Ford Takes the 2018 Expedition to the MAX

Given that big utilities are—like all other sizes—big market players, Ford has made a considerable investment in creating the all-new Expedition.

The first thing that you need to know about the 2018 Ford Expedition—an all-new SUV from the frame up, and from inside to out—is that it is a big vehicle. A vehicle that can handle as many as eight people in comfort. (Yes, the second and third rows have been engineered such that the third row offers as much as 40.9 inches of legroom if the second row is moved fully forward.) It is a vehicle that can swallow as much as 104.6 ft3 or 121.4 ft3 of cargo, behind the first row with the other two rows folded. (Yes, with the cargo rear opening width at the floor being 51.4 inches and the space between the back of the front seats and the cargo door, the Expedition can handle the classic 8 x 4 sheets of plywood; apparently the types of people who buy SUVs of the magnitude of the Expedition are DIY oriented, and if having all of that space inside isn’t enough and a trailer is required, the vehicle (standard wheelbase, 4x2 setup) has class-leading towing capacity: 9,300 pounds).

Another way of considering the overall size of the ’18 Expedition is to know that it is being manufactured at the Ford Kentucky Truck Plant. This is no car-based unibody vehicle, but a body—an aluminum body, incidentally, similar, in some ways, to the one that is used for the F-150—that is on a steel frame.

At Kentucky Truck Ford builds the Super Duty. That truck, in its current configuration, went into production as a model year 2017 vehicle. To build it—and yes, it has a steel frame and an aluminum body—Ford invested $1.3-billion in the plant. To add the Expedition—and sibling product, the Lincoln Navigator—Ford added $900-million to that figure.

When making the announcement regarding that additional investment, Joe Hinrichs, Ford executive vice president and president, Global Operations, noted, “Large SUVs are attracting a new generation around the world—and we’re finding new ways to deliver the capability, versatility and technology that customers around the world really want with our all-new Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator.” The vehicles are going to be exported to more than 55 markets.

Back to the size of the Expedition. This is a vehicle that is, in its standard version, 210 inches long, 81.6 inches wide (excluding mirrors), 76.6 inches high and has a 112.5-inch wheelbase. Its curb weight is, for a 4x2 configuration, 5,433 pounds, and 5,692 pounds for the 4x4.

But there is another version of the Expedition for whom that isn’t quite large enough. It is the Expedition MAX. The two key numbers there are 221.9 inches and 131.6 inches, for the length and wheelbase. (This extra length explains why there is that aforementioned 121.4-ft3 cargo capacity—that’s for the MAX.)

Even with the extra overall size, the comparative curb weights of the two vehicles are really quite close, with the 4x2 coming in at 5,544 pounds and the 4x4 at 5,793 pounds, which speaks, in part, to the utilization of the aluminum body panels and the high-strength steel frame.

According to Todd Hoevener, Expedition chief engineer, the overall weight reduction for the 2018 Expedition compared to the outgoing model is as much as 300 pounds. You might recall that when the 2015 F-150 was launched, those materials contributed to a weight save of as much as 700 pounds. A major difference between the F-150 and the Expedition is that behind the cab of the F-150 there is an empty box while in the Expedition there is an abundance of driver and passenger amenities (such as, but not limited to, an available moonroof over the first and second rows; tip-and-slide second row seats; dual headrest second-row entertainment system; third row seats that recline; four 12-volt power outlets, a 110-volt outlet and up to six USB ports; and a cargo management system).

The Expedition is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 EcoBoost engine that is mated to a 10-speed automatic. There are three trim levels for the Expedition, which is relevant here because the 3.5 for the XLT and Limited trims produces 375 hp @ 5,000 rpm and 470 lb-ft of torque at 3,500 rpm, while the same engine in the Platinum, thanks to calibration adjustments, produces 4,000 hp @ 5,000 rpm and 480 lb-ft of torque @ 3,250 rpm.

One of the things that Hoevener and his team worked on vis-à-vis powertrain (as well as lightweighting and aero) was to improve overall fuel efficiency. For the Expedition 4x2 the estimated fuel economy is 17 mpg city, 24 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined; the numbers for the 4x4 are 17/23/19 mpg. The Ford team sets those numbers against a competitive vehicle in the large SUV category, the Chevrolet Tahoe with a 5.3-liter engine. For the 4x2 the numbers are 16 mpg city, 23 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined. For the 4x4 Tahoe the numbers are 16/22/18 mpg. Which gives Ford a 1-mpg edge.

Which may not seem like a big deal. But it is for a big SUV.