• May 30th 2007 at 12:03PM
  • 45
click above image to view more pics of the 2007 Ford Expedition EL

Ford's new Expedition EL has to follow in some huge footsteps – or, perhaps more appropriately, tire tracks. The stretched-wheelbase SUV not only has to do battle with GM's Suburban and Yukon XL duo (long the sales leaders in the extended-wheelbase segment), but it also has to live up to the reputation of the Excursion. That monstrous predecessor never sold in large numbers, but it built a loyal following that remains to this day (if you doubt this, just try to find a bargain on a low-mileage example with the Powerstroke diesel).

Since Ford's previous attempt at building a cargo conveyance and people mover on the Super Duty platform didn't appeal to the average mass-market buyer, this go-around utilizes the far more civilized Expedition platform – and its independent front and rear suspension – as a starting point. Will this move create a kinder, gentler mastodon of metal? We put one through the paces for a week to learn more.

Click any image to view our 2007 Ford Expedition EL gallery of pics

The new Expedition's sheetmetal brings with it an edgier appearance that makes a strong first impression. We dig the brawny new look, especially on the longer-wheelbase model, and our tester's two-tone paint complimented it well. The twenty-inch wheels at each corner are well-proportioned to the EL's huge exterior dimensions, as is the Ford signature three-bar chrome grille (note the ample size of the Blue Oval badge, which gives Chevy's oversized Bowtie a run for its money in the Detroit quest to build the biggest logo). Overall, we think the Expedition is as good-looking as any of the full-size SUVs, and it should age well.

Underneath that sharp new shape is an all-new platform that Ford calls the T1. It's got a lot of current-generation F-150 in its bloodline. Where the Expedition differs most strongly from its pickup truck siblings – and the rest of the competition – is in how it locates its rear wheels. The solid rear axle was dropped in favor of a multilink independent setup at each rear corner for 2003, and that continues forward to the latest iteration. Surprisingly enough, the most significant impact isn't the ride – it's good, but not a significant step above the competition – but a feature it allows that we'll discuss a bit later in this review.

To move all this mass around, the Expedition relies on a three-valve version of the trusty 5.4L SOHC V8, with Ford's new six-speed automatic gear changer channeling that power to the ground via the ControlTrac 4WD system. Options for operation in 2WD, Automatic, and both high-range and low-range modes in 4WD are selected via a dial on the dashboard, and the operation is instantaneous and free of noise. The first two modes will be the only ones that matter to most users, but should the urge strike one to take a jaunt off-road, it's nice to know that the running gear is properly sorted-out for such an adventure (even if the wheel/tire package isn't). The minimum ground clearance of 8.7 inches is workable, although the long wheelbase means that high-centering remains a constant concern.

Step up on the nonessential running boards and climb into the interior and one finds that the Expedition has a bit of a personality disorder. The seats are covered in soft, high-quality perforated leather (ours had an attractive two-tone scheme, and were equipped with both heating and cooling), and the carpet felt like expensive stuff. But then there's the instrument panel, which was apparently an attempt to demonstrate the full array of colors and textures available to Ford Motor Company. Few surfaces share the same color, sheen, or grain, and the result is the sort of parts-bin appearance that we hoped that Detroit had abandoned last decade. This is disappointing, because some of these parts are rather nice, and the bits were all assembled together well. All the interior needs is bit of consistency in implementation.

The integrated navigation and entertainment system worked great, although we'd prefer that it wouldn't lock out certain attention-intensive nav functions (such as address entry) when the vehicle was moving, as it also precludes the passenger from utilizing the unit's full functionality. The system proved easy and intuitive to use, and just as important, the sound quality was excellent for a non-boutique factory system. The steering wheel provides comprehensive control over both the radio and HVAC systems, and our only complaint is that the size of the buttons makes gloved use somewhat difficult.

Moving further towards the rear of the cabin, the Expedition quickly distinguishes itself from potential competitors. With the flat load floor afforded by the low-slung rear suspension (there isn't even the typical transmission/driveshaft "hump" down the center) and a generous amount of usable headroom, this vehicle has the sort of open feel normally experienced only in vans. When it's time to load up cargo instead of people, both rows fold to produce a flat load floor. Simply stated, it's the best seating system available in a body-on-frame SUV.

When it was finally time to hit the road, we twisted the key and were greeted with an exhaust note that sounded as if it were transplanted straight from the Mustang GT. Sure, it's a bit attenuated, but there's no mistaking that Ford mod-motor sound. Better yet, that same attitude comes through strongly at WOT, and the acceleration is strong if not breathtaking. Things are well-behaved during normal cruising, though, and the engine has a refined sound and feel. The transmission behaves itself through all of this, and uses its well-spaced ratios to pop off shifts with a good compromise between quickness and smoothness. On occasion, it did seem like the vehicle was attempting to pull off second-gear starts, and that usually resulted in the necessary application of additional throttle and a corresponding downshift. This seems to subvert the goal of saving fuel, and so we'd suggest that future models eschew this technique. Considering the curb weight of three tons and our mix of driving, we weren't disappointed when we achieved 16.0 MPG over the course of the test.

The driving dynamics are quite good when unloaded, and the Expedition EL in fact makes for a wonderful highway cruiser when carrying people or light cargo. The steering wheel provided good feedback while offering appropriate isolation from pavement irregularities, the stiff structure works with the well-damped suspension to provide a controlled ride, and the disc brakes at all four corners resulted in a firm pedal and linear stopping characteristics. The visibility is about what one would expect when sitting somewhere in the middle of a nineteen-foot long vehicle, so plan on learning how to use the mirrors. Loading it up to the limits of the GVWR with some patio blocks took the bloom off the rose, though; the auto-leveling rear suspension didn't compensate well for the additional poundage, and the big SUV generally acted like it was quite unhappy performing any hard labor.

Our springtime test meant that Mother Nature threw everything in her arsenal at us, but as the temp dropped from 60F down past the freezing point in a period of a few hours, the resultant freezing rain and snow were no match for the automatic 4WD mode and standard AdvanceTrac stability system. We failed to fully evaluate the Rollover Stability Control; we're thankful for that, and you'll just have to take Ford's word that it works.

Ultimately, where does the Expedition EL stack up against the current competition? It really comes down to intended usage. Our experience says that the GM duo is happier hauling heavy loads (and the Excursion remains in a class of its own), but when it comes to moving people, there is absolutely no contest - the Expedition is the clear winner. The issues noted above become minor quibbles when compared to the ease in which passengers of all sizes can take a seat, and we think this feature will allow the Expedition to charm those buyers that need to move around suburban armies.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Years Ago
      I drive an '03 Exp. Power-fold seats are the best thing since sliced bread. Enough about me, though, let's address some rantings:

      Even with its weight, the Exp. accelerates almost as quickly as the Miata 0-60. Don't just take your clubs, take your foursome and their clubs, too. (and the cooler, and the luggage for a weekend golf trip, etc.) Poor choice for comparison.

      Gas guzzler tax? Every gallon I buy is already taxed, and apparently I buy several more gallons than you. How liberal does one have to be to want even more from those who already pay more? The mind boggles.

      I agree that it's too much vehicle 90% of the time, but I'm not going to Hertz every other weekend to take care of the 10%, and I'm certainly not buying and insuring a second vehicle to drive to & from work every day. As long as I can afford the gas, I'll drive what I want.
      • 8 Years Ago
      fizzandpop: Obviously you read it and commented. So people like me, who need a vehicle like this, read it too. It's a quality review, thank you autoblog.
        • 8 Years Ago
        No I didn't read it. It's about the fricking Excursion, Hunter S Thompson couldn't make a review about the Excursion interesting. Especially now. The Excursion is the pleated pants of the automibile world. If you want to buy one, go to the dealership and drive one, why do you need to read a review? I need to read about stuff I haven't got a sniff of experiencing myself. Come on Autoblog, you're owned by AOL, take Steve Case's Lambo for a spin or something.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Great another giant gas guzzler to worry about crashing into me with a blonde house wife on the cell phone
      • 8 Years Ago
      Expedition EL may be okay for all those thousands of people who couldn't ever transport their families before. For loggers, miners and oil crew workers, this limousine is just to fancy. Perhaps it's real purpose is just for those unfortunate, who have such large families. Nothing like burning a lot of gas to keep the kiddies entertained.
      • 8 Years Ago
      AND oh another thing, does anybody else think the brake pedal has an odd feel. Travels too far at times and is kinda soft...yet it does stop. Maybe it's just my truck? My other two did not feel this way.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I like the new Expedition EL much better than the new Suburban. They're both great vehicles, but I've been in both and prefer the Expedition in every way. The Suburban may be better when you need to haul something, when it comes to towing the EL wins hands down by 1,000 pounds. EL = 9900:Suburban = 8900
      Not that it would stop me from buying one, but I wish that the gas mileage was better. But, I suppose that in a few years it will have to be to meet government standards.
      Anyway, I like the new Expedition especially in that color red.
      I would buy one if I needed it.
      I'm happy with my 2001 Explorer.
      • 8 Years Ago
      cx7 runs premium fuel no? either way... 16 ain't to awful for such a beast

      To the poor kids with sh*tty diapers who don't like the review don't read it, click elsewhere.

      As for the prudence of such a vehicle, I'll be sure to look into a Camry when I need a replacement to my f250 to tow a horsetrailers. Morons.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Steve B.

      Is this Expy claiming to be a Bronco replacement? NO

      I'd like to see the towing rating of that Bronco compared to this, if it's really such a puss machine.

      • 8 Years Ago
      Sorry, I meant the Expedition, not the Excursion. It's so boring I can't even get its silly name right.
      • 8 Years Ago
      We have an '03 Expedition Eddie Bauer right now, and it's been a good vehicle for us so far. I look forward to replacing it with either an Expedition EL or a GMC Yukon XL.

      It's one of those things where 80% of the time, it's too big, but for that 20% of the time we need to pull something or cram in a lot of stuff, it's great.

      I would however, love a diesel option in either for these, for both gas mileage and towing reasons.

      • 8 Years Ago
      Autoblog might not have been able to really test the RSC, but we got to :O... I can say with certainty that it works.

      We were about to hit a whole family of deer on a country road late at night going probably 80 miles an hour... my sister swerved very hard (without thinking of possible consequences) and I felt us starting a roll. I grabbed onto the chassis wherever I could; I knew a maneuver like that would surely have us tossing around the cabin like lotto balls. That's when the RSC kicked in. Picture it if you can, the EL started drifting or driving laterally against the road (which sure beats rolling!) for a good long stretch of the road. After a bit of that it started fish tailing, but it all seemed like it was very controlled. Amazingly the Expedition found itself back on the road and my sister said all she had to do was sit behind the wheel and freak out. We're so glad we were safe and were able to enjoy our spring break. We were fully-loaded too; 8 adults with lots of baggage (some on the roof too).

      Hmmm what about utility... like someone else said, 80% of the time driving this huge monster is totally outrageous, but for the other 20% (vacations, moving business/personal items, family/friend outings, hauling) --though I wouldn't say it's neccissary-- it's oh so very convenient.

      Last thing: We were looking at the 07 suburban, but without independent rear suspension, the back row made my 4' cousin look like a sardine. Also factoring in the considerable price difference, the Expedition EL was a pretty easy choice.
      • 8 Years Ago
      At 16 MPG this thing actually gets better fuel economy than the CX7 that only got 14. Maybe Mazda finally needs to take a page from Ford.
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