Expedition EL

Bigger isn’t necessarily always better in today’s RV market. If you’re going to go big, you
better have a product so attractive that buyers will clamor over it right out of the gate.
Ford’s 2007 Expedition and its slightly longer sibling, the all-new Expedition EL, have new
features that add even more appeal to the popular full-size SUV line. In the face of
sluggish sales due to fuel prices, Ford has soldiered on with the redesigned Expedition in
a way that may well rekindle consumer interest in the line. In addition, Ford has lowered
the msrp of the 2007 models an average of $4,300 as compared to the 2006 vehicles. That’s a
chunk less change, and especially surprising since the ’07 offers a variety of new features
for the lower cost. Secure Underpinnings Ford says its all-new Expedition
chassis, fully boxed for ’07 and built using hydro-formed rail sections, was designed to
Super Duty truck standards and offers a 10-percent increase in frame stiffness.
Improvements for front-end collision safety have also been incorporated. Out back, the
second-generation independent rear suspension uses coil springs and five-link-style
hardware. The unit’s low profile enabled inclusion of the fold-flat third-row seat feature.
The carryover independent front suspension has also been tweaked for improved steering
performance. The Triton 5.4-liter V-8, rated at 300 hp and 365 lb-ft of torque, is the sole
engine available, and it’s mated to a new standard-equipment six-speed automatic
transmission. Plus, the new model year brings higher towing ratings: 2WD Expeditions will
tow 9,200 pounds, while 4WD versions can haul 9,000 pounds. The 2WD EL is rated at 9,000
pounds, while the 4WD EL can handle up to 8,750 pounds. Solo Cruising at Its
Best
Ford borrowed styling cues from the Super Duty truck series when restyling
the Expedition body. Crisp, bold lines reflect the rig’s big-truck capabilities and give it
a modern image. The new EL model features a body that’s 14.8 inches longer than the
standard Expedition, and a wheelbase that’s 12 inches longer. The EL looks well balanced
and artistic without that “lengthened-vehicle” look. In effect, the EL now boasts passenger
and cargo capabilities in the same league as the half-ton Suburban and, in fact, the EL
leapfrogs the competition in some respects. All-new driver and passenger bucket seats
complement the restyled dash and new interior trim. The second- and third-row seats, also
new for ’07, fold completely flat to provide maximum storage-space potential out back, and
the optional PowerFold third-row feature makes for an easy one-touch seat fold-down. The
third-row seat includes 12 inches more legroom than competing models from GM and Toyota.
Safety is standard with the inclusion of AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control (RSC), a
driving-stability system that uses a gyroscopic roll-rate sensor to monitor vehicle pitch
and yaw rates, and Safety Canopy all-seating-row side-curtain air bags. Buyers won’t lack
for a full array of electronic goodies in the new Expedition, starting with an optional
6.5-inch-screen DVD-based navigation system with touch-screen and voice-based activation
and features. There’s an audio jack for MP3 players and a full range of high-zoot stereo
systems on the option list. On the Road One feature is blissfully
unavoidable when taking to the road for the first time in an ’07 Expedition: Quiet. Ford
has engineered a lot of silence into this truck, including the use of what Ford calls an
“acoustic windshield,” thicker side glass, more sound-deadening materials throughout and
more insulation. The quiet allows occupants to fully appreciate the great sound system in
the truck, and the terrific front seats help you relax and enjoy the drive. Part of our ’07
introduction was a solo drive on a route between Astoria and Portland, Oregon, and another
segment gave us some quality towing time. Our payload trailer was an Arctic Fox model 25R
from Northwood Manufacturing. The trailer weighed approximately 6,300 pounds and featured a
10,000-pound gross vehicle weight rating (gvwr). Although the gvwr exceeded the truck’s
8,750-pound tow rating — meaning this trailer couldn’t be fully loaded without overloading
the Expedition — it still allowed a fair payload capacity while keeping the truck’s tow
rating in sight. Although brief, our drive gave us a chance to get a good sense for how the
new Expedition EL functions with a suitably sized trailer in tow. We expected little change
in acceleration figures due to the essentially similar drivetrain, and no surprises
appeared. We covered a 0-to-60-mph acceleration run in 20.7 seconds, and the 40- to 60-mph
segment took 10.8 seconds. Those are more than acceptable dead-start numbers, and are fast
enough to make for safe freeway onramp and merging runs, plus general highway-speed
maneuvering. Flat-out acceleration or up-and-down hill maneuvers placed the new six-speed
transmission in a variety of high-load situations under varying power demands. From its
low-geared dead-stop launch to choosing the right gear for uphill runs, the transmission
was smooth and shifted firmly, and did so with excellent timing. Part of the drive covered
the Columbia River crossing at the Astoria, Oregon, bridge, a tall affair that hoists
vehicles 200 feet above the water below to allow seagoing vessel passage, then back down
for the trip from shore to shore. Fast crosswinds persist here at the river’s mouth, and
the Expedition was as steady and sure as we could have hoped for. The SUV’s aft end never
wavered, due in part to the independent rear suspension, and the effect was doubtless aided
by the EL’s extra wheelbase. Steering and braking, likewise, were happily as good as we
could hope for. No fluff here, just a steady feel, controlled lane changes and consistently
good driving manners. We have a simple unit of measure when test-driving a
truck-and-trailer lashup, and it especially applies when time with the rig is short: Would
we feel comfortable heading cross country with this setup, knowing we’d have days and days
behind the wheel? In this case the answer is an unequivocal, Yes. The new Expedition and
Expedition EL SUVs should take their places among the classic Ford tow vehicles we’ve
driven and enjoyed. Towing muscle, smart design, sensible features and lower cost add up to
a full-size tow vehicle that’s a good fit for today’s RV market.

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