I started and stopped writing this review more times than I would like to admit. Spending the pandemic home with four kids, two dogs, and a parrot has limited my time for reflective contemplation. That being said, I miss the 2020 Ford Expedition Max.
We borrowed the Expedition Max for our family spring break trip to Colorado: a week of tubing, skiing, dog sledding, and just relaxing in the mountains. The Expedition was loaded and we headed for the Rockies. The best-laid plans never survived contact with the enemy. In this case, that was the virus and our reservation for the cabin was canceled as we were passing Denver. It was mid-afternoon and we had a choice: find a hotel or turn around and head for Kansas City. To the Expedition’s credit, we were all feeling pretty good for having spent the previous eight and a half hours on the road.
My wife and I decided that we would head back to our house. I entered it into the navigation and saw the arrival time was around 4 am. Yikes.
Having spent the majority of the day in the Expedition, I was not overly concerned with the return trip. The interior of the Max is really nice. Leather is everywhere. It happened to be white leather, which as a father of four would not be my personal preference. However, it did wipe down well when our time was over. I was able to remove all of the Cheeto Puffs orange hue from where Kid 4.0’s car seat was strapped down.
The second row had captain’s chairs which were large enough to seat adults comfortably while allowing a large pass-through to the third-row seat. We used to have a 2003 GMC Yukon XL and loved the captain’s seats, but the space to move to the third row was limited and hard to move to the back as an adult. The kids had no issues and I was able to move fairly easily to the third-row to strap down a car seat. The third-row has the full LATCH system in the outside two seats. Both captain’s chairs in the second row also have the same system.
The driver’s seat had great adjustments. You can use the controls on the side of the seat or use the SYNC system to control the functions. I had a lot of seat time int he Expedition and was really comfortable. Especially after I moved my man-bun high enough that I could comfortably rest my head and neck against the headrest. The best part of the front two seats is the optional massage functions. I was able to alternate heated and cooled settings throughout the 18-hour drive along with a lower back massage. The seat base also provides a massage, but for me, it was not as good as the back massage. I accredit this feature as to why it was as easy as it was to make the decision to head back to the house.
Personal Device Power-up
The Expedition Max Platinum also was loaded with USB ports. Every kid had the ability to charge their device throughout the trip. Those with iPhones had to alternate charging and using their headphones, which is still funny to me. But no devices died during our epic travel day. The wireless charging pad was helpful during regular driving. My wife and I both would set our phones on the pad and it would charge while we drove. It was nice to just pick it up and not have another cord in the interior of the truck.
The Max Platinum was also available with the 4-G LTE WiFi hotspot, but you needed to activate a subscription for it and I did not want to overstep during my time with the truck. It was already very generous of Ford to let me use the vehicle for the family trip. The hotspot would have been helpful for Kid 4.0’s Kindle had it been activated. She was limited to her downloads for this trip.
Something that was never lacking was cupholders. The Expedition Max doesn’t have the most cupholders of any model, but it was a lot. More than enough when you take into account that our car seats for the kids also have two cupholders of their own attached. We never ran out of cupholders and that by itself is worth it.
The Expedition came equipped with the 3.5 Liter EcoBoost twin-turbo V6 that is connected to a 10-speed automatic transmission. The EcoBoost is making 375 horsepower and 470 ft-lbs of torque. On the interstate, the engine was never lacking. When I needed to get a burst of speed to pass, it was there. The programming on the transmission was good for always having the appropriate gear ready to go. The Expedition Max is a big vehicle, but this powertrain made it feel like I wasn’t driving a 5,700 lbs truck.
I had 4-automatic selected for the entire trip to Colorado and averaged around 18 mpg headed to CO and 19 mpg headed back to KC. When reviewing vehicles, we usually discuss range anxiety with electric vehicles, but during the initial stage of the pandemic, even stopping for gas could bring possible exposure and caused anxiety. The Expedition Max has a 27.8-gallon fuel tank. This means that the range calculation on the dash always showed over 500 miles when I filled up the Expedition. I was able to achieve 22 mpg on the highway for an extended period of time in 2-wheel-drive and that gets you close to 600 miles of range. On the way back from Colorado, I filled up west of Denver and in Colby, Kansas. The kids fell asleep and it was Colby to KC in a single blast (~370 miles).
On an episode of Off The Road Again podcast, Ross and I discussed what would be the best apocalypse vehicle. We used as a reference point Zack Bowman’s article. Capability, Reliability, & Range were his three criteria. Consistently filling up and seeing over 500 miles of range was reassuring. The Expedition isn’t going to go rock crawling in Utah, but it does have the ability to handle most off-road situations. For the reliability category, we will have to wait and see. This generation of the Expedition is only a couple of model years old. It does come with a 5 year/60,000 powertrain warranty and 3 year/36,000 bumper to bumper warranty. Then again, if it’s the Apocalypse, what good is a warranty?
The Expedition Max does not drive like it’s size. I am used to driving bigger vehicles. I’ve owned a Yukon XL, Tundra, and Sequoia. This truck is two inches longer than the ‘03 Yukon XL and it did not feel like that at all. Part of the reason for that is the steering and turning circle on the Expedition Max. It really felt like a smaller vehicle than its 221 inches.
On the highway and around town the Expedition was smooth and composed. The steering did not have the over boosted feel that many trucks can have in their power steering. The steering was firm, but not heavy. The powertrain and the suspension really made the Expedition Max a pleasant place to be.
The interior lighting was bright LED lights, which was fantastic for helping to find charging cords and random knick-knacks that had fallen between the seats.
The exterior headlamps were also LED and came equipped with the automatic high-beam function. On the way home from Colorado I experienced a situation that won’t probably for most. We ran into freezing fog. The foggy conditions started east of Denver and lasted well into Western Kansas. The exterior temperature wasn’t always below freezing, but I was on guard for much of this section of the trip. If you’ve ever driven I-70, you know there isn’t much out there. From Limon, CO to the east of Colby, KS, the foggy, snowy conditions continued. The freezing fog started to build upon the LED headlamps. This started to limit their overall range, which caused my speed to drop more.
The automatic high-beams were helpful in this situation because it was one less thing that I had didn’t have to do. A couple of times the fog was so dense though, that the truck sensed the headlight reflection off the clouds and kicked the high beams off. Yes, I am aware that high-beams and fog are not normally the setup to see well in those conditions. This night, for whatever reason, high beams were delivering the best viewing conditions. I was able to relax when the exterior temp climbed back above freezing, so we only had to worry about drizzle and bridges freezing. This was the most stressful part of our drive.
The Expedition had a blind-spot system, 360-degree sensors, a lane-keeping system, and adaptive cruise control. The automatic high-beam headlights should also be classified as a driver’s aid because I didn’t have to use any brain energy towards monitoring that system.
The blind-spot system and 360-degree sensors were useful for changing lanes on the highway and navigating tight spaces around town. The blind-spot system did start a bit of a bad habit for me. Once I had the light turn off, while on the highway, I’d start to change lanes. A majority of the time, I was moving fast enough that there was enough space, but it was something that I would need to watch if I kept the Expedition longer.
Adaptive Cruise Control
The adaptive cruise control is more advanced than previous systems that I have driven. It appeared that the system was doing its math faster and more accurately. In the past, when a faster vehicle was passing on the left and I would slide out behind it to pass a slower vehicle, the system would sense the short distance and brake. This new system didn’t do that. I’m assuming it would quickly calculate that the new vehicle in front of it was increasing the distance, so it didn’t panic brake. This lead to a much smoother experience with the adaptive cruise.
During the freezing fog section of the trip, the adaptive cruise system’s sensors did freeze over and it would no longer engage. In the menus, you can disable the adaptive cruise and have regular cruise control back. This is important after we left the fog and the temperature warmed up. The adaptive cruise still didn’t want to engage, but the regular cruise control was just fine.
The lane-keeping system’s help was layered. There was the “Aid” function which vibrates the steering wheel and shows a red line on the side of the vehicle that is wandering too close to a line. The next layer is “Assist.” This layer will turn the wheel slightly to recenter the Expedition in the lane. I had both turned on during the night, but eventually turned off the “Assist,” but left on the “Aid.” I would occasionally clip an apex on the empty Interstate and the “Assist” layer was too helpful. For me, the “Aid” setting was just right. It brought itself to attention but wasn’t intrusive enough that it couldn’t be ignored.
We made it.
Long story, short, we made it home. We arrived at 3:45 am thanks to our last fuel stop and the kids falling asleep just after Colby, KS. I spent a large percentage of the drive under the speed limit when conditions called for it and still beat the ETA from Google Maps. I really like this truck. More time on the road means we get there faster.
I have spent the majority of my time the last three years driving a 1994 Toyota Land Cruiser. It is the trusty steed that I rely on as my daily driver and the vehicle that I turn to when it’s time to outrun cell phone coverage. I love the Land Cruiser, but it does have some drawbacks compared to modern SUVs.
The Expedition Max brought into stark relief exactly where the reliable Land Cruiser is wanting in driver and passenger comforts. We’ll need to find something else to get us to Montana towards the end of this summer. Maybe it’s van time?
As Driven: $84,065.00
Base Price: $55,835.00
Engine: 3.5L EcoBoost V6
Transmission: 10-speed Automatic
MPG: 16 city/21 highway/18 combined