• Big Boy SUV Towing: 2018 Ford Expedition MAX vs Chevy Suburban (Video)

    2018 ford expedition max long suv chevy suburban 4x4 towing horse trailer
    2018 Ford Expedition MAX vs. Chevy Suburban

    How does the all-new 2018 Ford Expedition MAX do at towing a trailer when compared to the Chevy Suburban? This is precisely what we wanted to find at the first drive event near Malibu, CA that was organized by Ford. Ford provided the vehicles and CM Trailers provided the trailers.

    The Expedition has been completely redesigned with an all-aluminum body and components from the new F-150 and the Super Duty. The Expedition shares the 3.5L EcoBoost twin-turbo V6, the 10-speed automatic transmission with the F-150, and the front part of the frame. The big SUV shares the dashboard layout with the Super Duty.

    Ford set up the horse trailers to a total weight of 5,500 lbs for both SUVs, and directed us to some up and down grades near Saratoga Hills, CA.

    Ford Expedition MAX Limited Chevy Suburban LT
    Engine 3.5L twin-turbo V6 5.3L V8
    Power 375 hp / 470 lb-ft (non Platinum) 355 hp / 383 lb-ft
    Transmission 10-speed auto 6-speed auto
    Rear Axle Ratio 3.73 3.08
    Max Payload (as tested) 1,625 lbs 1,489 lbs
    Max Towing (4×4) 9,000 lbs 8,000 lbs
    MPG (4×4) 16/21/18 15/22/18
    Staring Price (4×4) $65,595 $60,230

    The Chevy Suburban LT 4×4 did better with downhill grade shifting and speed control. The Expedition MAX Limited 4×4 used just a little more brake on the way down, but it performed better on the way up the hill and had better side mirrors for seeing around the trailer.

    We cannot wait to take these SUVs on the Ike Gauntlet and our 100-mile highway MPG loops.

    Check out the video below to see what happened.

    Andre Smirnov
    Andre Smirnov
    Andre Smirnov is an Automotive Enthusiast, Producer, Reviewer, Videographer, Writer, Software Engineer, Husband, Father, and Friend.

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    87 thoughts on “Big Boy SUV Towing: 2018 Ford Expedition MAX vs Chevy Suburban (Video)

      1. Wow, now. First of all, you CAN get a 6.2 in a GM big SUV.

        But since this is a Ford press event carefully crafted, things are going to get untrue. Thank you liars–marketing departments. Oh, and a lot of you lawyers too, and politicians and maybe some mechanics etc. 🙂

        Well, downhill performance almost ALWAYS tells you which machine is better engineered. So, once again the prize goes to the GM platform.

        And why are you surprised that the Ford has a saggy rear end? All Fords do! And have for decades, if you have not been paying attention. The new HDs have FINALLY improved this, but how embarrassing has Ford been for soooo long? I’m tell’n ya, Ford just has never been good at chassis dynamics.

        And if you think I am just bashing on Fords, it is a veritable truth that some of the new Ford cars have been leading the way on steering feel and effectiveness. But not on their trucks. I give credit where credit is due.

        1. You are not bashing the ford. I am just saying, that design of both is very boring.
          I don’t know what will happen to ford,when you put 7 people in it. You can’t tow anything.

            1. Dpach – Zviera was attacking the payload of the Expedition, and I was pointing out that the Suburban has an even lower payload.

        2. The Expedition squatting in the rear has everything to do with the IRS, which the Suburban does not have. Since both vehicles spend most of their time NOT towing, the Ford is the better vehicle since it has more interior room and a better ride due to the IRS.

          1. Soakee, sorry, you mispoke. The sagging rear is because Ford engineers created a truck. The F150s have sagged and still sag way too much, especially in comparison with their competition.
            So, its not the IRS. And don’t get me started on the Raptor, the saggiest of them all.

            1. So what are the actual measurements that the Expedition lowered in the rear and how much did the Suburban? So far you are speaking out of your butt because I have not seen actual numbers. Every Suburban I have seen is raised in the rear like every other Chevy truck while Ford tends to be more level when unloaded. So let’s hear the actual measurements.

            2. Zombiera, maybe you should post the numbers because you are claiming it squats more. So what are the numbers?

            3. I understand. You don’t know the numbers so you are speaking from your butt and your hatred of Ford products. So it is at least on record you don’t know “squat” about squat.

            1. The 5.3 is fine for a daily. Plenty of power unless you’re drag racing.

              But Ford compares it to the Biggest SUV Chevy makes, with the smallest engine and tallest rear end gears.

              Holy stack the cards Ford.

            2. They were comparing base engine to base engine. Go to your Chevy dealer. Nearly all of them on the lot have the 5.3 and 3.08, no low range. They are useless.

          1. Jason
            November 14, 2017 at 7:58 pm
            Yeah and they set the Burb up for total failure with 3.08.. lol what a joke..

            Really? Ford purchases the suburban off of a chevy dealer lot. So this is an actual over the counter purchase that GM builds. Ford does not build it. So based on your post, GM sets up the suburban for failure.

    1. Interesting little test. One thing I noticed right away was that the Expedition was sagging more than the ‘Burb in the rear. Could be the IFS or longer overhang, but with a 9k trailer on the back (the Expedition’s max tow rating) I can only imagine the squatting.

      The EcoBoost has poor engine braking. I’d say that has mostly to do with considerably less displacement. I’ve noticed it on every EcoBoost I’ve driven.

      I’m also surprised the power of the EcoBoost wasn’t immediately noticeable. The 5.3L is not the gutsiest of engines, while this EcoBoost needs to be, because it will essentially be competing with the 6.2L GM V8 trucks as well.

      That said, overall I thought the Expedition was the better looking of the two. I don’t love the rear end, but the overall styling feels more modern than the Suburban and better resolved. Certainly the interior of the Ford is nicer, especially the mega-moonroof.

      1. I’m not sure that displacement is that big of a factor when it comes to engine braking. The 2.7 Ecoboost had an excellent downhill run a couple of years ago. In the video they said they never had to touch the brakes. The only trend I can see is that lower rear axle ratios (higher numbers) tend to do better, and 8 or 10 speed transmissions tend to do worse than the 6 speeds.

        The GM 6.2 / 8 speed has been on Ike numerous times and it’s never had a good downhill run. But the 6.2 / 6 speed did have a good run on an older truck before the 8 speed came out.

        1. If we’re going to get technical, the engine/transmission/axle/tire with more internal resistance (drag) is going to provide more effective engine braking than a combination with very low drag. That’s simple physics.

          There are tricks to modify that, but it still holds true at a base level

          1. Nobody disputes that. Of course more drag is more effective. What is hard to figure out is why the 8 & 10 speed transmissions seem to have a hard time engine braking. I think the best example is what I mentioned above. The GM 6.2 / 6 speed had very good engine braking. Now put the 8 speed behind the 6.2 and the engine braking is not good at all.

            1. It’s probably inversely related to gas mileage. As these engines and transmission become more efficient and have less internal drag, they do worse downhill.

              There is no reason the 8 or 10 speed should do well, it’s not like they can’t make the same gear ratios as the old transmissions, so it’s gotta be a drag thing.

            2. I understand that theory. I guess I just have a hard time believing that they were able to make such a vast improvement in reducing internal drag.

    2. Visually the Suburban looked as if it was handling the weight better, did it have load leveling air shocks? The Ford looked as if it was squatting more than the Suburban, seems opposite as to what the published numbers say.

    3. I think they should have put a Grizzly Bear in the aluminum trailer. The Ford is nice, I like it but I would still buy the V8 because at the end of the day I still want to get laid.

    4. Thank you, TFL, for your video review of the quick towing test of these vehicles! Reading reviews from other publications at the same Ford event, one got the impression that the Expedition was head and shoulders above the Suburban in towing the same trailer around the Malibu hills. However, in your review, it shows that the older design Suburban is still on par with the brand new Expedition!

      1. Jon you beat me to it. I provide link to that article below. Interesting that different publications who both have “car experts” can seem to have such varying opinions. One says Ford mopped GM, they other had pros and cons for each but no true winner. Just goes to show how the “feel” of a vehicle can very greatly from person to person.

    5. For those interested, MotorTrend wrote an article about the exact same press event and comparison. Very end of the article:

      They bash Ford for copying GM’s styling, but bash the 5.3 GM for being noticeably more sluggish and having much worse handling… They didn’t provide the gearing info though. I would definitely expect a 10 speed, 3.73 with 3.5 ecoboost to crush the 6 speed, 5.3 with a 3.08! Exactly why Ford picked that Suburban to compare with. MT didn’t mention the engine braking difference, but their not towing experts either. Looking forward to Ike.

      1. The rear end differential is not a comparison. You make the same mistake TFL and Motor Trend made and I see regularly. Everyone compares rear diff which mean absolutely nothing unless they are both mated to the same transmission. The only thing that matters is the final gear ratio after the combined affect with the tranny and differential for each gear. Then the programming comes into affect as to how long each gear is held at what rpm during regular driving. I think the Titan has a 2:93 rear end, makes no difference because they reduce the final ratio with their transmission. I have seen a few articles that report on the final drive ratio and you can sometimes find them in the specifications and that is the only correct way to compare the two. Knowing that the GM had the 3:08 helps to understand that a 3:42 would help it out with the same transmission but it is not a comparison to the Ford. First gear in the Suburban could be a bigger ratio than the Expedition

        1. GM 6spd
          First: 4.030
          Second: 2.360
          Third: 1.530
          Fourth: 1.150
          Fifth: 0.850
          Sixth: 0.670

          Ford 10spd
          1st 4.69
          2nd: 2.98
          3rd: 2.14
          4th: 1.76
          5th: 1.52
          6th: 1.27
          7th: 1.00
          8th: 0.85
          9th: 0:68
          10th: 0.63

          3.08 vs 3.73 is huge

          1. You say GM 6 speed and Ford ten speed but there are variations. If the GM 6 speed had the 3:42 then what happens?

            What you posted Canoepaddler is what TFL SHOULD be doing as a comparable, that is the kind of information that is actually interesting.

            1. No, Canoepaddler is correct. The 10-speed not only has the gearing advantage, but the 3.73’s give it a huge additional gearing advantage. If the Ford had 3.08’s and the Suburban had 3.73’s, it would help even the playing field but the Expedition would still have more gears to choose from to help keep the engine in the powerband.

            2. Its not the 3:73 giving the advantage it is the overall end gear ratio.

              The EB also has a torque and HP advantage in early rpms due to the boosted motor. The Ford is clearly better on paper but its still not a V8 and therefore I wont buy it so long as a V8 is still available. I still have my pride.

            3. yes, the Ford has both deeper 1st and taller top gears. combined with the deeper axle gear, it guarantees more pulling power. Fun fact- if this “Burb had the 3.08 gear, then it was only rated to tow 6000#. You need the max tow package, which includes the 3.42 gears to get 8000# towing. Comes with stiffer shock, too.

            4. Put 3.42 rear in changes final ratio of coarse, lengthens the lever for simplicity sacks, giving a better mechanical advantage via rear end change alone. I do understand your point Rambro. Not all trans are same.
              Had 4.2l fords with 5spd, one 3.55 the other 3.08. They where a world apart!
              The GM transmission tune would really make this situation worse going one to the other in this test driving. Notorious dead pedal.
              Would really like to see the 5.0 with the new setup. Seems they got a forced induction setup for it too, with a warranty. Probably be scary fast in a reg cab if the tires could stay planted.
              Sorry rambling.

          2. Not Ford’s fault GM uses a 3.08 diff. Ford doesn’t even offer one that tall. GM wants it to go on about how efficient its V8 is. They can learn to take the bad with the good. It’s not as if the 3.42 axle changes things dramatically. The 5.3 is still a piece of shit.

            1. ALEX my piece of shit 5.3 only has 310000 original miles. In my 2001 suburban ,never torn in the engine or transmissions.It does have a little leak but no biggy.Good old valvline max life in it and a touch of Lucas oil stabilizer.Good maintenance has my piece still going.And it pulls a 8.5x 20 cargo a few times a year..pretty reliable I would say..

            2. and yet ford is throwing a huge gearing advantage against it here. Seems to me Ford doesn’t think the 5.3 is a piece of shit, more like good competition.

        2. well we dont live in fairy tale land where everyone has the same stuff. you cant just say only FDR matters. you seem to ignore spread (1st/top, higher the better)
          ford 10 speed spread:7.44
          ford 6 speed:6.04
          titan 7 speed:6.31

        3. Canoepaddler, I pasted a link to a final drive calculator I used here. You can see that the differential does not give the advantage to the GM with the 3.42 vs the 3.31 in the Ford because the transmission still beats the GM’s final drive ratio. This drive ratio is not what gets to the ground however as there is tire size to account for as well. Regardless these are what I came up with for final drive ratio and it depends on the combination of the transmission, transfer case which is usually always 1:1 for high range and your differential. Again we can see the larger differential 3.31 vs the GM 3.42 still has an advantage with the smaller diff because of the transmissions first ratio. I posted what I believe to be correct and you can use this for the F150 I believe as well. GM’s 10 speed will be identical to the Ford 10 speed so then differential gears will be the advantage when comparing the same transmission. Feel free to use the link to play with any transmission you want vs your axle ratio, if you believe what I have is correct here.

          Ford 3.31 with 10R80
          1) 15.52
          2) 9.7
          3) 7.08
          4) 5.83
          5) 5.03
          6) 4.2
          7) 3.31
          8) 2.81
          9) 2.25
          10) 2.09
          Ford 3.55 with 10R80
          1) 16.65
          2) 10.4
          3) 7.6
          4) 6.25
          5) 5.4
          6) 4.51
          7) 3.55
          8) 3.02
          9) 2.41
          10) 2.24
          Ford 3.73 with 10R80
          1) 17.49
          2) 10.93
          3) 7.98
          4) 6.56
          5) 5.67
          6) 4.74
          7) 3.73
          8) 3.17
          9) 2.54
          10) 2.53
          GM 3.08 Gear with 6L80
          1) 12.41
          2) 7.27
          3) 4.71
          4) 3.54
          5) 2.62
          6) 2.06
          GM 3.42 Gear with 6L80
          1) 13.78
          2) 8.07
          3) 5.23
          4) 3.93
          5) 2.91
          6) 2.29

          1. That is good info Rambro, I like it thank you. I may have been a little vague, the rear gear change would help the GM. The expy has the gear advantage even with the base 3.15 diff.

      2. No, no, again, you guys need to pay attention. This is not a review by TFL. This is a “first drive” by TFL at a Ford Press event–controlled b y Ford. It is not a review or a test or an instrumented test or real comparison. Its a press event, for goodness sakes. and so was that Motor Trend article of the SAME event.

        Read the actual tests and instrumented tests in comparison of these vehicles. I will quote them here!

        “the Expedition’s new-school thinking doesn’t pay the dividends we anticipated. Despite its aluminum body, the big Ford is still 100 pounds heavier than a comparably equipped 2018 GMC Yukon Denali”

        “the truck is virtually no quicker than the 6.2-liter V-8–powered GMC—and the Ford’s promise of improved fuel efficiency may be illusory. The Expedition’s 19-mpg combined EPA figure is 2 mpg better than the Yukon’s, but its 22-mpg highway number is the same. And in our real-world 75-mph highway fuel-economy test, the Denali matched the Platinum’s 20-mpg showing.”

        “If the Expedition is good at being a bus, it also handles a little too much like one. We didn’t think it was possible, but the Expedition actually drives bigger than it is, while the Yukon and the Tahoe manage to drive considerably smaller. Yes, we know that attacking corners is not exactly a priority for buyers of big SUVs. But even in normal traffic the Expedition’s ponderous handling and disconnected feel demand more of your attention, and ease of driving counts in this segment.”

        “Although the Expedition is roomy, comfortable, and well equipped, being inside of our Platinum test truck didn’t feel like a cohesive, upscale experience—which it should have, considering that our fully loaded test truck stickered for an eye-watering $81,765. (The base rear-drive XLT model starts at $52,890; the Platinum starts at $73,905.) The Platinum’s soft leather seats and handsome door panels are made of premium materials, but their effect is compromised by cheap-looking plastics elsewhere—the clunky trim around the large HVAC dash vents is particularly egregious—and a center stack that seems like it’s out of a vehicle costing half as much.”

        “The Expedition may be brand new, but the SUV that shows how new school is done actually has been around since 2013: the Mercedes-Benz GLS-class (formerly known as the GL). Almost as roomy as the Expedition, the V-6–powered GLS450 4Matic matches or exceeds the Ford in almost every area. Its unitized construction makes it about 500 pounds lighter, it drives two size classes smaller, and it’s deliciously luxurious inside. All that and a big three-pointed star in the grille—for $6500 less than a four-wheel-drive Expedition Platinum with no options.”

        Why am I always having to teach ye’all how to think? Could it not only ge the alcohol, but also too much senseless sex? MAYBE, by the looks of the above comments. Balance, balance.

        1. The above comment was supposed to fall right below the farther above comments talking about the press event articles. Not this article on this page that is a review comparison. But I guess the “replies” knocked me down here.

    6. You are correct in some regard that ratios cant be compared w/out identical transmissions and tire sizes, but there is no question the newer 10 speed should be able to better utilize the a 3.73 ratio than the 5.3 6 sp w/ 3.08, unless Ford completely screwed up when programming it. If you look back at my comment, that is all I intended. The 3.5 ecoboost has more go than the 5.3. The 10 speed should be better than the 6 speed for finding the optimal gear. And the 3.73 will be better than the 3.08 for towing. Final drive ratio between the 2 can be very close to the same depending on which gear each one is in. No reason the Ford shouldn’t have completely mopped the GM with how they were equipped

      1. I think the 3:73 caught Andre, typically he has been using the 10 speed with the 3:55. Notice the first time Andre floored it and the he did not get it to drop to 2nd, he had to slow down to get it to drop. It acts differently and can be an advantage or disadvantage depending on cruise speed. But each gear will be easier to pull under hard acceleration with the lower rear end with the same 10 speed. That is assuming the 10 speed is the same in the F150 as it is in the SUV’s.

    7. VERY limited comparison.

      Suburban looks better ….still. Ford emulated the profile of the GM ute especially in the pillar design from profile.

      Suburban , according to the info given, is a significant $5K less…dont know if this is true.

      This test looked like central Texas (greatest state in the nation) so NOT at the crazy Ike altitude and as expected, the 5.3 was down but not significantly , to the Ecoboost in the very limited driving you did and was better on the downhill portion.

      Suburban didnt sag much but the Ford sagged noticeably .

      Ford’s listed payload is higher but those numbers on BOTH are NOT real . You MUST weigh the vehicle and subtract the ACTUAL weight from the gross vehicle weight rating to get ACTUAL payload. Most of the time the listed ratings dont reflect all of the options available that are on a particular unit.

      Apples to apples would be using a GMC Yukon with the 6.2L and 10 spd now available. Chevy should offer the 6.2L as an option , dont know WHY they dont do this.

      Given that the Exped is all new and the Suburban is nearing the end of its life cycle , the GM seemed to do well. Its biggest disadvantage? Live axle ride and space sapping (but , is good for towing/load hauling , simplicity , cost, weight savings) .

      1. I agree the Chevy looks nicer still but the Ford is a huge improvement over what it looked like before. The Lincoln vs Escalade will be interesting. I hope they add the SRT Durango to that battle even though it is midsize it pulls just as much, actually more and has 475HP vs a Turboed 450HP (Lincoln) and 420HP (Cadillac)

      2. Agreed. This test was only looking at tow performance and in that regard the suburban did quite well. GM shoots themselves in the foot holding down Chevy to try to give GMC a place to exist. They can only blame themselves.

        Change the criteria, see which hauls 7 adults better on a one hour road trip. It’s all about how you will use it

        1. Actually, I think the Expedition would win that criteria: “hauling 7 adults better”. The Expedition has a much more comfortable 3rd row, always has, and now its even better, no comparison at all with the Suburban.

      3. “Apples to apples would be using a GMC Yukon with the 6.2L and 10 spd now available. Chevy should offer the 6.2L as an option , dont know WHY they dont do this.”

        I would imagine they’re holding back until the new truck platform is out. There’s a lot of work and validating that needs to be done before swapping engines and/or transmissions. Hence why companies like Toyota make powertrain changes at a sloth-like speed.

      1. Motor Can listen to the Motor Trend report and listen to a politicians rectum and you will get a lot of diahrea either way. Come to TFL and watch an honest review, its about the only honest reviews left online.

    8. Andre you say you can’t wait to test these suvs on the ike and on the 100 mile loop. I do hope you are going to allow gm to provide the suburban you use for those tests. Give gm the chance to provide a vehicle better equipped to pull the ike. A 5.3 engine with 3.08 gears is not going to pull well and ford knew it. To me the fact the suburban did this well towing with its least powerfull engine option and basically “highway gears”, backfired on ford advertising this time. But again, in the future tests please allow each manufacturer to provide “their choice” of test vehicles.

      1. I agree with your goal of being fair, however, its not a matter of TFL “allowing the manufacturer to provide their choice of test vehicles”. TFL wasn’t in charge, Ford was. It was Ford’s demo of the Expedition and they provided a comparably equipped Suburban.

    9. Rambro

      I played around with rear gears in my ford that came with 3.5 to 1.
      Lowest was a 2.47 to one I think. It actually towed pretty good. In 3rd gear. Lol
      But I had to start in granny gear when towing and there was a huge jump from granny to second.

      3.0 to 1 didn’t do much except put strain on second gear starts and it didn’t increase speed much in 3rd gear towing.

      My point is this. With rear gears the transmission can adjust to your needs, except for start up.

      The wrong gearing can make granny geared first gear useless. To high and you cannt get enough speed for a good shift into second. Thats what 4.10s would do to me.

      To low and you can make overdrive useless.
      That’s what happened to me with the 2.47s. Any kind of grade while towing and i would have to downshift.

      I know I’m comparing a granny 4 speed to a 6 thru 10 speed. But rear gear can make a difference to 1st gear and the last gear in any vehicle.

    10. Interesting that that 4:69 1st gear didn’t really help get the expedition up and running quicker than the suburban when getting on the highway. At least what I was interperting on the video.

      Some of you say that 3:08 gears are rated for only 6,000 lb , but yet tfl has it rated at 8,000 lb.

      I also noticed you guys make way to much of the saggy issue to much.

      Good video.

      1. Marc, I believe the 8000lb. rating is for that suburban with the max trailering package only. The suburban in the test did not have that package, so it is limited to only a 6000lb. tow rating as shown on the chevy.com website.

        1. I too noticed that the expedition didn’t seem to elicit any “wows” when they accelerated onto the highway like it always has when they are accelerating with the ecoboost in the f150. I believe the 3.5 in the expedition is different from the one in the pick ups. It seems like the ecoboost in the suv is more “eco”, while the ecoboost in the truck is more “boost”. This is probably why the new EPA fuel mileage figures are higher on the expedition this year as well.

          1. Or it could be that they were at sea level and it’s power difference between the V8 isn’t as exaggerated as on the IKE.

            The motor is “different” but according to the spec sheet the difference is that the torque comes in much lower in the rpms(2250)

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