Taking the Chevy Tahoe Head-On While Still Remaining Humble

LISTEN 15:12

In a world where large SUVs are becoming the norm, there’s no shortage of models to choose from. Having recently driven the Nissan Armada and knowing that the Ford Expedition is now two years old as of 2020, we figured it was time to see if Ford’s resident large SUV can hold its own in a highly competitive, constantly evolving segment. After spending a week with the Expedition Platinum, we discovered a lot that we liked and a few things we didn’t – this is our experience and what you need to know.

Driving Impressions

2020 Ford Expedition - Driven Exterior
- image 939600
If you’re looking for sporty handling characteristics, extreme performance, or hardcore off-road capability, then you’ll want to look away from the Ford Expedition.

That’s not where this tank of an SUV shines, but where it does shine is hauling cargo, towing heavy loads, and keeping a large family or small sports team comfortable even on long hauls. The front seats are impressively comfortable and, while the rear seats don’t exhibit the same level of comfort, they aren’t bad. Ford has even managed to make entering the third row beyond easy, even for adults.

2020 Ford Expedition - Driven Exterior
- image 939602

The Expedition’s 3.5-liter V-6, while seemingly small for a vehicle this size, is peppy enough for normal driving duties and still manages to attain decent fuel economy. We were even able to exceed the EPA’s rating of 18 mpg combined with a surprising 19.8 mpg over the course of roughly 100 miles of mixed driving. There are some downsides, though, as we found the brake pedal to bit a bit on the soft side, which does cutaway on the confidence factor a bit, as does the heavy and slow steering. It’s a great vehicle on the highway and back roads, but its size and steering make it very cumbersome to drive on narrow roads or when negotiating small parking lots.

2020 Ford Expedition - Driven Interior
- image 939650

Tech seems to be about what you’d expect, and the infotainment system is easy to navigate and understand. The sound system is ample for a vehicle this size, which is a good thing given how noisy the cabin can get on the highway. It’s not horrible, but a fair amount of road noise does bleed into the cabin. If you can spring for premium fuel (remember this thing has 25-gallon tank), you’ll get the engines full power output.

In short, driving the Expedition was – for the most part – enjoyable, but it’s not without its faults, and Ford still has some room for improvement.

Ford Expedition Powertrain and Performance

  • Strong V-6 Engine
  • Better Towing than the Competition
  • Decent Acceleration
  • Maximum Power Output Requires Premium Fuel
  • 10 Speed Automatic Transmission
  • Up to 24 MPG on the Highway

How Much Power Does the Ford Expedition Have?

2020 Ford Expedition - Driven Drivetrain
- image 939603

Power output for the Ford Expedition starts out at 375 horsepower and 475 pound-feet of torque, while the range-topping Platinum trim delivers a cool 400 horsepower and 480 pound-feet of torque. In comparison, the Expedition’s main competitors – the Chevy Tahoe and Nissan Armada – both lug around larger, V-8 engines, but fall short when compared to the Platinum trim. The Tahoe will net you 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque while the Armada delivers a comparable 390 horsepower and 394 pound-feet of torque.

How Much Can the Ford Expedition Tow?

2020 Ford Expedition - Driven Exterior
- image 939597

The Ford Expedition, when properly equipped, is capable of towing as much as 9,200 pounds – a figure that bests most of the competition. The V-8 powered Chevy Tahoe and Nissan Armada fall inferior in this regard, offering up just 8,100 pounds and 8,500-pound maximum towing capacity, respectively.

What Kind of Fuel Economy Does the Ford Expedition Get?

2020 Ford Expedition - Driven Exterior
- image 939681

The Ford Expedition, in platinum trim, is rated at 16 mpg in the city, 21 mpg on the highway, and 18 mpg combined. Models with 375 horsepower garner slightly better fuel economy, but the difference is negligible. In comparison, the Expedition bests both the Tahoe and Armada in fuel economy, with exception of the Tahoe with RWD, which beats out the Expedition’s highway rating by one mpg.

How Does the Ford Expedition Drive?

The Expedition drives like a tank, with exception of the ability to turn 360 degrees in place.

Due to its large size, the Expedition isn’t exactly quick on its feet, but it’s not necessarily slow for its size, either. Despite being one of the few models this size with a V-6, the 3.5-liter does feel like a powerhouse, but you’ll lose a lot of confidence thanks to the soft-brake pedal and tires, the latter of which seems to suffer from low grip in a lot of scenarios. You shouldn’t expect to take the Expedition – despite its name – too far off road, as the long wheelbase and even longer body are quite limiting, leaving your excursions to gravel trails and the mildest of overlanding.

Ford Expedition Interior Design

2020 Ford Expedition - Driven Interior
- image 939722
The biggest highlight of the Ford Expedition (outside of stellar towing capability) is the ample interior space.

Even with three rows of seating for 8 passengers, you’ll find that all passengers have ample room, with the third row easily accessible with even full-size adults entering and exiting the rearmost row with ease. That’s were most of the niceties end, though, as the center console is very button-heavy and we found ourselves constant hunting for the proper button – something that can be quite distracting while on the road.

With that said, all seats in the Expedition are fairly comfortable to sit in, with front passengers enjoying a bit more comfort. We found that holding conversation at lower speeds – even with those sitting way in the back – was simple, but at speed all that glass lets road noise seep in and communication starts to diminish. The climate control system is powerful, though, and does keep everyone comfortable, so it has that going for it.

2020 Ford Expedition - Driven Interior
- image 939715
Ford Expedition vs competition - interior dimensions
Ford Expedition Platinum Chevy Tahoe Nissan Armada
1st Row Headroom 42 42.8 40.9
1st Row Leg Room 43.9 45.3 41.9
1st Row Shoulder Room 64.9 64.8 63.8
1st Row Hip Room 62.2 60.8 59.2
2nd Row Headroom 40 38.7 40
2nd Row Leg Room 41.5 39 41
2nd Row Shoulder Room 64.8 65.1 63.4
2nd Row Hip Room 62.6 60.3 58.4
3rd Row Headroom 37.3 38.1 36.4
3rd Row Legroom 40.9 24.8 28.4
3rd Row Shoulder Room 64.2 62.6 60.5
3rd Row Hip Room 51.4 49.3 48.8

Does the Ford Expedition Have a Good Infotainment System?

2020 Ford Expedition - Driven Interior
- image 939642

If you’ve heard previous stories of Ford’s Sync infotainment system, we can’t blame you for being weary of buying another Ford. However, the Sync system has come a very long way, and the system in the Expedition isn’t that bad. Navigation does look a bit early-2000s but the pinch-to-zoom function works as good as that of Google Maps, and the menu system is relatively easy to navigate. You should definitely opt for the Bang and Olufsen 12-speaker audio system, though, as it is lightyears ahead of the base system, providing great sound throughout the cabin, even in the rear.

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay work as well as you’d expect, and thanks to the built-in 360-degree camera, you won’t have much of an issue backing up this overly long tank of an SUV.

How Much Cargo Room Does the Ford Expedition Have?

2020 Ford Expedition - Driven Interior
- image 939619

If you happen to carry around a lot of cargo on a regular basis, the Ford Expedition will probably offer more than enough room with 19.3 cubic-feet behind the third row. If you lay down the third row, you’ll get 63.6 cubic-feet of cargo area, and if you lay down the second row, total capacity comes in at 104.6 cubic-feet. These figures put Expedition right in the middle of the competition, beating out the Armada but falling inferior to the Chevy Tahoe.

Ford Expedition Exterior Design

2020 Ford Expedition - Driven Exterior
- image 939601

The Ford Expedition is clearly the Explorer’s bigger brother. Comparing the two, you’ll notice that the Expedition is a bit boxier, and it feels like it’s miles long, regardless of what angle you’re looking at it from. The large grille and its integration into the headlights make the Expedition seem wider than it is, while the design of the air dam gives it a sportier look. If I had to summarize the front end appearance, I’d say it’s a perfect blend between the Ford Explorer and F-150. Both the side profile and rear end are rather uneventful in terms of design, but that’s part of what makes the Expedition stand out in the crowd – it’s simple but functional, and doesn’t try to be something it’s not. It’s not pretty, but it’s not ugly, either.

How Big Is the Ford Expedition?

2020 Ford Expedition - Driven Exterior
- image 939708

The Ford Expedition is downright huge, measuring 210 inches long, 79.9 inches wide, and 76.4 inches tall. It also rides on a 122.5 inch wheelbase. Compared to the Chevy Tahoe and Armada, the Expedition is definitely the longest and tallest, but the Tahoe is just a hair wider. In terms of garaging, well, you’re going to need a big garage. The Expedition won’t fit inside a standard one-car garage, and unless it’s extremely deep, you’ll find that it’s a very tight fit even in most two-car garages. The most important factor to consider is depth, in which you’ll need at least 220 inches of garage depth, and even that makes it very tight to pass.

Is The Ford Expedition Good For Off-Roading?

2020 Ford Expedition - Driven Drivetrain
- image 939674

The Ford Expedition can handle some off-road trails and mild overlanding, but it’s far from being a rock crawler or hardcore off-roader. It does have an approach angle of 23.3 degrees and a departure angle of 21.9 degrees, but because of it’s massive length (and wheelbase) any type of rock crawling or extreme off-roading is generally met with extreme resistance.

The Expedition does boast 9.8 inches of ground clearance, though, so you will probably find that it’s a little more capable than the Tahoe at 7.9 inches or the Armada at 9.1 inches.

Ford Expedition Pricing

2020 Ford Expedition - Driven Exterior
- image 939679

The Ford Expedition isn’t a cheap vehicle by any means, but it starts out at a reasonable price for a vehicle its size. The Entry-Level regular model comes in at $52,810 while the MAX (the extended model) comes in with an MSRP of $55,835. The range-topping Platinum trim, like our tester comes in at $76,965 – just a bit above the King Range at $75,590. The Limited trim, which is fairly well equipped above the base model, commands $66,395.

Ford Expedition Competition

2020 Ford Expedition - Driven Exterior
- image 939685

Given the nature of the automotive industry today, it’s not surprising that almost every automaker out there has a competitor for large SUVs like the Ford Expedition. For the sake of comparison, though, we’re focusing on the Expeditions most prominent American competitor and the Nissan Armada, a vehicle we’ve recently driven.

Is the Ford Expedition Better Than the Chevy Tahoe?

left right

On the offset, you might think that the Chevy Tahoe is more capable and, overall, a better vehicle than the Ford Expedition. After all, the Tahoe does boast a 5.3-liter V-8 compared to the Expedition’s 3.5-liter V-6. Be that as it may, the Tahoe is actually underpowered in comparison, pushing out just 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque. It’s also somewhat limited in the transmission department, where you’ll find no more than six forward gears. Like the Expedition, the Tahoe can be had in a RWD configuration or 4WD configuration, both of which are on par in terms of fuel economy.

left right

In the same way that the Expedition shares a lot of design cues with the Ford F-150, the Tahoe shares a lot of its design with the Silverado pickup. What really makes the Tahoe standout, however, is its impressive cargo capacity, which tops both the Expedition and the Armada with a range between 25.5 cubic-feet and as much as 122.9 cubic-feet with all rear seats folded down. If you’re someone who carries a lot of cargo, the Tahoe could very well be your best option. On the flip side, the Tahoe has a max towing capacity of 8,100 pounds, 1,100 pounds less than what you can pull with the Expedition. The Tahoe Starts out at $49,000 in base form, but can easily match the Expedition’s range-topping price of nearly $77,000.

Ford Expedition vs Chevy Tahoe
Ford Expedition Platinum Chevy Tahoe
Engine 3.5-Liter V-6 5.3-Liter V-8
Fuel Regular Unleaded Gasoline
Horsepower 400 @ 5,000 RPM 355 HP
Torque 480 LB-FT @ 3,250 RPM 383 LB-FT
Transmission 10AT 6AT
Max Towing Capacity 9,200 LBS 8,100 LBS
Fuel Economy 16/21/18 15/22/18(RWD) \ 15/21/17(4WD)
Curb Weight 5,623 LBS 5,602 LBS
Fuel Capacity 25 GAL 26.0 Gallons

Read our full review on the Chevy Tahoe

Is the Ford Expedition Better Than the Nissan Armada?

left right

The current Nissan Armada is a bit older than the Expedition and the Tahoe, with this generation being introduced in 2017. And, while it’s still not that old, it still suffers from a somewhat dated interior design (we’re talking early 2000s here), and its 5.6-liter V-8 is rather thirsty in comparison to the competition. On a good day, you’ll get 390 horsepower, which is more than the Tahoe offers and only 10 horsepower shy of the Expedition in range-topping form, but its 394 pound-feet of torque is one of its weaker notes. Because of this aged, V-8, don’t expected to get more than 13 or 14 mpg in the city or more than 16 mpg combined, figures that but it much lower than the models it competes against. It is capable of hauling 8,500 pounds, which does put it a big ahead of the Tahoe, but still short of the Expedition.

left right

On top of this, the Armada, despite its matched ability to carry 8 passengers, falls embarrassingly short in terms of cargo room. These figures might not matter to someone who doesn’t carry mass amounts of cargo, but with a minimum capability of just 16.5 cubic-feet and only 95.4 cubic-feet with all the rear seats laid down, the Armada is inferior to both the Expedition and the Tahoe. If you do carry a lot of cargo, you should probably look to either competitor as they’ll suit your needs better. Pricing for the Armada starts out at $47,500 but climbs to as high as $68,430 for the range-topping Platinum Reserve trim with 4WD.

Ford Expedition vs Nissan Armada
Ford Expedition Platinum Nissan Armada
Engine 3.5-Liter V-6 5.6-Liter V-8
Fuel Regular Unleaded Gasoline
Horsepower 400 @ 5,000 RPM 390 HP
Torque 480 LB-FT @ 3,250 RPM 394 LB-FT
Transmission 10AT 7AT
Drive RWD\4WD RWD \ AWD (optional)
Max Towing Capacity 9,200 LBS 8,500 LBS
Fuel Economy 16/21/18 14/19/16(RWD) \ 13/18/15 (4WD)
Curb Weight 5,623 LBS 5,672 LBS
Fuel Capacity 25 GAL 26.0 Gallons

Read our full driven review on the Nissan Armada

The Takeaway

2020 Ford Expedition - Driven Exterior
- image 939599

Overall, the Expedition is a good family hauler, and it’s even a good alternative for soccer moms that don’t want to drive a minivan between events. Seating all the way around is comfortable, the technology is on point in most cases (Sync has been improved drastically over the last few years), and the exterior design is fresh enough that it doesn’t look like you’re balling on a budget. Towing capability and fuel economy are the biggest highlights, as is the generous passenger space in both rear rows.

Philippe Daix
Philippe Daix
Obsessive and Compulsive Automotive Expert - phil@topspeed.com
Always on the lookout for the latest automotive news, Philippe Daix is our most senior editor and founder of TopSpeed.com. He likes to see himself as a consumer advocate with a mission to educate motorheads of all ages.  Read full bio
About the author

Related Articles

2021 Ford Expedition XL STX

2018 Ford Expedition

What do you think?
Show Comments
Car Finder: