The Ford Expedition is 10 years old, a production milestone for any vehicle, but a particularly important one for this large eight-passenger SUV. As the perennial nemesis of Chevy's Tahoe, the Expedition has proven it can be competitive, and it commands a sizable chunk of the North American large SUV niche. Staying competitive, though, means staying fresh; so for the second time in a decade, the Expedition has been refreshed, repackaged, and relaunched. Note that this comes on the heels of Chevy doing the same thing to the Tahoe; but, perhaps more importantly (this time around) Ford has added a new model, the Expedition EL, to cover the product gap left by the demise of the ber-large Excursion.
The new EL rides on a 131-inch wheelbase (11.8 inches longer than the standard Expedition) and offers an additional 15 inches of body length. With a body this size, there will be a refrigerator-sized cargo space (24 cubic feet), even with the third-row seat upright. Marketwise, of course, the EL will be comparable to Chevy's Suburban, which is what the Excursion's market focus was, but this time without the Super Duty frame that brought it undue criticism from some groups.
Pricing for the new Expedition is down from '06 for an entry-level price of $29,995. That's down almost $5,500 even for the base XLT model. But, at the same time, Ford says it has added over $4,000 in upgrades over the '06 model, many of which fall into the category of improved safety systems. These include a one-piece side curtain airbag that covers all three rows and extends down to the beltline of the truck; a "stroking steering column" that will compress 3 to 4 inches in a frontal crash and, for side impacts, a door sensor has been added to improve the timely deployment of the seat-mounted side airbags.
An all-new interior is a huge improvement in quality and luxury over the outgoing Expediti
All this (along with the regular airbags and the seatbelt pretensioners) come under the control of Fords AdvanceTrac with RSC (Roll Stability Control) system which constantly monitors the vehicles yaw and roll angles. The AdvancTrac part of the system can apply countermeasures-such as braking one or more wheels or cutting engine power-if it detects a potential skid situation. Roll Stability Control, on the other hand, is geared more towards firing the safety measures (and keeping them inflated) when the system is triggered by a rollover.
Design changes for 2007 cover mainly the tin and the interior, both of which are improvements over the last generation; otherwise, a new six-speed transmission is really the only significant mechanical change. The major upgrade to the Expedition came in 2003 when the steering, chassis, and suspension were redesigned. That's when they went with double wishbones, front and rear, and lightweight forged steel and cast-aluminum parts (624 pounds of aluminum in all) to reduce weight. That new rear suspension also allowed for a straight frame hookup, with the suspension itself creating a significant (in the 30-plus percent range) drop in the rear axle's center of gravity. For '07, this remains the same. By contrast, the new Chevy Tahoe still uses a solid rear axle.
The new sheetmetal on the Expedition has squared it up and visually slimmed it down, while the front end looks tough with a prominent three-bar grille and a "humped" powerdome hood. The sides are smooth, flowing into set of large wheel lips that frame the 20-inch chrome, six-spoke wheels. Inside features and cues from the F-150 dominate the interior, starting with the dagger-style center console shifter. This truck can be ordered as an eight-seater or with a second row of captains' chairs that then will accommodate seven. Of note is an optional Powerfold third-row seat (that goes down flat) and a powered rear liftgate with keyfob control.
Ford says that more than 50 percent of North American truck owners tow trailers, and that is one of the Expedition's main selling features. Powered by the Triton 5.4L 300hp V-8, this SUV can tow up to 9,200 pounds (8,750 for the EL), and the trailering package that includes electrical and cooling upgrades is standard. A useful option is an automatic rear load-leveling air-suspension system.
The new Expedition offers a respectable 8,750-pound tow rating.
This brings us to the great debate over what's best for towing-solid rear axle or independent suspension? Down by the Columbia River, Ford gave us a chance to tow 5,000 pounds with the Expedition, and we found that there was just a hint of rear-end wallowing, but with the load-leveling air suspension (and a load-leveling hitch setup), the truck pulled flat-no squatting feeling and lost no steering control. The new six-speed transmission, with its two overdrive gears (the top one can be locked out), also handled the load well. This gearbox can be shifted manually, and on flat terrain we towed at 55 mph and the engine was turning just 1,500 rpm; but it also had gear ratios that suited both hills and dales. Add to this the potential to load eight people on board, and a small mountain of gear, and you have a very capable tow vehicle.
The other advantage to the independent rear end is the feeling (and reality) that the back end is much less likely to break traction when subjected to cornering forces. In corners, body roll is also minimized. These two things make the truck feel stickier on the road, while alone or towing, and that's a feeling that is fairly uncommon in a vehicle this size. All versions of the Expedition will be on dealer lots by the end of the summer.
Make/model: '07 Ford Expedition EL
Base price: $37,545
Engine type: 5.4L V-8; cast-iron block, aluminum heads
Bore x stroke (in): 3.55 x 4.17
Valvetrain: SOHC; three valves/cyl.
Aspiration: Sequential MPFI
Mfr's max hp @ rpm: 300 @ 5,000
Mfr's max torque (lb-ft) @ rpm: 365 @ 3,750
Transmission: 6R six-speed automatic OD
Transfer case: ControlTrac part-time two-speed
Low range ratio: 2.64:1
Axle ratio: 3.73:1 (optional)
Crawl ratio: 41.06:1
Suspension, f/r: Double-wishbone IFS, short and long arms, coilover shocks/IRS, five-link, coilover shocks
Steering: Power rack-and-pinion
Brakes, f/r: 13.5-inch discs/13.2-inch discs
Wheels, tires: 17x8 aluminum, P265/70R17 off-road OWLs
Wheelbase (in): 131.0
Length (in): 221.3
Width (in): 78.8
Height (in): 77.7
Track, f/r (in): 67.0/67.2
Curb weight (lb): 5,825
Minimum ground clearance (in): 8.7
Approach/departure angle (deg): 23.1/24.1
Max towing capacity (lb): 8,750
Max GVWR (lb): 7,600
Fuel capacity (gal): 33.5
EPA mileage estimates, city/highway (mpg): N/A
Seating capacity: 8