Holly, Michigan is not a place I expect to find an intimidating hairpin turn. And the Ford Expedition, at seventeen and a half feet long, and nearly eight feet wide, isn’t the scalpel-like tool I’d anticipate using in a tight corner attack.
And yet, here I am in the 2022 Ford Expedition Timberline, pressing a button labeled “Trail Turn Assist” and staring down an acutely angled bend in the narrow, wooded trail I’m attempting to traverse. For context, the Ford F-150 Raptor that’s leading our off-road excursion just executed the very same corner with an entirely inelegant three-point turn.
Trail Turn Assist has none of the flash of a tank-turning Rivian or a crab-walking GMC, but the system is brutally effective. By braking the inside rear wheel, the Expedition’s four-wheel-drive system essentially turns the stopped tire into a pivot point, powering around with the remaining three. I’ll be honest: The sounds associated with this maneuver might prove unsettling for someone who’s just purchased a new SUV, but the results can’t be denied. A turn, neat as you please, in an SUV so large it has no business even on this trail.
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|Quick Stats||2022 Ford Expedition Timberline|
|Engine:||Twin-Turbocharged 3.5-liter V6|
|Output:||440 Horsepower / 510 Pound-Feet|
|Towing Capacity:||6,500 / 9,200 Pounds (Base/Maximum when properly equipped)|
|Trim Base Price:||$71,490|
Gallery: 2022 Ford Expedition Timberline: First Drive
Practice The Fundamentals
I’m not so enamored of a day at the ORV park that I’m willing to give the Expedition full marks in the cutthroat full-size SUV segment. But it’s clear that Ford has done its homework – by way of the very able Bronco and Raptor – with the new Timberline trim. Should you need a very large, three-row SUV that can also cut across open country or get to a backwoods camp, the list doesn’t begin and end with the Jeep Wagoneer.
More importantly, however, the revamped Expedition seems to carry on the nameplate’s tradition of executing on the things that folks actually need in a large-format SUV. Space for the family being a prime example.
It’s clear that Ford has done its homework – by way of the very able Bronco and Raptor – with the new Timberline trim.
When compared with other SUVs in this class – a cadre of American haulers including Chevy’s Tahoe and Suburban, and Jeep’s still-new Wagoneer – the Ford is the shorty of the bunch at 210 inches long for the standard-wheelbase. But critically, Ford has prioritized space for people over space for cargo. Despite being almost 16 inches shorter than the Suburban, for example, the Expedition loses only an inch and a half of front-row legroom to the Chevy, and just fractions of an inch in rows two and three.
In reality, that means the first two rows are an easy fit even for tall folks like myself (I’m six-foot-five) and the third row is serviceable for third-row things like giving the neighbor kid a ride home from Odyssey of the Mind practice.
The compromise here is a dearth of cargo space. With all three rows of seats in place, the Ford only manages a skimpy 20.7 cubic feet of capacity – down between about 5 to 20 cubes versus the competition. Five cubic feet is significant: That’s a couple of large coolers or about three standard-sized carry-on suitcases. So if you were planning on taking your Expedition Timberline on a long-range off-road adventure… you may want to leave that neighbor kid at home.
Ford does offer a longer-wheelbase Expedition – adding nearly a foot of length with about 16 cubic feet of added cargo space – but not on the Timberline edition. You’ll have to move down to the Limited or up to the King Ranch, and leave your harder-core off-road dreams at home.
Power Cures All
Of course, there are those of us who value having just enough space and more than enough power. Loading up with the smallest displacement engine in the category, just 3.5-liters in a V6 arrangement, the twin-turbocharged Ford Ecoboost makes a Chevy-shaming 440 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque in this high-output form. (There are also 380-hp/470-lb-ft and 400 hp/480-lb-ft versions of this flexible powertrain, in the lower and mid-range trim levels.)
Matched to Ford’s 10-speed automatic gearbox, the powerplant offers robust acceleration from a standstill or from highway speeds, and utterly unstressed performance in general. With all of that torque, it seems like Ford could afford to lose a few of those gear ratios and offer an even more sanguine driving experience. But hunting between gears was at a minimum around my very flat on-road test route (results may vary for drivers in mountain states).
The twin-turbocharged Ford Ecoboost makes a Chevy-shaming 440 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque in this high-output form.
The “eco” part of EcoBoost holds true here, too, at least in a relative sense. There’s not a full-size SUV in the class that will blow you away with its fuel economy numbers, but the Expedition’s 15 miles per gallon in the city and 19 on the highway are right in the ballpark. Wagoneer is more impressive with 22 mpg on the highway and 16 city, while Chevy’s 5.3-liter V8-equipped Tahoe manages 20 highway, 15 city. (Anyone looking at fuel economy as their primary goal should direct their full attention to Chevy’s 3.0-liter Duramax diesel, of course.)
Expedition Timberline’s impressive torque surely is useful when powering through some mud and or ruts, but the specs shouldn’t indicate that this is some kind of “driver’s SUV” on paved roads. As you’d expect, the steering effort is light, response somewhat dull, and there’s nothing in the ride handling package that will encourage you to do much more than gun this sucker in a straight line.
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Thank God For The Encanto Soundtrack
Drop that hammer and the EcoBoost V6 will at least sound good when it’s still angry, but, sadly, the driveline noise doesn’t disappear completely when you’re simply cruising along.
I was curious if the Timberline truck’s more aggressive rubber – Goodyear Wrangler all-terrain tires come strapped to that trim’s distinctive 18-inch wheels as standard – were a lot louder on the highway than one of the on-road focused Expeditions. There was a bit more rumble coming from under my seat at a 70-mph clip, for sure, but the unmissable droning of the engine and exhaust was louder by a long shot. Combined with some wind noise coming from the large side mirrors, the overall NVH profile of the Expedition is marginal, at best.
Drop that hammer and the EcoBoost V6 will at least sound good when it’s still angry.
Thankfully, Ford has a couple of solutions here: two many-speakered audio systems with more than enough power to drown out the loudest engine buzz or tire roar. Audio partner B&O (a sub-brand of Bang & Olufsen but not one and the same, I was told by a company rep) has tuned a 12-speaker “Unleashed” setup for the remodeled SUV. There’s also a 22-speaker version of the B&O setup in top King Ranch and Platinum trim levels. Both systems bang hard enough to enliven your next family road trip, but the 22-speaker rig offered considerably more clarity, especially at medium volumes, than the lesser version.
Now, if you have a 3-year-old like me, jumping a whole run up on the Expedition trim ladder to get the fancy audio might only mean you’ll hear Carolina Gaitan in more sparkling clarity on "We Don’t Talk About Bruno…" one hundred times over. But over the long haul, you could consider the roughly $6,000 jump between trims an investment in music appreciation.
No matter which Disney score you happen to be streaming, the Expedition remains a perfectly pleasant place to spend time. I’m a big fan of the Timberline’s standard green (Deep Cyprus) leather interior with cool orange (Tangerine) contrast stitching and accents, which feels like it belongs in an Orvis ad.
Other material choices are less interesting, and quality overall tends towards “durable” rather than “luxurious,” which feels spot-on for a vehicle in this family-focused segment. In the front row, for instance, there are a lot of builder-grade plastics to be found south of the leather padded dash. (The vent surrounds, in particular, seem like they could’ve come out of any company product from the last decade.) Ford expects that nearly 30 percent of Expedition customers will hail from the Millennial generation, however, and I suspect many with younger families have more of a need for something hard-wearing than finely crafted.
A literal bright spot (and a large one) in the cabin is the available 15.5-inch touchscreen display running the most up-to-date SYNC 4A software. This portrait-oriented screen comes straight out of the Mustang Mach-E, and immediately gives the Expedition an air of modernity. I especially love the physical volume ring that seems to “hover” over the bottom of the display, which is both a cool visual detail and a functional triumph.
The software here is really easy to navigate and therefore use, with a static home button and vehicle button (that little Expedition icon at the top left) allowing easy access to infotainment and vehicle systems, respectively. I’ve never been a fan of SYNC’s rudimentary graphical style, but it’s clear the UX/UI guys prioritized function over form. And hey, wireless CarPlay and AndroidAuto mean you’ll typically be looking at your phone’s graphics anyway.
Design, Here Is One
One look at the new front fascia of the Expedition Timberline, punctuated with an orange accent stripe on the lower grille and a couple of similarly bright tow hooks, and you’re clear on what the designers were going for. “Outdoor Lifestyle” is the clear and obvious direction of this particular model. And though I like all of the individual elements – the dark green paint, the knobby tires on purposeful wheels, even the angular Timberline badging – there’s just a whiff of Try Hard Dad here. Even still, I think it’ll be a popular way to spec your new Ford.
One look at the new front fascia of the Expedition Timberline, punctuated with an orange accent stripe on the lower grille and a couple of similarly bright tow hooks, and you’re clear on what the designers were going for.
Step back a bit further, or look at one of the more conventional trim levels of the vehicle – Platinum and King Ranch for bling, the new blacked-out-trim Stealth Edition, or the XLT that everyone will actually buy – and you’ll see a large two-box SUV that is almost timeless in its simplicity. From an exterior design perspective Expedition is trying only to offer variations on an extremely conservative theme, to appeal to different slices of this very massive market segment.
Considering the segment co-champions, year in and year out, are the evolution-over-revolution Tahoe and Suburban, not reinventing the wheel with Expedition’s sheet metal is probably the right move.
Bottom Line It For Me
The barest of bones 2022 Ford Expedition XL STX, with its two rows of seating and scanty options list, goes for $54,415 when you factor in the $1,795 destination charge. When comparing the cheapest base models, the stripper Chevy Tahoe undercuts it by $720. (Nissan Armada, smaller and a bit worse to drive overall, waves hello at a bottom-line $51,095.) While these inexpensive, two-wheel-drive versions are far from the volume models, their prices do represent how close the whole segment is at every step.
My primary test vehicle had the Timberline pack which gets you the four-wheel drive and the off-road goodies, and retails for $71,490 all-in. That’s super competitive with the Chevy Tahoe Z71 4x4 with the 6.3-liter V8 at $73,295. However, Ford’s spendy High Equipment Group package ($9,220) doesn’t have a true parallel in Chevyland. That options group brings the big infotainment screen, cutting-edge SYNC 4A, the 12-speaker B&O sound system, and Ford’s Co-Pilot 360 Suite of advanced driving aids to the table. For those craving the newest in new, that could be the deciding factor.
Or, it could come down to what’s on the lot? We’re not out of the woods yet in terms of production constraints, and despite record-high gas prices, finding an Expedition that you can drive home today could require a literal expedition. Ford’s consumer site is even running a disclaimer about “global supply-chain constraints” when you load the build and price tool. For the foreseeable future, I expect any large SUV purchase to represent a strangely durable financial asset, which is weird but true.
More great news for folks and families in need of a new SUV this year, I suppose. For those shoppers this updated Expedition offers an excellent balance of capacity, surprising (new) off-road capability, and price, even with its noted shortcomings and conservative demeanor. And if you need to make a tight corner in the middle of the woods, well, there’s just nothing like it.
Expedition Competitor Reviews:
2022 Ford Expedition Timberline