SEE ALSO: Ford Buyer's Guide
SPECIFICATIONS MODEL: Ford Excursion Limited ENGINE: 5.4-liter V8 HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 255 hp @4,500 rpm/ 350 ft.lb. @ 2,500 rpm TRANSMISSION: Four-speed automatic WHEELBASE: 137.0 in. LENGTH x WIDTH X HEIGHT: 226.7 x 80.0 x 79.7 in. STICKER PRICE: $37,810 (base)
To say that the Ford Excursion is a much-anticipated vehicle is an understatement. Several people in my office were looking forward to the delivery of the vehicle, and my son-in-law was simply crushed when we told him we weren't visiting on the weekend we had it. He has a Suburban company car and wanted to compare the two.
As you may know, the Excursion is Ford's answer to GM's biggest sport utility, the Suburban. Based on Ford's Super Duty line of trucks, the Excursion has a 7.0-inch longer wheelbase at 137.0 in., is 7.4 inches longer overall, and is taller and wider as well. The Suburban has a base 285 hp 5.3-liter V8, while the Excursion has a base 5.4-liter 255 hp V8, giving the GM vehicle the edge in that department.
Our Excursion had Limited trim, which meant it had all the goodies available, leather seating, wood trim, etc. It was set up for eight-passenger seating, with two bucket seats up front, a bench in the middle and a bench in the rear. Rear seating offered better leg and head room than the Suburban. Access to that seat was also easier, as the tilt-away portion of the second-level bench moved out of the way to provide rear-seat access. It's also possible to create a flat rear cargo area for those times when you're using the Excursion as a truck. The center seat folds forward, the rear seat can be removed (it also folds for smaller loads), and there are panels to smooth out the floor area. Maximum cargo area is 146 cubic feet, with 48 cubic feet located behind the rear seat.
Access to this cargo area in the rear is through Dutch doors, a la the Chevy Astro van. There is a lift-up window and two swing-out doors at the bottom for larger loads. The lift height was about three feet, though, making loading anything heavy a project.
Instrumentation was complete, and it was (almost) fun watching the fuel gauge drop as we moved along. Neither vehicle is big on fuel economy, and the Excursion's 44-gallon fuel tank seemed almost to be a necessity. For entertainment, we had an AM/FM stereo radio with in-dash cassette and CD players. Cruise control switches were located on the steering wheel, and all other switches were convenient to the driver.
An overhead console provides readings of outside temperature (important in near-freezing weather), and compass. There were also rear-set HVAC controls located in the overhead console, both in front and in the rear where they were more important.
One feature we liked, especially at night, was the lighted running board. When you unlocked the doors with the remote keyless entry, lights indicate both that there is a running board and where it is. You need the running board with the Excursion just to climb up into the cab. There is an assist handle at three of the four doors, but none for the driver. The assumption is that the driver can use the steering wheel to help pull himself into the cab.
Styling is interesting with the Excursion. Since it's built on the Super Duty chassis, it has the Dodge Ram-like raised hood and lowered fenders. I'm continually amazed that both Ford and GM (and Toyota, too) have adopted this styling feature to their large trucks ever since Dodge was successful with it. The greatest form of flattery.
One unique feature of the Excursion that no other manufacturer offers, to the best of my knowledge, is dual mirrors on both sides. There is the standard large rearview mirror mounted on an extended arm to give visibility if there's a trailer behind you. Below this is a smaller convex mirror that gives a wide view of what's behind you. These convex mirrors are mounted on both sides of the car and offer great visibility, almost behind the vehicle.
Size-wise, the Excursion was everything we expected, and maybe more. On the highway, though, it was something else. I eventually did get used to the size, which wasn't the problem. The Excursion tended to wander on the highway. Directional control wasn't that great. Also, since it's built on the big truck chassis, it's noisy. < p>With the Excursion, you look down on every other vehicle on the road, except 18-wheelers. It's massive and massive-looking. For the first year, it has some minor flaws that can be easily corrected (I'm also willing to chalk these flaws up to some hard driving by the people who had it before me). It will be interesting to see how the sales figures compare between Suburban and Excursion after a year.