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2018 Ford Expedition – First Drive

Setting the Bar Very High

Calgary, AB: When the Ford Expedition was first introduced to the North American market over twenty years ago, it was one of the few full-size SUV’s that looked cool, could move 8 passengers and tow some heavy cargo. While the Suburban was still the fan favourite, the Expedition was a worthy addition to the segment.

Over the past many years, it’s safe to say that the design and model updates for most full-size SUV’s have been mediocre at best. Well, not anymore. We were invited to beautiful Calgary and Lake Louise in Alberta to be the first to drive the newly designed 2018 Ford Expedition. With the weather being bitter cold and the roads covered with snow and ice, the Alberta foothills and Canadian Rockies were the perfect backdrop to put the new Expedition through its paces.

The new design is surely a welcome change for the Expedition. Yes, we all know it’s big, but now it’s big and handsome. With its sleek lines, the Expedition’s new look won’t be a strain on anyone’s eyes for years to come. We drove the two top trims, the Limited and Platinum, with the latter adding a lot more chrome and a distinct grill for a very sophisticated look. And the best part is the 22” wheel package on the Platinum – it really is the cherry on top. Now, there is an XLT trim as well, just in case you didn’t want all of the bells and whistles. However, it’s worthy to note that the XLT can be fitted with an optional FX4 package that really ups the off-road game.

The new Expedition shares some cues with the F-150; through the use of a new-aluminum rich body, overall weight has been decreased by 300 pounds. That’s a lot, considering the size of the vehicle – and the Limited and Platinum are available in standard length or the MAX version, where the extended wheelbase adds almost a foot to the rear cargo area, you know, for when you need to take even more stuff for your getaway.

The great looks and space carry to the interior of the SUV and if you’ve been inside any of the newer Ford trucks, it will be a familiar look, save for the shifter. Rather than using a traditional shifter, the Expedition now utilizes a rotating knob, giving more real estate for more storage. One of my friends didn’t like the new rotating shift knob, but for an upper scale SUV, it does just fine.

Did I mention that the Expedition’s cabin is massive? The front seats, while not as big and wide as a GMC counterpart, are sufficient enough to accommodate a linebacker comfortably – so yes, they are large. The real beauty in space is the second and third rows, both of which can accommodate adults very comfortably. A real plus is the way the third row can be accessed; the second-row seats slide and tilt forward, super easy in my opinion vs the regular drop and fold method. For families with child seats, this is a huge plus. And that third row has a flat floor, giving more legroom to those passengers at the back. And finally, as a class-first, the third-row seats recline!!! Well done, Ford!!!

When you’ve got an SUV of this size, built for large families for long drives, it had better be well-connected and provide some great entertainment features, which the new Expedition truly does. Our test vehicles were fitted with the optional rear entertainment system, which includes two 8” screens for the second-row passengers. The wireless headphones were also noise-cancelling, you know, for drowning out your loud siblings. In addition, each row has charging points, with a total of 6 USB plugs and four 12V plugs. At the front, there’s a wireless charging station that is nicely tucked away and securely holds your mobile device. And of course, there’s a WIFI hot spot that can support up to 10 devices over a 50-foot range. Yup, this SUV is definitely connected.

The 2018 Expedition also features Ford’s newest SYNC3 system to power the infotainment system. It works quite well and is relatively quite simple to use. Our Platinum tester was able to belt out some great sound, thanks to a 12-speaker premium Bang & Olufsen sound system.

After being satisfied with the looks, interior, and tech that the Expedition had to offer, it was time to take this new SUV for a drive, and boy, was it ever a great drive. Our route took us from Calgary to Banff to Golden and finally, Lake Louise.

As I sat in the Expedition and drove the route, while taking time to admire the breathtaking views, I was taken back to my younger days. I grew up in the interior of BC, where the winter months were filled with, well, winter. Roads were always covered with snow and ice, temperatures were constantly below freezing, and drivers knew to take it easy. There’s nothing worse that having too much confidence on roads that can become treacherous in an instant. Of course, the Expedition is very capable and handled all the roads with ease; however, we still had to be careful.

The new Expedition is surprisingly agile for such a big SUV, driving almost like an F150. It feels most at home on the highway, giving a smooth and quiet ride while keeping body roll to a minimum, thanks to a fantastically tuned adaptive suspension system. Even while taking on some pretty curvy roads, the Expedition didn’t throw passengers around. With the 22” wheel package, I was expecting a stiff ride, but surprise surprise, nope. Rather, the SUV just glides over the imperfections of most roads.

You’d expect a V8 to power this big SUV, but again, nope! The only available powerplant is Ford’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost, which is rated at 375 horsepower and a whopping 470 lb-ft of torque. This twin-turbocharged gem of an engine is the same one used to power the GT (of course, it’s tuned differently). Power is almost instantaneous off the line and continues right throughout the rev range. We didn’t have a chance to drag the Expedition but numbers of less than 6.5 seconds sound about right for a 0 – 100 km/h run. That’s surprisingly quick for an SUV that weighs just over 5,700 pounds. The EcoBoost is mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission that shifts quickly and smoothly. The only minor gripe one could make is that the Expedition wants to upshift as soon as possible; that being said, it never felt sluggish. Of course, if you want to hold the gears just a little longer, keep the Expedition in Sport Mode. The 10-speed setup is great for fuel economy, and trust me, with a brute of this size, you want to spend as little time as possible at the gas pumps.

During a coffee stop at Banff, I had a chance to play with the new customizable cargo management system in the, obviously, cargo area. This optional system allows you to convert the cargo area from a flat surface to a two-shelf setup pretty easily. It’s quite useful when you don’t want items to be moving around during the drive.

The temperature was around -22 degrees Celsius in Banff, so I was glad to climb back into the cab and continue with the drive to an off-road course that Ford had set up at Kicking Horse Trail in Golden, BC. Off-road courses are always fun, and when you add in the winter factor, they become just that much better.

Though short in distance, the off-road course allowed us to truly appreciate the capability of the Expedition. Winding through the forest along a narrow path, the Expedition proved to be nimble and agile, even while ploughing through some pretty deep snow ruts. And we, seated comfortably inside, felt completely confident in completing the course without a glitch. We even had the opportunity to test the Hill Descent Control to track down a 15-degree decline; again, no problem at all. And remember, if off-roading will be a regular activity, then opt for the FX4 package, which adds upgraded suspension and retuned shocks, electronic rear limited slip differential, skid plates, and some visual perks.

The 2018 Ford Expedition has everything going for it: great looks, performance, comfort, tech, and of course, capability. The 3.5-liter EcoBoost is a gem and provides more than enough power for this brute. After spending two days with this SUV, I can confidently say that the Expedition wears the crown in this category. The competition certainly has some catching up to do because Ford has set the bar pretty high.

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