Let’s be real, most buyers of gigantic body-on-frame SUVs like the 2020 Ford Expedition would be better served by a large three-row crossover. They ride better, drive better, get better fuel economy, and are easier to live with day-to-day than their truck-based rivals. However, there is a specific market for which a large crossover won’t work best – the towing crowd. For those who tow, and either prefer the “lockable box” body of an SUV to a pickup or need to bring their family along for their journeys, SUVs like Ford’s Expedition are king.
The large, body-on-frame SUV segment isn’t very large (har har) and comprised of relatively few makes and models, mostly domestic. Ford introduced the Expedition to the world in the late 1990s, and the 2020 Expedition Limited they sent me is the latest and greatest fourth-generation model, which debuted for 2018.
Of course, I promptly hooked my enclosed trailer to the Expedition and set off for our first race weekend of 2020 at Summit Point Motorsports Park.
What Is It?
This is a 2020 Ford Expedition Limited. All of these body-on-frame SUVs are loosely based on pickup trucks of the same make, and the Expedition is no exception. It shares wheelbase with a single-cab, 6.5′ bed Ford F-150 pickup. Running gear is also shared with the F-150 lineup, and the dashboard will be familiar to those with seat time in Ford’s popular pickup.
The “Limited” trim is top-tier on Ford’s trucks, but is toward the bottom of the lineup on Expedition, sitting just above the base XLT. King Ranch and Platinum are “above” Limited, though any of the three trim levels can be well-equipped based on personal taste. Every 2020 Expedition is powered by Ford’s 3.5 liter EcoBoost V6. My Expedition Limited produced 375 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 470 lb-ft of torque at 2,250 rpm. Moving to top-trim Platinum adds a performance-tuned version of the same V6, producing another 25 horsepower and 10 lb-ft.
Every EcoBoost V6 is paired to Ford’s 10R80 10-speed transmission, and while the Expedition can be had in two-wheel (rear) drive, most will come equipped with four-wheel drive, which has an automatic mode, or can be locked in to high and low ranges as needed.
My Expedition Limited had plenty of standard equipment but was sparsely optioned otherwise, only adding the “301A” package (CoPilot 360 driver assitance, navigation, panoramic sunroof) and FX4 off-road package (wheels, tires, skid plates, limited-slip 3.73 axle ratio). Total MSRP was a few dollars shy of $72,000. Strangely missing were LED headlights, which come as part of the costly “302A” package, or can be added a-la carte for $740.
Towing with the 2020 Ford Expedition Limited
Every 2020 Expedition is rated to tow a minimum of 6,600 lbs, and they all come with a hitch receiver hidden behind a plastic panel on the bumper. Ford does offer the “Heavy Duty Trailer Tow” package, which increases the tow rating to 9,300 lbs. Key differences with Heavy Duty Trailer Tow include a heavy-duty radiator, integrated trailer brake controller, and limited-slip 3.73 axle gearing. Buyers also get Ford’s Pro Trailer Backup Assist, which is helpful unless you already know how to back a trailer, in which case it may be annoying.
Though my Expedition was not equipped with the Heavy Duty Trailer Tow package, the FX4 package did provide the same axle gearing and limited-slip rear. I used a Tekonsha Prodigy RF trailer brake controller, as my Expedition was missing the integrated controller. Having used it on other Ford trucks, it is excellent and worth the money.
It’s also worth mentioning my Expedition was the shorter of the two Ford sells, with a 122.5″ wheelbase. The Expedition Max adds overall length and wheelbase, the latter coming in at 131.6″, a sizable difference.
My enclosed trailer measures 27′ from hitch to tail, with about 20′ of trailer box and 4′ of V-nose. Aluminum construction cuts weight, and fully loaded, it squeaked under the Expedition’s rated capacity by a few pounds. I used a weight-distributing hitch to send some tongue weight to the front axle of the truck.
In general, the 2020 Expedition handled the trailer very well. Power from the EcoBoost V6 was ample and delivered flawlessly, even pulling the trailer up steep grades. The 10-speed transmission has plenty of ratios to keep the engine in its power and torque “sweet spots,” instead of screaming at redline or lugging low in the revs. Ford’s Tow/Haul drive mode continues to impress, automatically downshifting on downhill grades and using engine braking to maintain speed and reduce heat generated in the brakes.
Were I purchasing an Expedition for myself, I’d choose the Expedition Max. I never had any scary moments with stability, but could feel the trailer bob a bit and threaten (ever so slightly) to push the truck around. More wheelbase from the Expedition Max would simply add a larger margin of error to the towing equation.
Driving the 2020 Ford Expedition, Without a Trailer
SUVs like the Expedition really shine when they’re used as trucks-with-bedcaps. In the Expedition’s case, its F-150 roots are readily apparent with minimal changes. The Expedition was exceptionally maneuverable, though, thanks to the steering rack that just kept turning and turning. Past the steering, it uses an independent rear suspension (instead of leaf springs) for better ride quality and more interior volume than competitors with leafs. Ultimately, it still drives… like a truck that can turn a little tighter and ride a hair softer.
For some, that’s not a bad thing. It’s a reminder of the capability and that capability is used often enough to justify the general trucky vibe. Others just like that feeling.
It’s worth noting the MSRP of the Expedition pushes it well into luxury-big-crossover territory. My colleague was testing a new Audi Q7, with a near-identical MSRP, when I was reviewing this Expedition. Although Ford’s Bang & Olufsen sound system is excellent, CoPilot 360 is one of the better driver assistance suites I’ve used, and the seats are comfortable for long drives, the whole package doesn’t really scream “luxury,” even if it’s priced that way. Granted, a Q7 won’t tow 9,300 pounds of trailer, and I’m not sure I’d eagerly put 6,500 pounds behind it either.
A Torquey, Top-Notch Performer
I found the fourth-generation Expedition to be a tremendous leap forward when it was introduced in 2018. Two years later, it remains very competitive in the segment (yes, that Audi was nice, but it’s a different class of vehicle). Ford’s EcoBoost V6 is such an excellent drivetrain, whether towing or unloaded, which keeps this 2020 Expedition feeling relatively fresh.
Recently, though, General Motors announced their next generation of Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon, which further distinguish themselves from their pickup truck roots.
Ford recently unveiled the new 2021 F-150, and I am curious to see if and when the Expedition will receive updates to match. Even with increased competition from GM, the 2020 Ford Expedition is a great offering for those looking to haul people and a trailer at the same time. Its drivetrain is the shining star of the whole package, and the rest of the package is nearly as bright.