You’ve done it. You said you never would, but you finally succumbed to societal conformity: you’ve got yourself the US average 1.9 children, a respectable home, and a nice career to support it all. Next step on the game of Life is picking the ol’ family hauler. Logically, a van is the best choice: a normal car is too small for friends or extended family, while a van is a vehicle whose sole designed purpose is to transport a family through the years and the miles with ease and comfort. Honda and Toyota will throw this argument at consumers all day, peddling their family vans. But no! You will not fall to this last coating of beige to your life. Your vehicle will be something different and—most importantly—just a little bit of fun. You will not be robbed of your last vestige of self-expression! No, a minivan is not for you.
Considering the minivan market has been steadily falling by over 10% for the last six-months, many American’s share this sentiment. While this is by no means the first time minivans have experienced a sales fall—sales figures essentially match fuel prices, with van sales going up along with fuel prices—buyers still face an unescapable truth: they need more than five seats. With minivans by no means chic, this leaves buyers with a single avenue to funnel their shopping efforts; the SUV market. Luckily, this market is now tremendously huge; the sub-segment of three-row SUV’s itself has three different sizes buyers can chose from.
For those who want to subject those in the rear to low amounts of legroom and headroom, there are the stylish Ford Explorer, GMC Acadia, and their fellows. Anyone with aspirations of towing toys, braving bogs, or transporting a small army’s-worth of groceries in one go can step up to the very-American body-on-frame offerings such as the Ford Expedition and the Chevrolet Tahoe, among others. For those who want even more (and more, and more…) vehicle can opt for the kings of the three-row offerings: the extra-length iterations most manufacturer’s offer for their body-on-frame SUV. For those who want to be the most different—and yes, surprisingly have the most fun, but more on that later—these extra-plus-size SUVs are the only choice.
The subject of today’s review is arguably the best choice for the average American family: the 2015+ Ford Expedition EL 4×4. The Ford Expedition does not experience change quickly, with three generations spanning over two decades of production, all featuring mildly improved developments of the previous iteration, and while I spent a week with a 2015 Expedition EL 4×4 from Hertz, any Expedition produced afterwards will be mechanically the same. Regardless of the model year or trim level, any Expedition, and especially the EL on review today, offer a singular, overriding feeling to drivers and passengers alike; the sheer, massive size of the truck. This size, along with the fully independently-sprung suspension on all four corners, are what raise the Expedition above its peers (although parking is predictably un-fun).
My example was a Hertz vehicle, and as such was baser than the base model available to consumers, and only available to fleet buyers. A non-option model from Ford MSRP’d/will MSRP for over $50,000, whereas Hertz picked up their thousands of models for around $48,000. The only options chosen for this example were the EL body style, and the 4×4 system. Consider this a blank slate review, looking at the bare-bone dynamics of the vehicle: any options will probably only improve upon the vehicle.
Driving from Sacramento to San Diego via Monterey Bay, and then back again via I-5, gave ample opportunity to become acquainted with the Expedition. Featuring—as all Expeditions have since 2015—an EcoBoost, twin-turbo 3.5L V6, sending 365hp and 420lb-ft of torque to a six-speed automatic gearbox, the Expedition proved a perfect companion for a long-haul drive transporting many people and their stuff.
The already-mentioned acreage inside proved more than adequate for three adults and their luggage, while the third-row seating remained resolutely hard to access without the optional power-folding seats. The middle bench, with its independent recline and slide adjustments for the two side passengers, proved comfortable enough for 10-hour slogs to be endured by a full-size adult. The front seats are nothing to write home about, although proved to be adequate for the same 10-hour drives (the key word is adequate). Suspension and body motions were surprisingly compliant, especially considering the bog-standard spring/damper system. The independent suspension ensures a compliant ride compared to live-axle competition. The optional electro-mechanical suspension can only improve upon the already-nice ride.
Climate control is normal, with the front controls able to lock-out pesky children—or adults—from controlling the rear climate controls. The standard Sync 2 system is downright awful, with too many buttons, a tragically tiny 4.2in non-touch screen, and the worst Sirius receiver known to man. The 4.2in screen makes the back-up camera a pain to use, and the Sirius receiver dropped signal like Troy Williamson dropped footballs. While the camera is easily overcome by a turn of the head and a check of the mirrors, the Sirius receiver—which dropped signal in the middle of LA, the desert, the coast, etc. etc.—is something drivers would have to live with. With Sync 3 now available as an option, and with it, its 8in screen and improved receivers, these deficiencies can be optioned out. Moral of the story: tick the Sync 3 box.
Briefly mentioned up to this point, the engine is key to that other briefly mentioned attribute: the fun aspect of the Expedition. While claiming something 1000ft long and fourteen tons is fun may seem inexplicable, the new EcoBoost motor, when paired with the Expedition, is the key to this claim. Old Expeditions, with their anemic 5.4L V8’s, could never be called fast or sprightly, but the new motor grants genuine passing power to drivers.
A slick-shifting six-speed automatic is sent 420lb-ft of torque—on offer excitingly down low and persistently—and is a vast improvement over the previous 4-speed. This gearbox shifts gears with butter smoothness under normal application, but should the driver summon all the power available, will shift smoothly and almost imperceptibly to the requisite lower gear, whooshing the barge that is the Expedition EL forwards at a surprising rate of speed.
It is this point and squirt nature, so out of touch with the sheer dimensions of the vehicle, which make the truck fun, or at the very least smile-inducing. On the long, open stretches of middle-California, the Expedition could easily average 85mph, quietly enough for passengers to sleep (although there was an annoying whining that only the driver could hear). Allegedly during an open stretch of I-5, radar detector silent, the limousine that is the Expedition EL accelerated from 75mph to 120+mph, quickly and silently enough that the sleeping passenger was undisturbed, slowing down in a similar manner. Allegedly.
This power comes with a cost; the Expedition is a thirsty creature. Over 2000+ miles of mostly highway driving the truck from Ford averaged 15.1mpg, which is bad by anyone’s measure. The fuel tank drains at a rate which may lure drivers into believing their fuel efficiency luck may be better than it truly is, with a full tank providing over 500 miles of range, both actual and displayed. Using a heavy foot, I was able to drive from Sacramento, to Monterey, and down a further ~150-200 miles before filling up. It was at this first visit to the pump that realities sank in. The efficiency isn’t enabling the range, rather the 34-gallon fuel tank is. This cavernous tank makes every visit to the pump a nearly triple-digit endeavor if drivers wait until empty.
Despite these minor deficiencies, the Ford Expedition’s engine, suspension, and size make it a clear contender for the family looking for an outlier vehicle to haul anyone they need to (up to 8 people) and all their stuff in relative comfort. If Sync 3 is chosen, all trim levels of the Expedition/Expedition EL offer a competitive package that any family should consider, with a surprisingly peppy engine to ensure that the beige of a normal family hauler stays at bay.
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I recently recieved a degree in History from the University of Nevada, Reno.