AdvanceTrac electronic stability control system with Roll Stability Control (RSC), including standard Trailer Sway Control that detects trailer sway motion and takes corrective measures to bring both the vehicle and the trailer under control, a good feature.
Changes for the 2012 model year are minor. Front park assist is now standard on Limited and King Ranch. Heated rear seats are now optional on XLT. And all versions come with standard spotter mirrors. The current-generation Expedition was launched as a 2007 model.
The Ford Expedition is a truck and it doesn't pretend to be anything else. This is a good identity to have, because Ford trucks continue to have an outstanding reputation for utility, reliability and durability.
Both the long and regular-length versions of the Expedition use many of the components from the Ford F-150 pickup. However, the Expedition features independent rear suspension, which improves driving precision, ride comfort, and rear-seat roominess.
Expedition features a three-bar grille, large headlights, and a domed hood that combine to deliver a look that's both distinctive and respectable. There are several different wheel designs, including 20-inchers with a polished (Limited) or painted (King Ranch) finish.
Expedition rides on a wheelbase of 119.0 inches, while the Expedition EL models stretch that to 131.0 inches. Overall, the EL measures 14.8 inches longer than the standard Expedition, and that adds slightly over 22 cubic feet of cargo volume, from 108.3 cubic feet for the Expedition to 130.8 for the EL.
The Expedition and the Expedition EL are big vehicles, measuring more than 17 feet from nose to tail. As a result, crowded parking lots can be challenging. The Expedition has a turning circle of nearly 41 feet, while the EL requires nearly 44 feet.
They're also heavy, as even the base 2WD Expedition weighs over 5,500 pounds, and a loaded EL with 4WD tops 6,200.
The King Ranch model can be identified by its gold exterior accents and unique wheel design.
The Expedition comes with running boards as standard equipment. Power retractable running boards that deploy when the doors are opened are optional. Some owners prefer no running boards, but that doesn't appear to be an option.
The Ford Expedition features a rich blend of finishes, textures and color. Wood, chrome and leather make the Expedition an inviting place to spend a day on the road. The layout of the gauges and controls is easy to understand and no controls are too far out of easy reach. The King Ranch is a great representation of modern American-style luxury.
Captain's chairs with movable armrests are standard across the four model lines. Leather-upholstered examples are available with a heating/cooling feature that makes them a more comfortable companion in winter and summer. Generous driver's-seat travel helps accommodate taller drivers, and it's a perfect match for the Expedition's movable pedals, so a wide range of sizes of drivers can sit comfortably.
The second seating row reflects Ford's thoughtful approach to passenger comfort: The standard 40/20/40 bench seat incorporates a center section that slides, bringing a child seat within easier reach of front-seat passengers. Optional second-row captain's chairs with a center-aisle pass-through can be substituted for adult-rated comfort.
Packaging advantages afforded by the Expedition's independent rear suspension enable the third-row seat to deliver more comfort for adults compared to the accommodations provided by the Chevy Tahoe. In fact, third-row room is among the best of any SUV, though three adults won't want to sit in the back for long. The high ride height also makes getting in and out a task for children.
The liftgate with its flip-up glass hatch makes access to the cargo area very easy. The second- and third-row bench-type seats fold flat into the cargo floor, affording a long cargo area that can be easily loaded. This means you don't have to unbolt the passenger seats and leave them on the floor of your garage every time you're making a serious run to the home improvement store. In this regard, the Expedition is much better designed than GM's large SUVs. The Expedition is also available with an optional power-folding third-row seat and electronically powered liftgate to make it even easier to load cargo. However, the seat cushions of the second- and third-row seats are a little slim in order to allow the seats to fold properly.
The Expedition is about more than convenience. A DVD-based navigation system with sizable 6.5-inch screen is available as an option. The rear-seat DVD entertainment system has an eight-inch screen that flips down from the headliner and also includes two sets of wireless headphones. A plug-in jack for an MP3 player is standard across the line. The Expedition is even a nice place to be when all the entertainment is switched off, as the combination of thick glass and a generous amount of acoustic insulation behind the dash and on the floor makes this a remarkably quiet interior; it's actually possible to have a conversation with the people in the third-row seat while you're at the wheel.
Ford's rear backup camera is less impressive than many others. The image is shown in the rear-view mirror, and is quite small. While the image is useful, obstacles are not as easy to spot as they are in systems that show their images on six- or seven-inch dash-mounted screens.
The Expedition tracks down the highway with excellent straight-line stability, negotiates forest roads with surprising agility, and absorbs impacts from bumps or broken pavement without straying from its path. It maintains a surprisingly calm ride considering its truck heritage. Most of the advantage comes from the synergy between a rigid frame, high-pressure gas shocks that afford excellent wheel control, and a link-type independent rear suspension.
Steering effort is light and easy. The two-speed 4WD system is engaged with a simple rotary knob mounted on the dashboard, and it automatically reduces throttle sensitivity in low range for better traction in slippery circumstances.
The overhead-cam 5.4-liter V8 delivers 310 hp, but it's really tuned to deliver torque, 365 pound-feet of it, for towing. The 6-speed automatic transmission runs seamlessly through the gears, keeping the engine from laboring through its rpm range. The result is a lot of reliable power.
We did notice some hesitation at initial throttle opening in some situations. It we came to a stop sign at the top of a hill, stopped, then accelerated, there was sometimes a pause while the transmission engaged and forward momentum began.
The Expedition makes an excellent tow vehicle. With the optional towing package, the standard 4WD Expedition is rated at 9,000 pounds, the 2WD at 9,200 pounds, the 2WD EL at 8,900 pounds, and the 4WD EL at 8,700 pounds. We've found the load-leveling air suspension works very well. Using a weight-distribution hitch, we found the Expedition relatively smooth and reasonably stable while pulling a 24-foot trailer with two race cars stacked inside along with tools and spares, and three adults riding in the cabin.
For all its comfort and stability, the Expedition is still about utility rather than sport. When it comes to driving, the Expedition feels big and heavy, which it is. As good as it is, the Expedition certainly isn't sporty and no one should expect it to be. Still, the Expedition's overall driving performance is quite refined for its class.
Among full-size sport-utilities, the Ford Expedition stands apart with its superior driving comfort and utility package. Ford is right on target with its family adventure concept, and the Ford Expedition is one of the best vehicles for family vacation travel on the American road. It makes an excellent tow vehicle, smooth and stable, with tow capacities in the 9,000-pound range.
Kirk Bell contributed to this report from Chicago, with staff reports from NewCarTestDrive.com.