The difference between the 2018 Ford Expedition and the best-of-year 2018 Lincoln Navigator is the difference in having an extra $20,000. At $70,000, the redesigned Expedition can't be called a poor man's Navigator.
The full-size SUV nicely balances its truck-based capability with family-hauler refinement. Despite basic similarities, Expedition doesn't have the finest touches of the Navigator, yet it outdoes the Chevy Suburban, the Nissan Armada and all of Toyota's aged behemoths.
It's not as intimidating on the road as the F-150 on which it is based, from the broader fascia on the outside to the quiet cabin on the inside. While the Navigator has a 450-horsepower twin-turbo V-6, the 2018 Expeditions are powered by a 400-horsepower turbocharged V-6 engine with a 10-speed automatic transmission in all-wheel drive.
It accelerates with the quickness of a full-size SUV, though it's quieter than some midsize SUVs we've tested, even with the panoramic sunroof. The 10-speed was smooth and smart, sometimes staying in the efficient high gear while cruising on the highway or coasting into a distant stop light. We averaged about 23 mpg at 62 mph, which is exceptional for a full-size SUV.
In addition, the powertrain churns out 480 pound-feet of torque for what Ford calls best-in-class towing capability of 9,200 pounds in AWD. We didn't test the towing in our week with the 2018 Expedition in Limited trim, but we tried out the pro-trailer backup assist during the 2018 Chicago Auto Show. It simplifies the counterintuitive backing up of a trailer, where you have to turn the wheel left to get the trailer to go right.
You don't use the steering wheel at all; put it in reverse, push a dial on the center stack, then follow the guidance lines on the split screen backup camera. Turn the dial right and the trailer will go to the right. It's like a video game. Unlike the steep learning curve of traditional backing up of a trailer, it can be learned on the first attempt. The tester in second-best Limited trim came with other advanced technology, such as the $3,030 driver assistance package with adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist.
Adaptive cruise worked well even down to a stop, but there were times the lane keeping veered drunkenly from one edge of the lane to the other. On straight roads it was good for about 20 seconds at a time. With all the technological innovations and upgrades, the fourth-generation Expedition should come with something better than Sync3. At the very least, a screen larger than 8 inches to match the general largeness of the vehicle. It's like a GameBoy screen in an arcade.
Sync3 isn't all that bad once you get beyond the reliance on the small and cramped touch screen. The voice commands are excellent, as is the navigation, though we wish we could've figured out how to avoid splitting the teeny tiny screen when there is an upcoming directional change. Please, Ford, either make the screen bigger or let us access more info through the steering wheel controls in the expansive instrument cluster. Behind the cockpit there are six seats for six people.
Putting three adults in the third row would be good only for a gag, but for the team or the family, there is ample room, six USB ports and plenty of cup holders. Limited trim comes with power folding 60/40 seats in the third row, and power folding 40/20/40 seats in the second row for six different seating configurations. We had three tweens in the midrow seats with enough room to avoid any bickering. The same midrow seats slide and tilt forward to accommodate child safety seats; the passage to the third row is about as large as it gets.
Make sure to get the tip-and-slide seat to click in its most forward position, otherwise getting it back in place might require some pulls, pushes, presses, grunts and a curse or two to get it right. We should have just used the power button until it went "click." That same power button is easy to access and use from the third row.
2018 Lincoln Navigator outdoes Cadillac Escalade as most refined family hauler Cargo area is 5 cubic feet more than the Escalade and most other GM full-sizers except for the Chevy Suburban. There's plenty of space for the team, unless you're filling every seat and the gear. Is the Expedition Limited worth $20,000 less than Navigator, or about the same amount more than the base trim? It's a big chunk of change for a big vehicle, and it's the best deal out there until GM redesigns its massive fleet, expected for model year 2020.
2018 Ford Expedition Limited at a glance
Vehicle type: Full-size SUV
Base price: $52,130 As tested: $68,960 (excluding $1,195 destination)
Mpg: 17 city, 22 highway, 19 combined
Engine: 3.5-liter turbo V-6
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Competitive rank: Lincoln Navigator, Ford Expedition, Nissan Armada, Chevy Suburban, Cadillac Escalade, Toyota Sequoia.