New Car/Review

1997 FORD EXPEDITION 4x4

By Matt/Bob Hagin

Ford

SEE ALSO: Ford Buyer's Guide

SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 33,875
     Price As Tested                                    $ 38,440
     Engine Type                             5.4 Liter V8 w/SFI*
     Engine Size                                 330 cid/5403 cc
     Horsepower                                   230 @ 4250 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               325 @ 3000 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                    119"/78.6"/204.6"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     5670 Pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                    30 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                     P265/70R17
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                   Front-engine/four-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                      Eight-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                                 90 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A

PERFORMANCE

     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            13/17/15
     0-60 MPH                                       10.9 seconds
     1/4 Mile (E.T.)                     18.3 seconds @ 77.5 mph
     Max towing capacity                                8000 lbs
     * Sequential fuel injection

(It's taken Ford a long time to get into the full-sized four-door sport/utility vehicle business. Bob Hagin likes the fact that Ford's new Expedition is still short enough to fit in a normal family garage, while his son Matt likes the fact that the Expedition can carrie up to nine people in comfort and tow the family sport boat as well.)

BOB - If anybody thinks that this new Ford Expedition is nothing more than a gussied-up Explorer, they only have to put them side-by-side to dispel that concept. The Expedition is the big brother of the pair, being over seven inches longer, and it's taller and wider. It's really more of a full-sized 4X4 truck with more seats, than a tall all-weather family sedan, as some of the new SUV entries are billed.

MATT - Well, you're half-right Dad. The Expedition is based on the hot new Ford F-150 pickup truck, but only from the windshield forward. Like the pickup, the front suspension is independent and the control arms are forged. Our 4X4 Expedition used torsion bars up front, which are needed to clear the front drive axles and their related hardware, but two-wheel drive versions have coil springs - just like the standard F-150. But there the similarity ends and from the windshield back, it's a different vehicle. The front doors are shorter, so the rear doors can open wide enough for passengers to climb aboard easily. The rear leaf springs of the pickup are gone, replaced by coil springs with trailing arms and a Panhard rod. The frame is a bit wider in the rear too; Ford did that to make room for the between-the-rails fuel tank and an optional air suspension system. And to make the whole unit super-strong, the frame rails are boxed all the way back.

BOB - I'm glad that our test rig was an Eddie Bauer model, Matt. Besides the fancy gizmos that are always included on the E.B. versions of Ford's sports/utility vehicles, it used the new 330 cubic-inch overhead-cam V8 that puts out 230 horses and 325 pound-feet of torque. The standard engine in the Expedition is a 4.6 liter version of the same powerplant, but I think that at almost 5700 pounds, the vehicle needs the extra power.

MATT - The rest of the drivetrain is pretty sophisticated, too. The transmission is a four-speed automatic that works with a very "trick" all-wheel drive system. There's a four-position rotary knob on the dash that lets the driver select from rear-wheel drive, four-wheel-drive in both high and low ranges, plus an all-wheel drive program that puts power to the front wheels when the rears begin to spin on slippery pavement. Once the rear wheels get traction again, power is shut off to the front, which reduces tire and driveline wear, and saves fuel as well. The all-wheel-drive system can also be used when it's raining.

BOB - I was a little disappointed that the Expedition doesn't have a five-speed manual transmission, but this vehicle is obviously designed as a dual-purpose family machine that can transport nine people in a high degree of comfort. It can get them and their equipment to a ski lodge during the winter, then take the family and its power boat to the lake in the summer. And in between, the Expedition can pull up to an 8000-pound vacation trailer with power to spare.

MATT - One of the little things that I really appreciated was the turn signals that are built into the heated outside mirrors. Although the driver is unaware of them, they signal other drivers who may not be aware of an upcoming lane change. The Expedition is so big, any advance warning really helps. I also like the fact that the middle set of seats are fully adjustable, and offer lots of leg room. We took five guys with lots of gear snow skiing the other day, and nobody complained a bit.

BOB - Even though the Expedition is long, it's not as long as its competition. I'm told that the Ford engineers did this on purpose, so an Expedition can be parked in the average home garage.

MATT - Maybe the average family could park one in their garage, Dad, but you've got so much junk in yours that you'd have a hard time packing a 1/64th scale model Expedition in among the spare parts.

BOB - Matt, you sound just like your mother.

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