Ok. I'll admit it, the thought of driving a 2018 Ford Expedition MAX was a bit daunting at first. It is after all the longer, extended wheelbase member of the all-new Expedition family. But that's the driver's seat I found myself in at a recent Ford First Drive event in sunny Malibu, California. And you know what? I couldn't have been more pleasantly surprised.
Once I slid into the leather driver's seat, put the new rotary gear shifter into drive, any apprehension of driving a large, heavy vehicle faded quickly. This is a large eight seater that doesn't drive like one. It's light, seemingly quick on its feet, and even in the nearly a foot longer extended wheelbase model, I made U-turns easily on the Pacific Coast Highway. Enjoyable and effortless driving probably sums up my first drive impressions the best.
Of course, it didn't hurt that I was behind the wheel of the top-of-the-line Platinum trim filled with creature comforts like perforated leather quilted seats, a huge panoramic moonroof, and premium B&O sound system. Two other trims are available: the XLT and Limited, and all three trims are available on both the MAX and standard length versions.
This is the first all-new Expedition since it was introduced 20 years ago and it's been redesigned from the ground up.
Designers really went to great lengths to update the interior, technology, and convenience features. It's up to 300-pounds lighter thanks to its aluminum alloy body architecture and boasts best-in-class fuel economy and best-in-class 9,300 pounds of towing.
Ford recently flew me out to Calamigos Ranch in Malibu where I met Expedition Brand Manager Joe McCarty who showed me some of the highlights.
Sleek and Modern Exterior
My top-of-the-line Platinum model came in Stone Gray, a new color for 2018, with a Medium Ceramic Leather interior. Design wise the goal was to make the new Expedition more modern- and aggressive-looking with new grille options, a higher hood, and all-new wheel options, including the 22-inch polished aluminum alloys on this model. (And thank you, Ford! It comes with an underbody-mounted full-size spare tire.) The Platinum trim comes standard with roof rack satin aluminum side rails, a satin-aluminum grille, and LED headlights and LED fog lamps.
Cabin Creature Comforts
There is a lot to love about the interior of the redesigned Expedition. Let's start with the comfy multi-contour perforated leather-trimmed seats. Quilted bolsters and detailed stitching up the Expedition's game. The real wood accented center console adds a premium touch as well. You also can't help but immediately notice the ginormous class-exclusive panoramic vista moonroof overhead. It helps give even the passengers in the third-row reclining seats a bird's eye view.
The Expedition is very driver-friendly. I'm impressed with the new, bright digital tachometer with colorful easy to read graphics. I found it easy to navigate the steering-wheel-mounted controls to access information in the driver's display. The new rotary gearshift dial is a breeze to use as well.
Of course, there is 360-degree surround view camera, which is a must for an SUV this big. The Expedition is also one of the first Ford's to get a B&O Play Premium Audio system by Harman. It delivers excellent sound derived from two-years of fine-tuning. It's also a very connected SUV. A WiFI hotspot can connect up to ten devices within a 50-foot radius with available Sync Connect. There are six USB ports, two for every row. It's both Apple Carplay and Android Auto compatible.
As for seating, the Expedition seats eight. I don't have kids myself, but those who do will love the tip-and-slide second-row seats. They can move without uninstalling your child’s car seat. The Expedition boasts first-in-class 2nd and 3rd-row seat legroom. The third row comes standard with power recline.
If for some reason you find yourself in need of 15 cup holders, the Expedition has you covered there, too. Families will also like the flexible and customizable Advanced Cargo Manager system in the rear.
Driver Assistance Technology
My Platinum model featured Ford's driver assistance technologies. They include Enhanced Active Park Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go, and Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection Lane-Keeping System. I'm also a big fan of Blind Spot Monitoring with Cross-Traffic Alert. The Expedition also comes with automatic high beams.
Ecoboost Engine and Terrain Management System
Under the hood, there is a new more powerful 3.5-liter V6 EcoBoost engine mated to Ford's 10-speed automatic transmission. My Platinum model receives a power boost to 400-horses and 480 pound-feet of torque, up from the other trims 375-horses and 470 lb-ft.
Two-wheel drive is standard, but my Platinum came with four-wheel-drive along with a standard all-new Terrain Management System. It gives you seven drive modes (four are standard on the two-wheel drive.) The special drive modes: normal, sport, tow/haul, eco, grass/gravel/snow, sand, and mud/rut, automatically adapt to different road conditions.
Best in Class Towing and Pro Trailer Assist
The Expedition delivers best-in-class towing of up to 9,300 pounds on the Expedition 4X2, and 9,100 pounds on my 4X4 MAX with the optional Heavy-Duty Trailer Towing Package.
Which brings me to a Pro Trailer Backup Assist, a feature that first rolled out on the F-150. Yes, yours truly put it to the test and after just a couple of tries, I backed up an Airstream trailer for the first time ever.
I can tell you after trying to do it both with and without Pro Trailer Backup Assist, the class-exclusive feature made all the difference. In fact, had it not been for Pro Trailer Backup Assist I would probably still be there trying to park it perfectly in between the cones.
Best-in-Class Fuel Economy
As I mentioned earlier, the Expedition boasts best-in-class fuel economy. The MAX 4X4 is unsurprisingly the least fuel efficient of the bunch. It comes with an 16 city/21 hwy/18 combined mpg. If you're looking for the Expedition with the best fuel economy you'll need the standard length 4X2 model for 17 city/24 hwy/20 combined mpg.
A base model two-wheel-drive Expedition XLT starts from just over $51,695, excluding destination. The MSRP on my first drive MAX Platinum 4X4 model as equipped is $82,090, including destination charges.