Okay, so Ford says their all-new, 2018 Expedition with the FX4 Off-Road Package is the most “off-road-capable Expedition ever,” to which I say so what? If you think about it, that’s not saying much, given how little your average SUV is driven off-road, let alone in extreme off-road conditions. Ford more or less admits this by saying, “for the more than 20 percent of Expedition owners that use their SUV for off-road adventure, Ford introduces the all-new 2018 Expedition FX4 Off-Road Package, making this the most off-road-capable Expedition ever.”
In other words, only one out of five Expedition owners actually drive off the pavement. That’s like Craftsman saying, “hey, did you know that 20 percent of people who buy our tools actually use them to turn screws with?” That’s really nothing much to crow about, Ford.
So the all-new, 2018 Expedition with the FX4 Off-Road Package is better at going off-road. Good, I applaud that. I really do. But as it sits on the showroom floor, don’t expect any of these guys to be turning up at King Of The Hammers or the just run Mint 400. It’s better at running off-road no doubt, but it sure ain’t going to be running in this year’s Dakar Rally. Mostly, it will excel doing what most prospective owners want it to do: commute, haul groceries, get the kids to school and back, or soccer practice and back, and, two or three times a year, maybe do some camping. That’s the truly ironic thing here. Ford has done all these rather impressive upgrades and yet a majority of owners will never use it for that.
Lightweight & Intelligent Tech
It all starts with the Expedition’s high-strength, aluminum-alloy body, which is new this year, and the redesigned high-strength steel frame. Going this route cut 300 pounds, which is a lot. It’s like carrying a dirt bike for free, weight-wise. Anyway, that’s just the starting point for Ford. From there on out, they hang on lots of genuine off-road goodies that are pretty interesting.
For starters, there’s the patented electronic limited-slip rear differential. This helps improve off-road performance in low-traction situations, obviously, by automatically varying power side-to-side – that’s what limited-slip diffs do. The thing is geared at 3.73:1 and is electronically limited, rather than the old-fashioned sorcery of mechanical diffs (which I still don’t understand, to be honest). The Expedition’s new electronic diff also enhances towing performance and capability, which is a good thing.
There are off-road-tuned shocks, which are stiffer and designed to keep the wheels planted terra firma, whether that’s the road, the dirt or the etc. And of course, the FX4 package comes with better all-terrain tires. These off-road meats come with thicker sidewalls to preserve a smooth ride while bringing the traction needed over bad terrain.
Did you say skid plates? Oh my yes, the 2018 Ford Expedition FX4 has skid plates. This thing has seven skid plates. The seven deadly skids, if you will. There’s a new sand shield to protect the turbocharger intercoolers from getting clogged when driving through tall berms and sand dunes, plus steel plates to protect the steering gear, the engine, the transmission, and the transfer case, plus a full-length guard for the fuel tank. Also, the chin spoiler beneath the front bumper has been shortened to improve approach angles.
In the non-technical category, there’s a slew of bits and pieces and parts to make your 2018 Ford Expedition FX4 look good. There are 18-inch Magnetic Metallic-painted cast-aluminum wheels unique to the FX4, chrome running boards, and FX4 badging on the liftgate and front fender. And there is also the handy little goody of new rubber floor liners that feature deep side sills. Think of these as factory versions of WeatherTech floor liners. They can be removed and cleaned of any mud, sand, water, or what have you without all that gunk making it into your much harder to clean carpet.
The FX4 Expedition also comes with Ford’s new Terrain Management System. The TMS lets you select from seven drive modes that automatically adapt to different road conditions. There’s the normal mode for around-town driving; sport for “more spirited trips;” tow/haul for improved towing and hauling performance, obviously; eco for better fuel economy; grass/gravel/snow for loose terrain; sand for even lower traction situations and, at the far end of the scale, mud/rut for traveling over uneven surfaces. You can manually select either 2WD or 4WD in any mode.
Power & Performance
The all-new Expedition has tons of interior space, the-now-ubiquitous connectivity and smart technology features everyone expects, and the much-loved EcoBoost engine. The 3.5-liter EcoBoost cranks out 375 ponies and 470 lb-ft. of torque. It also comes standard with Auto Start-Stop and a new 10-speed transmission. Towing? How about 9,300 pounds? Not bad.
The 2018 Ford Expedition FX4 goes on sale this fall. So sure, 80 percent won’t notice what all that stuff is there for, but for the other 20 percent of you, enjoy.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He means well, even if he has a bias towards lighter, agile cars rather than big engine muscle cars or family sedans.