2013 Ford Expedition Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
July 17, 2012

The 2013 Ford Expedition stands as one of the most accommodating and well-designed of the mega-SUVs, although its styling and features have fallen a bit behind the curve.

As other utility vehicles—including Ford's own once-ubiquitous Explorer—have evolved to be less truck-like and more family-friendly, Ford has stuck to its guns with the hefty Expedition  In some respects, it represents a fad that's faded; but in other respects it delivers the same solid truck ability that it always has—making it a good choice for those who need to tow or haul heavy loads.

However even relative to other trucks, the 2013 Expedition doesn't at all look fresh. Some years ago the Expedition was kept fresh with significant updates almost yearly—most of them in synch with the F-150 pickups on which they're based. Instead, Ford has left the Expedition to carry over unchanged for many years now as the F-150 has seen more incremental tweaks and improvements. The result is that while the latest F-Series trucks have a crisper, edgier look, the Expedition has stayed more rounded in its details on the outside, while inside it now feels like the relic of another era at Ford.

If you're okay with the Expedition's not-intentionally-retro look, you'll want to measure your parking spot and carefully choose between the standard-length Expedition and the extended-length Expedition EL. The EL is 14.8 inches longer, with the major difference being longer rear fenders and glass from the outside. Cargo space is more abundant and third-row access is considerably easier in the EL, but you'll pay a price in maneuverability. 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.

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A version of Ford's new 5.0-liter V-8, from the F-150 pickup, had been expected to trickle down (or up?) to the Expedition for 2013; but it hasn't arrived after all. That leaves instead the same 310-horsepower, 5.4-liter V-8 that the Expedition has had for years. It makes 365 pound-feet of torque and allows the Expedition to move quickly most of the time; but hitch up a trailer or load the Expedition near its limit (up to 9,200 pounds for towing) and this engine doesn't have the stout, unrelenting character of GM's current batch of V-8s—especially the larger V-8 in the Suburban. Four-wheel drive remains available pretty much throughout the entire lineup, and the six-speed automatic transmission is responsive and smooth-shifting.

Considering the Expedition's mammoth size, driving it is quite easy thanks to light but precise steering, as well as a suspension that does a good job in controlling all that weight. Yes, it's one of the biggest land yachts on the market, but it's manageable. The only issue we've noted in prior years is that the pedal feel of the brakes can be somewhat spongy. Ride quality isn't up to the standards of modern crossovers, for the most part, but the Expedition does keep its composure on rougher surfaces, and it rides better than other body-on-frame trucks. If you can afford it, the King Ranch edition offers a unique spin on a luxury-SUV interior, with unpolished leather like that of a baseball glove.

While some older, more trucklike SUV designs had spacial disconnects, with interiors that were smaller than you might have guessed, the interior of the Expedition is cavernous, almost like that of a full-size van. The Expedition's front seats are captain's chairs, mounted high and affording a good view out, and a telescopic steering wheel and power-adjustable pedals allow for a vast range of body types. 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. In EL models, there's 130.8 cubic feet of cargo space, including an additional 24 cubic feet behind the third-row seat. A PowerFold third-row seat and power liftgate arrangement are handy when hands are full, and the EL's longer rear doors make getting into (and out of) the third row quite easy.

The feature set in the 2013 Ford Expedition is a little behind the times as well; it lacks Ford's innovative (and sometimes frustrating) MyFord Touch connectivity interface, instead offering the more dated Sync system, combined with a voice-activated navigation system and HD Radio in top trims. The lineup includes XL, XLT, Limited, and King Ranch trims, with a total of ten equipment groups. Standard equipment across the entire range includes keyless entry keypad, heated power mirrors, air conditioning, an electrochromic rearview mirror, illuminated visors, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, while Ford's MyKey system and SecuriCode keypad-entry system are standout features. This year Ford has added a new dual-head-restraint DVD system, and a new 20-inch chrome-clad aluminum wheel design.

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2013 Ford Expedition

Styling

The 2013 Ford Expedition looks pretty much the same as it did years ago, but serious truck shoppers aren't going to mind.

Compared to most other full-size, truck-based SUVs, the 2013 Expedition doesn't at all look fresh. And part of the reason is that it hasn't kept pace with the F-150 pickups on which it's based. Instead, Ford has left the Expedition to carry over unchanged for many years now as the F-150 has seen more incremental tweaks and improvements. The result is that while the latest F-Series trucks have a crisper, edgier look, the Expedition has stayed more rounded in its details—which haven't been significantly changed since its last 2007 redesign.

Inside, it's a bit worse; because Ford has come so far in such a short time with respect to interior design, the Expedition's cabin really is the relic of another era. There are quite a few subpanels and trim pieces meeting at squarish and straight edges, punctuated with round vents, and a shelf running full length across the dash. Of note is the now-dated mix of faux-wood, dull plastics, and matte-metallic surfaces that are used as trim.

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2013 Ford Expedition

Performance

The Expedition handles well for such a large vehicle, and although it has great tow ratings its powertrain falls a bit short.

The 2013 Expedition is a bit short on power compared to other full-size SUVs, but with crisp handling for such a large SUV, as well as some of the best tow ratings in its class, it's definitely not a complete disappointment in the performance department.

While other rival models have stepped up the game in power and torque in recent years, the Expedition remains powered by the same 310-horsepower, 5.4-liter V-8 that its had for years. It makes 365 pound-feet of torque and allows the Expedition to move quickly most of the time; but hitch up a trailer or load the Expedition near its limit (up to 9,200 pounds for towing) and this engine doesn't have the stout, unrelenting character of GM's current batch of V-8s—especially the larger V-8 in the Suburban.

Four-wheel drive remains available pretty much throughout the entire lineup, and the six-speed automatic transmission is responsive and smooth-shifting.

Considering the Expedition's mammoth size, driving it is quite easy thanks to light but precise steering, as well as a suspension that does a good job in controlling all that weight. Yes, it's one of the biggest land yachts on the market, but it's manageable.

The only issue we've noted in prior years is that the pedal feel of the brakes can be somewhat spongy.

8

2013 Ford Expedition

Comfort & Quality

The 2013 Expedition delivers the spacious interior that the mammoth exterior suggests, with good ride quality to boot.

In the 2013 Ford Expedition, you don't get the spacial disconnects—with interior space that's less than you'd expect from the outside—that were expected in many past body-on-frame SUVs. The interior of the Expedition is cavernous, almost like that of a full-size van.

The Expedition's front seats are captain's chairs, mounted high and affording a good view out, and a telescopic steering wheel and power-adjustable pedals allow for a vast range of body types (including smaller drivers). 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.

Both a well-designed power liftgate and the PowerFold third-row seat make living with such a large vehicle—and making the most of it—easier than you might think, especially again for smaller moms.

With the third-row seat raised, the standard Expedition has almost 20 cubic feet of cargo space available. And in EL models, there's 130.8 cubic feet of cargo space, including an additional 24 cubic feet behind the third-row seat.

Ride quality isn't up to the standards of modern crossovers, for the most part, but the Expedition does keep its composure on rougher surfaces, and it rides better than other body-on-frame trucks. If you can afford it, the King Ranch edition offers a unique spin on a luxury-SUV interior, with unpolished leather like that of a baseball glove.

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.

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2013 Ford Expedition

Safety

The Expedition has bulk and a good roster of safety features on its side, though it hasn't been recently crash-tested.

The 2013 Expedition lacks up-to-date crash-test information, and although tests have become tougher in recent years it has in the past earned some respectable ratings.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which redesigned its testing program for 2011, has left the Expedition out of its testing updates; but prior to that, the big SUV received five-star ratings in all front and side impact categories. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) hasn't rated the Expedition in recent model years, either.

But the Expedition's safety gear remains top-notch. In addition to all the requisites, Ford fits the Expedition with standard side-impact airbags, and the Expedition's curtain airbags extend protection to all three rows of seats. The Expedition also includes Trailer Sway Control as a standard feature; it works with the stability control system and takes extra measures—such as applying precise braking and reducing engine torque—to bring both vehicle and trailer under control.

Ford has moved the mechanism for the power tailgate away from the ceiling, eliminating the hump that you get in some models. But there's an option for a backup camera, and we strongly recommend it due to the Expedition's poor rear visibility.

Ford's programmable MyKey system allows parents to program a speed limiter, speed alert chimes, and additional belt reminders.

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2013 Ford Expedition

Features

A long list of features, options, and special models like the King Ranch let you choose exactly what fits your lifestyle—although cutting-edge infotainment and connectivity are missing.

The feature set in the 2013 Ford Expedition is a little behind the times as well; it lacks Ford's innovative (and sometimes frustrating) MyFord Touch connectivity interface, instead offering the more dated Sync system, combined with a voice-activated navigation system and HD Radio in top trims.

That's about the only letdown in a lineup that includes XL, XLT, Limited, and King Ranch trims—and many more equipment groups and option packages. Across the entire range, standard equipment includes keyless entry keypad, heated power mirrors, air conditioning, an electrochromic rearview mirror, illuminated visors, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

Our favorite, if you have a generous budget, remains the King Ranch, which gets its own marvelous untreated leather interior. It looks and feels and even smells like a baseball mitt, and requires upkeep, showing the warts and scuffs accumulated through the miles.

Standout options include Ford's MyKey system and SecuriCode keypad-entry system. This year Ford has added a new dual-head-restraint DVD system, and a new 20-inch chrome-clad aluminum wheel design.

The optional voice-activated navigation—with a 6.5-inch color touchscreen—isn't bad; it's just an older unit, and DVD-based. But it does include a nice-sounding 340-watt AM/FM stereo with MP3 playback, six speakers, a subwoofer, and an iPod jack.

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2013 Ford Expedition

Fuel Economy

Gas mileage numbers for the 2013 Expedition remain unimpressive.

Mammoth SUVs like the 2013 Ford Expedition don't come with much of a green expectation, so there's no surprise here, with 14/20 mpg ratings when it's equipped with rear-wheel drive and just 13/18 with four-wheel drive.

Again, we suspect that Ford is giving the Expedition short shrift because while the F-150 pickup line--from which the Expedition is derived--now has a new lineup of V-8 and V-6 powerplants that have boosted its fuel economy considerably, these powertrains are still missing from the Expedition.

Finally, it's always worth considering the use of the vehicle. If you plan to put all three rows of seating to work most of the time, the Expedition's useful efficiency becomes that much better. Keep the Expedition in the garage until it's really needed, and it's considerably greener.
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