Astoria Oregon July 2006
Astoria Oregon was a fitting backdrop for our first look at the new 2007 Ford Expedition. This is where the Lewis and Clark Expedition wound up after their trek from St. Louis on a discovery mission to find an overland route to the "western ocean". 2006 marks the bicentennial of their trip to the Pacific Ocean and back that took them 28 months and over 8,000 miles. Can you imagine what these great explorers would have thought had they caught a glimpse of a modern SUV like this new Expedition?
It's too bad that large fuel thirsty SUVs are falling out of favor in these days of soaring gas prices. But this is only happening with folks who don't really need the room, off road capability or enormous towing capacity that a full-sized truck-based SUV can provide. There are still many families who need, and will buy these vehicles, because there is nothing else out there that can do the job.
In the past, the annual large SUV market was a million strong. Today, the call for these behemoths is shrinking, but Ford estimates that there is still a sizable market with the potential for 600,000 to 700,000 vehicles annually, and hopes to place a good portion of these buyers into the new 2007 Ford Expedition and Expedition EL.
The new Expedition is available in two lengths this year. The standard version which has similar dimensions to the previous model, and a longer version, called the Expedition EL, which has 14.8 inches of additional overall length.
The new longer EL provides 24 additional cubic feet of storage space over the standard length Expedition for a total of 42.6 cu. ft. with 3 rows of seats in the upright position. If that isn't enough, the third row seat will fold to provide a flat load floor expanding that space to 85.5 cu. ft. Fold the second row down as well (they also fold flat) for a cavernous 130.8 cu. ft. The liftgate has an optional power feature that allows you to open and close the hatch with the push of a button. The hatch window can be flipped open separately for quick access without opening the gate.
The Expedition EL is not simply a standard length truck with extender panels grafted to the back. This model has its own unique body panels from the rear doors back. The floor pan is special as are the one-piece body side panels, running boards, rear fascia, roof rack, rear quarter glass, one-piece headliner and quarter panel trim. The second-row doors are also unique to improve getting in and out of both the second and third rows.
The Expedition comes in three trim levels, beginning with the XLT, which is the base model for 2007. There is the Eddie Bauer edition, which comes standard with a leather interior and a host of comfort and convenience items. Then there is the top-of-the-line Limited with a monochromatic color scheme and additional features like heated and cooled seats and power folding outside mirrors.
We had the opportunity to spend a good portion of a day with the new Ford Expedition EL and also had the distinct pleasure to have John Viera, the Expedition Chief Engineer, along for the ride.
One of the things that John was extremely proud of was the new found quiet that the Expedition exhibited on a variety of road surfaces. I have to say that his pride was well founded. Since the Expedition is following on the heels of the smaller Ford Explorer, which also is extremely quiet, Mr. Viera had his hands full getting the more upscale Expedition to be at least as quiet as the Explorer and preferably more so.
Well, based on our day long drive through the Oregon countryside, I have to say that he succeeded in his quest. This truck is as quiet as many luxury cars I have driven. John explained that some of the credit had to go to the new quiet steel that is used in the firewall as well as the thicker windshield and side glass that helps to keep outside noise outside. Obviously, there is more to it than that. Larger, softer body mounts and better engine mounts also had a part in the new found hush as did specially shaped outside mirrors that minimize wind noise.
When this much effort is being placed on noise reduction, it becomes a battle, because as the vehicle becomes quieter, new noises emerge that were never a problem before. These sounds then have to be tracked down and eliminated or, it they can't be completely silenced, they would have to be tuned to emit a sound that is more pleasant and acceptable. For instance, the exhaust note at full throttle cannot be completely quieted, but it can be made to sound richer and more powerful.
Another thing that I noticed on my drive is that the new Expedition is more stable than the previous generation. This is still a tall vehicle with a good amount of ground clearance, which means a higher center of gravity, but the suspension felt more tied down than before and less floaty. One way to do this is with stiffer springs and shocks, but that method would cause a hard, choppy ride. Mr. Viera obviously had his engineering staff take a different approach because the new Expedition experienced none of the insecure, wallowing feel that is notable in other vehicles in this class, yet the ride was relaxed and smooth.
The Expedition is first and foremost, a truck, with all the ruggedness and hauling capacity intact, but Ford took great pains to disguise that fact when you are riding in it. Part of the reason for the comfortable ride has to go to the fully independent rear suspension which provides better footing on all road surfaces. An independent rear suspension was first introduced on the Expedition for the 2003 model year. For 2007, it has been revised to improve ride and handling. Another feature is the stiff chassis with fully boxed frame rails that have increased box section thickness for greater rigidity. One of the reasons the chassis is so stiff is because the cross members go completely through the boxed frame rails and are welded on both sides of the rails for added stiffness.
No matter which trim level you choose,interior quality and fit have been improved from last year. New surface textures around the cabin are first class in our Eddie Bauer test vehicle. The imitation wood surfaces had a rich look and feel. New seats with larger bolsters were fine for the several hours of driving we did that day. We had no complaints regarding the driving position either. It was easy to position ourselves the way we wanted through the 10 way power seat, tilt steering column and adjustable pedals.
The drivers fore and aft seat travel was increased in order to accommodate drivers that range from 4 feet, 11 inches up to 6 feet, 4 inches tall. The second row seat is split 40-20-40 with the center section able to slide forward up to 11 inches. This will allow front row passengers to easily reach a child in that center section. The third row seat is split 60-40 and is capable of comfortably seating a person as tall as 6' 2".
With this seating configuration, you can fit 8 people comfortably. You can also opt to eliminate the center section in the second row in favor of a pair of captain's chairs for seven person capacity. Mr. Viera mentioned that Ford will soon make available a 3 person bench seat in the front, which will replace the console and move the shifter to the column. This arrangement will allow you to seat nine people and, in the EL, still have plenty of space behind the third row for their belongings.
The instrument cluster in our Eddie Bauer EL model had a mix of white face gauges and black face gauges separated by chrome and a poorly shrouded plastic lens that did not do well on the bright sunny day we were enjoying on our drive. Lots of reflections made it hard to see the gauges, especially the fuel and temperature dials. This is one of the few complaints on an otherwise well executed interior.
With the standard 300 horsepower, 5.4 liter Triton V8engine and 6 speed automatic that was borrowed from the Ford F150 truck line, acceleration felt much more effortless than the previous generation vehicle. The last Expedition was powered by a 232 HP V8 with a 4 speed automatic. We tested this vehicle in 2003 on a trip from New York to Detroit.
The shift points in the 6R transmission are well placed and, at light throttle, almost undetectable. Acceleration felt strong and willing right up to highway speeds, even in our EL with 4 wheel drive, the heaviest Expedition model.
The 4X4 models come standard with a 2 speed transfer case with optional electronic shift-on-the-fly capability. In low range, the electronic throttle control changes to a special off-road calibration for better control in challenging off-road conditions like sand and mud. The transfer case is mounted directly to the tail of the transmission for better noise control.
Safety on the new Expedition is standard. Let me clarify. All the safety features that are optional on many vehicles are standard on all 2007 Expeditions.
|These standard safety features include: |
Dual-stage front air bags
Seat-mounted front side air bags
Three-row Safety Canopy head air bags
A rollover detection system
AdvanceTrac with RSC (Roll Stability Control)
The AdvanceTrac system uses a gyroscopic roll rate sensor to measure the Expeditions yaw and roll angles. If a sensor detects that the vehicle is about to roll over, the system responds by applying brakes to one or more wheels or reducing engine power in order to help the driver maintain control. Ford has 82 active patents on this system as well as 197 pending patents.
Despite these patents, you may see other vehicles that utilize similar systems. This is because Ford, and other manufacturers tend to share these types of safety innovations.
One of the main reasons that people buy these huge SUVs is for their towing capability. In this respect, the Expedition is certainly not lacking. Towing capability is up to 9,200 pounds for the standard length Expedition with 2 wheel drive provided the towing package is ordered with the vehicle. The heavy-duty trailer towing package includes a Class IV trailer hitch receiver, a wiring harness with 4- and 7-pin connectors, a heavy-duty auxiliary transmission oil cooler, a heavy-duty radiator and an electronic braking wiring kit..
Expedition pricing has been reduced considerably across the range by an average of ,300 despite the fact that there is more standard equipment. The base price for a 2007 Ford Expedition XLT will be ,995. The top of the line Limited EL 4X4 will come in at ,575 before adding any options. The 2007 Ford Expedition should be in dealer's showrooms in September.
If you are planning on a cross-country expedition of your own and need a large vehicle that has room for lots of people and their stuff, as well as heavyweight towing capacity and good off-road ability, the new 2007 Ford Expedition and Expedition EL are hard to beat.