Ford's Best SUV? | 2020 Expedition King Ranch Review | Winter Road Trip
This one was a surprise, so I’m just going to lead with the major take-away from the story and fill in the details as I go along. The 4th Generation (2018+) Expedition is one of the best new vehicles I have driven in years. If I were in the market for a new SUV, the Expedition is what I would buy. To put it simply, I am impressed.
Full features inspection in a unique location.
Our time with our 2020 King Ranch Expedition test vehicle was a bit more extensive than usual. We had the opportunity to take it on a 1,000+ mile road trip, which included a decent amount of winter weather driving. To make things more interesting, this particular truck was a 2WD model. This was a bit unusual for us, being that Ford tends to send out test vehicles that are fully loaded. The missing transfer case was unexpected, but it may have opened our eyes to a few benefits the RWD Expeditions enjoy over the more expensive 4WD models. More on that later.
I must say, the Expedition is a sharp looking ride.
First, the build quality of the 4th Gen Expedition is excellent. Panel gaps were tight, the paint was smooth, no extraneous rattles were present, and the interior materials were above average. You’re getting a lot of vehicle for your money in this aluminum bodied behemoth. The Expedition’s dash is shared with the Super Duty and previous generation F-150. It is logically laid-out and thoughtfully functional. The only quibble I found with the interior was that the introduction of the 2021 F-150 leave’s the current Duty and Expedition interiors looking a bit dated. That’s just the unending march of progress, and something that’s easily addressed with a mid-model refresh. A larger touch screen and Sync 4 have already been announced for the 2022 Super Duty, so I expect the same for Expedition.
Anyone familiar with newer Ford trucks would feel right at home in this interior.
One aspect of the interior that certainly isn’t lacking is cargo capacity. This particular truck was the standard length model, and with the 3rd row power folding seats in their stowed position you get an impressive amount of space to work with. With them up, you’ll have about enough space for the spoils of a grocery run for two. If you plan on leaving the 3rd row in the up position while still having room to haul a Coyote long-block you should plan on shopping for the extended wheel-base Expedition. For my purposes, I’d leave the 3rd row folded down. In fact, for the 2021 model year Ford is offering some Expedition models with a 3rd row delete option. If that opens up more storage space under the flat load floor I’d definitely go for that.
The Expedition has a healthy amount of cargo space with the rear seats folded flat. For my purposes, I'd order one without the 3rd row seating.
The King Ranch package adds all the cowboy chic styling cues that we’ve come to expect over the years. Gone are the days of the KR trucks being shod with genuine saddle leather interiors that far too few owners understood how to property maintain (even though Ford used to include a VHS tape with King Ranch F-150s detailing the process). This Expedition’s King Ranch interior gives a vibe more similar to a Jackson Hole, WY ski lodge than the more traditional South Texas working man’s going to town rig. That probably makes the current King Ranch model more approachable to a large group of buyers, and the Del Rio Leather seats are certainly comfortable and inviting.
Sunroof fans rejoice, there's no lack of glass here.
However, to me the true highlight of the 4th Gen Expedition is its driving dynamics. If expertly straddles the fence between car like comfort and a truck like feel. The ride is smooth and comfortable; without being squishy, numb, and prone to excessive body roll. If does all that while still feeling solid and confident, just like a full-frame truck/SUV should. In my opinion, the Expedition’s ride and handling is damn near perfect. Check out this vid for my full on-road review:
A full-size SUV simply has no business being as good on the road as this thing is.
The most surprising aspect of this Expedition was hands-down its handling. This thing was extraordinarily nimble for a vehicle this size. The turning radius is ridiculous, and feels like it’s tighter than an S550 Mustang. I didn’t measure it out, but needless to say this Expedition can easily navigate a close-quarters parking lot. I’m not sure if this particular truck being a 2WD is the reason it has such impressive turning, but I suspect that to be the case. On the open road, the steering is very responsive and the brakes are highly effective. The only fullsize Ford I’ve driven that was more comfortable on a road trip was a Gen 2 Raptor; not really an apples-to-apples comparison.
It's tight quarters down here, but let's get a look at the Expedition's underpinnings.
Speaking of road trip, we took our King Ranch on one of the thousand mile variety. Over the course of the trip we averaged ~20 MPG, which is insane for a truck this size. The 3.5L V6 EcoBoost (rated at 375HP and 470 lb-ft) and 10R80 10-spd automatic combo were sufficiently powerful, even in a roughly 5,400 pound SUV. I imagine with a tune from one of the many EcoBoost tuning experts (such as @Livernois Motorsports) here on SVTP would really liven things up. We’ve certainly come a long way from the days of a 5.4L 2V Expedition with a 4R70 trans knocking down 14MPG while being completely gutless.
The 3.5L EcoBoost may not be every SVTP Member's favorite Blue Oval Powerplant, but it sure works well in this application.
After experiencing the handling characteristics and MPG performance of this 2WD Expedition, I would not hesitate to choose it over a 4WD model. In the area we, and realistically most Expedition owners, drive these vehicles 4WD is mostly a waste. We had absolutely no problem traversing snow covered winter roads in the mountains of WV with this King Ranch model. If you only have to deal with conditions like this once or twice per year, a little driving skill in a 2WD will typically get you through it. In the end, the only real complaint I can think of with our King Ranch Expedition tester is its nearly $75,000 sticker price. That’s an eye watering number, but you’re getting a lot of truck for your money. This thing is supremely safe, comfortable, and efficient. It’s a pleasure to drive and handles like a much smaller vehicle. Simply put, the current generation Expedition is one of the best new Fords I’ve driven in years. But don’t take my word for it (even though you should), head out to a dealer and try one for yourself.
Even though our Expedition was a 2WD model, I wasn't going to shy away from testing it in some winter conditions.
This is where the fun begins, slick road conditions and a dropping off a serious grade. The Expedition handled it like a champ.
The wireless charging pad is one of my favorite features being added to new Fords. No more dealing with tangled wires.
Ford has gotten a bit more conservative over the years with its use of the King Ranch logo. It can still be found in several places on the Expedition KR, and the stitching work on this particular one on the center console it excellent.