Ford unveils tech-heavy 2018 Ford Expedition: a rolling entertainment palace

The 2018 Ford Expedition was unveiled today as the ultimate rolling infotainment center. The full-size SUV offers on-board telematics, Wi-Fi hotspots for 10, streaming video redirected from your home cable system, and dual middle-row screens each with their DVD player.

Based on the architecture of the Ford F-150 pickup truck, the new Expedition uses a body-on-frame construction (heavy but rugged) and an aluminum body that saves up to 300 pounds, Ford says. There will be regular and extended-length (Expedition Max) versions measuring about 17 and 19 feet in length, so measure your garage before shopping.

Infotainment for every row

Ford says there are more than 40 features and driver-assist technologies new to the Expedition. Up front, the infotainment system is an 8-inch touchscreen with Ford Sync 3 supporting both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There’s a wireless charging The upgrade audio is B&O Play with 12 speakers.

The middle row can be outfitted with dual LCDs in the back of the front-seat headrests, each with a DVD player as mentioned above. There’s access to a pair of USB jacks plus a 120-volt AC socket in the back of the front seat console.

The third row gets USB jacks on each side and a 12-volt socket on the right. They would use wireless or stored programs on tablets plugged into the jacks. All told, on upper trim levels, there can be as many as six USB jacks, four 12-volt outlets, a 120-volt AC outlet, and the Qi wireless charger.

Sync Connect telematics

Ford will offer Sync Connect, its telematics system (similar to GM’s OnStar). The Wi-Fi hotspot will support up to 10 devices running simultaneously, and it reaches 50 feet from the vehicle, useful at campgrounds or if you’re parked close to Starbucks when its Wi-Fi is down. Sync Connect works with the Sling app to redirect TV programming to the car. Just make sure you understand how much data you’re using; few automakers offer unlimited data to the car.

The FordPass smartphone app lets the user check on the car remotely: lock, unlock, start, and access diagnostic information. Ford is late to the on-board-telematics game. Now that they’ve arrived, they’re going at it full-throttle.

Driver assists

The 2018 Expedition “offers more driver-assist technology than any other full-size SUV,” Ford says. It certainly covers all the bases. It has the big three: adaptive cruise control (now full-range), blind spot detection (blind spot information system in Ford terminology), and lane departure warning.

There is also a rear camera and optionally a full-surround camera system, useful on such a big vehicle. There is automated parking (the car steers, the driver controls throttle and brakes). For people who haven’t mastered backing a trailer, Pro Trailer Backup Assist simplifies the task. The driver turns a knob on the dashboard in the direction he or she wants the trailer to go — no more remembering you need to turn the wheel right to make the trailer go left, but not so far that you jackknife.

Turbo V6, 10-speed automatic

The standard powerplant will be a 3.5-liter turbocharged (EcoBoost) V6 engine with a 10-speed automatic transmission and auto stop-start. Without citing horsepower, Ford says it will be the most powerful Expedition ever. There will be rear-drive and four-wheel-drive versions. Two circular controllers on the console control the automatic transmission and terrain management: normal, spot, tow/haul, eco, loose terrain (grass, gravel, snow), low traction situations (sand), and uneven surfaces (mud, ruts).

The vehicle is ideal for towing. Ford says it expects the Expedition will have the highest towing capacity of the segment, on the high side of the 9,200 pounds it’s now rated for.

Ford Expedition sales grew 44% last year but they were three times higher in the early 2000s. Among full-size non-luxury SUVs, it outsells only Nissan Armada and Toyota Sequoia.

Slightly bigger in 2018

Ford said the base Expedition will be slightly longer. The outgoing Expedition is 204 inches long (17 feet) and the Expedition EL (Expedition Max in 2018) is 224 inches, or 18 feet, 8 inches. With the door mirrors not folded, the old Expedition was four inches shy of being 8 feet wide, meaning it’s a tight fit getting into a garage with the standard 8-foot door (92 inches wide mirrors open, 80 inches mirrors folded).

The Expedition will come in eight- and seven-passenger versions, the difference being bench versus bucket seats in the middle. The middle buckets tilt as well as slide, so you can have access to the third row with a child seat still attached to the middle row bucket seats. Sitting in pre-production prototypes of both the Expedition and Expedition Max, middle row seating was excellent and third row seating was quite good. Most people of normal height (5-foot-9) should be okay in the third row. Most of the difference in length is the cargo area, which in the Expedition is incapable of handling the luggage of 7-8 people. For daily trips with the kids to school, a multi-level storage system provides easy access to shoes, balls, gloves and the like.

The Expedition ships this fall. Trim lines are XL (fleet sales only), XLT, Limited, and Platinum. Prices haven’t been set, but they’ll be significant. They currently range from  $ 48,000 (XLT base price) to $ 65,000 for the Expedition Platinum. There is no longer an Expedition King Ranch that was one step below Platinum. This is one of five SUVs Ford said it will launch by 2020. That includes resurrecting the Ford Bronco name.

Ford sold more than 200,000 Expeditions from its introduction in 1996 until 2000. Sales were just shy of 60,000 in 2016, a 44% jump on an aging vehicle, but proof of what $ 2.50 gasoline does to propel sales of three-ton vehicles. Ford is still well behind Chevrolet and GMC in big-SUV sales, beating only Nissan Armada and Toyota Sequoia. It hopes to regain ground when the 2018 Expedition ships in the fall.

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