By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 10/24/2011
Full-size SUVs may no longer be all the rage in cash-strapped America, but like it or not, the need for such vehicles has not gone away. For families with more than four kids, or the need to tow a boat or trailer, a 6-cylinder CUV isn't going to cut it. Thankfully, the 2012 Ford Expedition has plenty of muscle and room to spare, and although the Expedition's fuel economy is not great, it is tolerable considering big Ford's herculean capabilities. Roughly the same size as the Chevrolet Tahoe and Nissan Armada, the Expedition distinguishes itself with its available 2-tone exterior packages, upscale interior options and cleaver interior features such as a power flush-folding third-row seat and the SYNC hands-free communication and entertainment system. For those who need more interior room, the Expedition EL offers an extended rear area that puts the 2012 Expedition in direct competition with the 2012 Chevrolet Suburban, Toyota Sequoia, and GMC Yukon.
If you and your family have needs as big as the 2012 Expedition itself (such as the need to fit eight people or tow up to 9,300 pounds), Ford's full-size family hauler makes a great addition to any garage. With so many well-thought-out features, the 2012 Ford Expedition is easily the best Expedition to date.
If your only requirement is room for six or seven passengers, then a CUV such as the 2012 Ford Flex or GMC Acadia is probably a better choice. A CUV offers more carlike handling, better fuel economy and improved safety.
Spotter mirrors are made standard on all trims, while second-row heated seats can now be ordered on the XLT Premium. Ford's Front Park Assist is standard on Limited and King Ranch trims.
Because Ford gave the 2012 Expedition an independent rear suspension (the two rear wheels can move independently of each other due to each being attached to a separate axle), its ride and handling are far from truck-like. Whereas a solid-axle vehicle tends to hop around on rough pavement and perform poorly in tight turns, the Expedition's suspension seems unfazed by bumps, ruts and other road obstacles. Not that the Expedition is going to win any slalom events, mind you, but it is remarkably capable for its size, weight and high center of gravity. The steering setup is firm with good feedback to the driver and the tall seating position gives an excellent 360-degree view, although it can be difficult to see objects near the lower rear-quarter panel; we suggest using those big spot mirrors before changing lanes. While we weren't overwhelmed by the 5.4-liter V8's acceleration while towing, the Expedition seemed fully up to the task.
The EL's 12-inch-longer wheelbase and nearly 15 inches of additional length provide a huge improvement in capacity with little increase in cost or reduction in fuel efficiency. Sure, your garage may not accommodate the extra length, but that's a small price to pay if you're actually intending to use your full-size SUV.
Keyless Entry Keypad
No more worrying about where to hide your key fob; with the keyless keypad entry system you can simply lock your keys and other items safely inside the vehicle. A preset combination entered via the door-mounted keypad unlocks the doors.
We'll save the explanation about the 2012 Ford Expedition's interior volume except to say it is impressive. The seats are soft and comfortable, with enough seat travel up front to accommodate passengers from 4'11" to 6'4" tall. The Expedition's third-row seat can handily accommodate two adults. Better yet, when not in use the Expedition's third row folds flush into the floor, a function that requires only a push of a button on XLT, XLT Premium, Limited and King Ranch models. While the base trims are nicely equipped, you'll find the most desirable colors and materials inside the Limited and King Ranch versions. Heated second-row seats, soft leather seating and a host of electronic aids make the top-level Expedition models feel nearly Lincoln-like. Opting for the EL version nets you 42.6 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third-row seat, a serious improvement over the 18.6 cubic feet available on the standard Expedition.
Who would have thought that boxy could be beautiful? Someone at Ford clearly did and in the case of the 2012 Expedition they've pulled off quite the styling job. Rich paint colors are highlighted by a bright chrome grille and tasteful side trim, and on King Ranch models, contrasting lower body cladding. Wheel sizes vary by trim, but can be ordered as large as 20 inches, negating the need for expensive aftermarket rims to trick out your ride. One very cool feature unique to Ford is the external keypad locking system that allows you to leave the key fob in the car and operate the locks via a combination lock keypad. For anyone who has ever lost a fob hiking or dropped it in the river while rafting, the keypad option is an indispensable feature worth its weight in gold. The Expedition's high ground clearance requires side running boards to make entry and exit a bit easier, not to mention less clumsy. Unfortunately, the Expedition's height makes it a bit difficult to secure items to the roof rack. Items not roof-bound can be safely tucked inside the Expedition, easily accessed via the available power liftgate.
The 2012 Ford Expedition includes the AdvanceTrac stability-control system with Roll Stability Control that modulates braking and engine power to help maintain driver control in marginal conditions, particularly those involving slippery surfaces. Trailer Sway Control and the MyKey programmable key system – which allows parents to limit vehicle speed and audio volume, among other things – are also standard. Occupant protection is enhanced with seat-mounted front-side airbags and a three-row "safety canopy." Other standard features include keyless keypad entry, 6-way power front seats, sliding center-section second-row seat, heated seats, rain-sensing wipers and a 310-horsepower V8 engine.
2012 Ford Expedition buyers can choose an optional PowerFold third-row seat that folds flat with the touch of a button. An optional power liftgate is also available. Stand-alone options include a rearview camera, DVD navigation with SIRIUS Travel Link, heated second-row seats, the voice-activated SYNC communications and entertainment system, rear-seat DVD entertainment system, SIRIUS Satellite Radio, auto-leveling rear air suspension and a 340-watt audio system.
While the 5.4-liter V8 is certainly adequate, Ford's one offering is overwhelmed by the multitude of choices available from Chevrolet and GMC. The V8's 310 horsepower and 365 pound-feet of torque are well-matched to the chassis, and that power is enhanced by a 6-speed automatic, but the package falls short of GM's 5.3-liter V8 (at least in horsepower) or GM's 6.0-liter V8.
310 horsepower @ 5,100 rpm
365 lb-ft of torque @ 3,600 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 14/20 (2WD), 13/18 (4WD)
The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the 2-wheel-drive 2012 Ford Expedition XL begins just over $38,000 and can climb to nearly $60,000 for a fully loaded 4-wheel-drive King Ranch model. The EL extended-length version adds about $3,000 to the bottom line of each of the four (XL, XLT, Limited and King Ranch) trims. The very high-end Limited and King Ranch trims include interior appointments and exterior enhancements fully competitive with the Lincoln Navigator and GMC Yukon Denali. Before you set out to purchase your new Expedition, be sure to check the Fair Purchase Price, which shows what others in your area are paying for their new vehicles. As for resale, Expedition owners can expect to see values similar to the Chevy Suburban and Nissan Armada, but well below the Toyota Sequoia.