New Car/Review

Ford Expedition XLT

by John Heilig

Ford

SEE ALSO: Ford Buyer's Guide

SPECIFICATIONS

ENGINE:             4.6-liter V-8
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE:  215hp @4400 rpm/290 ft-lbs @3250 rpm
TRANSMISSION:       Four-speed automatic
WHEELBASE:          119.0  in.
OVERALL LENGTH:     204.6 in.
OVERALL HEIGHT:     76.4 in. in.
OVERALL WIDTH:      78.6 in. in.
CURB WEIGHT:        4850  lbs. 
FUEL CAPACITY:      30 gal.
LUGGAGE CAPACITY:   35  cu. ft. (est.) rear seat up
TIRES:              265/70R17
INSTRUMENTS:        Speedometer, tachometer, fuel level, water temperature, 
                    oil pressure, battery voltage, digital clock.
EQUIPMENT:          Power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, 
                    leather seats, cruise control, air conditioner, 
                    AM-FM stereo radio with cassette, anti-lock braking, 
                    dual air bags.
STICKER PRICE:      $35,000 (est.)

The term big truck is the first one that comes to mind when you're trying to describe the new Ford Expedition. I always thought the Explorer was a big truck, but when you park one next to the Expedition, it really looks compact.

Everything about the Expedition is big; its cargo carrying capacity, its overall dimensions, its towing capacity (up to 8,000 pounds), and even its passenger-carrying capacity (up to nine). Ford wanted to build a vehicle that would compete against Tahoe/Yukon and Suburban and outdid itself. Size is what Ford promotes in the vehicle as well, especially in comparison with the GM competition.

Expedition is based on the Ford F-150 pickup chassis. Now the F-150 isn't exactly a little truck. Trust me, when you put a SUV body on it, it gets even bigger.

We had the opportunity to drive the Expedition both off and on road and really enjoyed its capabilities. Off-road, we drove it on some logging and hunting trails in the vicinity of Sky Top, Pennsylvania, in the Pocono Mountains. While these trails would not necessarily have challenged any SUV worth its salt, they definitely were four-wheel drive trails. The Expedition has switch-on-the-fly-and-on- the-dash capability to go from two-wheel drive to four-wheel drive to all-wheel drive, where the truck itself figures out whether power should go to all four wheels or not. With the rotary dial on the dash you can either choose how the power gets to the wheels or go automatically.

With the big ground clearance offered by the Expedition, you can handle any back road you'll find. You don't have to worry about high crowns or reasonably-sized rocks in the road; you'll go over them with room to spare.

We never really challenged the Expedition's carrying capacity. At most we had four passengers on a trip to the local discount store. On the way back we stuffed a new office chair in the rear cargo area, along with a couple of big kitty litter boxes and several other large items. It would have been fun to try to see how much we could put back there, but there's a limit to the amount of money I can spend.

Our rear passengers had no complaint about comfort or legroom. There was plenty of both and room for at least one more passenger. The optional third seat is supposed to be big enough for three passengers, but they'd better be small ones. I liked the amount of room up front, both for feet and above my head. You can wear just about any kind of hat in the Expedition, except maybe for those "Cat in the Hat" toppers that are so popular these days.

Storage capacity abounded up front as well. We had a large glove box and a console. The front seats had fold-down arm rests in the center, which was a waste since there was the console.

Entering and exiting the Expedition is a challenge, particularly if you're older. There are grab handles for all entry points except the driver's door. I've often complained about this. Sure, the driver can grab the steering wheel to get a boost in, but what does that do to the tilt mechanism or other features. I'd be happier with a grab handle, and I'm getting to the point where I could use one for some regular sedans, too.

Expedition rides quietly and smoothly. One would expect that a vehicle based on a truck would be noisy and rough, but Ford has civilized the Expedition. This is a comfortable vehicle to ride and drive in, once you get in it.

When Ford decided to enter the full-sized four-door SUV market with the Expedition, it knew it was going into a market dominated by Suburban and filling up with Tahoe/Yukon. There was a question as to what kind of vehicle the Expedition would be. "Big" is one description for it. Well-built is another. This is a good one.

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