There’s big, and then there’s Max. In this case Max is Ford’s new Expedition Max, as if the original Expedition weren’t large enough. Apparently it was not.
The Max is nearly a full foot longer than the original’s 210 inches and this special Burgundy Velvet Metallic ($395) test SUV was the Platinum edition with 4-wheel-drive, the tippy top of Ford’s SUV lineup.
And let’s get this out of the way right up front, it’s priced like the Platinum edition it is, starting at $81,505 with delivery and checking in at $84,065 as equipped. That’s way up there and competes well with its cousin, the Lincoln Navigator, which with 4WD lists at $76,185. Note too that Navigator’s twin-turbo V6 creates 450 horsepower, while the tested Ford’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 delivers a healthy 400 hp.
Either way, what you get is the most towing capable (9,000 lbs.) large SUV on the market, plus one that actually feels quicker than you’d expect in a truck weighing a smidge more than 5,500 lbs. Car and Driver magazine says the Max will do 0 to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds. Oh my!
Really, that’s one of the selling points to me. Most large SUVs feel big and lumbering, not much fun to drive. The Expedition feels large to be sure, especially when traversing a tight parking lot, but it gets up to speed quickly and smoothly thanks to a silky 10-speed automatic transmission coupled to those 400 horses. And this model has 4WD (a $3,000 upcharge), so slick roads won’t be a major obstacle.
While lengthy, the Expedition is easy to maneuver, for its size. Steering is relatively light. I’m not looking for sporty heavy steering if I’ve got seven or eight people aboard, and this will hold either, depending on your second row seat choice. This one came with second row bucket seats, captain’s chairs really with fold down armrests, for just $595 extra. That limits seating to seven, but a comfy seven.
Unlike many utes that have tacked on a third row of seats, there is oodles of leg and headroom in Expedition’s third row. Plus those seats are powered and can be folded flat via buttons inside the rear hatch, also powered. Second row seats also fold flat so you can carry, let’s say, a hall door or a load of lumber with ease.
But it’s most likely you’ll be loading the extended family into this long beast for a road trip. That’s OK too as there’s 36 cubic feet of cargo room behind that third row seat. Plus the Platinum edition comes with power fold-down running boards on either side. Otherwise climbing aboard would be a chore.
Ford has lightened the load for 2020 too by using more aluminum body panels on Expedition, as it has on its top-seller, the F-150 pickup. Plus now there’s a multi-link independent rear suspension while some other big utes (GM and Toyota) stick with a solid axle. That plus double wishbone front suspension create a smooth boulevard ride that many of us thought was long gone in today’s sport suspension crazed market.
Inside the test Expedition Max featured handsome white leather seats and black doors with white inserts and chrome trim. The dash was black and the console top fake wood with chrome trim. I’ve heard other auto writers bemoan the Ford interior, but it looked and felt ritzy to me. I also like the turquoise dash dial needles that are incredibly easy to see, day or night.
This Max also packs in heated and cooled seats, a power tilt/telescope steering wheel, power adjustable pedals and a giant sunroof overhead. Oddly, its infotainment screen remains fairly small, not as big and useful and modern feeling as that in the Lincoln Navigator.
Likewise there’s a wireless phone charger in the Platinum model, but it is a tight squeeze making it difficult to retrieve the phone quickly, should it buzz. A bigger opening could help that and I would hope the Expedition dash will be remodeled soon to more closely resemble the Lincoln’s.
Ford wisely includes its Co-Pilot360 safety equipment on the Expedition Max. Amazingly some luxury makes are still charging extra for blind-spot assist and a few other such necessities. Here you get the whole load from rear cross-traffic alert to a 360-degree camera, forward collision mitigation with emergency braking, the blind-spot monitor, lane-keep assist and automatic high-beam headlights.
Other goodies include remote start, voice-activated navigation, park assist, and a Bang & Olufsen audio system with 12 speakers.
On the practical side the dash buttons and climate control knobs are big and simple to use, there are three seat memory buttons, a giant center arm rest/storage box and 12-volt and other electrical outlets available. There’s also storage under the rear cargo area floor, heated second row seats and big handles in the B-pillars to help rear seat folks exit.
Speaking of pillars, the A-pillars are quite thick here, making side to front views a bit dicey. Use all your monitors.
Gas mileage? Well, the weight savings from the use of aluminum in the body show up here. The Expedition Max is rated 16 mpg city and 21 mpg highway by the EPA. I got 19.1 mpg, which is pretty amazing for such a large SUV.
Certainly there are plenty of competitors here, from Nissan’s massive Armada to Chevy and GMC’s Suburban and Yukon XL twins. Toyota has the aging Land Cruiser and if you want to go more luxury but less power and size maybe BMW’s X7 or Mercedes-Benz’s GLS class lineup.
But for comfort of ride and drive it’s hard to beat Ford’s Expedition Max. Plus it receives a 5-star government crash rating.
Hits: Huge three-row SUV with quiet interior, excellent power, easy handling and boulevard ride. Loaded with safety equipment, heated/cooled seats, wireless charger, power tilt/telescope wheel and power pedals, big sunroof, power hatch, power running boards and turquoise dash dials.
Made in: Louisville, Ky.
Engine: 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6, 400 hp
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Weight: 5,531 lbs.
Wheelbase: 131.6 in.
Length: 221.9 in.
Cargo: 36/79.6/121.4 cu.ft.
Tow: 9,000 lbs.
MPG: 19.1 (tested)
Base Price: $81,505 (includes delivery)
Burgundy Velvet Metallic paint, $395
2nd row bucket seats, $595
HD towing package, $1,570
Test vehicle: $84,065
Sources: Ford, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage