- Better handling than other big utes
- Ride quality
- Third-row seat is roomy
- Just one powertrain offered
- Interior plastics can look thrifty
- Design aging fine, but still aging
If you're one of the few SUV fans left standing in the full-size arena, the 2012 Ford Expedition offers truck toughness in a well-rounded, well-featured SUV package.
The Ford Expedition is trucky, conservative, mammoth as it's always been--and that's why it's still around, now that other full-size SUVs have fallen from orbit, or failed to launch at all. The Expedition's selling much more slowly than it ever has, but it's still one of the better choices for those who need to tow and haul.
The Expedition is related to the F-150 pickup truck, but the differences between them are clear even up front. The more rounded Expedition sheetmetal, weirdly, now looks more dated than that on the latest F-Series trucks. It's an echo from the 2000s, when the Expedition sold in the tens of thousands. The Expedition comes in two body lengths, the standard version and the EL, which is 14.8 inches longer, with the major difference being the longer rear fenders and glass. Both versions share an interior that's functionally fine, but still, after a 2007 reskin, clad in a lot of plastic that's a shade less nice than the materials inside a GMC Yukon or a Chevy Suburban.
The Expedition performs reasonably well, with handling that masks some of its body-on-frame heaviness. The Expedition has one powertrain to offer, a 5.4-liter flex-fuel V-8 that makes 310 horsepower and 365 pound-feet of torque. It's enough to move the big SUV quickly enough, but feels underpowered when towing or fully loaded, compared to the strongest Suburbans. The Expedition's six-speed automatic is up to the task, responsive and smooth to shift, and four-wheel drive is available.
Driving the Expedition is pretty easy, considering its size, thanks to light but precise steering, and a suspension that does a great job reeling all that weight in. It always feels mammoth, but the Expedition never feels out of control, even though the brakes have spongy pedal feel. The ride of the Expedition is certainly no match for the newer generation of car-based crossovers, but it rides better than other body-on-frame trucks. The suspension does a splendid job of soaking up irregularities while keeping the back wheels glued to the road over rough surfaces, with none of the nervous hopping that characterizes solid-axle designs.
As roomy and comfortable as its gigantic exterior implies, the Expedition can seem ridiculously large nowadays, as many drivers have stepped down from SUVs into crossovers. The Expedition's front seats are captain's chairs, and their wide range of adjustability and with power-adjustable pedals and a telescoping steering wheel means people of any size should be able to find a workable driving position. The expansive head and knee room continues in the second row of seats, and even adult passengers will find the third row spacious enough for short trips.
There's more room for people and cargo in the longer-wheelbase Expedition EL, which drops an additional 14.8 inches in the truck's overall length, for a total of 130.8 cubic feet of cargo space, including an additional 24 cubic feet behind the third-row seat. It's one of the biggest SUVs on the planet, with a wheelbase of 131 inches--in other words, longer than a Smart fortwo or Mitsubishi i. The length pays off in particular in the third row, where the wider rear doors help ease entry and exit into the way-back. Ford offers a PowerFold third-row seat and a power liftgate for convenience.
The Expedition lineup includes XL, XLT, Limited, and King Ranch trims, all available on the EL model as well. Ford's SYNC system, with Bluetooth and voice-activated controls for phone and audio systems, is standard on the top three trim levels. If you can afford it, the King Ranch edition has a unique, unpolished leather interior like the stuff baseball gloves are made of--which lets it age along with the vehicle.Even though the Expedition shares a lot with the F-150 pickup, it's no utilitarian workhorse. Making life easier is a generous equipment list that includes an optional DVD-based navigation with a 6.5-inch color touchscreen and voice activation, as well as a 340-watt AM/FM stereo with MP3 playback, six speakers, a subwoofer, and a standard iPod jack. A keyless entry keypad, heated power mirrors, air conditioning, an electrochromic rearview mirror, illuminated visors, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel are all standard across the Expedition range. Also on offer are Ford's MyKey system and a nav system that includes live traffic and weather information.