2009 Ford Expedition EL
2009 Ford Expedition EL Expert Review: New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
Great SUV for big-family expeditions.
True expeditions require additional transportation conveyances: horses, boats, cars, for example. With a towing capacity around 9,000 pounds, the Ford Expedition can tow any of these.
After redesigning the Expedition for 2007 while also lowering the price, Ford adds a new top end King Ranch model for 2008, as well as an available rear backup camera and power-retractable running boards.
The Expedition is meant for utility, not posing. It carries people, hauls gear, tows boats, and pulls campers. 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.
Inside, the Expedition features rich materials and generous space in all three seating rows. The second- and third-row seats fold flat to create a useful rear cargo area. Extended-wheelbase EL versions add even more cargo-carrying capacity, which is especially noticeable when trying to load groceries or gear behind the third-row seats.
All Expeditions are powered by Ford's 5.4-liter V8 that makes 300 horsepower and offers towing capacities in the 9000-pound range. Thanks in part to independent rear suspension, the Expedition offers a smooth ride that is more car-like than most big, truck-based SUVs. Due to that size, however, the Expedition is prone to lean in turns and is not easy to maneuver in close quarters.
With its combination of utility, a smooth, stable ride and a pleasant interior, the 2008 Ford Expedition is a fine choice for families that tow boats and take driving vacations.
The 2008 Ford Expedition comes in two lengths, the standard model with a 119-inch wheelbase, and the 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 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) that can be driven on dry pavement and includes low-range gearing. A Class III trailer hitch is standard.
Four trim levels are available: the entry-level XLT, the outdoor-styled Eddie Bauer, luxurious Limited, and the new top-of-the-line King Ranch.
The XLT ($30,620) and 4WD XLT ($33,529) come with 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 (leather-wrapped for 2008), front and rear air conditioning with rear controls, remote keyless entry, automatic headlights, alarm and an AM/FM/CD stereo with MP3 player connectivity and rear controls are also part of the package. Exterior standard equipment features 265/70R17 tires on alloy wheels, running boards, roof rails, fog lights, power-adjustable outside mirrors (now heated), and a rear liftgate with flip-up glass and a rear defroster/wiper/washer system. Also added as standard for 2008 are keyless entry keypad, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, overhead console, and illuminated visors. The 2WD models have highway tires and the 4WD drive models have on/off-road tires and front tow hooks.
The XLT EL ($34,145) and XLT EL 4WD ($37,045) are equipped the same as standard wheelbase versions, except they come with a split-folding third-row seat and a conversation mirror.
Options for XLT models include second-row captain's chairs ($530), a manual- ($875) or power-folding ($1370) third-row bench seat, leather upholstery ($1295), rear load-leveling air suspension ($485), a heavy-duty towing package ($395), a premium AM/FM stereo with six-disc CD changer ($300) and Sirius satellite radio ($195). A Convenience package ($675) offers rear obstacle detection, power-adjustable pedals, power rear quarter windows, and a universal garage door opener. An Off-Road package ($200) for 4WD XLTs has tubular side steps and skid plates.
The Eddie Bauer ($35,865) and Eddie Bauer 4WD ($38,675) are trimmed as outdoor adventure vehicles and are distinguished by a longer list of convenience features as standard equipment, notably the Expedition's unique power-folding split third-row seat. Other standard features include leather upholstery, 10-way power adjustable driver's seat, six-way power adjustable front passenger seat, memory for the mirrors and driver's seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, an AM/FM stereo tuner with 6CD changer, trip computer, conversation mirror, mirror-mounted turn signals, and protective cladding for the lower body panels. The Eddie Bauer EL ($38,515) and Eddie Bauer EL 4WD ($41,415) are equipped like the standard wheelbase versions but have front tow hooks and 255/70R18 tires instead of 17s.
Options for Eddie Bauer models over and above those of the XLT include heated and cooled front seats ($625), new-for-2008 power running boards ($995), power rear liftgate ($495), a navigation system ($1295), rear-seat DVD entertainment system ($1995), the new rear backup camera ($455), and P275/55R20 tires.
The Limited ($38,025) and Limited 4WD ($40,925) add heated and cooled front seats, 10-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, universal garage door opener, power rear quarter windows, power-adjustable pedals, and 255/70R18 tires on chrome alloy wheels. The Limited EL ($40,675) and Limited EL 4WD ($43,575) are equipped the same but also have front tow hooks.
The new King Ranch ($39,965) and King Ranch 4WD ($42,865) have upgraded Chaparral leather upholstery, King Ran.
The Ford Expedition is a truck and 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.
Both the long and regular-length versions of the Expedition use many of the components from the Ford F-150 pickup. However, the Expedition features independent rear suspension, chassis technology that improves driving precision, ride comfort, and rear-seat roominess.
This third-generation Expedition features a three-bar grille, large headlights, and a domed hood that combine to deliver a look that's both distinctive and respectable. There are several different wheel designs, including 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.
Expedition EL models stretch the 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 from 108.3 to 130.8 cubic feet behind the front seats.
Both the standard Expedition and the Expedition EL are big vehicles, measuring more than 17 feet from nose to tail. As a result, crowded parking lots can be challenging. 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.
The new King Ranch model can be identified by its gold exterior accents and unique wheel design.
The Expedition comes with running boards as standard equipment. For 2008, power retractable running boards that deploy when the doors are opened are an option.
The 2008 Ford Expedition features a rich blend of finishes, textures and color. Indeed, a fully optioned Expedition King Ranch is the best representation of modern American-style luxury within Ford's lineup. Wood, chrome and leather make the Expedition an inviting place to spend a day on the road. The layout of the gauges and controls is easy to understand and no controls are too far out of easy reach.
Captain's chairs with movable armrests are standard across the four model lines. Leather-upholstered examples are available with a heating/cooling feature that makes them a more comfortable companion in winter and summer. Generous driver's seat travel helps accommodate taller drivers, and it's a perfect match for the Expedition's movable pedals, so a wide range of drivers can be sit comfortably.
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.
Packaging advantages afforded by the Expedition's independent rear suspension enable the third-row seat to deliver more comfort for adults compared to the accommodations provided by the Chevy Tahoe. In fact, third-row room is among the best of any SUV, though three adults won't want to sit in the back for long. The high ride height also makes getting in and out a task for children.
The Expedition's liftgate with its flip-up glass hatch makes access to the cargo area very easy. The Expedition's second- and third-row bench-type seats fold flat into 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. In this regard, the Expedition is much better designed than GM's large SUVs. The Expedition is also available with an optional power-folding third-row seat and electronically powered liftgate to make it even easier to load cargo. However, the seat cushions of the second- and third-row seats are a little slim in order to allow the seats to fold properly.
The Expedition is about more than convenience. A 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 thick glass and a generous amount of acoustic insulation behind the dash and on the floor makes this a remarkably quiet interior; it's actually possible to have a conversation with the people in the third-row seat while you're at the wheel.
Ford's new rear backup camera is less expensive, but less impressive, than most. The image is shown in the rear-view mirror. It is quite small, no more than three inches across. While the image is useful, obstacles are not as easy to spot as they are in systems that show their images on six- or seven-inch dash-mounted screens.
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 2008 Ford Expedition is notably better than the 2008 Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon. 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 is more prone to bounding over bumps due to its heavy rear axle, the Expedition maintains a surprising calm ride considering its truck heritage. Most of the advantage comes from car-like engineering, a synergy between a rigid frame, high-pressure gas shocks that afford excellent wheel control, and a second-generation, link-type independent rear suspension.
Steering effort is light and easy. 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.
The overhead-cam 5.4-liter V8 delivers 300 hp, but it's really tuned to deliver torque, 365 pound-feet of it, for towing. The six-speed automatic transmission runs seamlessly through the gears, keeping the engine from laboring through its rpm range. The result is an impression of reliable power.
We noted some hesitation at throttle tip-in in some situations: Come to a stop sign at the top of a hill, stop, then accelerate, and there was a pause while the transmission engaged and forward momentum began. This could be an annoyance.
The Expedition makes an excellent tow vehicle. With the optional towing package, the standard 4WD Expedition will tow 9000 pounds. A 2WD Expedition is rated at 9200 pounds, a 2WD EL is rated at 9000 pounds, and a 4WD EL is rated to tow 8750 pounds.
For all its comfort and stability, the Expedition is still about utility rather than sport. When it comes to driving, the Expedition feels big and heavy, and while it goes where you direct it, it can take awhile to get there and isn't as alert or sporty as the Chevy or Nissan. The brake discs are large, but a lot of effort is required to get the Expedition slowed down. Nevertheless, the Expedition's overall driving performance is refined for its class.
Among full-size sport-utilities, the 2008 Ford Expedition stands apart with its superior driving comfort and utility package. 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.
Kirk Bell contributed to this report from Chicago, with staff reports from NewCarTestDrive.com.
Ford Expedition XLT 2WD ($30,620); XLT 4WD ($33,520); XLT EL 2WD ($34,145); XLT EL 4WD ($37,045); Eddie Bauer 2WD ($35,865); Eddie Bauer 4WD ($38,675); Eddie Bauer EL 2WD ($38,515); Eddie Bauer EL 4WD ($41,415); Limited 2WD ($38,025); Limited 4WD ($40,925); Limited EL 2WD ($40,675); Limited EL 4WD ($43,575); King Ranch 2WD ($39,965); King Ranch 4WD ($42,865); King Ranch EL 2WD ($42,615); King Ranch EL 4WD ($45,515).
Options As Tested
275/55R20 all-season tires with chrome-finish wheels ($995); Sirius satellite radio ($195); DVD-based navigation system ($1995); rear-seat DVD entertainment system ($1295).
Ford Expedition Limited 2WD ($42,505).
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