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Ford's all-new 2018 Expedition leverages F-Series architecture and all-aluminum construction.

All-new 2018 Ford Expedition gets aluminum body, 10-speed

When Ford Motor Co. leadership made the bold decision to invest in aluminum body structures for its F-Series pickups, they made sure the Expedition was integrated into the product plan. The resulting 2018 Expedition, unveiled February 7 in Dallas, shows the fruits of that wisdom.

Still riding on a separate hydroformed-steel ladder frame (itself redesigned and CAE-optimized for greater strength and lower mass), the new eight-passenger SUV sheds up to 300 lb (136 kg) compared with the incumbent model. The mass reduction enabled Ford engineers to move to a single-solution powertrain format—the 3.5-L turbocharged V6 with auto stop-start and 10R80 10-speed automatic. Reducing curb weight also allowed the addition of a large panoramic sunroof system, typically a significant mass penalty.

Chief Engineer Todd Hoevener smiled broadly when asked recently by Automotive Engineering if he expects significant fuel economy gains with the lighter vehicle. “Typically we're happy with mass parity compared with outgoing vehicle, due to added feature and safety content. But losing the 300 pounds enabled us to grow the vehicle size a bit,” he noted.

The 2018 vehicle will be built in short and long ‘Expedition Max’ versions, the latter measuring 12in (305 mm) longer; both are available in XLT, Ltd. and Platinum trim packages. Compared with the outgoing 2017 truck, the new Expedition has a 3-in (76-mm) longer wheelbase, is 4-in (102-mm) longer overall, and is 1-in (25.4-mm) wider overall.

Hoevener, a 15-year veteran of Ford Truck Engineering, claims it is the first full-size SUV to feature a sliding second-row seat. The tip-and-slide functionality improves access to the third row even with a child safety seat in place. The power-folding third row seat now reclines. Second- and third-row seats offer pushbutton fold-flat functionality. The interior design team designed a clever and useful storage-shelf “Cargo Manager” system for the luggage space behind the third-row seat. “That was done entirely in-house by Ford,” Hoevener said.

With the rear passenger seats folded down the cabin will accommodate a 4x8-ft (1.2 x 2.4-m) sheet of plywood with the liftgate closed. Ford Large SUV marketing manager Craig Patterson claims the new vehicle has two times the interior “cubby space” than its predecessor. He noted that the development team extensively engaged in UX (user experience) research with current Expedition owners and even visited their homes to observe daily usage.

The 2018 Expedition is one of the first North American products to utilize Ford’s new CAN-3 electrical architecture, Hoevener added. Engineers added a dial-type electric transmission shifter in the center console which saves interior space. An electronically-locking rear differential is offered, as is continuously-controlled suspension damping. Rear suspension is independent.

Body design and surfacing were optimized for improved aerodynamics, explained George Bucher, the veteran exterior design lead. The truck’s A-pillars are “faster” than the current model’s, a result of using much of the F-Series front architecture. Expedition’s aero package includes standard active grill shutters and extensively modeled exterior mirror mounts with subtle concavity on their vertical surface to minimize the “helicopter effect” of turbulent air in that area, Bucher noted.

“This program has a lot of wind tunnel and CFD time in it,” he said. “Todd’s body engineering team was great to work with--they gave us almost everything we wanted!”

The vehicle is available with a 4x4 driveline that features a 2-speed transfer case and Terrain Management Assist. “Our customers value towing capability in extreme conditions—ever try to pull a boat out of the water?” he asked. “Having low range is a necessity.”

Ford claims its latest SUV features over 40 “innovations.” We didn’t count nearly that many (if you could call them genuinely innovative) but the long list of electronic safety, comfort and convenience items includes a claimed “class-exclusive” enhanced active park assist; wireless charging for mobile devices; up to 10 WiFi hotspots with up to 50-ft (15-m) range; dual-headrest rear seat entertainment and an optional 12-speaker B&O audio system.

The cabin has 12-V power points, six USB chargers and a 110-V outlet. SOP starts in late 3Q17 at the Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville.

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