2005 Ford Expedition Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
New engine brings more better, better fuel economy.
Ford Expedition is a benchmark for full-size SUVs. It's smooth, stable and refined with responsive handling given its size and weight. Its four-wheel-independent suspension is unusually sophisticated in this class, providing better ride and handling, on-road and off.
The Expedition is best exemplified by the popular Eddie Bauer model with its luxurious and inviting interior and feature details that make for a more comfortable and convenient vehicle. A new 2005 Expedition Limited model kicks it up a notch with special trim colors and more standard features.
All 2005 Ford Expedition models come with a new V8 engine that increases horsepower substantially yet improves fuel economy and reduces emissions. Expedition is loaded with safety features, and 2005 brings an optional Roll Stability Control system, which is designed to sense an approaching rollover situation then take action to help prevent it.
What the Expedition does best is move large quantities of people and gear. It can be equipped to tow up to 8900 pounds making it a good choice for families that need to pull a boat or a horse. Its perfectly flat cargo area makes it particularly adept at hauling. The available PowerFold third-row seat folds perfectly flat with the press of a button.
Able to carry up to eight passengers, it's good at hauling children. The second row features a small center seat that slides forward to give parents in the front seat access to a small child. A rear-seat DVD system is available for entertainment. And 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.
The 2005 Ford Expedition comes with one engine, a 5.4-liter sohc V8 that uses variable valve timing and three valves per cylinder to develop 300 horsepower and 365 pound-feet of torque. It comes with a four-speed automatic. The new engine replaces both engines used last year.
Four trim levels are available: XLS, XLT, Eddie Bauer, and Limited. Each of these is offered with rear-wheel drive (2WD) or four-wheel drive (4WD).
XLS ($32,720) and XLS 4WD ($35,290) are the value-conscious models. They come well equipped, but offer little in the way of options. Standard features on XLS include four-wheel-disc brakes with ABS, air conditioning, tilt steering column, cruise control, privacy glass, fold-away power mirrors with approach lamps, power locks with remote keyless entry and SecuriLock security system, automatic headlamps, AM/FM/CD stereo, a Class III trailer hitch with a four-pin connector, and 17-inch steel wheels. Seats are three cloth-covered benches: split 60/40 in the first row with six-way power for the driver; split 40/20/40 in the second row to allow the CenterSlide feature; and split 60/40 in the third row.
XLT ($34,745) and XLT 4WD ($37,495) 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, and aluminum wheels. Many more options are available on XLT than XLS.
An appearance package called XLT Sport ($850) adds Dark Shadow Grey exterior cladding and wheel-lip moldings, high-gloss Dark Shadow Grey tubular step bars, and a two-tone grille treatment.
NBX ($38,595) outfits XLT 4WD models for the backcountry, with all-terrain tires, unique 17-inch chromed steel wheels, skid plates, and Sachs shocks tuned for off-road performance. NBX models are distinguished by their tubular steel running boards and blackout reflector headlamps. Inside are front captain's chairs with six-way power, heavy-duty rubber floor mats and a soft liner for the cargo area.
Eddie Bauer 2WD ($38,910) and 4WD ($42,060) add automatic climate control, leather captain's chairs with power and memory for the driver and manual lumbar support on both sides, power adjustable pedals with memory, power heated exterior mirrors, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio and climate controls, floor, message center, audiophile stereo with an in-dash six-CD changer, and a keypad for the keyless entry system. Externally, Bauer Expeditions are distinguished by 17-inch machined aluminum wheels, Pueblo Gold running boards and generous helping of Pueblo Gold trim.
Limited 2WD ($40,710) and 4WD ($43,860) differ from the Eddie Bauer primarily in color scheme, but add power folding heated mirrors with turn signals and memory; eight-way power and memory for the front seats; and a wood-and-leather steering wheel. Seats are monochromatic leather; complex-reflector headlamps are blacked out; wheel lips, cladding, and mirrors are body color; and the wheels, exhaust tip, and roof rails are chromed.
Safety is enhanced by a big, rigid frame, a low front bumper, adjustable pedals to give smaller drivers a safer seating position, and a tire-pressure monitor. Anti-lock brakes (ABS) and other active safety systems help the driver maintain control of the vehicle and reduce the chance of skidding off the road.
Optional safety features include the Safety Canopy air curtain system ($850), designed to offer head protection for first- and second-row passengers in the event of a rollover or side impact; the package includes the reverse sensing system. AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control ($595), Ford's electronic stability control system, monitors traction at all wheels, plus the rate of change of body lean, and automatically cuts power or selectively applies one or more wheel brakes to correct a skid or prevent a rollover; it's only available on Eddie Bauer and Limited m.
Ford Expedition is larger than Chevy Tahoe, but smaller than Suburban. It's larger than Toyota Sequoia and considerably larger than Dodge Durango.
This second-generation Expedition shares almost nothing with pre-2003 models, though it looks a lot like them and is roughly the same size. Underneath, everything is new. The track was widened nearly two inches to give Expedition a well-planted stance.
Expedition has a towering presence, thanks to its raised hood. Standard 17-inch wheels enhance its bold look. The roof height is lower than in the previous generation. Bumpers are integrated more smoothly into the overall design. Door handles are the full-grip variety, making them easier for occupants to grab, whether left- or right-handed, gloved or not gloved. Expedition's low bumper beams are designed to prevent smaller cars from sliding beneath its frame in an accident.
Inside the Expedition you'll find an attractive cabin. This is particularly true with the popular Eddie Bauer models and the new Limited models. The Eddie Bauer is a very pleasant place to be, with handsome leather trim that's warm and friendly and metallic satin finish trim on the rings that surround the vents and door handles. Shapes are round, and controls are hefty for an easy grip. Lighter upholstery colors give the Expedition a lighter, more car-like air.
Lower-level models are nice, too, with padded door trim in nicely contrasting materials that looks and feels good. The light gray and dark gray cloth on our NBX seats was decent, though the hard plastic on the passenger's side of the dash looked a little too much like hard plastic. The round, rotating vents didn't look great but they seemed to work well. Our biggest complaint with the NBX was the urethane covered steering wheel, which felt cheap and colored our impression of the cabin.
Storage space is generous. The roomy pockets in all four doors have space for a 20-ounce water bottle. The center console (that comes in most models) can hold a small laptop computer. The console has a slot to hold pens and a Palm Pilot or other PDAs. Its lid is comfortably padded, and feels nice to the touch even on NBX and XLT models where it's covered in faux leather.
Innovations abound. 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 flaps gracefully flop into place to cover the gap between the cargo floor and hinged seats. (Then again, we don't get out much.)
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 press of the button. First, we loaded it with a day bed and other furniture for delivery to a summer cottage. After dumping that off, a pack of teenagers piled in to go to a punk rock concert. We determined the Expedition's 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.
With the seats folded down, the cargo floor is perfectly flat, in contrast to many SUVs, which have a slanting platform. The Expedition's flat floor, combined with the flaps that cover the gap where the seats hinge, makes 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 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 airbag canopy is designed to protect first- and second-row passengers in a side-impact crash or in a rollover. Power-adjustable pedals are available and are a great feature for shorter drivers, allowing them to sit a safer distance from the airbag-equipped steerin.
The Ford Expedition is the standard bearer for its class. It's easy to drive with sharp steering, and smooth, robust acceleration from a new 300-horsepower Triton V8.
This new 5.4-liter V8 is a modern, sophisticated engine with aluminum overhead-cams and three valves per cylinder. It offers strong power, excellent fuel efficiency and low emissions. Specifically, it's rated at 365 pound-feet of torque, gets 14/19 mpg City/Highway (14/18 with 4WD). And it's rated to tow 8,600 (4x4) to 8,900 (4x2) pounds.
Ride quality is an important consideration for a family vehicle and the Expedition offers a good ride for the most part, even over broken pavement. Potholes and rough pavement are heard more than felt. It isn't not a magic carpet ride, though, and it's important to remember that the Expedition is a full-size truck. A Ford engineer told us the Expedition was designed to offer the driver good feedback rather than isolating him or her. This latest-generation Expedition benefits from an independent rear suspension, a design more common to cars than trucks. Though more expensive, the independent rear suspension offers better handling and a smoother ride than the live rear axle more commonly used on trucks and full-size SUVs.
The NBX may not ride as well as the other models, with its all-terrain tires and specially tuned Sachs shocks, but it should be fine for drivers who want a little more off-highway preparation. The 2005 NBX we drove was jouncy on rough neighborhood streets, and a particularly onerous stretch of Interstate 110 through downtown Los Angeles set up a harmonic that caused it to bob. We didn't go off the pavement, but the NBX should provide more protection on primitive roads than the standard Expedition. Its tires and skid plates looked like they were meant more for light off-highway use than serious off-road duty.
On the highway, the Expedition inspires confidence. It's stable at high speeds. We were conversing in a relaxed manner at 90-100 mph in a 2005 Expedition Eddie Bauer while whistling around a high-speed oval at Ford's proving ground in Michigan. The current model tracks better than pre-2003 Expeditions, which required constant steering adjustments to keep them in a straight line. When the road windy, the Expedition offers sharp steering response. Small inputs to the steering wheel are answered immediately by its car-like rack-and-pinion steering.
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.
Ford Expedition remains a benchmark against a strong field of full-size SUVs. The Expedition features a smooth ride for passengers and responsive handling for the driver. 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.
Michelle Krebs filed this report from Detroit; with New Car Test Drive editor Mitch McCullough reporting from Los Angeles and Ford's proving ground in Michigan.
Ford Expedition XLS 2WD ($32,720); XLS 4WD ($35,290); XLT 2WD ($34,750); XLT 4WD ($37,495); Eddie Bauer 2WD ($38,910); Eddie Bauer 4WD ($42,060); Limited 2WD ($40,710); Limited 4WD ($43,860).
Options As Tested
Safety Canopy ($850) includes reverse sensing system; power folding third-row seat ($495); power flip-out quarter windows ($125); rear-seat DVD entertainment system ($1,500); navigation system ($1,995); climate-controlled seats ($625); power moonroof ($860); air suspension ($815); 3.73 ratio limited-slip rear axle ($285); heavy-duty trailer tow package ($350).
Ford Expedition Eddie Bauer 2WD ($38,910).
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