• What Makes a 2018 Ford Expedition an FX4? First Drive Off-Road Review (Video)

    2018 ford expedition fx4
    2018 Ford Expedition FX4

    What makes a 2018 Ford Expedition and FX4? The Expedition is all new for 2018. It borrows some of the underpinnings from the F-150, including the 3.5L EcoBoost V6 and the 10-speed automatic transmission. It has a unique independent rear suspension setup and a rotary knob for the shifter. It uses a Ford Super Duty dashboard, glove boxes, and instrument panel for a tough appearance.

    The FX4 formula is fairly straight forward. This off-road package does not give the SUV any additional ground clearance, but it does include a limited slip differential (aka. lockable differential), specially tuned shocks, 4×4 system with a low range transfer case, underbody skid plates, more off-road worthy tires, and a few design touches to differentiate it from other Expeditions. Namely, it includes an unique wheel design and running boards.

    How does it handle off-road? This is precisely what we wanted to find out, and we took it on an off-road trail that Ford prepared during the first drive event in Malibu, California. This trail was tight and steep at times, with loose small rocks in places. This giant SUV handled the tight turns (we even had to make a three-point turn once). The trail allowed us to test the hill descent control system and the traction of the 4×4 on loose surfaces. It was a positive first experience, but once again – Ford specifically chose this course.

    Check out the video to see how it did.

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

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    50 thoughts on “What Makes a 2018 Ford Expedition an FX4? First Drive Off-Road Review (Video)

    1. You called it a locking rear diff but the Ford Engineer called it an electronic limited slip that shifts torque back and forth. I know what the former is, I’m not sure about the latter.

      1. The electronic limited slip differential (eLSD) is a clutch-based differential that can effectively lock the make the two axle shafts (both wheels) to receive equal power. It’s actuated by a piston. It’s electronically controlled and it can receive signals from the wheel speed sensors, stability control system, and more.

          1. Actually it sounds like it is. It sounds like an Auburn ECTED which is a normal clutched LSD which has an electromagnet that can close the clutches and lock the differential. Its not a typical locker like an ARB, but for anything most normal people do, it works well.

      2. That’s the biggest Volkswagon I’ve ever seen.

        Adjustable middle seats and LSD?
        Good job Ford, Toyota has had that on their three-row SUV’s since 2005.

        Downhill towing performance or features? Of course not, I am sure th salesperson would not bring that up.

    2. TFLT: re, The Course: “Nothing that would bother a Honda CR-V”???

      This course was so pathetic that my 1996 Ram 2WD with open differential and 5-speed manual would have had no trouble running it! And the Ram wouldn’t lock its front tires to provide so-called “Descent Control”, when you need good, accurate steering the most!

      Modern Technology? Keep it. Learn how to drive!


      1. @Bernie,

        There were a couple of steep sections of dirt road. Without weight, a 2WD pickup might struggle unless it could get a good run. Often the camera doesn’t reveal steepness very well. But I agree, not hard. I don’t think Ford envisions this large people hauler to be much of a hard-core off-roader.

        Ford Hill-Descent Control is pirated technology from Land Rover whom invented the system and Ford benefited as owner of Rover for 8 years. It works extremely well in real life – I’ve used the original Land Rover setup and Ford’s current setup is as smooth or better.

        Actually, I was just plowing 9″ of slippery snow two days ago, on a very steep driveway coming down to a 90-degree turn down a steep hill. Terrible driveway to plow, and applying the footbrake would cause the vehicle to lock its wheels and slide at that low speed. My 2017 diesel Super Duty plow truck has hill-descent. Never thought about using it during plowing, but it worked fantastically. It allowed me to creep in reverse down the driveway and turn the corner and back down the hill without touching the brakes at all or any of the wheels sliding. I normally think HDC is a waste of time (gear down / use 4-Low) but in this very slippery application with a heavy front weight biasing traction, I found it worked exceptionally well.

    3. This course was not difficult and the standard Expedition / any other AWD vehicle would also have had no trouble. It sounds like the key piece to the FX4 package is the electronic limited slip rear differential. This is not the fully mechanical-locking rear end found in the F-150 or Super Duty, but rather an electronically-controlled multi-plate clutch pack differential. Pretty cool. The fully-mechanical e-locker optional on the trucks is more heavy duty, but is definitely slow to engage and disengage. This design will offer very fast response and put far less stress on the rear axles and differential, which is probably what Ford was shooting for.

      What I find most striking is how nice the Expedition finally is. The outside is very modern. Don’t necessarily love the back, but the front and sides are good.

      The interior still has horrible plastic cutlines where the HVAC vents meet the dash top, etc…and the steering column shroud is exceptionally bad…but the door panels are a very nice step up over the trucks. The center stack controls are *different* compared to the trucks, and nicer. Even the upper glovebox is covered with soft vinyl. The FX4 trim is also not a high trim.

      Right now, this thing is likely the best large SUV available. It has the most torque, likely best fuel economy, the most transmission speeds, the most modern look, the best ride and handling, and very competitive towing. It also offers a lot of features other large SUVs will eventually offer but currently don’t, such as the panoramic moonroof.

      Very nice! Too bad they cost so much.

      1. Toverman – – –

        T: “but [it is] rather an electronically-controlled multi-plate clutch pack differential.” AND “The fully-mechanical e-locker optional on the trucks is more heavy duty, but is definitely slow to engage and disengage.”

        A real ARB locker is even faster, namely zero time to engage, as it is always engaged once set (^_^)..

        This clutch-pack based LSD suffers from the same issues that all clutch-based LSD’s show: They’e effective for about 100K miles (depending on driving environment); and then you need either a differential rebuild, or you get a free open differential at no extra cost! (^_^)… Guess Ford was too anxious to talk about that, though…


        1. The way andre described it is that its a locking clutched LSD. Look up the Auburn Gear ECTED. Its a normal clutched LSD when driving under normal conditions but when you hit the lock switch, it powers an electromagnet which forces the clutch plates to close, effectively locking the differential. I would imagine it is as fast or faster than an ARB. Its not as robust as an ARB, but we are talking about an expedition, not a Wrangler on 37’s.

        2. Bernie,

          I’ve had ARB air lockers on my Rovers. They do not engage any quicker or slower than the e-locker on the Ford trucks or the lockers on a Jeep Rubicon. The biggest downside to them is winter performance. The compressor used to operate them makes hot air at its outlet. By the time the air gets down the plumbing towards the diff a bit, the condensation gets cold and can freeze. Then, no locker. I think the e-locker is a better solution. Either way, a pin needs to be shoved through a hole, and whether you use air or electromagnetism to accomplish that doesn’t matter. The locker can only engage when the pin and hole line up, and that may take several wheel rotations.

          What you describe as a limited slip is pretty different than what Ford has here. You are describing the entirely mechanical, centrifugal-action limited slips that do eventually wear out and even when working have a low bias…meaning they can only transfer so much torque to the non-spinning wheel.

          Ford’s eLSD is one that can positively lock and unlock very quickly, and uses very durable clutch plates. For example, it would be the same material as found in the clutch-based transfer case of any of the half tons which offer 4×4-auto mode, or any number of AWD vehicles. It won’t wear out easily and should last longer than the life of the vehicle.

          1. Troverman – – –

            Thanks. Good comment. Let’s see how the eLSD shakes out in real use over the long term. Agree on ARB, but it takes REALLY cold weather for that to happen.


      2. Wife and I stopped at the dealership to look at an outgoing 2017 Expedition EL XLT marked $13K off. Just didn’t have that refinement the Chevy Suburban LT has. Salesman says, “we have 1 2018 Expedition Max XLT with FX4 package with the plastic still inside sitting in the back. He brought it out. VERY NICE! Same color as in this video. Much much more refined! Very nice looking vehicle in person. Good job Ford! $68K sticker. Didn’t buy it, but really like the new improvements.

        1. The outgoing Expedition has a stronger engine, a better third row seat, better handling and a better ride than the current Suburban…but I’ll agree the interior is not as nice.

    4. For an FX-4 package it would have been nice if Ford gave it a little more ground clearance. Also it showed some squat towing that horse trailer. I like the vehicle and might consider it but would have to wait for a year old used model as I won’t pay the outrageous new prices.

      1. Squat, it wouldn’t be a Ford without it. Especially an independent suspension Ford.

        Although I give Ford credit for improving their terrible and long held problem of squat, they have finally improved squat in their HD’s. FINALLY!

        1. BTW, did you see the broken down Ford on the side of the road in the last Ike towing test between the GM and the RAM?
          Now you know why they didn’t do the Ford at the same time.

          1. Yep we all believe you now after these incredibly insightful comments. How would we have known Ford was so terrible and pathetic without Reymond2 providing such quality commenting in this comment section?

            1. So, why have you not addressed the issues I have brought up?
              That is what comment sections are largely for.
              Not for being a cheer leader. We get that from the marketing departments and people who in the biz like you Mr. Ford.
              So I guess any revelations about a vehicles problems are little person for you and you just lash back with a personal comment.
              I didn’t say anything personal. Just saying the facts.

            2. How is it possible you have not seen on n the road and on these videos for the last 20 years(20 YEARS IS A LONG TIME), and talked about on the engineering journals and on all the auto forums the Ford squat problem, when GM and RAM has largely taken care of that problem during that same time? You own Fords, how can you not see the squat? Maybe you don’t haul big loads or something and then don’t get out much or just wont’ admit it to your self because you are in the Ford biz, or maybe you know, but don’t wan to admit it to others?
              Everyone knows but you and the young’ns and the non truck people.

            3. No, I just use a WDH on my Ford when Ford asks me too, which is a 500 lb tongue weight. I am not the jackwagon towing 20 snowmobiles up into the mountains in a half ton with no WDH and my hitch scraping the ground. You know who I see doing that a lot though, Ram owners.

              I am only 29. I was in elementary school 20 years ago and wasnt paying attention to truck squat, so forgive me if my memory doesnt go back that far. Or that I dont care what happened that long ago.

        2. Reymond, you don’t appear to know much about the Ford sagging suspension issues. First of all, it only affected 2008-2013 Super Duty trucks for the most part. The “first-gen” Super Duty trucks used a completely different leaf pack design. Starting in 2008 with that generation, Ford chose to use fewer leafs in their rear suspension. Not only were there less leafs, but Ford lengthened them. This was to improve ride quality while unloaded. Although there were less leaves, the new leafs were significantly thicker and a bit wider than the old spring packs.

          The result *was* increased sag, and for the 2011 truck generation the problem was at its worst with even more softening of spring rates, particularly on the F-250. Ford chose to use 2″ spring blocks which more or less set the truck level with no rake. By late 2011, due to customer complaints, Ford issued a TSB regarding sagging suspension. Although Ford claimed no mechanical issue with the sag, the TSB instructed dealers to install 4″ spring blocks from the 350 on 250 trucks, along with a different driveshaft and other minor hardware. Unfortunately, this was at the customer’s expense.

          By 2014, Ford began installing 4″ spring blocks as standard on all 250 trucks.

          For 2017, the rear suspension design was updated. Although similar spring designs were used, the spring rates are higher and sag is no worse than any other HD manufacturer.

          I had a 2012 F-250 affected by sag and equipped with 2″ spring blocks. Even though I frequently put 2000+ lbs in the bed (hauling wood pellets), the truck never had any issue with bottoming out or exhibiting strange handling. It just visually looked like the truck had weak springs. A $400 Firestone Ride-Rite air bag spring kit totally solved the problem, very easy fix.

          So in the end, it was an *annoying* issue but one that was easily corrected or could be left alone if desired.

          You’re making a big deal out of nothing.

          1. This. Anyone who expects to load their truck near max with any frequency should be putting air bags or helper springs in. None of these trucks are expected to be running full loaded all the time, a bed full of air isnt that heavy and is what I see most pickups hauling most of the time.

    5. No doubting this is a nice SUV! I can would like to imagine it’s going to eat into some competitors market share in the near future.
      Would have liked to see a slightly higher ride over stock and slighter bigger/aggressive treads.

    6. You guys complaining about this test being too easy have to understand something. Ford has to provide a course for all journalists and they realize Car And Driver PUTC and Motor Trend journalists will be there. Their skills are limited to simple, make a dificult course and those journalists will f-ck it up.

      1. That is completely untrue. Car & Driver and Motor Trend employ some very talented staff. In fact, Motor Trend’s sister publication is Truck Trend, and they understand off-road quite well.

        Ford designed this course to ensure the Expedition could easily complete it while on the surface appearing to me semi-challenging. No different than what other manufacturers do.

        1. Troverman, five years ago I would have agreed with you over the MT and CD staff. I have subscribed to these magazines for more years than I can recall. To me they lack credibility when it comes to anything off-road related. They just don’t know what they are doing and have gone all hipster on us, like a uptown version of Jalopnik, only the guys on that website actually wheel.

          I think Ford has done what it needed to here. They have one upped GM but geez this thing looks like my Yukon with a blue oval on it. I am also anxious to see what kind of real world mileage it gets because that GM 5.3 is a modern day fuel sipper for a V8. We are getting 20-22 city and 24-27 city (depends on how fast we drive it). This is two for us now and they both returned impressive fuel economy. I hated my 15 Yukon (Lemon) but after bumpy start the 16 has been great. Does the Expedition still have the lower load height in the rear? My wife is not tall enough to really use our Yukon cargo area because the load height is so high.

    7. I have to say I like the way the second row seats can more forward or rearward. That will make sitting in the second row a lot roomier! And even though the third row will get tighter when the second row is moved rearward, really how many times does the average owner use all three rows at once. A lot of thought went into seat design and layout on this vehicle.

      1. Likely will be a problem for purses phones and just the cross traffic of bags and items when you are stopped. Nothing beats a column shifter, currently. Maybe they will figure out something better when the complaints roll in.

          1. Column shifters are currently in trucks because a lot of trucks still have bench seats in the front with a folding center console / seat. There would be no place to put a console shifter.

            Likewise, police want them so the center console area can be taken up by the laptop terminal and light / siren / radio equipment.

        1. X2. These manufacturers brag all the time about all the safety equipment on their vehicles,and there is. But then they turn around and put something like a rotary shift knob in their vehicle. When ram did it a couple of years back, the forums,including TFL were buzzing with complaints from their readers and owners. So now,fast forward to today and we see ford doing the same thing. Only now they take it one step further and put it on a horizontal surface, the center console where most people “throw” everything while they’re in their vehicle. Why don’t these engineers just use their common sense, maybe looking at past history as their guide, instead of just doing it because it’s cool and as far as safety; will figure that out later after the complaints roll in.!

    8. This is really sad to me. What an off road truck use to mean and needs to mean in order for people to avoid expensive damage is body and ground clearance. This truck does not have sufficient body or ground clearance to be called FX4 which socially means off road to people. It should not be marketed as an off road vehicle because many will incur expensive damage for falsely advertising this truck as off road. I have no respect for Ford in this regard and they guy said it, there is no extra ground clearance and they further made the problem worse by adding side steps and not removing the air dam. But they add skid plate? Why, if nothing is expected to hinder the truck beyond the low air dam or side steps than why add a skid plate that adds weight and reduces fuel economy and payload.

      And on another note how do you enjoy driving from the 3rd row when reclined? And what does that have to do with off road? Obviously a weak off roader so lets talk about other features right and let everyone buy it to off road and damage it so we make more money on part sales.

    9. The rotary shift works very well. Not only that, if you shut the car off without putting it in park, it automatically shifts into park.
      I have never found it to be ‘in the way’.

    10. I think it should have more ground clearance, real lockers, etc. basically more off-road oriented. As it stands, seems more of a marketing gimmick than anything else, my wife’s Porsche Macan Turbo is just about as off-road worthy (not really)…this coming from a Ford guy. I hate when manufacturers do this…..

    11. Not much of a challenge for expedition on this test that Ford gave them. The hill decent seems to be pretty good. I didn’t see expedition max on this test, which it will give you more 3rd row space then a standard expedition.

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