2003 Ford Excursion Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
They don’t come any bigger than this.
The Ford Excursion is the king of big sport-utilities. It is supremely stable; it feels safe and secure on the open highway. Whether you have a lot of cargo to carry, a bunch of people to transport, a big trailer to pull or all of the above, the Excursion is ready for whatever you throw its way. It's a beast, however, taking up more garage space, parking space, and street space than anything else this side of a dually.
Ford Excursion comes in two trim levels: XLT and Limited.
The XLT includes three versions: SSV, Base and Premium while the Limited offers Base and Ultimate versions.
All XLTs come with a nice cloth interior with comfortable seats that offer good support for long drives and a high level of standard equipment. The Base version adds body side cladding, a cargo net, day/night mirrors, a removable third-row seat and chrome steel wheels. The Premium upgrade includes a center floor console, autolamp headlights, rear-seat audio controls, running boards, six-way power front seats, a trip computer, alloy wheels and power rear quarter windows.
Limited trim adds automatic front air conditioning, wood grain trim, fog lights, turn signals on the exterior rear view mirrors, wheel moldings, power adjustable pedals, a reverse sensing system, leather seats and speed-sensitive intermittent wipers.
The Limited Ultimate adds a retractable cargo cover, HomeLink garage door opener, power adjustable pedals with memory feature, heated front seats and a deluxe steering wheel with audio and air conditioning controls.
Three engines are available: a V8, a V10, and a turbocharged diesel. And, of course, there's a choice of two- or four-wheel drive.
The base XLT 4x2 retails for $32,820. We drove a $38,235 XLT 4x4 with the V10. We've also driven a diesel, which adds about $4,000 to the bottom line.
Among the new equipment for 2002 is an available rear-seat entertainment system with a DVD player ($1,360).
The Ford Excursion is based on Ford's Super Duty F-Series pickup trucks and is more than seven inches longer than the Chevrolet Suburban.
Excursion's rear cargo doors are split three ways. You can swing the glass hatch up for quick access to gear. This same glass hatch offers much better visibility rearward while driving than vehicles with traditional split doors. The rear doors are half height, like Dutch doors. Thus, they can be opened when you've got a trailer attached and can be swung nearly 180 degrees for easier access.
Excursion 4x4 models come standard with Ford's 6.8-liter single overhead-cam Triton V10. It generates 310 horsepower and 425 foot-pounds of torque. A 5.4-liter V8 is available as a no-cost option, but few will be built; it puts out 255 horsepower and 350 foot-pounds of torque. A 7.3-liter turbodiesel engine is also available, and produces 250 horsepower and a whopping 505 foot-pounds of torque.
If you drive off the pavement or on snow-covered roads, you'll want to opt for the $250 limited-slip, the $130 all-terrain tires, and the $75 skid plate. Optional $95 trailer mirrors feature little convex mirrors at the bottom that eliminate blind spots. Ford says the Class IV receiver hitch, which comes standard, is designed to prevent smaller cars from going underneath the rear bumper, while a specially designed BlockerBeam is designed to accomplish the same goal up front.
Inside the Excursion is a comfortable interior. It doesn't matter whether you're sitting in the front seats, second row or third row, all of the seats offer generous legroom, headroom and elbow room.
Six adults can ride in comfort with 48 cubic feet of cargo space left behind them. For shorter trips, like going to a restaurant, the Excursion can seat eight people, or nine if you order the front bench instead of the bucket seats.
Remove the third-row bench seat, and the Excursion can easily carry five people and a lot of gear. Removing the third-row seat is easy: Flip the seatback forward, yank a bar at the foot of the seat and pull the seat toward the rear of the vehicle; it glides along on rollers. The seat weighs 75 pounds, but in short order I pulled it out and threw it into the back of another SUV on a cold Montana morning.
Set up as a two-seater, the Excursion can carry an outlandish amount of cargo. A sheet of plywood slides in easy and lays flat on the floor. Two people could sleep in comfort on the huge, flat cargo area. Believe it or not, we managed to fill an Excursion. We were finishing a three-day float-fishing trip. As planned, the river guide in charge of setting up camp had arrived at our vehicles ahead of us. He quickly stuffed all of the supplies from base camp and enough fishing equipment for eight people inside. When he was done stuffing, only seating for two remained and the rear-view mirror was rendered useless. Granted, he could have packed more efficiently, but he was grateful for such a large storage container.
After reorganizing the equipment and putting some of it into another vehicle, six of us piled into the Excursion and made the long trip back to town. Cruising along steadily with this load, the Excursion demonstrated its virtues of size, stability and power. I was surprised when this cynical group of fishermen sang its praises.
The Excursion comes with a nicely designed interior. The dash is attractive and well designed and all of the controls are easy to find and operate.
Cruising along in a 2002 Ford Excursion gives you a secure feeling. It's smooth and quiet.
The V10 is a delightful engine. It produces 310 horsepower and can propel the Excursion along the Interstate at high rates of speed. The V10 generates a very impressive 425 foot-pounds of torque at 3250 rpm. Tell someone you have a V10 and they think you're driving a rocket. But an Excursion 4x4 weighs about 7,200 pounds, so its acceleration performance at high altitudes seems no better than an Explorer or Expedition.
Still, it had no trouble passing other vehicles on two-lane roads. The Excursion is rock solid at 97 mph where a governor keeps you from going any faster. The EPA doesn't even rate trucks this big for fuel economy, but you should expect something in the 10-12 mpg range; we saw 14 mpg on the highway, but 10 mpg is more likely around town.
If you like diesel engines, you'll love Ford's turbocharged 7.3-liter Power Stroke. It seems unaffected by high altitude and I was amazed at its ability to accelerate past slower cars on two-lane roads. The diesel generates 505 foot-pounds of torque at just 1600 rpm, useful for pulling stumps out of your yard or pulling heavy trailers up steep ramps. Ford worked hard to reduce noise from the diesel both inside and outside the Excursion; but you still shouldn't expect to sneak up on anyone. The diesel gets around 16 to 18 mpg, and with a 44-gallon fuel tank, the diesel has a range of more than 700 miles.
On paper, the Excursion is with a 5.4-liter V8, but I suspect they would struggle if you loaded six passengers and luggage and headed for the mountains. This engine is best left as an economical engine for utility companies in the flatlands.
While the 4x2 comes with Ford's Twin I-Beam front suspension and coil springs, the 4x4 uses a solid front axle and leaf springs. Differences in ride and handling between the two are surprisingly subtle. The 4x4 handles well, tackling corners with confidence and offering good grip on dirt roads. It does not offer the ride sophistication of the newest generation Suburban and Yukon XL 1500-series models, however. At high speeds, the Excursion is stable. Strong crosswinds and an 18-wheeler going in the opposite direction had little effect.
Its long wheelbase means the Excursion is not a serious off-road vehicle. But the part-time four-wheel-drive system and 8.1-inch ground clearance should get you up some pretty gnarly dirt roads in nasty weather. The Excursion does not offer a system like GM's Autotrac, which distributes torque front to rear automatically for slushy, inconsistent conditions. But Ford's clever vacuum-controlled hub-locking system quickly engages four-wheel drive on the fly by pressing a button. A low-range set of gears is ready whenever you need to tackle steep, slippery terrain.
Most important, the Excursion is rated to tow trailers up to 10,000 pounds (more than enough to pull a hefty boat). All Excursions come ready to tow, with a Class IV receiver hitch and factory-wired seven-pin electrical connector; a four-pin adapter is also included. All Excursions come with D-load range light-truck tires, LT265/75R-16D. You may want the available all-terrain treads if you drive on muddy trails, but the all-season tires are smoother and quieter for towing long distances.
This is a heavy vehicle, however. It's so heavy that it doesn't offer a big payload.
There's no getting around the fact that this is a big vehicle and its size is apparent in downtown areas. The Suburban is easier to manage. However, if you're used to big rigs, then you'll find this one surprisingly maneuverable and easy to park.
Ford's gargantuan sport-utility is a stable platform for towing heavy trailers and can at the same time carry a truckload of fishermen. It rides fairly well for a heavy-duty truck and it's luxurious and comfortable. For those who want to tow trailers up to 10,000 pounds, the Excursion is a good alternative to a pickup with a cap.
The Ford Excursion should not, however, be considered as an alternative to a minivan. It's far too thirsty, and its size and design make for poor maneuverability and handling when compared with minivans and light-duty SUVs.
XLT 4x2 ($32,820), XLT 4x4 ($36,075), Limited 4x2 ($38,795), Limited 4x4 ($41,895).
Options As Tested
XLT 4x4 ($38,235).
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