Ford's big friendly giant. Big SUVs aren’t the hot-ticket items they were in those pre-Great Recession glory days. But though the general populace has become more rational in their preferred vehicle choice – see the rise of crossovers since the death of Hummer – there's still a place in the world for behemoths like the 2020 Ford Expedition.
Available in two wheelbase configurations, the standard-length model and the long-wheelbase Max, the Expedition is all about hauling people, things, and trailers with the utmost ease.
Only two years removed from its 2018 redesign, the 2020 model continues to do all these things with aplomb. Spend some time in one, especially the swanky Platinum or the new King Ranch trim, and you’ll wonder how Lincoln manages to sell any Navigators at all.
Turbocharged performance. Prior to the current generation, the Expedition was exclusively powered by big-displacement V8s. Since 2018, however, Ford has made the Expedition only available with a 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6.
Part of Ford’s well-marketed EcoBoost engine family, the V6 motor doles out a stout 375 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque in the lower-grade trims; top-shelf Platinum models get another 25 hp and 10 lb-ft of torque to play with, for a total output of 400 hp and 480 lb-ft.
If the thought of a mere V6 in a Nimitz-class Expedition concerns you, rest easy knowing this is a well-matched pair – and, if the Ford F-150’s numbers are anything to go by, likely offers better performance and towing capability than if they had dropped its 5.0-liter V8 under the hood. That’s right: in Ford’s light-duty F-150, the 3.5-liter EcoBoost out-tows and out-hauls a comparably equipped V8 model.
There’s no available V8 to compare to here, but this Expedition will tow up to 9,300 pounds when equipped with a trailer-tow package that beefs up the cooling system and transmission. The 10-speed automatic transmission feels well suited for towing and is quick to drop a few cogs to keep the engine in its wide powerband.
From behind the wheel, the 5,400-pound Expedition is unexpectedly quick; there’s enough muscle here that you’ll have no issue making quick passes or merging onto the freeway.
Don’t expect to win any slalom competitions, though: even with the optional adaptive dampers, the laws of physics nonetheless hamper the Expedition’s abilities to carve corners with any zeal. But taken at a rational pace, this big SUV holds its own on twisty pavement and never feels floaty.
The one disappointing bit is fuel economy, or rather the lack of it. Standard-length rear-wheel-drive models are the thriftiest at 17 miles per gallon city, 23 mpg highway, and 19 combined. A four-wheel-drive Max model is the worst at 16/21/18 mpg (city/highway/combined). Word to the wise: don’t buy one of these if you’re not ready for weekly big-dollar fuel bills.
Prodigious space, luxury trappings. The Expedition is priced to compete against the Chevrolet Tahoe, but its higher trims are luxurious enough to go up against the more expensive GMC Yukon. Even the base Lincoln Navigator is feeling its big Ford brethren breathing down its neck.
Even the XLT offers a taste of opulence: look past the cloth upholstery and there’s niceties like power-adjustable seats, a power-folding third row, and an 8-inch touchscreen with satellite radio and smartphone compatibility. Safety equipment like blind-spot monitoring and automatic emergency braking, among other things, are also standard.
Higher-trim models get the usual bevy of electronic gadgets like power running boards and folding mirrors. Genuine leather hides and premium audio are also available. Passengers in the back can enjoy optional rear-seat infotainment and available captain’s chairs.
Those captain’s chairs would be our choice over the standard three-person bench. Besides making entry into the third row a breeze, the separate buckets impart a sense of exclusivity that those occupying them will be sure to appreciate. They also offer more adjustment than the bench seat as well, a boon for both the second and third rows.
As for that third row, it’s one of the rare examples of a third row that's usable by adult humans for trips longer than five minutes. There’s actual leg room, and though head room is at a premium, you don’t feel caged up as you would in smaller SUVs and crossovers.
Two people can comfortably sit back there for as long as necessary. To further improve the way-back experience, there’s also two third-row USB ports, a third-row dome lamp, and two third-row cupholders.
If you’re not shuttling people, there’s plenty of room to haul all manner of things big and small. In the standard-length Expedition, there’s nearly 20 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row and 65 cubic feet behind the second row; the Max has 34 cubic feet and 80 cubic feet, respectively.
Fold down all the seats and the standard-length model has room for 105 cubic feet of stuff, while the Max will hold a prodigious 121 cubic feet of cargo.
A look at the competition. At just about $54,000 to start including destination, the Expedition isn't cheap. Its perennial rival, the Chevy Tahoe, starts at under $50,000, though only just. At the other end of the scale, the Tahoe tops out at just under $70,000, which is also a few grand cheaper than a Platinum-trimmed Expedition.
A Tahoe won't come across as premium as the Expedition, thanks to the former's last redesign being in 2014, versus the circa-2018 Expedition. But the big Chevy does come with exclusive V8 power, including an available 6.2-liter V8 that makes 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. It also has the potential to seat up to nine people if you go for the optional front bench seat.
We'd probably still pick the Ford over the Chevy in this instance. Though it's more money, the Ford has the nicer interior and, unlike the Tahoe, a fully independent suspension.
This is an important distinction: an independent suspension offers superior ride and handling attributes compared to the retrograde live axle that underpins the Tahoe. This same argument applies for any comparisons between the Chevrolet Suburban and Expedition Max as well.
Japan also builds Expedition fighters, and sells them here as Toyota Sequoias and Nissan Armadas. Both are cheaper than the Ford, and both continue to strictly use V8 power. But as with the Chevy, we find the Ford has the better ride and handling capabilities as well as superior interior quality.
That said, there's no doubt the Armada is the off-roader's choice and the aging Sequoia is the sort of rock-solid, old-school Toyota that plenty of people still pine for.
Final thoughts. How many vehicles can haul your kid’s entire band camp and their instruments without breaking a sweat? Or effortlessly lug home an entire wing of Ikea in a single trip for when you decide it’s time to redecorate? Or perhaps load up on the renovation supplies for the whole-house remodel that will precede your redecorating?
The 2020 Ford Expedition is one of those vehicles that can do all of that and then some. It's a full-size pickup with the manners and grace of a luxury sedan; you won’t be moving mountains like you can with a diesel Ford Super Duty, but there’s ample room for seven and a maximum towing capacity of 9,300 pounds – just the ticket for enabling all sorts of family misadventures at the campground or marina. And if you’re Octomom, you’ll find that its spaciousness is second to none.
It’s not a common class of vehicle for plenty of valid reasons, not the least being price, size, girth, and fuel economy – or a lack thereof. But for those who need and demand this sort of extreme space and ability, the Expedition delivers admirably.
It makes a Navigator look redundant in its top trims, and even comparable Tahoes and Suburbans feel outclassed by the entry-level XLT. If anything less than extra large won’t do, the Expedition has your number.
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