2020 Ford Expedition
Can the 2020 Ford Expedition take on GM’s Tahoe/Yukon twins? GM created the full-size SUV segment and has pretty much been the undisputed leader until recent years. Many have tried, but few have been successful in competing with GM in this arena. The Ford Expedition is one of the few that have.
The last major redesign of the Ford Expedition was in 2018 and the updates for 2020 have been minor. Consequently, Ford sent us a middle of the pack Expedition Limited 4×4 to test for a week. There are two wheelbases of the Expedition available, the regular and the MAX. Our tester was the regular which competes directly with other body on frame SUVs like the Tahoe, Yukon, Armada, and Sequoia.
Outside the Expedition remains a sleek and modern design. It is certainly a large vehicle with presence, but it isn’t bold and in your face. Curves and rounded edges promote the smooth look, while the addition of creases spanning nearly the full length promote an edgy modern look and break up the large side panels.
The hood is aggressive with power bulges on each side. To clarify, these bulges are sections where the hood is raised giving the illusion that a very large engine hides underneath and needs some extra clearance to fit. Of course, we know that these are purely a visual cue, and we like them.
The standard headlights and grill blend perfectly into each other creating a seamless design. Likewise, the fog lights sit low in the front bumper and are outlined with the familiar bracket shape of the headlights. More on the lights in the driving section.
Our tester was equipped with the FX4 Off-Road package which adds function and looks. For example the 18-inch magnetic painted aluminum wheels and 275/65R18 (32-inch) Michelin AT tires. The wheel and tire combo are the right size for the tire to have a large sidewall for trips on the less beaten path, and to help smooth out bumps on pavement.
Power deploying running boards are standard on the Limited trim Expedition. Oddly enough the FX4 package replaces those with fixed running boards. Which doesn’t make much sense because the fixed running boards hang down lower and are more likely to get scraped or damaged while off-roading.
Inside the Expedition is basically the same as the F-150. Therefore it’s not new, but the interior still looks good overall. In the Limited trim the steering wheel and seats are leather wrapped, there are wood panel inserts, and plenty of power sources in all three rows. The steering wheel, front, and middle row seats are heated with the front seats being ventilated as well.
The front row seats are spacious, almost too spacious. For smaller people the seats don’t provide much side bolster support. The seating position overall is great. With 10-way power adjustability it’s easy to get a good position.
The middle row is comfortable and spacious as well, with the heated outboard seats and a separate climate control. It also has a 110v outlet and media controls.
The seats are split 40/20/40 (it feels like maybe 35/30/35) which means just the middle seat in the middle row can be folded. This is good for hauling skis or snow boards for 4 people in comfort. The outboard seats also tilt and slide for easy access to the third row. The tilt and slide feature can work with some car seats, which is a major benefit for parents with young children.
The third row is large enough to fit a full-size adult, meaning that 6 adults can ride comfortably in the Expedition. Leg room is a little tight, but it is enough, and if more is needed the second row can slide forward. There are two charging ports in the 3rd row as well.
To stow or unstow the third row all that is needed is the simple push of a button. The third row is split 50/50 and the sides can be folded down individually.
Cargo space is quite limited with all three rows up, but when the seats are down it becomes massive. With all the seats down there is 104 cubic feet of cargo volume. The 2020 Tahoe has just under 95, the Armada has around 95, and the Sequoia has 120.
There are two things that detract from the interior quality; The Sync infotainment system and the plastic bits. The Sync system is outdated with a blue background reminiscent of the blue screen of death from Windows 98. There are also a lot of surfaces that are hard plastic with a lightweight and cheap feel.
Driving the Expedition
Let’s start with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost. In the Expedition Limited it puts out 375 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque. Horsepower is down a little compared to many competitors most importantly though, the high torque at lower RPM makes the Expedition feel faster than the others.
The 10-speed automatic helps keep the EcoBoost in its power range and does well at being in the gear it needs to be in when it needs to be there. Downshifts can sometimes take a second when skipping over a gear or three, but with some practice that delay can be avoided with the proper amount of throttle application.
The suspension and ride handling are great, so great in fact that GM has copied the geometry of the rear suspension in the Expedition for the 2021 Tahoe/Yukon.
Nighttime driving isn’t great due to the terrible headlights. They aren’t bright enough and the cutoff isn’t nearly as good as the optional LED lights. Whatever other options you get on the Expedition be sure to get the upgraded LED headlights and fog lights for $740 which will remedy this issue. That may not seem cheap, but the difference is, well, night and day.
Off-Road in the Expedition
Off-road, the Expedition outperforms just about every other full-size SUV. Most important, is that it is the only one in the class with a selectable rear locking differential. The Expedition offers a 4-position transfer case; 2WD, 4-Auto, 4-High, and 4-Low.
For high speed traveling on dirt and gravel the Expedition is on par with the 2020 Tahoe and Armada, but not as well controlled as the Sequoia TRD Pro. Also, the updated 2021 Tahoe/Yukon with the air suspension and magnetic shocks perform much better than anything except the Sequoia for high speed rough road driving.
When the road gets really tricky simply lock the rear differential. Impressively on Ford’s part, this can be done in 2wd, 4wd high, and 4wd low. We believe that every manufacturer should offer an electronic locking rear differential on all SUVs and trucks with two speed transfer cases. It just makes sense to have a locked rear differential in something this big.
Eventually, after running our steep hill many times, the Expedition gave us a warning “4×4 Temporarily Disabled”. This is likely due to the clutch system getting to hot and shutting down to protect itself. Auto 4wd systems are great for bad weather conditions as they can engage and disengage easily and quickly providing 4-wheel traction when needed. However, they most often use clutches which can overheat when pushed hard for a long period of time.
With a base price of $66,470 the Ford Expedition Limited isn’t cheap, on the other hand neither are any of its competitors. The 2020 Sequoia Platinum starts at $66,020, the 2020 Armada Platinum starts at $65,720, and the 2020 Tahoe Premier starts at $66,895 and all are at least as well if not better equipped than the Expedition. However, the Expedition has the highest tow rating when properly equipped.
Our Expedition tester included two big options and nothing else. Firstly, the Equipment Group 301A ($2,555). This group makes the Expedition more convenient with Ford Co-Pilot assist, voice activated touch screen navigation and the panoramic vista roof. In addition, the FX4 Off-road ($2,035) package which includes the 360 degree camera, 18-inch aluminum wheels, skid plates, running boards, 3.73 axle ratio, and floor liners.
In conclusion, with destination charges this brings the total price to $71,865.
Overall, the Ford Expedition Limited is an excellent vehicle. Moreover, when Ford released the updated Expedition in 2018 it certainly set the bar in many ways for the full-size SUV class. However, with GM updating its lineup for 2021 the battle is only getting more intense and we can’t wait to see what Ford offers next!
Matthew Barnes is an experienced towing expert. He works as a mechanical engineer and his day job involves testing a variety of vehicles while towing trailers of all types and sizes. Matt shares his knowledge by writing for automotive news outlets in the evenings. When he’s not working he can be found spending time in the great outdoors with his family. He enjoys camping, hiking, canyoneering, and backpacking. Whenever possible he spends time riding in or on any power sports vehicle he can find and claims he can drive anything with a motor, which probably isn’t true.