We continue the Cheapest Of series today on Buy/Drive/Burn, and check out the least expensive full-size truck-based SUVs on sale in America in 2021. And we’ve been generous today and equipped each of them with four-wheel drive to avoid any usability concerns. Today’s trio is very close in price but diverges elsewhere. Let’s go.
In August of 2009, I wrote in the Ode To The Suburban that I couldn’t imagine hauling seven people around without at least a cylinder per person. Thanks to Ford’s Ecoboost 3.5-liter turbocharged V6, the Expedition Max King Ranch does just fine with only six cylinders. This engine pairs well with the joint venture Ford/GM 10-speed automatic transmission.
Ford built the massive Excursion in its lineup to counter the market-leader Suburban until 2006. The Expedition Max was introduced for 2007, adding approximately one foot in length to the cargo space, which translates to about 15 more cubic feet of space thanks to a 9.1-inch wheelbase increase. This fourth and latest-generation Expedition was introduced in 2018.
According to pre-COVID-19 data from the American Automobile Association, 53 million Americans were expected to pack themselves and their stuff into 12 million automobiles and hit the road for an average 300-mile road trip in 2020. Most point to the relatively low cost, schedule flexibility, and reduced packing constraints as reasons to use their car versus anther conveyance.
But it’s the joy of the journey, baked together with a healthy dose of nostalgia, that drives me. Cars are necessary mobility implements in most of our day-to-day lives, but come road trip time they transform into chariots of adventure. Conduits to discovery.
As a kid, a 1979 full-size Chevrolet Van was my family’s dutiful wagon of exploration. We crisscrossed the West from Glacier National Park on the U.S.-Canadian border to Yosemite National Park in the central Sierra, up and down the Pacific Coast Highway, and points between. Road trips were coveted family time and these van-born experiences played no small part in the development of my love for the American West, as well as the automobile. And like all parents, I want to share the peak experiences of my childhood with my progeny.
There’s nothing especially unique about a first-generation Ford Expedition, given that the company sold hundreds of thousands of them in the late Nineties. But things get a bit more exciting when the Expedition in question was a custom build for SEMA.
So today let’s remember the boat times, with this 1998 SeaScape.
Unlike in the F-150 lineup, Ford’s returning Expedition King Ranch does not sit comfortably in the middle of the trim range. It’s on a higher shelf, sandwiched between the Limited and the range-topping Platinum. And, as you’d expect, the King Ranch version of Ford’s largest SUV, last seen in 2017, demands a premium over lesser Fords.
If looking like a refugee from Southfork doesn’t appeal to you, it’s easy to outfit your Expedition Limited to King Ranch specs for less money.
I am not sure if you have looked at this before, but there are aluminum issues Ford has had on several vehicles. I discovered it after I purchased as Certified Pre-Owned 2016 Ford Expedition XLT 4WD with the upgraded option package. It had over 38,000 miles on it when I drove it off the lot. That number will make a difference later on. The biggest issue though is galvanic corrosion under the paint many customers are experiencing.
The tailgate/hatch and hood are made of aluminum on several years of the Ford Expedition. Within a few years the paint starts to bubble. I read about it online, and contacted Ford. I got a call back from a “Regional Manager” from Ford. She blamed ice on the roads. I pointed out I am in California, and she said oh, then it is salt air from the sea. I then further pointed out I was in Sacramento. She informed me my vehicle did not qualify for a buyback. I said I just wanted it fixed. She said the five-year corrosion warranty didn’t apply to this unless it corroded all the way through the panel. It was covered up to three years/36,000 miles, and not one of the things extended with the Certified Pre-Owned 12 month/12,000 mile. The vehicle was driven as a dealer exec vehicle from about 27,000-38,000 miles.
A couple days later, I was told Ford would cover repainting it. After I dropped it off I found Ford TSB 17-0062, which says it should be replaced, not repainted. It took over a week because they found more extensive corrosion repainting it, but still repainted it after I pointed out the TSB. When I got it back, I had new damage (paint chipped on the hood down to the aluminum) and they have had it four more days now to fix that. I am concerned that one of the theories on this is galvanic corrosion due to dissimilar metal contamination in the aluminum. If that is the case, repainting will be a temporary solution at best. A solution that gets you further from the time when it is covered.
Ford Motor Company is calling back nearly 350,000 trucks and SUVs in North America to prevent possible rollaway incidents. The issue — one we’ve grown used to as of late — involves drivers thinking they’ve shifted into park while the vehicle is actually still in gear.
However, this recall isn’t the fault of confused drivers not understanding their newfangled shift levers or dials. There’s a real, physical problem here.
For an automaker worried about shrinking profit margins, spending an extra $25 million is just fine if it means cranking out 25 percent more high-margin SUVs. And the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator, now minty fresh after years spent withering on the vine, certainly fit the description of “guaranteed cash generator.”
Ford plans to add that sum to the $900 million already sunk into the Kentucky Truck Plant in an effort to boost production of its full-size SUV models, knowing full well Americans buyers will snap them up the minute they roll off the line. Is there a clearer example of an automaker treating SUVs as a license to print money?
Fifty thousand dollars is not exactly what springs to mind when one mentions the words “base model vehicle.” In fact, it’s likely to be precisely the opposite.
Thing is, this series isn’t solely about el-cheapo wheels. Sometimes, it’s about those rare occasions when an entry level trim for a particular model is the best one of the range. This is one of those times.
In 2016, Ford Motor Company’s stable of rear-drive vehicles came under scrutiny for six-speed transmissions that couldn’t decide whether to sprint or crawl. Owners reported that their 2011-2012 F-150s, Expeditions, Mustangs, and Lincoln Navigators would, suddenly and without warning, downshifting from upper ratios to first gear, ultimately forcing the automaker to recall some 153,000 of the vehicles in the United States.
It now looks like it didn’t recall enough of them. Dangerous downshifts continue, and not just in vehicles covered by the recall. Another concern is that the problem is reappearing in supposedly “fixed” vehicles.
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?
Despite festooning its large utility vehicles with the latest and greatest fuel-saving technologies — turbocharging, dual injection, 10-speed automatics — Ford isn’t finished reducing the thirst of its big SUVs.
According to sources with knowledge of the automaker’s product plans, the push for better MPGs includes giving those gas-fueled engines a break once in awhile. Care for an extra motor in your Expedition or Navigator?
You’ll have to shell out a fair bit of extra cash to get into a 2018 Ford Expedition, as the completely redesigned full-size SUV now carries an entry price above the $50,000 marker. Ford has to pay for that aluminum body, you know.
Of course, buyers aren’t just receiving a lighter body and long-overdue styling update. More standard features and considerably more power comes as part of the package, as well as the return of an off-road package that disappeared as an option years ago. As buyers move up the trim scale, they’ll soon discover the price gap between 2017 and 2018 Expedition models only grows larger.
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