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By Jim Flammang
August 27, 2003
Last year, Ford hailed its redesigned full-size sport utility vehicle as the best on the road, best in the dirt, best in the snow. The Expedition, which is closely related to the Lincoln Navigator, is second in size only to the Excursion in Fords SUV lineup.
Five trim levels, including a new XLT Sport and an NBX model that replaces the previous XLR FX4, are available for 2004. Fords reverse-sensing system and backseat DVD entertainment are now offered on all XLT models.
An on-demand ControlTrac four-wheel-drive system automatically distributes torque to the wheel that has the most traction. Four driving modes are possible: 2-High, locked 4-High, 4-Low and A4WD (automatic four-wheel drive). An optional AdvanceTrac electronic stability system applies brakes to individual wheels to help control a skid or spin.
The Expedition is stronger and freer of vibration than the previous-generation model. The current version has well-defined fender and wheel lip moldings. The four-door Expedition has a 119-inch wheelbase and an overall length of 205.8 inches thats 7 inches longer than the Chevrolet Tahoe but nearly 21 inches shorter than Fords giant Excursion.
The Expeditions ground clearance is 8.9 inches, and its tires measure 17 inches in diameter. An air suspension with three height positions is available.
Three seating configurations are available, and one offers the ability to push the capacity total to nine occupants. The second row may have a 40/20/40-split bench seat or a pair of captains chairs. The second- and third-row seats fold flat, and a power-folding 60/40-split third-row seat is optional. Second-row occupants dont have an overabundance of legroom, but toe space is good. The standard second-row seat can slide forward 11 inches.
A navigation system and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system are optional. A Cool Seat function that heats and cools the front seats is available. Cargo volume totals 110.5 cubic feet.
Under the Hood
Two V-8 engines are available: a 232-horsepower 4.6-liter and a 260-hp 5.4-liter that cranks out 350 pounds-feet of torque. Both power plants team with a four-speed-automatic transmission. The Expedition is available with either rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive and can be equipped to tow as much as 8,950 pounds.
Antilock brakes, a tire-pressure monitor, electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist are standard. Optional equipment includes a reverse-sensing system that detects objects to the rear while backing up and a Safety Canopy curtain-type airbag system that provides side-impact and rollover protection.
Drivers arent likely to mistake the Expedition for a passenger car, but the sizable SUV does yield a light, almost carlike sensation. The ride isnt gentle, but it leans toward the soft side. Occupants get bumped a bit on rolling pavement, but this experience isnt as harsh as that of a true truck. Even relatively smooth surfaces tend to produce considerable bumpiness and excess motion.
On twisty, two-lane roads, the Expedition behaves admirably provided that you exercise some restraint in curves. The SUV appears quite sure of itself when traveling off-road.
The 5.4-liter V-8 engine produces plenty of power under most conditions, but the Expedition slows considerably on moderate inclines. Otherwise, engine and transmission responses are excellent and refined. Comfortable, well-cushioned seats deliver good support.