2018 Ford Expedition MAX: Bigger than Big

Strong points
  • Powerful and refined engine
  • Unbeatable towing capacity
  • Tons of interior space (especially in the MAX)
Weak points
  • Optional rear-seat entertainment system is too complex
  • Questionable long-term reliability of EcoBoost engine
  • Good luck finding a parking spot around town
Full report

In today’s world of blended families, a vehicle capable of carrying more than two or three children is a must. Especially when those kids—or teenagers—need and want their own space, peace and quiet.

Obviously, a minivan is the most logical and rational choice. A three-row, midsize SUV is also an alternative. But what if we need space for the family and the capability of towing a camping trailer or a boat? Sounds like a job for a full-size SUV.

That’s where the Ford Expedition comes in. It’s spacious, it’s well equipped and it can tow just about anything that vacationing families need. The Expedition MAX, the one we recently tested, is even better if we’re also planning to bring Curly the Labradoodle along for the trip.

The 2018 Ford Expedition can seat up to eight passengers, but my blended family with three teenagers travelled in utter comfort during the summer vacation. No shoulder rubbing, no fighting for room or for available USB ports, and no stress for us parents sitting up front and enjoying the road ahead. There’s so much room in the Expedition MAX that everybody has their own postal code inside the vehicle. We’re slightly exaggerating.

The interior design and finish has gotten a serious upgrade compared to those of the last-generation Expedition, although it’s not as spiffy in the Ford compared to its Lincoln Navigator cousin. The switchgear layout is straightforward, while the SYNC 3 infotainment system benefits from a clean and easy-to-use touchscreen interface. An on-board Wi-Fi hotspot is available so everybody can connect their devices to the Internet, although a data package is required at extra cost. Second-row passengers get their own climate controls in the Platinum version we tested, along with heated seats, a USB port and a 120-volt power outlet.

Photo: Michel Deslauriers

However, the optional rear-seat entertainment system tries to be modern and multifunctional, but fails. Watching a DVD movie is fairly easy to set up, and there are USB and HDMI ports to connect various devices to the screens, but the Wi-Fi mirror functions for viewing videos on screen are too complicated or don’t work properly. In short, younger kids might not be able to use the system.

Cargo space is among the best in the full-size SUV segment, right up there with the Toyota Sequoia, and ahead of the Nissan Armada, Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon. The Expedition MAX matches the roominess of the Chevrolet Suburban and GMC Yukon XL. Despite its gargantuan size, which can be a handful in a shopping-centre parking lot, it barely beats the versatility of a minivan.

The Expedition is powered by Ford’s twin-turbocharged, 3.5-litre EcoBoost V6, which develops a solid 375 horsepower (with 93-octane fuel) and 470 pound-feet of torque in XLT and Limited variants, 400 hp and 480 lb.-ft. in the Platinum. It’s managed by a 10-speed automatic transmission has dishes out smooth gear changes and helps keep fuel economy reasonable, and four-wheel drive is standard in Canada. The EcoBoost engine has no problem getting this 5600-plus-pound SUV (5800 for the MAX) up to speed and sounds pretty good at wide-open throttle, too. It boasts a combined city/highway rating of 12.4 L/100 km in the Expedition and 13.2 in the Expedition MAX. During our family road trip, we averaged a decent 13.0 L/100 km using unleaded fuel, and its driving range between fill-ups is high, thanks to the MAX variant’s 113.5-litre tank.

Properly equipped with a $1,400 maximum towing package, the 2018 Ford Expedition can pull up to 9200 pounds (4173 kilograms), while the heavier MAX is rated at 9000 lbs. (4082 kg). No other full-size SUV can match this, despite the competition all touting V8 engines.

Photo: Michel Deslauriers

There are a lot of available features in the Expedition—especially in the Platinum version—that makes it feel luxurious without going overboard. Power-retractable running boards, 22-inch alloy wheels, panoramic sunroof, power-folding third-row seats, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated seats up front with massage function and a slew of driver-assist technologies can all be added to the SUV.

The 2018 Ford Expedition starts at $60,149 before freight and delivery charges for a short-wheelbase XLT. Our loaded MAX Platinum tester checks in at just below $90K. Its competitors are offered at similar price ranges, so there’s no advantage or disadvantage here.

Right now, the Expedition is the best full-size SUV on the market. It’s modern and offers a supremely refined ride, it’s the most fuel-efficient of the bunch and it boasts unmatched towing capabilities. It’s the ultimate blended family wagon that doesn’t wear a luxury-brand badge.

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