Car Reviews

2019 Ford Expedition pulls like a beast, drives like a Winnebago

Stealth Edition? Stealthy like an elephant.

The 2019 Ford Expedition stuffs a lot into a large package, but the SUV is boxy and hard-to-control. Ford/TNS

2019 Ford Expedition Limited Stealth 4×4: When you need some space.

Price: $77,045 as tested. $7,540 for a Stealth Edition package (turning the chrome black, mostly) including panoramic roof, 360-degree camera, Driver Assistance Package, and voice-activated infotainment. $2,070 for Convenience Package, adding black roof rails, advanced cargo manager, and second-row inflatable belts.

Marketer’s pitch: “Built to stand out.”

Conventional wisdom: Motor Trend likes that it’s “roomy, capable, and powerful” but not the “rough 10-speed automatic.”

Reality: Stealth Edition?!? Stealthy like an elephant. Meet the “Stealthephant.”

What’s new: Coming off a redesign for 2018, the Ford Expedition carries over with just a few enhancements for the 2019 year (and 2020 as well). But it’s still a worthy competitor to the Enclave, Sequoia, and Telluride, offering three rows and plenty of space.

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Up to speed: The 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 powering the Expedition — the only engine choice — produces 375 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque. Motor Trend says it hits 60 miles per hour in 6.2 seconds, but it sure feels like trying to navigate a single-family house along the way. The Expedition doesn’t hold a straight line well under duress, starting or stopping.

On the road: I have never had the opportunity to pilot an RV, but I suspect the Expedition is a lot like that. It’s big and hard to keep composed. It’s the RL Burnside of SUVs — rollin’ and tumblin’.

A Sport mode would be nice. Though a sporty Expedition seems like an oxymoron, the Sport mode in the Cadillac Escalade makes that large SUV feel like a comfortable driving companion.

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But the underpinnings of the Expedition shine through — towing up to a whopping 9,300 pounds when equipped right.

Still, it’s worth wondering why the same Ford that makes the delightfully car-like F150 can’t do something smoother to tame its Winnebago-like Expedition.

Shifty: The 10-speed automatic transmission leaves a bit to be desired as well. First, the dial controller is a little off-putting, and only console buttons change the gears if desired.

Left in automatic mode, the dashboard features a column of numbers 1 to 10, noting which gear you’re in. It’s a neat feature, but also a drawback for Ford, as it made clear just how hard the Expedition was searching for the right gear. I haven’t seen that much hunting since I lived in Clearfield County, Pa., during deer season.

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It really made its true nature known on our last day. It had sat for three days, so startup was rough. Then a trip across the Pennsylvania Turnpike was just rough and shifty. Only after a shutdown for some food did it seem to regain its composure as we rolled toward the Garden State. I suspect a couple of software issues plagued the test model.

Driver’s Seat: An Expedition driver will certainly feel like king of the road from way up here, more so than in the Telluride. Unfortunately, seeing around the vehicle can be next to impossible — the outboard mirror has to be canted perfectly or cars in adjoining lanes will disappear at inopportune times, and I have the heart-rate numbers to prove it.

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Friends and stuff: We had the opportunity to fill up the Expedition with five of us and our luggage for a trip to Newark to catch a plane to the Midwest.

Rear seat space and access are impressive. The middle-row captain’s chairs make moving around the cabin easy, and the seats offer comfort and adjustment. Rear-seat passengers have almost minivan-level accommodations on the corners, but the middle seat is high and hard. Headroom is a bit of a challenge on top of all the truck components. Even my giant son found the space impressive for a couple of hours. “I think you should buy this,” he said. “It’s so roomy.”

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Stow up to 104 cubic feet behind the first row and 20.9 behind the last, although still tight for five people’s luggage for a long trip. Plan on stacking and get in the ready position when opening the liftgate.

Play some tunes: The infotainment center features plenty of touchscreen operation, but much of it is direct and simple. Knobs control volume and tuning, so that helps.

Sound is an A- or so, fairly impressive.

Keeping warm and cool: The seat heaters and coolers are impressive. Heater vents are hard to direct and impossible to block completely.

Fuel economy: Another part to the RV feel of the Expedition would be watching the distance to empty drop precipitously while driving. The Expedition is a piggy, averaging about 17 miles per gallon in my usual realm of testing, plus one trip down the New Jersey Turnpike.

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Where it’s built: Louisville, Ky.

How it’s built: Consumer Reports gives the Expedition a predicted reliability of 4 out of 5.

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