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Ford Expedition Through the Years

Ford has spared no development expense during the long life of the Expedition. Due to that commitment, it’s set the bar for more than 20 years.

More Than an Explorer

1997 Ford Expedition - ford.com

1997 Ford Expedition – ford.com  |  Shop Ford Expedition on Carsforsale.com

When Ford debuted the Expedition in 1996 as a 1997 model, it was a part of the most extensive redesign of its truck and SUV lineup ever. With so much riding on this dramatic step forward in design, the vehicle was developed for more than 4 years with its final exterior design frozen in 1993, long before the public had any idea of what was coming. That hard work and dedication paid off when Expedition sales were outstanding. It offered more space, more power, and more capability for a family hauler than most anything else on the market at the time. Today, it’s taken those foundational ingredients and improved on them tenfold after four Ford Expedition generations.

First Generation (1997 – 2002)

1998 Ford Expedition Eddie Bauer Edition - ford.com
1998 Ford Expedition Eddie Bauer Edition - ford.com
  • Known internally as the UN93, the first of the Ford Expedition generations began development in 1991.
  • Considering this vehicle came out in the late 90s, it was incredibly advanced for the time.
  • It offered lit running boards, heated seats and mirrors, and dual-zone climate control.
  • Ford partners with clothing brand Eddie Bauer to create a top-tier trim level that features multiple luxury options including a Mach Premium sound system.
  • Maximum towing capacity was 8,100 lbs.
  • All trim levels came with a V8 engine, but owners could choose from two different versions.
  • The first was a 4.6L unit that built 215 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of torque.
1997 Ford Expedition 5.4L V8 - carsforsale.com
1997 Ford Expedition 5.4L V8 - carsforsale.com
  • A more powerful 230 horsepower 5.4L engine was available with 325 lb-ft of torque.
  • In 1999, these engines had power bumped to 240 horsepower and 260 horsepower respectively.
  • Also in 1999, just 3 years after its debut, the Expedition gets a facelift with subtle styling tweaks like lowering the front grille into the bumper slightly.

Second Generation (2003 – 2006)

2003 Ford Expedition - ford.com
2003 Ford Expedition - ford.com
  • Ford was far ahead of the curve and was already developing the second Ford Expedition generation as early as 1996, just as the original vehicle was going on sale.
  • Unlike the original SUV, development continued right up until release.
  • A new fully-independent suspension at each corner was an industry first for a full-sized SUV.
  • The improved suspension made the Expedition much more comfortable for families on the road.
  • Despite losing the solid rear axle, overall towing capacity improved to 8,900 lbs.
  • Total suspension travel was also increased to 9.4 inches in total, which helped improve its off-road capability.
  • The entire SUV was built bigger and stronger to withstand serious workloads.
  • To that end, the Expedition carried the largest brakes on an SUV (to that point in the history) of over 13 inches on the front.
2006 Ford Expedition - carsforsale.com
2006 Ford Expedition - carsforsale.com
  • The frame was fully-boxed, the steering components were stronger, and more advanced traction control was installed.
  • ControlTrac four-wheel-drive remained an option for the Expedition lineup.
  • Adaptive air shocks became available as an option.
  • Instead of simply being removable or folding over, the third row can now be completely folded flat into the floor, creating more rear cargo space.
  • Special effort is made to better seal the cabin of the Expedition leading to the quietest and most comfortable version ever.
  • A King Ranch edition with top of the line luxury features was offered for the first time in 2005.

Third Generation (2007 – 2017)

2015 Ford Expedition - ford.com
2015 Ford Expedition - ford.com
  • The Expedition was all-new for 2007 and, among many other things, featured a dual-overdrive 6-speed automatic transmission.
  • As one of the “SelectShift” transmissions, drivers can direct gear changes as one might with an automated manual.
  • The 5.4L V8 under the hood makes 300 horsepower for the first time.
  • The 4.6L V8 is no longer available.
  • Torque is also at an all-time high reaching 365 lb-ft.
  • Thanks to the additional power, torque, and improved frame, towing is up to 9,200 lbs.
  • Four-wheel electronic traction control is now standard across the entire lineup of Expedition.
2017 Ford Expedition - carsforsale.com
2017 Ford Expedition - carsforsale.com
  • Exterior design cues were massaged to better fit into the current design ethos of Ford SUV and truck options.
  • In 2009, the V8 gets a boost in power to 310 horsepower before it’s discontinued in 2015.
  • Ford replaces the V8 with a turbocharged Ecoboost V6 that makes 365 horsepower while getting better fuel economy than the outgoing powertrain.
  • A two-speed dual-range transfer case with an “intelligent” locking center multi-disc differential and “torque biasing” system is offered for four-wheel-drive Expeditions.

Fourth Generation (2018 – Present)

2018 Ford Expedition - ford.com
2018 Ford Expedition - ford.com
  • The latest Ford Expedition generation features a new body-on-frame design and an outer skin of aluminum for the first time.
  • While the wheelbase is 3 inches longer and the vehicle itself is 4 inches longer, weight is reduced by some 300 lbs.
  • Styling is heavily influenced by the concurrent F-150 of the time.
  • For the first time, a 10-speed automatic transmission is fitted to the large SUV.
  • Customers who take their SUV off-road benefit from Hill Descent Control for the first time in any of the Ford Expedition generations.
2018 Ford Expedition - ford.com
2018 Ford Expedition - ford.com
  • Towing improves to the best an Expedition has ever seen. It has a towing capacity of 9,300 lbs in its most potent configuration.
  • The NHTSA gives this Ford Expedition generation a 5-star crash test rating.
  • A trim level dubbed Max is used to denote a long-wheelbase version of the Expedition and better compete with the Chevy Tahoe.
  • It’s actually the second time the nomenclature is used after the UAE version of the SUV was sold as the MAX for some time during the second generation.
  • The latest Ecoboost V6 makes up to 400 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of torque.
  • Luxury features abound like remote start, ventilated front seats, and a power third-row bench are made available.
  • The King Ranch variant returns for the 2020 model year as the ultimate Ford Expedition trim level.
  • Multiple trim levels are available with massaging front seats.
2021 Ford Expedition interior - ford.com
2021 Ford Expedition interior - ford.com
  • An 8-inch touchscreen comes in all trim levels. Android Auto and Apple Carplay are standard.
  • All trim levels come with a 4G LTE Hotspot for use on the open road.
  • Based on spy shots, it seems highly likely that the upcoming 2022 Ford Expedition will get a mid-cycle refresh.
  • It seems likely that Ford will, as they have in the past Ford Expedition generations, follow the styling direction of the latest F-150 to better unify the brand.
2021 Ford Expedition - ford.com

2021 Ford Expedition – ford.com  |  Shop new Ford Expedition on Carsforsale.com

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2016 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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Stephen Rivers

Stephen Rivers is a car enthusiast who loves all things built with passion, extending to nearly all car cultures. After obtaining an occupational studies degree in sports medicine, Stephen turned his attention to sports cars. He was employed as an auto shop manager, spent time in auto sales, and worked as a software developer for a racing company, but Stephen began writing about cars over 10 years ago. When he's not in front of a computer screen, he's racing his own Bugeye Subaru WRX in as many autocross and rallycross competitions as he can.

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  1. Mark Marky April 7, 2016

    I do like the current one, but no V-8..
    I don’t want a twin turbo V-6 with a V-8 sound track pumped through the speakers as Ford does with all its Trucks and Mustang eco Boost….
    GM has the best true fullsize suv,Durango and Grand Cherokee are the best mid size suvs..

  2. Edwin Scott Howe July 5, 2021

    For years I have been a V8 fan. But it is hard to argue with a 400 hp V6 mated up to a 10 speed gearbox. When it is time to replace my current vehicle it looks like it will be time for V6.

    1. Carsforsale.com Team July 6, 2021

      Thanks for sharing!


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