2000 Ford Excursion gives Ford a Suburban rival
By TONY WHITNEY
It was not without controversy that Ford announced the biggest sport utility vehicle yet earlier this year.
Critics though the rig too big and accused the automaker of starting some kind of ''size war'' among SUV suppliers. In fact, all Ford is doing with its 2000 Excursion is going after a small but lucrative market that's been dominated for years by GM's Suburban range.
There's no doubt that there are lots of buyers out there who really need the roominess and power of a full-size SUV. For large families with a boat or travel trailer to tow, it could be the only answer. In cases like this, minivans simply don't have the towing power and regular-size SUVs have little stowage space behind the rearmost seat. The Excursion is 7.2-inches longer, 3.3-inches wider and between 4.3 and 5.8-inches taller than its Suburban rival.
In any event, the Excursion (which is based on Ford's Super Duty pickup platform) is here, or at least it will be this fall. It is big, but it doesn't feel that way when you get behind the wheel. Ford has gone to all kinds of trouble to make this a rig just about anyone can handle safely. I even found it easier to get in and out of than most smaller SUVs - thanks to a generously-sized running board/step.
Three engines are available - all of them beefy, powerful units. Base powerplant is a 5.4-litre Triton V-8 with 255 horsepower. Top gas engine is a Triton 6.8-litre V-10 developing 310 hp and the diesel in the range is a Ford Power Stroke 7.3-litre with 235 hp. The diesel is the most economical of the trio, but Ford claims that across the range, these engines deliver fuel economy well inside federal requirements. Transmission is a 4-speed overdrive automatic on all three engine choices and buyers can opt for two or four wheel drive versions. Towing capacity at the top of the range is a hefty 10,000 lbs.
The luxurious interior can be configured to accommodate up to nine adults in great comfort. Start removing seats and you create an amazing amount of stowage space. Even with all three rows of seats in place, cargo space is a massive 48 cubic feet. Roll out the rear bench on its handy wheels and cargo space jumps to 100.7 cubic feet. Remove the rear seat and fold down the second row seating and the rig will swallow an 8X4 sheet of plywood with ease.
The rear cargo doors feature an interesting design. They can be swung open 180 degrees even when a trailer or boat is attached for towing. The upper one-piece liftgate can be raised to permit the stowage of small items like grocery bags without disturbing the lower pair.
The Excursion is a highly practical SUV that's bound to find a lot of favour with those big families I referred to earlier. Prices haven't been announced yet, but expect them to be competitive with those of the rival Suburban, which itself is getting a major workover for 2000. TW