Full Test - 2003 Ford Expedition

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Feb 18, 2003.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Exemplary Expedition

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    By Brian Moody
    Date posted: 02-11-2003

    Introduced in 1997, the Expedition has come a long way in terms of refinement and civility. While the Expedition was one of only a few choices in full-size SUVs for the 1997 model year, subsequent years have brought a flurry of new and competent choices — so the competition in this segment is fierce.

    For 2003 Ford has redesigned the Expedition and included a host of new features and industry firsts in a full-size SUV. Exterior styling remains largely unchanged; the real improvements are inside and underneath the big truck.

    Inside, Ford has borrowed a page from minivans, such as the Honda Odyssey, as the Expedition offers the first fold-flat rear seat in a full-size SUV. Not only do the split-folding rear seats make a flat cargo floor, they can be ordered with a power-folding option, another industry first. Combined with second-row seats that also fold flat, the Expedition's power rear seats offer versatility and convenience any owner could grow to love.

    Adding further flexibility, the third-row seats are arranged in a 60/40-split, while the second-row seats can fold down in three separate sections, or a roughly 40/20/40-split. We found this to be especially useful when hauling more than two people and odd-shaped cargo, such as golf clubs, baby strollers or skis. Fold down all the seats and the flat floor, combined with a high roof, gives the Expedition a vanlike ability to devour lots of cargo.

    Up front, the Expedition has a much higher-quality feel than Ford SUVs we've previously tested. Granted this example was a luxurious Eddie Bauer model, but it still felt warmer than Ford trucks of past years that, too often, seemed like work trucks with a bunch of fancy stuff thrown in. The buttons and switches lack the plasticky sensation typical of some Ford products. Most surfaces, including the switchgear, feel rugged without being rough. Metal trim rings surround the dash vents and the aluminum accents add a modern flair.

    While the look of the dash is much better, the way it is arranged could use some improvement. At first, we found everything where it should be, but with extended use and a variety of drivers, the ergonomics were a little worse than average with regard to the audio-navigation system. The navigation system/audio control screen is well placed but difficult to operate from the driver seat. A "menu" button on the nav system is angled away from the driver and does not light up at night. If the "menu" button is the key to accessing all other functions, it needs to be visible in all conditions. A toggle-type knob is used to navigate through the audio system functions, and it is quite a reach for the driver. Also, the buttons for the driver information display are completely blocked by the shift lever when the truck is in "Drive." Redundant steering wheel-mounted controls help somewhat, but overall, the dashboard ergonomics need some work.

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    The navigation system itself could use some work as well. The LCD screen is simply too small, and the maps "redraw" at odd times. Another problem is the fact that the navigation system is not DVD-based, but rather uses multiple CD-ROMs to cover the country. On the plus side, the system offers a few externally mounted buttons that allow quick access to the map in relation to your destination. A small "map" button instantly changes the screen to show the vehicle's current position. Two other buttons marked "Here" and "Home" quickly show the vehicle's position in relation to a programmed destination — it's especially helpful if you get completely lost.

    The interior has a very spacious, open feel. The new Expedition is 1.7 inches wider than last year's model, and the extra hiproom is noticeable. The center console storage bin is very accommodating and will easily swallow sunglasses, a cell phone, CD cases, a wallet or two and other everyday bits and pieces the modern world has saddled us with.

    The front seats are firm but comfortable. The power adjustments are smooth and efficient, but the lumbar and seat back adjustments should be power as well considering this is the luxurious Eddie Bauer edition that costs nearly $45,000. The rear seats are roomy, comfortable and can also be reclined manually. Legroom is still more than adequate for backseat passengers.

    While the interior is a comfortable place to spend time and offers thoughtful and flexible seating-cargo arrangements, none of it would matter if the Expedition didn't deliver a certain amount of civility on the road.

    Ford claims the 2003 Expedition has a frame that is 70-percent stiffer than last year's model thanks to more rigid frame rails. However, a rigid frame alone is not enough to deliver carlike ride and handling, so Ford has given the Expedition a fully independent rear suspension with a double-wishbone setup similar to that found on many passenger cars.

    All this technology may be of little interest to the average SUV shopper, but it's hard to argue with the results. This Expedition delivers a carlike ride that rivals the Chevrolet Tahoe and Toyota Sequoia. Rough or uneven pavement is little cause for concern as virtually none of the unpleasantness makes its way into the cabin. Handling is also improved, as the Expedition showed significantly reduced body roll and felt more nimble than its collective girth might suggest. The newfound refinement is noticeable at highway speeds as well — the cabin remains quiet for the most part, even at speeds of 70 mph and higher. There is some wind noise, but road and engine noise are muted.

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    Acceleration is certainly not brisk, but adequate considering this truck's size. We recorded a 0-to-60 mph time of 8.8 seconds. With the lack of noticeable brute strength under the hood, we can't help but wonder how the Expedition would fare towing a trailer while loaded with family vacation garb. Although there is a 232-horsepower, 4.6-liter V8 available, it's the 260-hp, 5.4-liter Triton V8 that will offer most drivers plenty of power. Ford claims to have specially tuned the Triton motor to deliver a "performance" sound while accelerating and a quieter tone for normal driving or open-highway cruising — it's not just PR hype, the engine really does deliver on this promise. The 5.4 has numerous enhancements to make it a much more well-rounded motor, but it still falls a little short of Toyota's wonderful i-Force V8 in terms of refinement.

    Braking is also improved with larger rotors and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution. We were able to get the Expedition to a dead stop from 60 mph in 135 feet, but more than one driver complained of an initial vagueness in the pedal.

    In addition to performance enhancements, the Expedition incorporates many safety features as well. New for 2003 is a Safety Canopy system that increases protection during side-impact accidents and vehicle rollover. The optional Safety Canopy system uses separate sensors to adjust airbag deployment according to each situation. In a rollover, the airbags can stay fully inflated for up to six seconds to enhance protection for first- and second-row passengers. There is also a Personal Safety System that includes sensors for front seat position, crash severity and safety belt usage to insure that the airbags deploy at exactly the right time and intensity. Accident avoidance features include BrakeAssist, which can help to reduce braking distances in panic-stop situations, and the AdvanceTrac stability control system.

    In theory, the 2003 Expedition incorporates many changes that, when viewed individually, seem minor or evolutionary at best. In practice, the new Expedition is revolutionary in virtually every way except exterior appearance. A smoother ride, more predictable handling as well as a more comfortable and versatile cabin put the Expedition on par with other full-size SUVs for the first time in years. The old Expedition was easy to dismiss, but anyone shopping for a full-size SUV would be wise to add the '03 version to their list.

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    Ups: Improved ride and handling over previous generation, added safety features, refined interior.

    Downs: Poor fuel economy, clunky navigation system.

    The Bottom Line: Ford got this one right — the Expedition is finally on par with the Tahoe and Sequoia.

    MSRP of Test Vehicle: $44,230
     
  2. White Stormy

    White Stormy Take that, subspace!

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    I want one.
     
  3. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    :eek:

    An American vehicle with a quality interior! *gasp*

    Expedition > Sequoia
     
  4. BLoG

    BLoG Scented Meat

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    The updated exterior is so much better (same with the navigator)

    The upcoming f150 is gonna be so fuckin sweet. :yum:
     
  5. SycoPhant

    SycoPhant Get out my way

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    Good write up :bigthumb:

    I'm going to steal this and put it on my site now :p
     
  6. ImpalaSS

    ImpalaSS Guest

    Jesus it looks just like an Explorer.
     
  7. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Super sized.
     
  8. Wolvrin704

    Wolvrin704 Guest

    I'm disappointed they have haven't increased the power of the 4.6 or 5.4 at all. Still it seems to be up on a level with the imports, at least for now.
     

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