- Stronger, higher-mpg engine
- Should ride smoother and quieter than ever
- Good third-row space in EL model
- It's still an 8-year-old design
- Not easy to park, even with rearview camera
- Gas mileage has made gains, but not big ones
The 2016 Ford Expedition proves there's a place in the world for old-school SUVs, especially those with turbo power, adaptive suspensions, and luxury-truck trim.
Who would have guessed that full-size SUVs wouldn't only survive $4 gas and a deep recession, but also thrive in less than a decade? That's a very real present for vehicles such as the Ford Expedition, which is posting some of its best sales numbers in a decade, thanks to a better economy and to a light revamp last year.
That revamp gave it a host of mechanical upgrades. The Expedition swapped its V-8 for a whomping turbo V-6, gained an adaptive suspension and a new infotainment system. And it slathered on a fresh layer of luxury touches—all without going full-tilt on a new aluminum body like its kin, the Ford F-150 pickup truck.
The Expedition's changes were perfectly timed, just as GM was refreshing all its large SUVs with gas-saving powertrains, new safety and technology, and a cleaner look. The Expedition counts all those vehicles—Escalade, Yukon, Tahoe and Suburban—as its main rivals.
In our ratings, the Expedition outpoints the GM 'utes, and other full-size SUVs, even though it's more a case of gradual improvement than radical reinvention. You can see that plainly in its look. The Expedition still has the angular, bluff body of an SUV, but some details still carry the more streamlined, softer approach Ford took in the middle of the last decade.
The shape was only lightly retouched for the 2015 model year, but the cabin got considerable attention in the form of modern-era touchscreens and digital displays. The Expedition's touch of the future comes in the form of the Sync 3 infotainment system, with its 8.0-inch touchscreen mounted on prime real estate, right in the center of the dash. It's paired with two 4.2-inch color screens that flank the gauges. Wrapping it all into a cohesive whole is a cleaner design, especially around the center stack.
More impressive changes have taken place under the hood, where Ford's forgone the traditional V-8. The Expedition offers just a single engine these days, and it's a 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 on loan from the F-150 lineup (and from Ford's crossovers and sedans, too). The 365-horsepower turbo V-6 even growls while maintaining the SUV's strong 9,200-pound tow rating. The power's not explosive, but the Expedition is now a truly quick vehicle, despite its mass and height.
Powertrain is only part of it, though. Ford has also added a continuously damping suspension to the Expedition, a first on a Ford-brand vehicle. In the Expedition it offers three modes—comfort, normal, and sport—and along with new electric power steering, only boosts the Expedition's reputation as a brute 'ute that rides and handles better than most of its rivals. It's a shame the new adaptive shocks only are offered on the most expensive versions, in a pricey option package.
The two lengths of the Expedition—standard and long-wheelbase (EL)—carry over for 2016. With the Expedition EL you gain 14.8 inches longer overall, with longer rear fenders and glass. It's one of the biggest SUVs on the planet, frankly, and its wheelbase of 131 inches is longer than the full length of either a Smart Fortwo or Mitsubishi i-MiEV. With either version you get an almost van-like interior and loads of passenger space in the first two rows, but cargo space is more abundant and third-row access is much easier in the EL. Just beware that you’ll pay the price in maneuverability and parking ease.
The Expedition has earned decent crash-test scores from the NHTSA, while the IIHS hasn't yet tested it. A rearview camera is now standard, and blind-spot monitors are available.
The Expedition is sold in four trim levels: XLT, Limited, King Ranch, and Platinum. All come with the usual power features, Bluetooth, the rearview camera, and USB ports, with a starting price of about $44,000. Platinum models start as high as $61,000 and can be fitted with a wine-color Brunello leather with tuxedo stripes and French seams; seven-color LED ambient lighting; Ford truck apps for towing; and a ten-speaker, 700-watt Sony sound system. New for the 2016 model year, the Expedition gains Ford's much improved Sync 3 infotainment system--a less balky, more responsive replacement for its reviled MyFord Touch controls.
The new powertrain helps the Expedition in the EPA derby too: the new SUV is rated as high as 16 mpg city, 22 highway, 18 combined (up from 14 city, 20 highway). Although, considering that it's based on the last-generation F-150, we can't help but wonder if further weight reduction (via use of aluminum?) could help next generations of the Expedition eke out more efficiency.