New Expedition is tough, lean and mean

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News

Dearborn — Ford Motor Co.’s all-new aluminum-body 2018 Expedition is bigger, lighter — and with the newly announced FX4 off-road trim, it’s also meaner.

The Ford F-150 King Ranch series, left, and 2018 Ford Expedition XLT are on display for the media at Ford Field Park in Dearborn, Mich. on Thursday, June 15, 2017

When Ford debuted the loaded Expedition in February, the automaker said despite the nearly 300 pounds shaved off the SUV’s total weight thanks to the redesign, the full-size, eight-passenger family hauler would maintain off-road capabilities.

The FX4 package, offered for the first time since 2003, adds more hardware to the new model hitting showrooms this fall. Off-road tuned shocks, skid plates, beefy all-terrain tires and an electronic limited-slip rear differential system developed to boost performance in low-traction environments are part of the off-road trim Ford calls the “most off-road capable” Expedition ever.

The grille of the F-150 King Ranch series.

The FX4 uses the same terrain-management system that will be available on the standard model, but adds a few drive modes for low-traction situations including a mud setting. Tweaks to the exterior give the off-road trim a mean, sporty look that counters the sleek new XLT, Limited and Platinum trims for the 2018 model. The FX4 is lifted slightly for more ground clearance. Ford uses darker colors on the grille and other accent points on the exterior, and puts chrome running boards on the sides.

The interior of the F-150 King Ranch series.

“We’re delivering something customers were asking for,” said Ryan Gillenwater, Expedition marketing manager. “They’re looking to do a lot.” He says that includes taking the SUV through rougher terrain.

The FX4 isn’t meant to compete with the monster F-150 Raptor, which can climb rock gardens. The off-road Expedition targets the roughly 20 percent of current Expedition owners who told Ford they use their SUV for some off-road “adventure.”

The 2018 Ford Expedition XLT, right, and F-150 King Ranch series are on display for the media at Ford Field Park in Dearborn, Mich. on Thursday, June 15, 2017

“This is for people who want to take the Expedition into the woods or on sand and gravel,” Gillenwater said. “There’s demand.”

The 2018 Expeditions come standard with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 that drives the 2017 models. But Ford has coaxed more power from the engine for 2018: XL, XLT and Limited editions of the new Expedition get a 10-horse boost to 375 horsepower; torque is increased 50 pound-feet to 470. The Platinum edition gets a 35-horse boost to 400 horsepower; torque is increased 60 pound-feet to 480.

Interior of the Ford Expedition XLT.

With a new 10-speed transmission — and with the lighter body — Ford says the 2018 Expedition should be more thrifty at the gas pump, although it has not released expected fuel economy. The 2017 Expedition gets an EPA-estimated 15 mpg city and 21 mpg highway.

Meanwhile, the 2018 Expedition has more than 40 new features and driver-assist technologies, including park-assist, lane-keeping, adaptive cruise-control and a collision-avoidance system that helps drivers avoid other vehicles or pedestrians.

Updates aimed at boosting utility include a wireless charging pad, an in-vehicle WiFi hotspot, six USB charging ports, four 12-volt power points, 15 cup holders, Ford’s latest Sync3 technology and retooled cargo space behind the third row.

Ford employee Don Mattern demonstrates how to use the Pro Trailer Backup Assist knob, inside the Ford Expedition Platinum.

Interior changes were aimed at making the Expedition cabin more spacious and easier to enter and exit for second- and third-row passengers.

Ford will introduce sliding second-row seats in the new Expedition, which allow passengers in the second and third rows more legroom and easier entry and exit. The second-row seats have a “tip-and-slide” function, which allows access to the third row without the need to remove a car seat because the second row doesn’t need to fold to be moved. The third row also reclines.

The 2018 Expedition goes on sale this fall. It will be built at the Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville.

The front grille of the Ford Expedition XLT.

Pricing has not been released. The 2017 Expedition starts at $47,125.

In addition to specifics on the Expedition engine, Ford also announced the all-new 3.3-liter V-6 engine available on the 2018 Ford F-150 will put out eight more horsepower and 12 more pound-feet of torque than the previous 3.5-liter V-6 at 290-horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque.

Through May of 2017, Ford has sold 351,965 F-Series trucks for the year, an 8.5 percent increase compared to the same period a year ago; the company has also sold 26,316 Expeditions this year, a 29.9 percent increase. To compare, Ford sold nearly 20,000 more F-Series trucks in May than the entire number of Ford-brand cars moved in the same time period.

Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau