By on October 31, 2017

2018 ford expedition fx4, Image: Ford Motor Co.

There’s nothing quite as uncertain as that little number staring at you from the window sticker of a new vehicle. It’s two digits long (unless you’re fabulously rich), followed by the word “combined.” We’re talking, of course, about the Environmental Protection Agency’s fuel economy rating, which often turns out to be an impossible-to-reach goal or — if you’re lucky — a lowballed figure.

Back in the days of lapels and flares, the hot gas mileage action was found in the compact and subcompact class. Economy cars, after all. Well, people these days prefer driving a vehicle that seats at least five adults in comfort while towing a boat and hauling 65 pounds of kid’s toys and a dog in the rear cargo area. With the heyday of the cheap little car long gone, the (fuel) economy battle rages anew among the largest, and most lucrative, vehicles on the road.

So, do you believe the EPA when it says the massive 2018 Ford Expedition gets 20 miles per gallon combined?

That’s the official rating for the regular length, rear-drive Expedition, which is wholly new for the 2018 model year. Adding wheelbase or four-wheel traction brings that figure down by 1 mpg in either case, or 2 mpg with both factors combined. Still, the entry-level Expedition’s fuel economy tops its main rival’s rating by 1 mpg, and that’s no small thing for Dearborn brass.

This rating makes it a class-leader.

With Ford, topping the 2018 Chevrolet Suburban’s base price by nearly $1,500 is no big deal if enough buyers come over to the Expedition camp — and if they’re willing to shell out nearly $80,000 for a top-flight variant, all the better. However, fuel economy is a marketing win.

The EPA rates the 2WD 2018 Suburban at 16 mpg city, 23 mpg highway, and 19 mpg combined — 1 mpg below the Suburban in each category. Add 4WD, and the Suburban still sits below the Expedition, though choosing the 4WD Expedition MAX brings the two combined ratings to par.

This shouldn’t surprise, as the two rivals sport very different powertrains. In the Suburban, you’ll find a very familiar 5.3-liter V8 and six-speed automatic. (So, familiar, we’re told it’s actually quite comforting. In the Ford, there’s an upgraded version of the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 sporting an extra 10 horsepower and 50 lb-ft of torque, hitched to a 10-speed automatic. That brings the model up to 375 hp and 470 lb-ft.

In contrast, the Suburban’s mill generates only 355 hp and 383 lb-ft.

While it looks like Ford has its cake and is able to eat it, too, there’s a reason the saying “your mileage will vary” exists. We haven’t had a chance to spend a week in the new Expedition yet, but past reviews have made us suspicious of the lofty fuel economy ratings of certain body-on-frame Ford vehicles. Two F-150 pickups, in both 5.0-liter/six-speed and 3.5EB/10-speed guise, fell short of the advertised combined rating after a week of fairly forgiving driving.

In his recent test of the 2017 Suburban, Mark “Bark M” Baruth’s mileage was just 0.5 mpg shy of the combined EPA rating. Because of this, we’re taking the EPA rating with a grain of salt.

But who knows, Ford might surprise us all. Certainly, the new Expedition’s aluminum-heavy weight loss regimen points to an automaker that’s concerned about thirstiness. The 2018 model should start rolling off dealer lots later this year.

[Image: Ford Motor Company]

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36 Comments on “The New Thriftpower? EPA Says Less-thirsty 2018 Ford Expedition Tops Its Class...”


  • avatar
    zamoti

    I believe the hype. I rented a 2017 a few weeks ago, and though it was 4wd and not 2wd, I easily got 18 MPG in mixed driving (more freeway than city however). At least that’s what the trip computer said. Also, I wasn’t pussyfooting around either, I was more than happy to get into some boost. I have a Navigator with the tired 5.4 triton and the 3.5 EB was FAR better in just about every respect. It is quiet, smooth, pulls harder and gets better mileage (I get on average about 14mpg with the Triton, more city than highway). I’m not sure why the Expy isn’t popular compared to the Suburban, but if I were in the market to buy again, I’d vote for the Expedition.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    Any hills or head winds affect these numbers drastically. I find this article amusing. In general people who have the money to spend on these vehicles are not concerned about gas mpg.

    With the price escalation of these vehicles (among others) they are no longer your middle class family hauler-unless they are purchased used-even then you still looking at the $40,000 mark for something with plenty of life left in it.

  • avatar
    Higheriq

    “So, do you believe the EPA when it says the massive 2018 Ford Expedition gets 20 miles per gallon combined?”

    Yes. I have owned two EcoBoost-powered Fords and have had NO trouble meeting or exceeding the EPA estimates. It’s all in how they’re driven.

    • 0 avatar
      No Nickname Required

      “It’s all in how they’re driven.”

      ^^this^^

      I listen to people complain about poor fuel mileage. Then I ask or watch how they drive. Most of the time low mpg is caused by overloading the vehicle and/or by driving aggressively, i.e sustained high speeds, heavy acceleration and braking, etc.

      Granted, there are other reasons for poor fuel economy. Improper tuning can certainly hurt mpg. And some vehicles are simply aerodynamically challenged.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I believe the vehicle hits those numbers when subjected to the EPA test protocol.

    But too often the EPA test protocol doesn’t match reality. Having an average highway speed of 48 mph is ridiculous.

    https://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/fe_test_schedules.shtml#highway

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Maybe the flipped the digits and meant to use 84 as average highway speed. Guess the EPA’s version of a highway is way different then mine.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        This is why I like to head over to Car and Driver to check if they have done “In-Depth Reviews” of a car I might be interested in.

        Their fuel economy testing is conducted thus: “We perform our own fuel-economy test in an attempt to replicate how most people drive on the highway. Our procedure entails a 200-mile loop on Michigan’s I-94 highway. We maintain a GPS-verified 75 mph and use the cruise control as much as possible to mimic the way many drivers behave during long trips.”

        At least it gives me an idea of how I might expect to do on a long trip at more realistic speeds.

        • 0 avatar
          No Nickname Required

          Dan,

          I agree that Car and Driver’s highway loop is more real world than the EPA’s. But it is interesting how many vehicles get within 1 mpg of the EPA rating in Car & Driver’s testing. And a few actually surpass the rating.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            Remember the hwy test that averages 48 mph because there are stops and low speed driving involved vs today’s interstate travel where you cruise along for mile after mile with no stops.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            I see Car and Drivers test as a good way of “ranking” the segment. If they have driven say 5 different full size sedans, all with the top engine available, whichever one returned the highest fuel economy is likely to get the highest fuel economy in the real world.

            Not a make or break factor for me in making a decision but definitely a part of my decision making process.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          One needs to look at how one drivers and where one drives. I’m 500 miles from a freeway so sustained 75 mph is never going to happen for me. Same goes for cruise control. I can get better mpg and yield a much smoother ride without it. Again, that has much to do with where I live.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    Sigivald

    More so when said vehicles have all the aerodynamics of a refrigerator turned on it’s side.

    I know….I own a half-ton pickup.

  • avatar
    redapple

    Everybody.
    My trip computer lies. MPG is ALWAYS wrong. Of course, its programed to lie on the high side. Every tank, the computer says 0.5 to 1.8 MPG higher than reality. You know, the hard part where idiots cant do Miles Driven/Gallons in the tank.

    Anybody else have a lyin trip computer?
    2016 Equinox.

    • 0 avatar
      No Nickname Required

      Yes. But the trip computer in my 2013 A4 is always pessimistic which is really nice. My hand calculated mpg is consistently 0.5 mpg higher than what the car’s computer shows.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      My Ford trip computer is pretty much dead on. I’ve measured the odometer against ten miles of mile markers. I’ve compared it’s consumption against multiple fillups, at the same pump. I’ve done the math and it matches my trip computer for MPG almost exactly (I think it was off by 0.1mpg over a few weeks).

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    I’ll take the bet that the Chevy gets better real-world economy than the Ford.

    I do like Fords but they seem to always get below their window ratings on MPG.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      Not always. My Ford 3.5 is rated at 19/28/22. Driving back and forth to work (mixed), I average 27mpg (26 in the winter, 28 in the summer). On trips, depending on speed, I manage from 30mpg to 37mpg.

      I’m aggressive, but not a led foot.

    • 0 avatar
      olivebranch2006

      I bought a 2015 Lincoln Navigator Long Version 4×4 brand new. I have tested and confirmed it gets 15 city and 19 highway so 17 combined. Since it weighs 300 pounds heavier than the 2018 redesign and lacks 4 transmission gears, I could see the 2018 eaking out 1 MPG higher combined.

  • avatar
    brn

    “only 355 hp and 383 lb-ft”

    Only? What a strange new world we live in.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    So now the LWB version is called the Expedition MAX, instead of the Expedition EL?

  • avatar
    deanst

    “The EPA rates the 2WD 2018 Suburban at 16 mpg city, 23 mpg highway, and 19 mpg combined — 1 mpg below the Suburban in each category.”

    Huh?

    Seriously, does anyone not think the suburban will at least match the expedition when it gets the 10speed transmission? I guess it’s another slow news day……

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    We know egoboost engines drink fuel in the real world. This will be lucky to see any better than 17.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      I’m thinkin’ you drink fuel in the real world too!

    • 0 avatar
      olivebranch2006

      My 2015 Lincoln Navigator 4×4 L gets 17 MPG combined. I’ve been testing it for 5,000 miles. It has the twin turbo ecoboost v6 and 6 speed transmission. I could see a 300 pound aluminum body weight savings plus the 10 speed transmission saving some fuel. Maybe even 1 mpg more combined.

  • avatar
    mike1041

    I think of EPA stickers as a guide for comparison only. Achieving the results is not going to happen. Too many factors affect gas mileage to come up with a number that will match your driving style and conditions

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