1998 Ford Expedition

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1998 Ford Expedition

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Available in 4 styles:  Expedition XLT shown
Asking Price Range
$937–$6,781
Estimated MPG

14 city / 19 hwy

Expert Reviews

By 

KansasCity.com
Love `em or hate `em, sport-utility vehicles (SUV) continue to be hot sellers. Manufacturers can't make them fast enough. These big-tired, tall-standing trucks are so popular you might think everyone in suburbia has a second house out in the country.

But SUVs aren't really about patrolling the wilds. They are appealing because of all the things they can do: haul wood from the lumberyard, carry the kids' bikes or take the family on a vacation. For the most part, they have become, as Matt DeLorenzo of AutoWeek theorizes, today's equivalent of the family station wagon that our parents drove. But they sit higher, hold more and look rugged.

Most SUVs have four-wheel drive (4WD), although it is rarely engaged for anything more serious than a slippery driveway. So, one could ask, why pay for the extra complexity of four-wheel drive when it goes unused most of the time? Sure, it does give you peace of mind because you are no longer a hostage to winter weather, and you can tackle off-road trails should you want.

But let's face it, 90 percent of the time most SUVs are driven in two-wheel drive (2WD), especially in a climate as moderate as ours. Why not just buy 2WD to begin with and save some money?

A case in point. In late October I spent a few days vacationing with a two-wheel-drive Ford Expedition XLT. Not only was its $27,985 base price nearly $4,000 less than the same model with 4WD, but it rode smoother and used less gas than four-wheel drive.

We were headed to Colorado when the worst snowstorm in more than 20 years closed all the roads and forced us to head back east. It's probably a good thing we weren't driving a 4WD or else I would have ventured further into the storm, feeling invincible. As it was, we still encountered a few inches of snow in eastern Missouri, but the 2WD Expedition plowed on without a hitch.

When the pavement was clear, we motored along at 70 mph and the Expedition felt more like a tall Town Car than a truck, despite the fact that it is built on the frame of the F-150 pickup truck. The 2WD model has coil springs at all four corners, whereas the 4X4 has torsion bars in front. A load-leveling rear air suspension comes with the trailer towing package, and that, too, smoothes out the ride very nicely.

After three days of driving, I appreciated the Expedition's plush ride and the ease with which it swallowed up hundreds of miles without breathing hard. Wind and road noise was moderate. The spacious bucket seats gave adequate support without making you feel as if you were riding in an orthopedic chair. The fold-down armrest on the inboard side was a good place to rest your elbow, and I knocked off 350 miles at a crack without feeling at all tired.

Its substantial size is perfect for vacationing. With the back seat folded flat and the third seat removed there was 118.3 cubic feet of storage space, ample for carrying my bicycle upright along the side wall and still hav ing plenty of room for the dog's bed, our luggage and an antique child's wagon we unearthed from the garage of my wife's parents.

The optional leather upholstery was appealing not only because of its nice aroma and soft touch but because it is easier to keep clean than cloth, which can stain.

Our vehicle had the optional third-row seat, but taking advantage of the cargo space meant the third seat had to be removed and left at home in the garage. One person can take it out, but it really is a job for two. If the third seat folded into the floor, like the Dodge Durango, it would be a better solution to seating for eight.

The 4.6-liter, overhead-cam V8's 215 horsepower provides adequate acceleration, considering that it has about two tons of weight to get moving. On the highway it barrels along at a good clip without seeming taxed unless you need to pass on a hill, when it feels a bit short of breath and needs a lot of throttle. The optional 5.4-liter engine has more ower, but is a bit thirstier. Unless you haul heavy loads a lot, the 4.6 is more than adequate.

A few of the Expedition's handy touches include:

Lighted running boards, a $435 option.

Map pockets in both sides of the center console.

An overdrive switch built into the end of the shift lever.

A rear power outlet on the front-seat console, plus two power outlets in the dash.

My experience with this 2WD Expedition showed that in most circumstances it does its job just as well as the 4WD model but at a more reasonable price. If you think carefully about how you actually use your sport-utility vehicle, your pocketbook may be better served by going this route.

Price

The base price of our test vehicle was $27,985. Options included the XLT trim package, running boards, rear heater/air conditioner, trailer towing package, leather captain's chairs and third-row seat. The sticker price was $33,900.

Warranty

The standard warranty is for three years or 36,000 miles.

Vehicles for The Star's week-long test drives are supplied by the auto manufacturers.

Point: If you spend most of your time in city driving, why not consider two-wheel drive? You save money, get a smooth ride and still have all of the interior volume you can use.

Counterpoint: A third seat that folds into the floor would be better than one that has to be lifted out.

SPECIFICATIONS:

ENGINE: 4.6-liter, V8

TRANSMISSION: automatic

WHEELBASE: 119.1 inches

CURB WEIGHT: N/A

BASE PRICE: $27,985

PRICE AS DRIVEN: $33,900

MPG RATING: 14 city, 19 hwy



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