Preview: 2018 Ford Expedition

The 2018 Ford Expedition is fully redesigned and has lost weight. A new high-strength aluminum alloy body and rethought high-strength steel frame helped reduce this sizable beast by nearly 300 pounds (136 kg) compared to the 2017. But the Expedition’s makers also want you to know that it’s packing plenty more smart tech and engine power.

The Expedition is not the biggest SUV out there, but it’s still huge enough that you may want to use the navigation system to move around the interior.

Tech is not just connectivity, it’s also safety and comfort

The buyer of a vehicle that can seat a village is probably concerned about keeping the passengers from harm. Ford says the Expedition “offers more driver-assist technology than any other full-size SUV.” Base trim prices are listed below but words like “offers” and “available” mean you’ll be paying extra.

Among those offered features is enhanced park assist and a 360-degree camera. Neither feature is new to the market but there’s a good reason they’ve migrated here. Both are vital for scratch-free city driving when your vehicle is almost the size of a city block, and the enhanced parking feature is utterly comprehensive.

Safety tech and connectivity beget and necessitate each other. We live in the age of distraction. The smarter we make cars, the stupider we make drivers. (If you’re driving while reading this, please put the phone away and count how many drivers around you are doing the same thing you were three seconds ago.) Assorted other offered safety technologies to keep your Expedition expeditions from ending in tears include lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot detection with rear traffic alert.

The Expedition promises a variety of potential vehicles for the offered price of one. Meaning? An available Terrain Management System provides a customizable drive experience for the curious, with seven modes to suit the drive environment and driver’s moods. Seven!? That doesn’t even include reverse and neutral. Again, such tech’s not new to the market but is great for anyone who drives in a variety of weather and road conditions — and off-road conditions. The Expedition looks rugged enough to handle pretty much anything.

Finally, there’s the much loved connectivity tech. Like many of its competitors, 2018 Expedition can be converted into a roving Wi-Fi hotspot courtesy of its available Sync Connect and a 4G modem. And you needn’t worry much about expending your devices’ batteries. There are four 12 volt power points, a 110 volt power outlet, and six USB charging ports. Moreover, the Wi-Fi hotspot can handle up to ten devices.

Ten?!

Remember you’re driving a maximum of eight people, plus you just put your own phone down. The Wi-Fi signal extends to 50 feet from source and can still work if the Expedition’s not moving. Anyway, if the grid goes down, all you’ll need is gasoline and you can continue to keep up with the Kardashians. 

Speaking of keeping up, like its competition, the Expedition provides a wireless charger for phones that are compatible, aka new and not Apple. My phone isn’t compatible even though it’s just two years old, so it makes me wonder if I should get something brand-spanking-new. 

The Ford infotainment interface, Sync 3, is a simple-to-use and icon-based system that commands everything from navigation to climate to, yes, infotainment. It’s compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so you can integrate your phone.

The buyer of a vehicle that can seat a village is probably also concerned about keeping the passengers docile. If Wi-Fi for ten isn’t enough, you can upgrade the Expedition into a pretty decent rolling home theatre. (We couldn't take the factory prototype Expedition that you’re seeing on the road but while I was in it with the doors shut, it was recording-studio quiet.) B&O Play is a 12-speaker sound system upgrade everyone in the vehicle can enjoy. Of course, in case your kids hate your music and obviously vice versa, you can purchase the rear-seat entertainment system which comes with noise-cancelling headphones and plays videos and games, individually, on either of two drop-down screens, or handheld screens.

Let’s talk about the engine because you gotta move all this bulk

The turbocharged 3.5-litre EcoBoost engine with auto stop-start tech is paired with a new 10-speed automatic transmission. However the engine has two power ratings and the one you get depends on your choice of trim. The XLT and Limited trims’ engines will be capable of 375 hp at 5,000 rpm and 470 lb-ft of torque at 3,500 rpm. The Platinum’s is tuned to put out a slightly heftier 400 hp and 480 lb-ft torque at 3,250 rpm.

Those engine choices offer more power than last year. Of course, your heart would perform better too if you lost nearly 300 pounds. The XLT and Limited get an extra 10 hp and 50 lb-ft more torque; the Platinum 35 and 60. It’s capable of towing 9,300 pounds (4,219 kg), which Ford expects will be best in class.

Speaking of which, Ford reports that over half its Expedition customers consider towing an important duty and that 15 percent do it regularly. Another available feature, Ford’s new Pro Trailer Backup Assist, purports to make backing up a trailer much easier — as easy, Ford claims, “as turning a knob.” The knob tells the system how much to turn the Expedition but the tech does the actual turning. The result should be more confidence for the driver-user, fewer errors, and an overall quicker back-up experience. I haven’t tried it, but will be curious to see how it works when one finally becomes available to sample on the road.

Finally, the aforementioned stop-start technology, which shuts the engine off when you’re stopped for more than a few seconds and was considered a great leap forward in green tech just a few years ago, comes standard (not offered or available) with any Expedition. It’s a sensible feature. Fuel efficiency ratings have yet to be determined, but you probably won’t get to Disney next year on the fuel savings you incur. Still, with summer construction, clogged traffic, and urban forests of pervasive stoplights, sometimes you’re waiting for what feels like minutes to move 10 metres. With next year’s fuel savings, you should be able to at least improve your collection of Disney Princess wallpapers.

Adaptable space: the latest final frontier

The Expedition is not the biggest SUV out there, but it’s still huge enough that you may want to use the navigation system to move around the interior. Especially considering the possible configurations of seating. Note the photos. You can carry heaps of stuff, even with all three rows of seats up. You can also fold, flip, and disappear assorted seats as neatly as an FBI agent on a third-world dictator. The concept? Picture a Honda Fit designed for an entire card of professional wrestlers.

But it’s not just about immensity. Ford’s designers have also considered organization. The cargo manager at the very back of the trunk, beneath the floor, is a clever if complicated-looking set of cubbies and drawers that folds in and about so much it looks like the Star Trek 3D chess game when unravelled. It’ll stash loads, yes, but even if you’re parked on a hill, Ford says, your stuff won’t roll out. A low-tech solution but nonetheless clever.

The 2018 Expedition comes to Canada in autumn.

Pricing: 2018 Ford Expedition

XLT: $59,999
Limited: $72,999
Platinum: $80,999

Destination Fee: $1,790

Less bulk, more tech, and greater safety.