2004 Ford Expedition Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
Big, roomy, smooth and stable.
Ford redesigned and re-engineered the Expedition for 2003 and the result was a vastly superior product. The Ford Expedition is smooth, stable and refined. Its handling is precise and responsive given its size and weight. These are benefits of its rigid chassis and sophisticated independent rear suspension. By comparison, the old (pre-2003) Expedition had a rough ride and a sloppy truck-based suspension.
The interior was redesigned for 2003 as well. 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 to give smaller drivers a better seating, and a tire-pressure monitor. AdvanceTrac electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, and other active safety systems are available to help the driver maintain control of the vehicle to reduce the chance of skidding off the road.
The Expedition is packed with features, including the availability of the PowerFold third-row seat, which folds perfectly flat with the press of a button. The Reverse Sensing System can alert the driver as the Expedition is backed toward an object such as a parked car, a short pole, or a child on a tricycle. Most of these features, including a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, are now available on the less-expensive XLT as well as the top-of-the-line Eddie Bauer models.
Towing capability is impressive. When properly equipped, the 5.4-liter, two-wheel drive Expedition is rated to tow up to 8,950 pounds.
Ford Expedition comes with a choice of two engines: the standard 4.6-liter V8 rated and the 5.4-liter V8. Both are paired with the same four-speed automatic transmission. The 2004 Expedition comes in five trim levels: XLS, XLT, XLT Sport, and Eddie Bauer.
XLS ($32,090) and XLS 4WD ($34,660) are the value-conscious models. They come well equipped, but offer little in the way of options. Standard features on XLS and include: four-speed automatic transmission, anti-lock four-wheel disc brakes, tilt steering wheel, speed control (cruise control), cloth upholstery, front 60/40 split-bench seat with driver’s side power, driver-side manual lumbar support, second-row bench seat split 40/20/40, third-row 60/40 split-bench seat, privacy glass, heated fold-away power mirrors with security approach lamps, power door locks, remote keyless entry, SecuriLock, driver and passenger air bags, power-adjustable pedals, air conditioning, rear liftgate with flip-up glass access, automatic headlamps, luggage rack, styled steel wheels, door trim map pockets with cupholders, illuminated entry with automatic dimming and AM/FM premium stereo with CD/cassette player.
XLT ($33,915) and XLT 4WD ($36,670) add: auxiliary rear air conditioning and heat controls, overhead console with storage, auto-dimming rearview mirror, illuminated vanity mirrors, color-keyed door handles, the tire-pressure monitoring system, fog lamps, running boards, aluminum wheels. Many options are available. The 5.4-liter V8 is optional ($395)
XLT Sport is an appearance package ($850) that adds Dark Shadow Grey exterior cladding, high-gloss Dark Shadow Grey tubular step bars, two-tone bumpers, moldings and lower grille in Dark Shadow Grey and silver upper grille. It's available with 2WD or 4WD.
NBX is essentially a package ($1,645) that outfits XLT 4WD models for the backcountry with all-terrain tires, unique 17-inch chromed steel wheels, and special shocks tuned for off-road performance. It's distinguished by tubular steel running boards and fog lamps. Inside are heavy-duty rubber floor mats and a cargo area soft liner. (NBX replaces last year's XLT FX4 off-road package.)
Eddie Bauer ($38,040) 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. The 5.4-liter V8 is optional ($395) on the Eddie Bauer 2WD, but is standard on Eddie Bauer 4WD ($41,585).
Optional safety features include the Safety Canopy ($650), designed to help protect the heads of first- and second-row passengers in the event of a rollover or side impact. AdvanceTrac ($795), Ford's electronic stability enhancement system, monitors traction at all wheels and automatically maintains stability while cornering on slippery surfaces. Tire pressure monitors ($150) are also available, which alert the driver when a tire is low on air.
An in-dash navigation system ($1,995) and a DVD rear-seat entertainment system ($1,500) are available.
Though it looks remarkably similar at first glace, this second-generation Expedition shares almost nothing with pre-2003 models. Upon closer examination, it looks bigger and bolder than its predecessor. Its overall dimensions are roughly the same as before. However, the track has been widened nearly two inches to give it a well-planted stance.
The Ford Expedition is larger than a Chevy Tahoe, smaller than a Suburban. It's larger than a Toyota Sequoia and considerably larger than a Dodge Durango.
The raised hood gives the Expedition a towering presence. The standard wheels are 17 inches for a bold look. The roof height is lower than the previous generation. Bumpers are integrated more smoothly into the overall design. Door handles are the full-grip variety, making them easier to grab for occupants, whether left- or right-handed, gloved or not gloved.
Expedition's bumper beams are designed to prevent smaller cars from sliding beneath its frame in an accident.
The Ford Expedition has an attractive interior. An Eddie Bauer Expedition is a very pleasant place to be with handsome leather trim that's warm and friendly. The seats are comfortable. The interior is dressed up with a metallic satin finish used on the rings that surround the vents and door handles. Shapes are round, and controls are hefty for an easy grip.
Storage space is generous. The roomy pockets in all four doors have space for a 20-ounce water bottle. The front center console available in some versions of the Expedition can fit a small laptop computer. The console has a slot to hold pens and a Palm Pilot or other PDAs. The lighter colors used for the upholstery give it a lighter, more car-like air.
The interior features a number of clever and useful innovations. The available power-operated third-row seats fold flat with the press of a button. The third-row seat is split 60-40 into two seats. Push a button on the wall of the cargo area, and one side powers down. Hold down the other button, and the other side powers down. The power-down buttons are convenient. The third row disappears into the floor, leaving a perfectly flat cargo area. It is a beautiful piece of engineering to watch as the seat folds down and the flaps to cover the gap between the cargo floor and hinged seats gracefully flop into place.
When folded down, the cargo floor is perfectly flat, in contrast to some Expedition competitors who say the floor folds flat but actually slant. The flat floor combined with the flaps that cover the gap where the seats hinge make it easy to slide objects in and out. Another nice feature is the window in the liftgate that pops open so you can lift groceries out without having them tumble out of the vehicle and down a sloped driveway.
The power third-row seat proved invaluable during a variety of typical weekend chores. We changed the Expedition repeatedly from a people hauler to a cargo hauler and back again with just a simple push of the button. First, we loaded it with a day bed and other furniture for delivery to our summer cottage. After dumping that off, a pack of teenagers piled in to go to a punk rock concert. The third row is comfortable enough for a couple of full-size adults. The next day we picked up a high-backed wicker chair from the furniture store. The third-row headrests can be pushed down flush with the seatbacks, greatly improving rearward visibility when no one is seated back there.
The second-row bench seat splits roughly into thirds. The middle section can be moved forward 11 inches, almost abutting it to the back of the front center console. That gives front-seat parents easier access to a small child or a child in a safety seat. The small center seatback can also be folded down and used as a work surface for the two people in back. The two outboard second-row seats fold easily forward for access to the third-row seat.
The Expedition can be outfitted with enough safety equipment to create a cocoon inside in case of an accident. Dual-stage front airbags are standard. An optional side airbag canopy is designed to protect first- and second-row passengers in a side-impact crash or in a rollover. The Eddie Bauer model we drove came standard with power-adjustable pedals, a feature we short women greatly appreciate to keep us a safe distance from the airbag.
Interior features are easy to program. Tired of fighting the locks? You can turn off the auto-locking feature. You can set whether the seat automatically moves back when you shut off the ignition. You can decide whether you want the right mirror to automatically tilt down when reverse is selected.
The optional navigation system has a nice bright screen. It works well, but like all navigation systems, takes some time to master.
The Ford Expedition is the standard bearer for its class. It's easy to drive with sharp steering, and the optional 5.4-liter V8 is responsive.
The Expedition offers a good ride over broken pavement, but this is a full-size truck so it's not a magic carpet ride. Pot holes and rough pavement are transmitted into the cabin primarily as noise rather than uncomfortable vibration. Expedition's independent rear suspension, combined with its stiff chassis, gives it dramatically improved ride and handling over the previous generation model. An independent rear suspension is more common to cars than trucks. The efficient packaging of the independent rear suspension made it possible for Ford engineers to accomplish a fold-flat third-row seat.
Yet, the Expedition doesn't sacrifice its truck-like capabilities. It still carries heavy loads and tows trailers and boats with the best of them.
Expedition's car-like rack-and-pinion steering system offers sharp steering response. The previous (pre-2003) Expedition required that the driver constantly adjust the steering wheel to keep in a straight line. The new Expedition requires only small inputs to the steering wheel, to which it answers immediately.
The four-wheel disc brakes are smooth and responsive. The Expedition comes standard with ABS and Brake Assist. Brake Assist is designed to recognize a panic-braking situation and maintain full braking force even if the driver mistakenly relaxes pressure on the brake pedal.
It's hard to go wrong when buying a full-size sport-utility vehicle these days. It appears that there are neither clear winners nor any dogs in this class. That's comforting to keep in mind given a bewildering number of choices. The field of full-size SUVs is expanding with new and redesigned models available for 2004, but the Ford Expedition remains a benchmark against which all of them are judged.
The Ford Expedition features a smooth ride and handling for passengers. It can haul a big load of cargo on its flat cargo floor and it can tow heavy trailers. Clever features such as the power folding third row make it enjoyable to live with.
Ford Expedition XLS 2WD ($32,090); XLS 4WD ($34,660); XLT 2WD ($33,915); XLT 4WD ($36,670); Eddie Bauer 2WD ($38,040); Eddie Bauer 4WD ($41,585).
Options As Tested
Safety Canopy ($650); power folding third-row seat ($495); rear-seat DVD entertainment system ($1,500); navigation radio ($1,995); climate-controlled seats ($750); power moonroof ($860); air suspension ($815); 3.73 ratio limited-slip rear axle ($285); heavy-duty trailer tow package ($350).
Ford Expedition Eddie Bauer 5.4-liter 4X2 ($38,285).
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