- Stronger, higher-mpg engine
- Should ride smoother and quieter than ever
- Good third-row space in EL model
- Plush King Ranch interior
- Drives smaller than it looks
- 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.
2016 Ford Expedition
The Expedition still wears a utilitarian look, but the cabin's been swanked up considerably.
The Expedition hasn't changed its look substantially since the latter part of the last decade, and frankly it doesn't matter much. Full-size SUVs don't compete as much on styling as they do on hard-numbers performance, even when they're outfitted like luxury vehicles.
So the lightly retouched Expedition that emerged in the 2015 model year still looks its part. The lightly retouched steel body is no longer related to the one on the aluminum-bodied F-150, but they're still both clearly a part of the same truck family, with bluff front ends, massive grilles, and enough straight edges to supply a nation of architects for years to come.
There are some more streamlined, softer details tucked into the outlines of that carried-over profile, like the thick chrome strip across the back that, from pictures, looks to visually lower this big 'ute. Wheel sizes now range up to 22 inches and exhaust pipes are now chrome-tipped.
Inside, plush new trim has been added to the Expedition, and the Platinum model’s trim has been upgraded for more contrast. From a design and functionality standpoint, the biggest news is front and center, where the new Sync 3 infotainment system has been installed. It's the interface that runs on the Expedition's 8.0-inch screen, and on two 4.2-inch color screens flanking the steering wheel.
The clean center-stack design that accommodates Sync 3 gives the Expedition's dash a more cohesive look than it once had—and with its layers of woodgrain and metallic trim, it imparts a more convincing look of quality.
2016 Ford Expedition
Twin-turbo V-6 power is an unexpected Expedition strength--and so is its handling.
Ford has done a commendable job when it comes to tuning the Expedition's road manners. It feels more like a crossover vehicle at times, belying its size with crisp handling and steering, and good ride quality in its most expensive versions—all while maintaining excellent tow ratings.
Last year, Ford changed out the V-8 powertrain in the Expedition for a twin-turbo V-6, and the difference in performance characteristics is profound. The old V-8 was a mediocre performer, especially at the low end of its rev range. The twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6 not only ups the stats on paper—to 365 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque—it delivers copious power down low. Some enthusiast magazines have clocked the Expedition's 0-60 mph times at under six seconds and it's undeniable now that the truck truly quick—the turbo soundtrack has an appeal all its own.
Despite the big gains in acceleration, fuel economy hasn't suffered at all. The Expedition is now actually higher on the EPA scale, at a lineup-best 16 mpg city, 22 highway, 18 combined in the rear-drive Expedition. We've seen almost 18 mpg in mostly interstate driving, fully laden.
Four-wheel drive remains available throughout the entire lineup, and the 6-speed automatic transmission is responsive and smooth-shifting. The Expedition also maintains its current towing ratings of up to 9,200 pounds.
Considering the Expedition's mammoth proportions, driving it is quite easy thanks to light but precise steering, which was switched to electric actuation last year, and sharper and quicker than ever. The Expedition's suspension 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.
However, we're still waiting on a test drive in an Expedition with the standard suspension setup, independent with conventional shocks. In past versions, the suspension did 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. But we haven't driven an updated version with this configuration without the adaptive-damper setup.
Instead we've spent all our time in an Expedition with a new set of adaptive shocks that filter off almost all of that, giving the Expedition a luxury-SUV ride. Of course, it's priced like one in this format too—the high-functioning shocks can only be fitted to Platinum models in a pricey package.
2016 Ford Expedition
Comfort & Quality
Vast interior space yields excellent passenger comfort and cargo storage inside the Expedition—that's not a surprise, is it?
With interior room roughly equal to that of a full-size van, the Ford Expedition doesn't just promise big space, it delivers it—even if you don't opt for the long-wheelbase (EL) model.
With either body style, the Expedition starts with a comfortable pair of front captain's chairs, with the driver facing a set of power-adjustable pedals and a telescopic steering wheel for a huge range of adjustment. Even smaller drivers can find a good position in the Expedition, thanks to a high-mounted seat that offers a good view over the massive hood.
Ford still uses plenty of semi-glossy, open-grain black plastic all over the dash and door panels, but the fit is generally good, and there's more soft-touch trim this year, as well as much more sound deadening and attention to quieting the cabin. On Limited and more expensive versions, the Expedition doesn't give Ford's own Lincoln Navigator much room for bragging rights, in terms of fit and finish.
Expansive leg and knee room are in abundance in both the first and second rows of seats, and adults can even fit in the third row for short trips, though the leap between the second- and third-row seats isn't graceful or easy.
When it comes to cargo, the Expedition does an even better job of accommodating mass quantities. The third-row seat can be power-folded on some models, and there's a power tailgate as well, to open up the cargo hold to everything from family luggage to furniture.
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.
With the third-row seat raised, the standard Expedition has almost 20 cubic feet of cargo space available. Behind the front row of seats there's a maximum of 108.3 cubic feet—more than enough for any driver needing to upsize from a three-row crossover SUV like Ford's own Flex.
With the Expedition EL you gain 14.8 inches longer overall, with longer rear fenders and glass, 20 cubic feet of space behind the third-row seat, and a total of 130.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the first row of seats. 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.
2016 Ford Expedition
The Expedition has good crash-test scores, but testing isn't complete.
The Expedition proves the adage that size matters. Though it's built on an aged truck platform, it still turns in strong crash-test scores, thanks to its sheer mass and its stiff steel frame.
The IIHS has not yet tested the Expedition, but the NHTSA puts its crash performance at five stars overall. The NHTSA tests have a blemish or two. In rollover resistance, the rear-drive models earn a low three stars, while four-wheel-drive versions earn four stars.
Safety equipment has been expanded to include side airbags, Bluetooth, and a standard rearview camera.
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's programmable MyKey system allows parents to program a speed limiter, speed alert chimes, and additional belt reminders.
On the cutting edge of safety technology, blind-spot monitors are available, but features like adaptive cruise control and forward-collision warnings with automatic braking aren't on the menu.
In the past, we've complained about the Expedition's somewhat limited visibility. This year we've driven it just after a stint in GM's big new 'utes—and came away with a better perspective. The Expedition's glass areas are much taller, giving a much less obstructed view to the sides and to the rear than the current Escalade or the Yukon.
2016 Ford Expedition
There's still a basic Expedition for the hard work, but Platinum and King Ranch versions are luxury vehicles without the prestigious label.
The Expedition started life as a more basic full-size SUV with towing and hauling as its primary missions. Over the years, it's become a cash cow for Ford, which explains why the automaker's piled on features and options, turning the utility vehicle into something much more luxurious.
The basic Expedition XLT is pretty far from its roots, with all its standard gear. It comes with standard power windows, locks, and mirrors; power-adjustable pedals; cloth seating; front and rear climate control; satellite radio; Ford's Sync system, with Bluetooth audio streaming, a USB port, an auxiliary audio jack, and AppLink; a rearview camera; rear parking sensors; steering-wheel audio controls; cruise control; flip-up tailgate glass; and 18-inch all-terrain tires. Major options include leather; a power tailgate; power front and passenger driver seats; power-folding third-row seats; and a towing package.
The Expedition Limited adds the new Sync 3 infotainment system, and its much quicker, easier-to-interpret interface. It comes with an 8.0-inch touchscreen, voice command capability, and two USB ports. The Limited also gets perforated-leather front seats with heating and ventilation; automatic climate control; heated second-row outboard seats; woodgrain trim; a power-folding third-row seat; remote start; front parking sensors; keyless ignition; and 20-inch wheels and tires. Options include a power sunroof; navigation with HD radio; and power-deploying running boards.
If you have a generous budget, the King Ranch remains a favorite—it gets its own marvelous untreated leather interior that looks and feels and even smells like a baseball mitt, and requires upkeep, showing the warts and scuffs accumulated through the miles. The King Ranch also gets a standard power tailgate; remote start; blind-spot monitors; and 20-inch wheels. Options include 22-inch wheels; load-leveling rear suspension; sunroof; power running boards; and second-row bucket seats.
The Expedition Platinum tops off the SUV with almost everything available in the brochure, leaving only a few options: the load-leveling rear suspension; Brunello leather interior; second-row bucket seats; and a DVD entertainment system. We'd recommend taking the optional adaptive shocks, too—they're a part of a package that also includes 22-inch polished aluminum wheels.
Just a word of warning before you dream of towing and hauling, however. With a base price of more than $43,000, the Expedition is no bargain, and it's easy to crank one up to more than $60,000, even if it's not the top-line Expedition EL Platinum.
2016 Ford Expedition
The twin-turbo V-6 has boosted the Expedition's EPA numbers, but not by much.
Ford has taken some measures to improve the big Expedition's fuel economy, but until it makes a radical change—maybe an aluminum set of body panels?—the improvements are small.
As recently as the 2014 model year, the Expedition had EPA ratings as low as 18 mpg highway, 13 city, with its former pairing of a big-displacement V-8 and four-wheel drive.
For the 2015 model year, the Expedition adopted a new twin-turbo V-6, and its gas-mileage figures improved. Now, rear-wheel-drive Expeditions are rated at 16 mpg city, 22 highway, 18 combined. With four-wheel drive, they're 15/20/17 mpg.
On long-wheelbase models, the numbers are still better than in the V-8 days: at 15/21/17 mpg for rear-wheel drive, and 14/20/16 mpg with four-wheel drive.
We've seen up to 17.8 mpg combined on long interstate runs in a 4WD, standard-length Expedition loaded to the roof with cargo.
The Car Connection Consumer Review
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