Full Disclosure: Ford wanted me to drive the Expedition so bad they allowed Enterprise to purchase it at a fleet rate and make it available for rental at the Kansas City Airport.
Ever since my friends and I graduated college we’ve been talking about going on a camping trip out west (we were all in Oklahoma). We talked about this for the last 5 years, but things got in the way (grad school, first jobs, relationships, etc) but finally, after years of planning. It happened. 6 of us were able to take a week off of work, and travel to the Western United States for 8 days and 7 nights of camping and hiking. The problem was, for 6 of us, and all our gear, we needed something big. My daily, a 2009 GX470, despite having a laughable third row, was not up to the task. Our best solution for road trip comfort and storage, was a full size SUV such as a Suburban. So I set out looking, and found a deal with Enterprise for a “Suburban or Similar” for that time period.
When I showed up at Enterprise at MCI, it was a madhouse (Friday afternoon was a bad idea) and at first, they tried to hoist a Tahoe on me, but I said no way. There was an Expedition MAX sitting right there, and he was like “Well what about an Expedition” and i’m thinking “Yea, that’s what I paid for dingus” so I picked it up. While I tested out both Suburbans and Expeditions at the Auto Show recently, I knew both would suffice. I kinda wanted the Expedition since it had been recently refreshed, and the Suburban was still stuck in the late 2000's with no major updates. Signing the papers and leaving MCI, the trip begins.
It’s a full size SUV. It’s not meant to be a looker, but I do have to say it’s pretty. Is it the best looking SUV ever? No. But over the previous Expedition, it’s definitely an improvement.
It’s a full size SUV so it’s not gonna be a speed demon. That being said, I’d driven a V8 powered Expedition EL a few years ago, and I drive a V8 SUV daily, and I have to say, I kinda prefer it over the Twin Turbo EcoBoost V6. I know, it makes more power than the V8, but, combined with the 10 speed transmission, it can make it frustrating to drive. For example, when we were leaving Moab, I was stuck behind a dump truck leaving a stoplight super slow. I saw the left lane was clear except for a Prius that was a ways back. So I pulled out and punched it. I swear I had to wait 3 seconds before I actually moved at a rapid rate. I wasn’t paying attention to the gears, but I know that I put my foot to the floor and it took it a long time to actually react. In the mountains, with the trans in “Normal” mode, it really didn’t want to downshift. I had multiple occasions where I eased my foot into it trying to go up, then finally it was like “oh hey i should down shift” dropped 3 gears, and all of a sudden turbos surge and my passengers are flung back in their seats. Put it in “Sport” Mode, and this goes away except some occasional lugging going up hills when it really doesn’t want to downshift.
The positive of all this though is the economy. It would be a 2/5 but I have to give it an extra point for the fuel economy. Thanks to the 10 speed trans, turbo V6, and aggressive gear holding, I was able to pull an average of 19 MPG over the entire trip. The worse economy was from OKC to Amarillo, when we had crazy headwinds pushing against me the whole time and the rooftop carrier that acted like a sail. But we made it from Clayton, NM to Norman, OK on 3/4 of a tank (photo below) which is damn impressive for a vehicle this size.
Safety Features: 1/5
This really irked me. This thing starts at $55k. Do you get blind spot? Nope. Do you get cross path detection, emergency braking, anything? Nope. My wife has a Nissan Rogue, cost near $20k new, has all this stuff STANDARD. Why are car companies getting away with this? How can you sell a massive vehicle for $55k and not have all this stuff standard? It blows my mind. I mean, it comes with Airbags, I guess that’s good enough. FWIW the Chevy Suburban is the same way.
Convenience Features: 2.5/5
Giving this a 50%. There were things I liked and things I didn’t like. First off, the keyless start only does the start button. Not the doors. You still have to get the fob out of your pocket to unlock the doors, then put it back in your pocket when you get in and start it. What’s the point? Another half-ass implementation just like my old Jetta which had the same thing. It was a $17k car though.
Also the start/stop feature was infuriating. You can’t disable it permanently without adding in some mod, or apparently hooking up a hitch light to trick it into thinking it’s pulling a trailer. So every single time I started the car, I had to press a button above the infotainment screen to turn it off. It could be worse, it could be buried in the menus, but still. The times i forgot to turn it off were so annoying. It would stop the engine, then as soon as I let my foot off the brake, the engine would vibrate the car kinda jankily, and then i’d go. If you have to make some sort of evasive maneuver, this definitely adds an element of risk. This is the dumbest feature, and when coupled with a hybrid system, it’s totally fine, but on a strictly gas car, stupid.
It had plenty of 12V outlets, with the exception of the third row. It had one all the way in the back, but not in the third row directly. This caused our third row passengers to run a cable to the second row outlets, of which there were 2 USB and 1 12V which meant we had enough for all.
I did find it funny in the instrument cluster display that it had an “Off road” mode. This was a 2WD stripper trim Expedition that wouldn’t be doing any off roading except going down a slightly rough forest service road, yet it had off road displays. Yes I know that’s because stuff is shared with the F150, but i still got a chuckle out of it.
The rear HVAC was nice, and I appreciated that I could lock it out and control it from up front.
I never liked Ford’s old Sync system. But the new Sync 4 system is so much better. Android Auto/Apple Carplay was fantastic, and we used the iPod integration a lot to play old nostalgic tunes from my friend’s iPod. The only major complaints I have are that in order to exit Android Auto, there is no easy way. If we wanted to go to the audio screen to see what on earth the iPod was playing, we had to click the little exit button on Android Auto, then click “Return to SYNC” and then we were out. In other cars, there are buttons that take you directly to audio or whatever. This was a minor annoyance. The other annoyance was the lack of temperature anywhere except the infotainment screen. If we wanted to know how warm it was or how cold it was getting as we went up Independence Pass, we had to go through the Android Auto exit song and dance and check it out from the Infotainment screen, instead of just glancing at the gauge cluster.
Also apparently it’s not possible to lock out the rear audio controls. So if you have kids, I could see this getting annoying. Luckily my passengers are respectful young men, and only changed the audio a couple times.
Driving Experience/Comfort: 4/5
This is where it gets high marks. It was very comfy. I was driving it the entire time, over 3000 miles total once you factor in Kansas City to OKC and I never got sore once. When we got out of the car to stretch, it wasn’t out of necessity, it was out of just wanting to and getting some fresh air. The only reason it loses a point here is because the ride when it’s empty is pretty harsh. Once we loaded it up with 6 people + gear, it was pretty smooth even on the worse New Mexico roads. But once we unloaded, it was rough with lots of harsh bounces from the rear end. I know this is by design since it’s meant to carry lots of stuff, but at the same time, the daily drivers that are driving themselves and their one kid to daycare, aren’t going to be doing that everyday, and I feel like i’d get sick of it quick.
Overall Score: 18.5/30 (D-)
Ouch. It’s a perfectly adequate full size SUV, but it’s just not for me. There is no way I could justify spending this much money for a base model that doesn’t come with a lot of standard features. SUV/Truck prices are getting insane, and this is the perfect example. If this were closer to $40k, it would be more tempting. But $55k is just asinine. But people eat these up. They can charge this with no issues. Did I hate driving it for over 3k miles? Not at all. It was a great option for this trip, very comfy, and saved us a lot of money on fuel. But would I buy one if I needed a full size SUV? No. At least, not new. I could easily override the stop/start feature if I owned it, and make a few changes, but for $55k I don’t feel like I should have to.
Bonus pretty pictures below