2003 Expedition New Car Test Drive
Ford has launched an all-new Expedition. This second-generation model shares almost nothing with last year's model. It's packed with new features, but the biggest improvement is its ride quality, a benefit of a new independent rear suspension.
When I last drove the Expedition, it was for a long comparison test with one of its prime competitors. Not an hour out of town, the Expedition pulled off the flat, straight highway. My fatigued co-tester was eager to trade vehicles with me. Indeed, keeping the giant sport utility, with its darty steering, sloppy suspension and rough ride, on the straight and narrow was tough duty. We made frequent driver swaps during the remainder of the five-hour journey, and, needless to say, the Expedition didn't win the bake-off.
Were we to travel in the new Expedition on same route, the results would be dramatically different. A driver could comfortably stay behind the wheel for the entire trip without fatigue, and the Expedition would have a great shot at beating competitors in a comparison test. That's how much better the 2003 model is over its predecessor. Ride and handling are greatly improved, the steering is more responsive and more stable on the open road.
New features for the 2003 Expedition include a power third-row seat that disappears with the press of a button, leaving a large, perfectly flat cargo area. The interior is all new. A small center seat on the second row slides forward to give front-seat parents access to a small child. Safety is enhanced with a lower front bumper, an optional safety curtain designed to protect occupants in a rollover, adjustable pedals, a tire-pressure monitor, and advanced electronics designed to help the driver maintain control.
The Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator full-size sport utilities were originally introduced as 1997 models for people who needed three rows of seats like a minivan but wanted to trade the soccer-mom image for the rugged, outdoorsy appearance of an SUV. At that time, few competitors existed, primarily the Chevrolet Suburban and other full-size utilities from General Motors. Toyota has since added the Sequoia, and GM has launched additional iterations of its full-size and almost full-size sport utilities.
A choice of engines is offered in the Expedition: the standard 4.6-liter V8 rated at 232 horsepower and the 5.4-liter V8 that produces 291 horsepower. Both are paired with the same four-speed automatic transmission.
Two trim levels are available: XLT and Eddie Bauer. The XLT is equipped well.
Eddie Bauer adds front captain's chairs with two tone-leather and 6-way driver power, automatic climate control with rear A/C, a premium sound system, Arizona Beige lower body side cladding, floor console, overhead console, 11 cup holders, fog lights, privacy glass with power flip-open rear windows, satin nickel grille, Homelink, electrochromic mirror, power outside heated mirrors with memory, security approach lamps and integrated turn signals, power adjustable pedals with memory, power driver's seat with memory, reverse sensing system, black non-illuminated running boards.
Expedition prices run a wide range: XLT 2WD ($30,555); XLT 4WD ($33,425); Eddie Bauer 2WD ($37,050); Eddie Bauer 4WD ($41,195). Numerous packages are available for the XLT. A fully loaded Eddie Bauer edition goes for nearly $45,000.
An FX4 off-road package ($4,185) is available on XLT models that features distinctive exterior cues that give it a more rugged appearance, including tubular steel running boards, foglamps, an FX4 badge on the liftgate. Unique 17-inch chromed steel wheels and all-terrain tires complement special shocks tuned for off-road performance.
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