First drive: 2018 Ford Expedition in the UAE
This is a big one. In terms of a new car launch as well as in terms of size. The all-new-from-the-ground-up 2018 Ford Expedition is here to do battle in the big SUV segment. And it’s going to do that by being the biggest of them all.
Indeed, the new Expedition, sitting on a steel body-on-frame chassis with aluminium bodywork just like the F-150 truck, has grown to become the longest SUV in its class, as far as we know. While you can get an even longer version with the Expedition EL, that comes later in the year, so you have to be content with the one we drove at the media drive event across the UAE.
The top-spec Platinum version looks good with 22-inch alloys, power-folding side steps, LEDs on the front bumper, a unique grille and dollops of chrome. Otherwise even the lower-spec models look very similar. Overall, the design is handsome and inoffensive, but the tail lights are awkwardly huge.
Inside, the F-150’s dash has been largely transferred wholesale, so it feels a bit “blocky” with the big squared-off vents and generous amount of buttons in addition to the upgraded SYNC3 8-inch touchscreen. Certain items have been upgraded though, such as adding covers for some of the cubbies, and lots of stitched leather-padded sections on the doors and dash, matching the leather seats in our Platinum. The easiest ways to identify a base model is by its hard-plastic dash, cloth seats and 4-inch screen, but it still has all the basic power features and configurable seating.
Seating is where the new Expedition is a big winner. Aside from the expectedly wide front seating, there’s tons of legroom in the second row, enough to fold your legs. And the third row fits adults properly too, without having to move the sliding second-row forward. The second row can be had as a bench or optionally as two captain’s chairs with a gap in the middle. Those second-row chairs can lean back pretty far too.
Access to the third row is okay, with the entire second-row seat kind of leaning forward, but we’ve seen it done better in some other SUVs. However, the benefit of doing it this way is that installed child seats in the second row do not have to be removed first.
All sorts of features are available, either standard or optional depending on trim, such as USB ports, Apple Carplay, rear DVD entertainment, rear a/c controls, panoramic glass roof, power tailgate with foot-waving hands-free opening, active-safety driving aids and lots of cup-holders, among other things. When all three rows of seats are in use, the remaining cargo space can even be made more efficient by adding a second shelf.
The standard engine is an updated 3.5-litre “Ecoboost” turbo V6, now available with 375 hp or 400 hp, depending on trim level. The Platinum gets the 400 hp version, with 650 Nm of torque at 3500 rpm. It seems tuned for more linear power delivery than you’d expect from turbo motors, so build-up of speed is a lot like its naturally-aspirated V8 rivals. We had five people in the car, so we need to see if it feels any quicker with just the driver.
The 10-speed automatic works well, always in the right gear, and helping to keep the fuel consumption at a reasonable 16.8 litres/100 km in our test car, in a mix of highway, wadi and mild sand driving.
The ride is pretty quiet and fairly smooth, with maybe a tinge of firmness on some rough surfaces due to the lower-profile tyres that the adaptive suspension could not overcome. However, other trims with wheels smaller than our Platinum’s 22-inch alloys should have an even smoother ride.
There is a terrain-management system that lets you adapt the settings of the car to the conditions, such as road, sand, mud et al, but while the Expedition has the low-range gearing and decent ground clearance to manage some level of offroading, it’s only safe to push harder if you know what you’re doing, accounting for the large wheelbase and the aero-inclined bumpers. We didn’t go beyond some well-travelled trails during the fixed-convoy drive.
Back on the road, the Expedition is composed around corners, with well-controlled body roll and limited lean on long curves. At 160 kph, it is smooth and safe. The steering is decently-weighted, a bit on the light side, and offering minimal feedback. The brakes are fine too, in par with the best in this segment.
Speaking of the best in this segment, the new Expedition very well may be the new topper in this segment. It offers everything that buyers demand and more, with no real faults to speak of. The price has gone up significantly — the old ones cost about as much as the smaller Explorer — but the new Expedition definitely has a lot more to offer as well.
For prices and specs, visit the Ford Expedition buyer guide.
Photos by Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury and Ford.