2007 Ford Expedition Expert Review:Autoblog
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.
New Car Test Drive
Thoroughly revised for 2007.
When it comes time to fill up the tank, it's not easy to justify a full-size sport utility. But even as you pour 28 gallons of regular unleaded into the Expedition's gas tank, you can take heart in this sport-utility's ability to make a family vacation not only possible but also practical.
Ford is the first to admit that the sales of full-size, truck-based sport utilities have dropped some 40 percent since 2004 as people turn to smaller, more fuel-efficient, car-based utilities for their daily transportation. But Ford also reminds us that fuel prices have simply chased away the people who really shouldn't have been driving a full-size sport-utility in the first place.
The Expedition is meant for utility, not profiling. It carries people, hauls gear, tows boats, and pulls campers. The Expedition offers towing capacities in the 9000-pound range. When it's equipped with four-wheel drive, the Expedition will also get you there whether the road is dry, wet, snowy, or even when there's hardly any road at all.
Ford reminds us that full-size sport-utilities can still play an important role in our everyday lives. To start with, Ford's research shows that 92 percent of the Expedition owners use their big SUV for vacations. Some 60 percent use it to transport outdoor sports gear, while 40 percent of Expedition owners use the vehicle's towing capacity. Some 84 percent routinely carry more than three passengers behind the front row of seats.
Moreover, Ford notes that the place of the sport-utility in American life isn't going to disappear. Sales of personal watercraft have increased 9.2 percent since 2005, while there will be some 6.3 million households with tow-able recreational campers by 2010. Finally, three-generation families are becoming a substantial part of the vacation picture, so plenty of passenger seats are a necessity, not just a convenience.
With this in mind, the Expedition has been thoroughly revised for 2007 to make it a platform for family-friendly adventures. Every aspect of its utility has been improved: towing capacity, passenger comfort and even driving enjoyment. Meanwhile, a new, extended-wheelbase Expedition EL adds more cargo-carrying capacity, especially noticeable when trying to load groceries or gear behind the third-row seats.
Ford has made the Expedition even more family-friendly by substantially reducing its price. While the reductions have more to do with real-world transaction prices of the past and mirror similar pricing strategies at Chrysler and General Motors, the fact remains that a base model XLT Expedition retails for $29,995, some $5485 less than in '06. Ford tells us that Expedition models across the range have been reduced in price by an average of $4300. Just as important, a new warranty extends bumper-to-bumper protection to three years/36,000 miles, while the powertain is covered for five years/60,000 miles. In addition, the warranty is fully transferable to subsequent owners.
The 2007 Ford Expedition comes in two different sizes, the standard model with a 119-inch wheelbase, and the new Expedition EL with its 131-inch wheelbase. Every Expedition is powered by a single-overhead-cam 5.4-liter V-8 that is rated at 300 horsepower and 365 pound-feet of torque. A new, six-speed automatic transmission is standard equipment. Every Expedition model is available with either rear-wheel drive (2WD) or electronically engaged four-wheel drive (4WD). A Class III trailer hitch is standard.
Safety equipment includes front-seat frontal and side-impact air bags, three-row head-protection curtain air bags, anti-lock braking (ABS), and electronic stability control with anti-rollover technology.
Three trim levels are available: the entry-level XLT, the outdoor-styled Eddie Bauer, and luxurious Limited.
The XLT ($29,995) and 4WD XLT ($32,895) offer full-size utility at an affordable price. The monochromatic interior features cloth upholstery with front captain's chairs (driver's seat is six-way power adjustable), a 40/20/40 split-bench seat in the second row, and a rear cargo bin. A tilt steering wheel, air conditioning and an AM/FM stereo tuner with single-disk CD changer are also part of the package. Exterior standard equipment features 265/70R-17 tires, running boards, roof rails, fog lights, power-adjustable outside mirrors, and a rear liftgate with flip-up glass and a rear defroster/wiper/washer system.
The XLT EL ($34,445) and XLT EL 4WD ($37,345) are similarly equipped as the standard wheelbase versions.
The option list for the XLT models includes second-row captain's chairs, a manual- or power-folding, third-row bench seat, rear load-leveling air suspension, and a heavy-duty towing package. Options include a navigation system, a premium AM/FM stereo with six-disc CD changer, Sirius satellite radio, and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system.
The Eddie Bauer ($36,395) and Eddie Bauer 4WD ($39,295) are trimmed as outdoor adventure vehicles and are distinguished by a longer list of convenience features as standard equipment, notably the Expedition's unique third-row seat which folds flat into the cargo floor. Other standard features for the Eddie Bauer model include leather upholstery with front captain's chairs (driver's seat is 10-way power adjustable), the third-row seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, an AM/FM stereo tuner with 6CD changer, and protective cladding for the lower body panels.
The Eddie Bauer EL ($39,045) and Eddie Bauer EL 4WD ($41,945) are similarly equipped as the standard wheelbase versions.
Options for the Eddie Bauer models include a lengthy list of practical features including a power-folding, third-row bench seat, rear load-leveling air suspension, a heavy-duty towing package, and second-row captain's chairs. Convenience features include a navigation system, Sirius satellite radio, and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system.
The Limited ($37,845) and Limited 4WD ($40,745) are meant to deliver car-like, highway-friendly sophistication in a sport-utility package. The list of standard equipment resembles that of the Eddie Bauer model, but the style statement is far grander and the list of convenience features includes elaborate luxury items. Leather upholstery is standard, as are front captain's chairs (driver's seat is 10-way adjustable) with a heating/cooling feature. The power-folding rear bench seat is standard. Exterior upgrades include 255/70R18 tires with chrome-finish wheels, power-adjustable and folding mirrors.
The Limited EL ($40,495) and Limited EL 4WD ($43,395) are similarly equipped as the standard wheelbase versions.
The option list for the Eddie Bauer and Eddie Bauer EL includes a lengthy list of practical features including a power-folding, third-row bench seat, an electronically powered liftgate, rear load-leveling air suspension, a heavy-duty towing package, and second-row captain's chairs. Convenien.
The Ford Expedition is a truck and, unlike so many other full-size sport-utilities, it doesn't pretend to be anything else. This is a good identity to have, because Ford trucks continue to have an outstanding reputation for utility, reliability and durability, perhaps a byproduct of the extraordinarily rigorous testing they undergo at Ford's brutal truck proving ground in Arizona.
Both the long and regular-length versions of the Expedition are based on the tough, durable components of the Ford F-150 pickup. However, the Expedition features independent rear suspension, chassis technology that improves driving precision, ride comfort, and even passenger packaging.
In the past, the Expedition hasn't been able to establish much of a visual identity, as Ford tried to make the first-generation Expedition look like a car and then went to the other extreme with a notably clumsy interpretation of the heavy-duty tractor-trailer look in the second-generation version.
This new third-generation Expedition features a three-bar grille, large jewel-like headlights, and a domed hood that combine to deliver a look that's both distinctive and respectable. Moreover, there are five different wheel designs, including new 20-inchers with a chrome finish. The Expedition doesn't have the style of GM's sport-utilities, but at least it avoids the science-fiction look of the Nissan Armada and Toyota Sequoia.
The overall dimensions of the standard Expedition are much the same as before, while the new Expedition EL stretches the standard vehicle's wheelbase by a foot to 131 inches. Overall, the EL measures 14.8 inches longer than the standard Expedition, and that adds 24 cubic feet of cargo volume, an increase to 130.8 cubic feet behind the front seats from 108.3 cubic feet.
Both the standard Expedition and the Expedition EL are great big vehicles, measuring more than seventeen feet from nose to tail. As a result, they're not at their best while maneuvering closer to the dry cleaners at a suburban mini-mall. The Expedition has a turning circle of nearly 41 feet, while the EL requires 44 feet. They're also heavy, as even the base 2WD Expedition weighs 5578 pounds, while the base 2WD EL tips the scales at 5825 pounds. The addition of 4WD adds another 235 pounds to the bottom line.
To be frank, the Expedition is the kind of vehicle that comes with running boards as standard equipment, and we're glad it does.
The 2007 Expedition has a brand-new interior look. The acres of cheap plastic seen in the previous models, so reminiscent of a rental car, have been replaced by a richer blend of finishes, textures and color. In fact, the overall effect of the fully optioned 2007 Expedition Limited is the best representation of modern American-style luxury within Ford's overall vehicle lineup. Wood, chrome and leather make the Expedition an inviting place to spend a day on the road.
This new appreciation for passenger comfort is best reflected in the new front seats, as captain's chairs with movable armrests are now standard across the three model lines. Leather-upholstered examples are available with an optional heating/cooling feature that makes them a more comfortable companion in winter and summer. Seat travel for the driver's seat has been increased three-quarters of an inch to help accommodate taller drivers, and it's a perfect match for the Expedition's movable pedals, so a wider range of drivers can be accommodated.
The second seating row also reflects Ford's thoughtful approach to passenger comfort, as the standard 40/20/40 bench seat incorporates a center section that slides forward up to eleven inches, bringing a child seat within easier reach of front-seat passengers. Optional second-row captain's chairs with a center-aisle pass-through can be substituted for adult-rated comfort.
The Expedition's available third-row seat is also impressively unique. Packaging advantages afforded by the Expedition's independent rear suspension enable this rear seat to deliver a far more comfortable seating position to adults compared to the accommodations provided by the Chevy Tahoe. Moreover, the three-row canopy airbags ensure the third-row passengers have the same head protection in a collision as passengers in the forward seat rows. As with the previous model, the amount of room afforded to passengers by the standard Expedition is generous.
The Expedition's liftgate with its flip-up glass hatch also makes access to the cargo area very easy. The best thing about the Expedition's bench-type seats in the second and third rows is the way in which they can be folded flat onto the cargo floor, affording a long cargo area that can be easily loaded. This means you don't have to unbolt the passenger seats and leave them on the floor of your garage every time you're making a serious run to Home Depot. The Expedition is available with an optional power-folding third seat and electronically powered liftgate to make it even easier to load cargo. At the same time, the seat squabs of the second- and third-row seats are a little slim in order to allow the seats to fold properly.
Yet the new Expedition is about more than convenience. A new climate-control system dramatically reduces the time required to cool or heat the cabin. A new DVD-based navigation system with sizable 6.5-inch screen is available as an option. The rear-seat DVD entertainment system has an eight-inch screen that flips down from the ceiling and also includes two sets of wireless headphones. A plug-in jack for an MP3 player is standard across the line. The Expedition is even a nice place to be when all the entertainment is switched off, as the combination of thicker glass and a generous amount of acoustic insulation behind the dash and on the floor makes this a remarkably quiet interior, and it's actually possible to have a conversation with the people in the third-row seat while you're at the wheel.
Full-size sport-utilities aren't known for their driving manners, but the latest-generation of vehicles from both Ford and General Motors have made real progress in delivering a more car-like impression.
In this regard, the 2007 Ford Expedition is notably superior to the 2007 Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon, and it tracks down the highway with excellent straight-line stability, negotiates forest roads with surprising agility, and absorbs impacts from bumps or broken pavement without straying from its path. While the Tahoe bounds from bump to bump as its heavy rear axle rebounds from impacts, the Expedition maintains a surprising calm considering its truck heritage.
Most of the magic comes from car-like engineering, a synergy between a chassis frame that's 10 percent more rigid, high-pressure gas shocks that afford excellent wheel control, and a second-generation, link-type independent rear suspension. Moreover, steering effort has been reduced 15 percent, while the brakes have been upgraded to deliver more stopping capability. The two-speed 4WD system is engaged with a simple rotary knob mounted on the dashboard, and it automatically reduces throttle sensitivity in low range for better traction in slippery circumstances.
As before, the overhead-cam 5.4-liter V8 delivers 300 hp, but it's really tuned to deliver 365 pound-feet of torque for towing, a product of variable valve timing and cylinder heads with three valves per cylinder. In the past, this engine has seemed sluggish compared to its competition, despite its excellent power rating, but the addition of a new, six-speed automatic transmission for 2007 has transformed its personality. The seamless transition through the gears keeps the engine from laboring through its rpm range, and the result is an impression of reliable power.
This engine performance also has a notable impact on towing, making it seem like a pleasure instead of a chore. With its optional towing package in place, the standard Expedition will now tow 9000 pounds, the best rating in this class. (A 2WD Expedition is rated 9200 pounds, a 4WD 9000 pounds, a 2WD EL is rated 9000 pounds, a 4WD EL is 8750 pounds.)
Oddly enough, the Ford engineers tell us that the Expedition's complement of dynamic safety features makes it possible to deliver this improvement in overall driving performance. The Expedition can be tuned for far greater responsiveness to the driver because the electronics can be relied upon to compensate for any unusual circumstances.
The prime technology here is Ford's unique stability control, which incorporates sensors to detect both roll angle and yaw rate. If the Expedition gets out of shape, the system reduces the throttle or applies the brakes to help keep the vehicle upright. This is the third generation of a system originally engineered by Volvo. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety claims its data suggest stability systems in general reduce the chance of single-vehicle rollovers by SUVs by an astonishing 80 percent.
For all its comfort and stability, the Expedition is still about utility rather than sport. When it comes to driving, the Expedition feels very heavy, and while it offers driving precision, it's not as alert or sporty as its GM and Nissan competitors. Though the brakes have been upgraded for 2007, they still seem to require a lot of effort to get the Expedition whoa'd down. Nevertheless, The Expedition's overall driving performance is far more refined than any other vehicle in its class.
Fuel prices have chased lots of people away from full-size sport-utilities, but all the vehicles in this class now offer a surprising amount of car-like refinement in addition to the customary utility. Even in this group, the 2007 Ford Expedition stands apart because it not only offers the best overall utility package but also delivers superior performance in virtually every way. As fuel prices help shift priorities to smaller, more efficient vehicles, it's important to remember that full-size sport-utilities will become more useful than ever simply because no other vehicle can do so much with so many people. Ford is right on target with its family adventure concept, and the Ford Expedition is the best vehicle for family vacation travel on the American road.
Ford Expedition XLT 2WD ($29,995); XLT 4WD ($32,895); XLT EL 2WD ($34,445); XLT EL 4WD ($37,345); Eddie Bauer 2WD ($36,395); Eddie Bauer 4WD ($39,295); Eddie Bauer EL 2WD ($39,045); Eddie Bauer EL 4WD ($41,945); Limited 2WD ($37,845); Limited 4WD ($40,745); Limited EL 2WD ($40,495); Limited EL 4WD ($43,395).
Options As Tested
275/55R-20 all-season tires with chrome-finish wheels ($995); Sirius satellite radio ($195); DVD-based navigation system ($1995); rear-seat DVD entertainment system ($1500).
Ford Expedition Limited 2WD ($45,545).
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