Review: 2023 Ford Expedition Timberline is a giant, useful SUV
Large, truck-based sport utilities like the Expedition exist to serve several roles: people haulers, trailer pullers, stuff carriers, and sometimes off-road beasts. The people who buy them expect them to do all of these things at one time or another. The Expedition Timberline won’t disappoint there.
At a glance
- Extremely capable sport utility
- Efficient in a way most don’t measure
- Dated, but useful and capable for many needs
The 2023 Ford Expedition comes with a Timberline package option that adds a bunch of useful off-road gear without compromising the useful versatility of a truck-based SUV. The Expedition starts as an F-150-based sport utility that offers up to eight seats and cargo space to carry the contents of the average studio apartment (including the cook top and loveseat). Its ability to tow is equal to that of most half-ton pickup trucks – about 50% more than most crossover-SUV options with three rows.
During three weeks of using the 2023 Expedition Timberline, I drove it 300-odd miles (483 km) to rescue friends who’d had a serious vehicle breakdown while toting all of their camping gear. I also took my wife and three kids into the hinterlands of Wyoming to hunt for rocks over a long weekend, plus I drove the vehicle around as a daily for all three weeks. Where at first I thought it was dated and kind of uninteresting, I soon grew to really like this SUV and all of its usefulness.
Sometimes efficiency isn’t about fuel economy and green cred. Sometimes it’s about capability and versatility. Can your EV tow 9,300 lb (4,218 kg)? For more than 100 miles (161 km) a charge? How about taking the whole family camping (with gear) to destinations that don’t have pavement? Those are things that cannot be accomplished with today’s crop of EVs – even when including the six-digit price tag options. Yes, even that one rig which was designed after a sci-fi movie won’t be able to do these things. Sorry to be the bearer of realism.
The 2023 Ford Expedition comes in six trim levels, the middle of which is the Timberline. Just ahead of the consumer basic XLT and the more luxurious Limited model, the Timberline was introduced in 2022 as an off-road option for the Expedition. It features all of the base model’s equipment (which is a sizable list) plus an engine upgrade and several livable extras for daily use like power-adjustable pedals and power-folding rear seats. A heavy-duty radiator, limited-slip differential, all-terrain tires, added low-range gearing for the 4WD, and an off-road-tuned suspension are also added.
The engine upgrade mentioned consists of tuning and turbocharging upgrades to the standard 3.5-liter V6 that powers the Expedition in all its forms. The standard engine outputs 375 horsepower (276 kW) to a 10-speed automatic transmission. The upgrade boosts that to 440 hp (324 kW) and keeps the same 10-speed auto. Torque improves as well, rising from 470 to 510 pound-feet (637 to 691 Nm).
On the road, the Expedition drives like the truck it’s based upon. Which means it has some surprising maneuverability and some unsurprising physics. Its fuel economy is rated at 17 mpg (13.8 l/100km) combined, with 19 mpg (12.4 l/100km) on the highway. In our standard test loop (42 miles/67.6 km, high altitude, 65 mph/104.6 km/h), the Timberline returned 18.7 mpg (12.6 l/100km). With passenger and/or gear loads, the number was lower, coming in at 15 to 16 mpg (15.7 to 14.7 l/100km). Considering the loads and occasional cross winds, though, that’s still good.
Inside the 2023 Ford Expedition, things are pretty well done. They aren’t as up-to-date as some newer designs on the market, but they are functional and feel like they are made from quality materials. Seating is excellent, especially in the first and second rows. The third row is mostly for kids, but isn’t adult-averse when that is needed.
Cargo space in the standard model (which I drove) is small when the third row is deployed, but much larger if the Max option is added to the Expedition. When Ford moved to an independent rear suspension a while back, that greatly improved rear cargo room and the roominess of the third row’s seating. Most other truck-based SUV models on offer have since followed suit.
Off the pavement, the Expedition Timberline is a very good get-there machine. More so than might be expected. It’s not going to conquer the Rubicon or anything, but it’s definitely a step up from the standard 4WD model, especially when things like mud or rougher dirt roadways need to be tackled. At no time was confidence lost in the Timberline’s ability to get somewhere.
For those needing a really capable three-row SUV with truck-like towing capabilities, the Expedition is a great choice. In its Timberline model, the off-road abilities are solid upgrades. The consumer base model of the 2023 Ford Expedition XLT starts at US$61,000 and change. The Timberline model starts at $73,295 plus delivery. With added options, our test model was in the $76,000 range before delivery.
Product page: 2023 Ford Expedition Timberline