2007 Ford Expedition EL: A more viable Chevrolet Suburban competitor than the departed Excursion?
Written: Dec 26, 2006
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Interior room, flat-folding seats, very comfortable front seats, price cut
Cons:Styling and performance not as good as those of GM SUVs, fuel economy
The Bottom Line: If you're buying a large SUV to get a roomy, versatile interior, this is the one to get.
Back in 2000, Ford attempted to one-up the Chevrolet Suburban by introducing an even larger SUV based on its heavy-duty pickup. Though roomy, the Excursion received poor reviews because it rode and handled like a heavy-duty pickup and, owing to an extremely high curb weight, struggled to go ten miles on a gallon of gas. After five years it was discontinued.
For 2007, Ford has redesigned its relatively car-like large SUV, the Expedition, and has added an extended length version, the Expedition EL. With the EL, does Ford finally have a viable competitor to the Suburban? I took one for a test drive to find out.
The redesigned 2007 Ford Expedition looks much like the 2003-2006, just with the new Ford front end. The grille has a chunkier look (though with three openings rather than three bars) and the headlights narrow as they extend away from the grille. Some people don't care for the new front end, but it works okay for me, especially with the Limited's body color grille. It is at least distinctive; in coming years people will readily identify it as a Ford.
The body aft of the fenders hasn't changed much since 1996. The main difference here is that 20-inch wheels are now optional. I don't think dubs make the Expedition's look pop nearly as much as they do the look of GM's large SUVs. The GM trucks have a bolder, more sophisticated appearance. But the Ford is not unattractive.
The interior is much the same. While functional and better-styled than past Expedition interiors, it's appearance is less upscale than the even more car-like interiors in GM's 2007 large SUVs. Hard plastic is the predominant material in both interiors, but the stuff looks less like hard plastic in the GMs.
The Ford Expedition EL is nearly 15 inches longer than the regular Expedition, on a wheelbase a foot longer, but all of the extra length goes toward the area behind the third row. So passenger space dimensions are virtually the same with the exception of third-row shoulder room, which is considerably greater in the EL (so three across will fit better). Compared to the late Excursion, the Expedition offers similar headroom and leg room, but about four inches less shoulder room.
No matter, even the regular Expedition has a very roomy interior. This is most apparent when comparing third-row legroom. In the Chevrolet Tahoe, where a small third seat is mounted very close to the floor, third-row legroom is a very tight 25.6 inches. The Suburban offers another nine inches, for a total of 34.9. Either Expedition provides 37.7 inches.
Beyond the stat, the third row in the Fords is mounted comfortably high off the floor. This isn't the case in the GM products, especially not in the Tahoe. Why the large difference? The Ford SUVs have an independent rear suspension, while the GM SUVs continue to employ a live rear axle. The latter suspension type requires a much higher rear floor, as the entire axle running the width of the vehicle must be able to move upward when hitting a bump. Access to the third row is relatively easy, as the second row tips well out of the way.
The second rows offer similar room and comfort in all the 2007 SUVs. The GM SUVs offer about 65 inches of shoulder room, vs. about 63 in the Fords, but even the smaller number is plenty to fit three across. So roominess is very good while comfort is merely good. I personally prefer the Expedition's third row to its second row, at it is positioned higher off the floor.
The best seats of all are up front. I drive a lot of cars, and in most of them the front seats aren't notable. However, the Expedition's driver's seat isn't one of them. During the test drive I was immediately struck by the generous size and outstanding comfort. The cushion manages to be both soft and appropriately supportive. If I was driving a long distance, I'd like to have this seat.
As mentioned earlier, the EL's additional length goes towards an increase in cargo room. Specifically, cargo volume behind the third row goes from 18.6 cubic feet to 42.6. The Excursion had 48 back there. The Suburban has 45.8. Fold the EL's seats (the third row power-folds in the upper trims) and maximum cargo volume is 130.8. The Excursion and Suburban have more, but with a notable difference: their third rows had to be removed to get this maximum volume. Only that in the Expedition folds flat, which requires far, far less effort and time.
On the Road
The Expedition, including the EL, continues with a single engine, a 300-horsepower 5.4-liter V8. For 2007 it's paired with a six-speed automatic rather than last year's four-speed. Having a larger number of more closely-spaced ratios helps get the most out of the engine, which must cope with Ford's heavier SUVs. GM's stronger engines don't need to haul as much weight, but in most models still only have four ratios to work through.
End result is that the Ford V8 feels adequately strong off the line, but less so at higher speeds, where the GM SUVs have a definite advantage. Much is often made of the stronger GM engines. But how quick does a huge SUV need to be?
It goes without saying the fuel economy is poor, generally in the low teens. I've heard that the GM SUVs do a bit better.
For such a huge vehicle, the Ford Expedition EL handles well. By which I mean that most of the time I was only barely aware I was driving such a huge vehicle. You've got a good amount of lean in hard turns, but not so much that the EL feels clumsy. It helps that body motions are well-controlled and that the steering is decently weighted and feels almost precise. No slop here, just a healthy amount of insulating cush. That said, GM's large SUVs now also handle well for their size. They're close enough that I'd have to drive them back-to-back to sort out a clear winner in this area. My best recollection is that the GM SUVs have a slightly floatier feel.
Ride quality differs more. The 2007 Expedition EL rides more smoothly than I recall the 2003 Expedition riding, but still has a lumpier ride over imperfect roads at low speeds than than you'll find in a large GM SUV.
I never drove an Excursion. But based on what I've read, it rode roughly and handled clumsily. So the Expedition should represent a huge improvement in both areas.
Ford Expedition EL Price Comparisons and Pricing
Rebates on the 2006 were huge. To reduce them, Ford cut prices substantially for 2007, undercutting the competition from GM in the process by about $3,000 before rebates. The GM SUVs currently have a $2,000 rebate, while that on the Fords is $1,000, cutting this difference to about $2,000.
Prices change frequently, and differences will vary based on feature level. To quickly generate these and other comparisons with the specific features you want, visit my Web site, www.truedelta.com. (It's the only site that provides true "apples-to-apples" price comparisons.)
TrueDelta's page for the Ford Expedition and Expedition EL:
Among large SUVs, the Expedition and especially the new Expedition EL is the champ for interior space and versatility. Not only is its third row as roomy and comfortable as they come, but it folds to yield a flat floor. The advantage of the EL is that even with the third row up there's plenty of cargo room behind it. If you need to carry seven or eight people and all of their luggage, you'll want the EL.
The six-speed automatic helps the V8 provide adequate performance. But here and in terms of exterior and interior styling GM's large SUVs have an edge.
Which large SUV is the best? That will come down to personal priorities. The only thing that would get me to personally buy one of these is the need for a huge versatile interior, perhaps combined with the need to tow something heavy. For this need, the Ford is best. But if someone doesn't need a roomy, flat-folding third row in a large SUV (why then a large SUV?) but puts a priority on performance or an upscale appearance, the GM SUVs would get the nod.
A Note on Ford Expedition EL Reliability
I cannot practically cover reliability within the context of this review. However, many people are interested in such information, so I've started collecting my own data. Results, once they are available, will be posted to my site, www.truedelta.com, with updates every three months.
Unlike other sources, TrueDelta will clearly identify what difference it will make if you buy an Expedition EL rather than another vehicle by providing "times in the shop" and "days in the shop" stats (among others). You will be able to specify the number of years, annual miles, and types of repairs to include in Ford Expedition EL reliability comparisons.
Before I can report results, I need reliability data on all cars--not just the Expedition--from people like you. To encourage participation, those who help provide the data will receive free access to the site's reliability information. Non-participants will have to pay an access fee.
For the details, and to sign up, visit www.truedelta.com.
A link to this website and alphabetized links to my other vehicle reviews can be found on my profile page.
Some of my reviews of related vehicles:
Chevrolet Tahoe review
Chrysler Aspen review
Nissan Armada review
Toyota Sequoia review
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