The Ford Expedition entered the 2020 model year as our top-rated full-size SUV. Since the fourth-generation’s inception in 2017, we’ve applauded the big family hauler’s settled ride, roomy interior, and cabin design. Unlike its Chevy and GMC rivals, which are all-new for 2021, the Ford ditched its steel body panels to adopt the F-150’s aluminum skin and the 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6. The adoption of the new body architecture refined the Expedition in almost every way, delivering an enjoyable drive, more cabin space, and a good-looking design.
We liked the Expedition so much that we named it a 2019 SUV of the Year finalist, and shortly after that, it topped the charts when it won our Beast of Burden comparison test, beating the Chevy Tahoe, Toyota Sequoia, Nissan Armada and Dodge Durango. But with the new Chevy Suburban and shorter-wheelbase Tahoe arriving to dealers armed with a few of the Ford’s previously exclusive class standouts (namely their Ford-matching independent rear suspensions), can the Expedition continue to be the king of the full-size SUV segment?
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2020 Ford Expedition: What’s New
Mechanically, everything about the 2020 Expedition remains the same as before. For this generation, the Expedition swapped its old V-8 engine in favor of the 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6, which makes 375 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque in base form. A 10-speed transmission sends all that power to the rear wheels, but four-wheel drive is optional. Like we’ve noted before, the V-6 twin turbo is a sweetheart of an engine; it has enough power to move the big boy around town and on the freeway, and it never seems to struggle under hard acceleration or when going uphill while towing.
The same goes for its ride and handling—with its aluminum body reducing weight, you don’t really feel like you’re driving something that huge. Our Expedition XLT test vehicle felt planted even when driven on tight corners, with the steering feeling precisely balanced while delivering the right amount of feedback. Unlike the F-150, which—when unloaded—can feel like the tail is swinging a bit, the Expedition manages to keep its mammoth body controlled most of the time. You can thank its independent rear suspension for that; the F-150 still uses a truck-standard solid rear axle.
Like in the previous model years, the Expedition is available in two sizes: standard and Max. The regular, not-Max Expedition has a 122.5-inch wheelbase and a 210.0-inch overall length, and the Expedition Max is a foot longer with a 131.6-inch wheelbase and 222.0 inches of length. We had a chance to drive the standard Expedition, which directly competes against the Tahoe, whereas Expedition Max takes on the Chevy Suburban.
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Ford made some small but important changes to the 2020 Expedition, and unfortunately some are not improvements. The XLT, which is the base version most of us can buy (the lower-spec XL is a fleet-only truck), is no longer available with the adaptive cruise control with stop and go, the rain-sensing wipers, or the nine-speaker system. However, Ford Co-Pilot360, a suite of active-safety technologies that includes lane keeping assist, lane keep alert, driver alert, pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot alert with rear cross-traffic, and auto high-beams is now standard across the board. In order to get adaptive cruise control, one must now jump up to the pricier King Ranch—new this year, it slides in between the Limited and Platinum trims—or Expedition Platinum.
Our XLT came equipped with the Black Accent package, which is also new for 2020 and costs $1,895. The package adds 20-inch black wheels and second-row bucket seats, and it gives the Expedition a bolder look while also adapting an upscale appearance.
2020 Ford Expedition: The Inside Story
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Borrowing a page from the F-150, the Expedition’s cabin mimics the interior of its truck sibling. But there’s nothing wrong with that; the cabin has aged well and continues to have good materials throughout. Although it’s not an impressive cabin, everything is easy to find and arranged logically. From the gear selector rotary knob to the drive mode knob, the driver won’t have a hard time to know where everything is.
Although the Sync 3 touchscreen infotainment is getting old—and is about to be replaced—it’s generally user-friendly. The processor’s speed and the system’s graphics could use some help, but there’s no menu digging. Wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone integration are standard, and so is the digital driver’s display between the speedo and tach on the instrument panel.
But like with all big SUVs, what matters is behind the driver. Those seated in the second row will feel like they’re sitting in first class. The second-row captain’s chairs can slide fore and aft, leaving plenty of legroom for those in the third row. Although the second-row seat backs can move forward to leave space for easier entry and exit from the third row, we found it easier and quicker to simply walk between the two captain’s chairs.
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Riding in the third row is not a bad experience. With two USB ports, a low floor, and decent knee room, to continue with the aviation metaphor, the third row would be like a basic economy seat. This author’s 6-foot frame was comfortable at all times, and he could see himself riding in the way-back for three hours or so easily.
2020 Ford Expedition: Should I Buy It?
The full-size SUV segment just became more competitive with the new Chevys and the upcoming 2021 GMC Yukon. But despite the arrival of those SUVs, the Expedition continues to be a compelling model. It remains to be seen whether it is better than the new Chevys or GMC, but the ride quality, strong powertrain, and well-appointed interior continue to stand out. However, the Chevys beat the Ford on exterior styling; although it’s only a couple of years old, the Expedition’s design is not aging as well as its interior. The Tahoe, on the other hand, stands out in a crowded parking lot and has more presence on the road.
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Then there is the pricing. With a starting price of $57,515, the Expedition XLT brings a lot of value to the table. Our as-tested XLT came with a $64,520 price tag thanks to the aforementioned Black Accent package and the eye-watering $5,110 Group 202A package (power-folding third-row seats, hands-free power tailgate, wireless device charging, etc. ). Still, with three-zone AC, leather seats, and plenty of USB ports, we didn’t feel there was something missing for the price.
If you have a big family to transport or you simply want to drive a big and bulky SUV, the Expedition will fulfill many of your needs, and it’s worth checking it out before you make a final decision, even if that decision includes the new Chevy Tahoe, Suburban, or GMC Yukon twins.
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