2021 Ford Expedition Review | A big-time SUV for big-time needs

James Riswick
·10 mins read


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For most people, a large crossover or minivan will be more than sufficient for their family's needs. They'll also be considerably cheaper. But we absolutely get the appeal of the 2021 Ford Expedition, which boasts super-size space and a super-powerful engine that sure makes for easier family transport. This enormous box on wheels can swallow nearly anything you've got to throw into it (that goes double for the recommended extra-long Expedition Max), and adults can comfortably fit in all three rows. And not just literal adults – like full-size, have-a-shot-at-making-a-basketball-team adults. As for the engine, it's not just the matter of surprisingly rapid acceleration, it's that it makes lugging around that basketball team less strained while also allowing for easier towing of up to 9,300 pounds. You'd be lucky to get 5,000 in a crossover.

So, for those with maximum needs (or wants), the 2021 Expedition is an excellent choice for a full-size SUV. We do think the Max's extra space is well worth its $3,025 premium and that lower trim levels make more sense than the ritzier King Ranch and Platinum, which are so expensive that they enter the same territory as the mechanically related and far more luxurious Lincoln Navigator. As for competitors, the Expedition's only real challengers are the redesigned 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban. Although we've found the Ford still provides better passenger space and standard power, the overall gap has, at the very least, been reduced considerably from last year.    

What's new for 2021?

Adaptive Cruise Control (Co-Pilot306 Assist) is now standard on the Limited and becomes available as an option on the XLT. There is also an abundance of new standard and optional wheels throughout the Expedition line up.


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What's the interior and in-car technology like?

The interior depends, of course, on trim level, but overall we like what Ford has done here. There are hard plastics in a lot of places, but they don’t dominate the interior landscape, and there are nice materials available. The design is shared with the F-150, meaning it's blocky and truck-ish, but there are enough differing surfaces and shapes to keep things interesting (especially on luxurious upper trim levels such as the surprisingly tasteful King Ranch).

The Expedition comes standard with Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system. It comes with a standard 8-inch touchscreen, which responds well to inputs and swipe gestures (though having static menu icons or physical menu buttons sure would be nice). Navigation is available, but annoyingly gets locked out when you're utilizing the standard Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. And although we haven't tested the latter, Ford's version of Apple CarPlay annoyingly locks out many features while moving, forcing you to use Siri for many tasks. As such, we frequently just revert to using Sync 3's perfectly functional native music, podcast and phone-selection menus.

The Expedition comes standard with four USB ports, which actually isn't that many for a three-row vehicle. Also available are wireless phone charging and a 4G LTE wi-fi hotspot that can connect up to 10 devices. Rear passengers can enjoy an optional dual-headrest rear-seat entertainment system that includes the ability to stream from a device or a home cable account.

How big is the Expedition?

There are two Expedition lengths available — the standard and the longer Max. They feature the same size third row, with the Max’s extra length going entirely to cargo space. The standard Expedition is 210 inches long, which is bigger than a Toyota Sequoia and Nissan Armada, but essentially the same as the all-new 2021 Chevy Tahoe. The Expedition Max, at 221.9 inches long, competes closely with the slightly larger, 225.7-inch 2021 Chevy Suburban.

Inside, it's hard to think of a vehicle that surpasses the Expedition's passenger space and comfort. Genuinely tall adults will fit comfortably in the third row – even the greatly expanded Chevy Tahoe's can't say that. Much of this has to do with just how tall the Expedition's cabin is, allowing for the seats to be high off the floor, granting more under-leg support and increasing comfort. That applies to the second row, as well. Of course, the Expedition is also pretty high off the ground, making climbing inside hard than what you'd find in a minivan or large crossover.

The Expedition is similarly a beast when it comes to hauling stuff. There is 104.6 cubic-feet of boxy, space-efficient room when all rows are lowered. That number is essentially between large three-row crossovers and minivans for capacity. Keeping the second row raised yields a similarly voluminous area that made for easy road-trip packing. However, when all seats are in place, volume shrinks to an amount comparable to the biggest three-row crossovers (Hyundai Palisade, Volkswagen Atlas and Ford Explorer), which we discovered amounts to five suitcases.  

Of course, there's also the Expedition Max, which adds a foot of length and 16.9 cubic-feet of space behind the third row. That's more than a typical midsize family sedan's trunk. We think that extra versatility is well worth the Max's $3,025 price premium and better justifies the Expedition's price premium in general over big crossovers and minivans.

Note that the new Chevy Tahoe and Suburban have higher cargo capacity numbers than the Expeditions, however, as cargo measurement methods can differ between manufacturers, we'll wait to independently perform tests to render a verdict on whether they are indeed more useful for hauling stuff.

 

What's the Expedition's performance and fuel economy?

The XLT, Limited and King Ranch are powered by a 3.5-liter turbocharged V6 that produces 375 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque – a staggering amount that easily bests all competitor base engines. It is paired to a 10-speed automatic with all that power going to the rear or an optional four-wheel-drive system that includes an automatic engagement mode (4A).

Despite the engine's ample power and the amount of weight it's tasked to lug around, fuel economy isn't that bad. EPA estimates are 17 mpg city, 22 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined for a 4x4 Expedition. Opting for rear-wheel drive or the Max makes little difference, however, the Max's bigger gas tank potentially yields an extra 65 miles of range.

Standard on the Platinum is a more powerful version of the base engine that pumps out 400 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque. There are no EPA ratings published for this engine, but we expect them to be similar if possibly the same as those of the base output.

 

What's the Expedition like to drive?

The Expedition's size gives it a commanding view of the road. However, it also makes it cumbersome to navigate narrow city streets. We found ourselves parking further away from our destination in parking lots, or trying to park next to smaller vehicles. That's common for the segment, though, as anything this large is going to sacrifice maneuverability.

Even out on the open road, the Expedition can't hide its truck roots. The steering is slow, numb and not especially precise on the highway – especially on winding stretches. Vibrations from high-frequency impacts are also transmitted through the body-on-frame truck chassis into the driver's hands and throughout the interior's seat bottoms. It's a jittery feeling that, although not pronounced, you don't get in a crossover or minivan. That said, the suspension has been masterfully tuned to be impressively supple yet controlled in most instances. It can feel genuinely luxurious, and not just in comparison to a truck. We haven't tested an Expedition with the available continuous adaptive dampers, but judging by what they do in the mechanically related Lincoln Navigator, we expect them to increase the Expedition's comfort and composure.

As for the engine, the brilliant turbo V6 is tremendously smooth and quiet. Well, except when you really gun it, in which case it emits a nice, deep snarl. There's no uncouth truckish roar here. Whether blasting off the line or passing on the highway, it actually surprises you how quick it can be. That the Platinum has even more power is frankly a bit nutty.

What more can I read about the Ford Expedition?

2020 Ford Expedition King Ranch Road Test

We test the surprisingly tasteful, cowboy chic King Ranch during a road trip.

 

Ford Expedition Luggage Test | How much fits behind its third row?

We use actual stuff to determine how big the Expedition's cargo capacity is. 

 

 

2018 Ford Expedition Platinum Drivers' Notes Review | Right to the top

Our editors take turns in the most powerful and expensive Expedition. 

 

2018 Ford Expedition First Drive Review | Front of the class

This is our first drive for the current-generation Expedition, including more information about its engineering and design. The 2021 model has changed little from the 2018 version in this review and our impressions remain broadly similar.

2018 Ford Expedition
2018 Ford Expedition

 

2018 Lincoln Navigator Black Label Review

Get a taste of what you can expect from the ultimate version of the Expedition's mechanically related sibling. 

2018 Lincoln Navigator Black Label
2018 Lincoln Navigator Black Label

 

What features are available and what's the Expedition's price?

Pricing was not available at the time of this writing, but given the modest changes for 2021, we do not anticipate much of a price raise beyond last year's starting point of $54,205, including destination. We anticipating the 4x4 premium of $3,010 remaining the same, as well as the Expedition Max being a $3,025 premium.

Although that base price is rather hefty, the Expedition comes standard with an appropriately hefty amount of standard equipment. It includes 18-inch aluminum wheels, a class IV trailer hitch and trailer sway control, proximity entry and push-button start, a rearview camera with backup lines and washer, seating for eight, cloth upholstery, an eight-way power driver’s seat, a 40/20/40-split second-row bench, a 60/40 power-folding third row, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, three-zone climate control, auto dimming rear-view mirror, four USB ports (two front, two rear), and the Sync 3 infotainment system with an 8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satellite radio and a six-speaker sound system.

Until 2021 pricing is available, you can at least see a full breakdown of features, pricing and specs for the 2020 Limited, King Ranch and Platinum here on Autoblog.

What are its safety equipment and crash ratings?

The 2021 Ford Expedition comes standard with the Ford Co-Pilot360 suite of accident avoidance tech that includes forward collision warning with emergency automatic braking and pedestrian detection, lane keeping assist, blind-spot and rear cross traffic warning, automatic high beams, and inflatable rear seatbelts. This is in addition to the standard airbags, LATCH anchors, stability and trailer sway control, post-crash alert and 911 assist.

Adaptive cruise control is available as part of the Co-Pilot360 Assist package, but unlike on the new Ford Escape or other modes, there is no steering assist that effectively controls the wheel for you during highway driving (you still have to keep a hand on the wheel).

The Expedition earned five stars — the highest score — in crash tests from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It also got a four-star rollover rating, though the Max got three stars.

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