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Ford Excursion

The Ford Excursion, It doesn't get any Bigger

SEE ALSO: Ford Buyer's Guide

by Larry Weitzman

In the world of production passenger cars and trucks, The Ford Excursion is not the biggest. That honor goes to the Ford Crew Cab Long Bed Pickup, which is about two feet longer. In fact, the 227 inch Excursion is smaller in length than the 1970 Imperial and 1958 Lincoln (but only by a couple of inches).

Today there are cars five feet shorter that offer good room for four. But inside the Excursion you will find a literal warehouse that can house eight in limousine comfort and with the bench front seat, nine will fit fine with nearly 50 cubic feet of luggage space behind the third row of seats.

Even though it's only about seven inches longer than GM's largest sport ute, the Yukon XL and the Suburban, the 226.7 inch Excursion dwarfs the competition. The Excursion does it with its height of nearly 81 inches and width of 80.0 inches. Oh, by the way, the 4X4 V-10 version tips the scales at an elephantine 7190 pounds.

Strong would be an understatement. The massive C channel frame at its midsection measures 7.5 inches by nearly three inches wide. The transfer case in nearly two feet across. The front differential's lowest point is over eight inches above the ground.

Enviros think the Excursion is slightly excessive, but they obviously haven't had the pleasure of driving one. It is a remarkable vehicle and has a place. Considering the size, capacity, safety, power, handling and utility, it is amazing at what it does.

The design is based on the super duty Ford Pickup. The body rides on the regular cab's chassis and frame's 137.0 inch wheelbase. The body is almost identical in length to the Super Duty Super Cab short bed, so instead of having a six and a half foot pickup bed, you get all cab to the rear bumper. The look works well. The proportions are near perfect and the finished product is the best looking of all Ford's big trucks.

It has the same huge front side windows that dip in the front. The front end receives an egg crate treatment with more chrome and the full length upper crease ties the whole package together.

Ford offers three engines, a 255 hp 5.4L V-8, a 6.8L V-10 (a 5.4 with two more cylinders) and a 7.3L V-8 235 hp diesel. Pass on the 5.4, unless you like life in the slow lane and opt for the V-10 (a no charge option in the 4X4) or the diesel ($4,005).

In my test vehicle was the Triton 6.8L SOHC V-10. Horsepower is up 35 from last year. It is now rated at 310 hp at 4,250 rpm and 425 pounds of torque at 3,250 rpm. It feels like it has a 17 jewel movement from a fine swiss watch making it is one of the smoothest powerplants around. The Triton also makes good noises and pulls like a Santa Fe freight train. The optional Powerstroke direct injection diesel pumps out 235 hp at 2,700 rpm and an astounding 500 pounds of torque at 1,600 rpm. I have driven the diesel in other Ford products and can tell you it is strong. So strong that moving takes on a new meaning.

With the diesel, when you need to move, you pack your delicates like crystal and china in the Excursion (the smooth ride will protect them) and then chain the house to the bullet proof hitch and just drag the house with you. Because you are already driving something about the size of a 10 unit apartment building, no one will ever notice the house being dragged behind it. Don't forget to disconnect the utilities as the house will be going with the Excursion.

Since performance is measured by acceleration, how fast can 6.8L propel nearly 7,500 pounds? 60 comes up in just 10.03 seconds with three runs in the nines. Passing performance is not lacking as well with 50-70 mph coming up is 5.44 seconds and 50-70 mph up hill requires 9.51 seconds. I was not expecting numbers this good. And it feels powerful. Any time you request extra thrust, the Excursion complies with your wishes by inserting your backside deep into the seat. It feels stronger than the numbers indicate.

Expect diesel acceleration times to be a half to a full second slower than the V-10, but with 500 pounds of twisting force, the diesel is rated to tow a full 10,000 pounds. The V-10 is nearly as good with a tow capacity of 9,600 pounds. Because the V-10 weighs in a about 500 pounds less than the diesel, the V-10 has a 200 pound greater internal vehicle payload.

Besides a large capacity interior, the Excursion also has a humongous fuel tank. 44 total gallons or about $80 a fill up (@ $1.80 a gallon). It uses fuel at a lesser rate than expected. The Excursion averaged 12 mpg in a mix of El Dorado County and some freeway driving in harder than average driving. The trip computer indicated 15-16 mpg at a steady 70 mph. Expect 12-13 mpg in El Dorado County. Considering what this vehicle does, that's almost amazing. Big cars of the 60's that were half this size and with less performance averaged 8-10 mpg, downhill with the engine off. The EPA has no rating as the gross vehicle weight rating exceeds 8,500 pounds (8,900 gvwr).

It may seem like a real gas hog, but in reality, the Excursion is quite efficient, when you consider the size, performance and capabilities.

Sending the power to the wheels is Ford's heavy duty 4R100 automatic. It is electronically controlled and very smooth in its operation. Downshifts are crisp and immediate with nearly transparent upshifts.

In the four wheel drive model the Excursion is suspended with live, solid axles front and rear. It uses leaf springs at both ends with a front antiroll bar. Very stout. But the spring rates and bushings are softer and the shocks have reduced damping giving a highway ride that is very smooth although I did find some minor intrusion from expansion joints at times. It's better than the comparable F-250 Super Duty truck.

With particular attention paid to sound attenuation, the ride is remarkably quiet and the big cabin provides an excellent receptacle for the superb stereo. Talk about your proverbial concert hall, this is a concert hall. The engine spins a lazy 2,000 rpm at 70 mph and is church-mouse quiet.

But as big and ponderous as one would think, the Excursion actually drives much smaller than it's size would belie. It doesn't feel or respond anything like its bulk would indicate. It is actually somewhat nimble. Lane changes don't have to be planned a mile in advance and roads like Green Valley, Latrobe and Highway 49 are pleasurable at speed. Body roll is well controlled and the steering is accurate and gives excellent feedback. This is certainly no Porsche or Ford Focus, but it's darn good. I didn't find any vices. It is fun to drive.

On the washboard of Ponderosa Road, the Excursion was firm but certainly comfortable. There was no jarring or tensing of the occupant's bodies. In the two 90 degree bumpy corners, the Excursion tracked without the rear end moving at all at a speed I would have never thought possible. One negative was the pitching motion created when going up a curb at an angle.

The brakes are huge four wheel ventilated discs at each corner with standard antilock. Pedal feel was strong and linear. Stopping this much mass is going to take some distance, but the brakes were fade free and powerful. Figure stopping distances in 60-0 panic stops to be 20 percent greater than your average family sedan.

One thing about driving so much mass is safety. If the size and strength were not enough, it also has a crash absorbing structure and two airbags. The doors have side impact beams. Personally, I would try not to hit one after seeing the size of the frame. But Ford has also thought about the other guy. The front end has a "blocker beam" that prevents the Excursion from going up and over a smaller car. The trailer hitch in the rear is designed to prevent cars that would be unlucky enough to rear end an Excursion from going under.

Inside you will find some of the best accommodations anywhere. The front seats are big and very comfortable. They were supportive in all the right places and cushy enough for the longest of trips.

The dash is right out of the Super Duty truck with the instrument pod having a big speedo centered in front of the driver with a smaller tach to the right and four ancillary gauges grouped to the left. The center of the dash has the terrific sound system and rotary AC controls underneath with a position switch for allowing the rear seaters to control their own AC. The is a slide out cup holder on the dash.

The center console is big, really big. It has two more cupholders in front and two in the rear. The rear (second row) also get their own stereo controls.

The second row is a 70/30 split affair. It has the leg room of a limo and the shoulder room of a wide body airliner. The seats are theater style with each rear row sitting a little higher for better forward visibility. The windows are panoramic (they go down all the way into the door) and with such a comfortable couch, there wouldn't be a better way to cross the USA. Ditto for the third row as well, but with about three inches less shoulder room, two tackles and a guard from the Raiders may complain after about a five hour drive.

Ford did a great job in the ease and the way the seats fold up or down. You can have a flat floor in about 15 seconds. The third seat folds or can be removed easily with two people if you feel like dancing inside.

The rear tailgate is also unique. The top half lifts up and the lower half opens with split, lightweight doors. This gives excellent rear ward visibility and access in several different ways.

One other nice feature of the size is that you will always be able to find it in a crowded parking lot. It towers over everything (and gives the driver a commanding view of the road) unless people start using Kenworth's and Peterbuilts as family transportation.

Ford priced the Excursion to sell. Two wheel drive models start at $33,460 plus $700 for destination. The 4X4 XLT I tested lists for $36,775 plus destination. The list of standard equipment was lengthy (it included a single play CD, ABS, full power, and a lot more) and it came with only a four options. Special OWL tires for $150, skid plate, $75, brushed alloy wheels, $310 and the Comfort and Convenience package, $1,160. The total was $39,125. By the pound, it's the best value around. I would add the limited slip differential for $250.

Harrell Motors Placerville Ford Center is getting Excursions daily. It is a sport ute that needs to be evaluated for purpose, but if you want to drive the biggest and strongest vehicle sport ute on the market, this is the one. It will surprise you with its agility and performance.

SPECIFICATIONS: 

Price                       $34,160 to about $45,000 (diesel LTD)

Engines
5.4L SOHC V-8               255 hp @ 4.500 rpm
                            350 lbs-ft of torque @ 2,500 rpm

6.8L SOHC V-10              310 hp @ 4,250 rpm
                            425 lbs-ft of torque @ 3,250 rpm

7.3L OHV Diesel V-8         235 hp @ 2,700 rpm
                            500 lbs-ft of torque @ 1,600 rpm

Transmission                Heavy duty four speed
                            electronically controlled
                            automatic

Configuration               Longitudinal front engine
                            rear wheel/four wheel drive

Dimensions:
Wheelbase                   137.0  inches
Length                      226.7  inches
Width                        80.0  inches
Height                       80.4  inches
Weight                      6,650 to 7,688 pounds
Test Weight                 7,190  pounds
Fuel Capacity                  44  gallons
Tires                       LT265/75RX16
Turning Circle (4X2/4X4)    46.8/50.4  feet
Track (f/r)                 68.4/68.1  inches
Cargo Volumes (in cubic feet)
        Behind front row          146.4
        Behind second row         100.7
        Behind third row          48.8

Performance:
0-60                         10.03  seconds
50-70                        5.44   seconds
50-70 up hill                9.51   seconds
Top Speed                    I don't even want to imagine the foot
                             pounds of energy at 100 mph

Fuel Economy                 No EPA rating, but expect 12-13 mpg
                             in El Dorado County driving.  15-16
                             mpg at legal highway speeds with the
                             3.73 axle which I recommend except if
                             you are going to do lots of heavy
                             towing, then opt for the 4.30 limited
                             slip.



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