In terms of size, the Ford Excursion is the king of big sport-utilities. Supremely stable at speed, it feels safe and secure on the open highway. Whether you have a lot of cargo to carry, a bunch of people to transport, a big trailer to pull, or all of the above, the Excursion is ready for whatever you throw its way.
The Excursion seats eight or nine passengers, depending on how it is configured. It can tow up to 11,000 pounds. Options include a powerful gasoline-fueled V10, and a state-of-the-art turbo-diesel V8. While the Excursion is too large for serious off-road driving, its optional four-wheel-drive and all-terrain tires enable it to handle hilly shale roads, snowy highways, and slippery boat ramps, those places that are accessible in a heavy-duty Ford pickup.
The Excursion is a beast, however, taking up more garage space, parking space, and street space than anything else this side of a dually. It's no minivan. The Excursion best suited for families who tow boats, horses or other heavy trailers. Properly equipped, Excursion is rated to tow up to 11,000 pounds.
Ford Excursion XLS 2WD ($36,585); XLS 4WD ($39,840); XLT 2WD ($37,575); XLT 4WD ($40,830); Eddie Bauer 2WD ($40,660); Eddie Bauer 4WD ($43,760); Limited 2WD ($41,985); Limited 4WD ($45,085)
The Ford Excursion is big. Based on Ford's Super Duty F-Series pickup trucks, it's more than 7 inches longer than the Chevrolet Suburban.
Excursion's rear cargo doors are split three ways. You can swing the glass hatch up for quick access to gear. Below the hatch is a pair of half-height doors, like Dutch doors. So they can be opened when you've got a trailer attached, and can be swung nearly 180 degrees for easier access. This arrangement also offers much better visibility rearward while driving than the Suburban's full-height split doors yet offers the benefits of split doors.
Ford designed the Class IV receiver hitch, which comes standard, to prevent smaller cars from going underneath the rear bumper, while a specially designed BlockerBeam is designed to accomplish the same goal up front.
The 2004 Excursion comes with a nicely designed interior. The dash is attractive and well designed and all of the controls are easy to find and operate.
The seats are comfortable. It doesn't matter whether you're sitting in the front seats, second row or third row, all of the seats offer generous legroom, headroom and elbow room. Six adults can ride in comfort with 48 cubic feet of cargo space left behind them. For shorter trips, like going to a restaurant, the Excursion can seat eight people, or nine if you opt for the XLS with its front bench seat.
Remove the third-row seat, and the Excursion can easily carry five people and more than 100 cubic feet of gear. Removing the third-row seat is easy: Flip the seatback forward, yank a bar at the foot of the seat and pull the seat toward the rear of the vehicle; it glides along on rollers. The seat weighs 75 pounds, but in short order I pulled it out and threw it into the back of another SUV on a cold Montana morning before driving to a trout stream.
Set up as a two-seater, the Excursion can carry an outlandish amount of cargo. A sheet of plywood slides in easily and lays flat on the floor. Two people could sleep in comfort on the huge, flat cargo area. Believe it or not, we managed to fill an Excursion. We'd just finished a three-day float on Oregon's Deschutes. As planned, the river guide in charge of setting up camp had arrived at our vehicles ahead of us. He quickly stuffed all of the supplies from base camp and enough fishing equipment for eight people inside. When he was done stuffing, only seating for two remained and the rear-view mirror was rendered useless. Granted, he could have packed more efficiently, but he was grateful for such a large storage container. No question, the Excursion can hold a lot of gear.
After reorganizing the equipment and putting some of it into another vehicle, six of us piled into the Excursion and made the long trip back to town. Cruising along steadily with this load, the Excursion demonstrated its virtues of size, stability and power.
Cruising along in a 2004 Ford Excursion gives you a secure feeling. The optional V10 ($585) is a delightful engine. It produces 310 horsepower and generates a very impressive 425 pounds-feet of torque at 3250 rpm. It can propel the Excursion along the Interstate at high rates of speed. Tell someone you have a V10 and they think you're driving a rocket. But an Excursion 4x4 weighs about 7,200 pounds, so even with the V10, its acceleration at high altitudes seems no better than in an Explorer or Expedition.
Still, our Excursion had no trouble passing other vehicles on two-lane roads. The Excursion is rock solid at 97 mph where a governor keeps you from going any faster. The EPA doesn't even rate trucks this big for fuel economy, but you should expect something in the 12-mpg range. We saw 14 mpg on the highway, but 10 mpg is more likely around town.
Despite its high initial price, about 60 percent of excursion buyers opt for the 6.0-liter Power Stroke diesel. This is a state-of-the-art unit, with hydraulic rail direct pilot injection and four valves per cylinder. Ford claims it offers best-in-class power, with 325 horsepower and 560 pounds-feet of torque, the latter at just 2000 rpm. That much torque should certainly be sufficient for pulling stumps out of your yard or pulling heavy trailers up steep ramps. Introduced in mid-2003, this new-generation diesel was designed for less noise, cleaner emissions, and better efficiency than the larger, but less powerful, diesel that it replaced. The diesel gets about 18 mpg, yielding a range of more than 700 miles from its 44-gallon fuel tank.
The five-speed automatic transmission that comes exclusively with the diesel offers a Tow-Haul mode which, when activated, automatically minimizes shifts and maximizes available torque. According to Ford, this can help increase a driver's feeling of control when towing large loads up and down steep grades.
We didn't try the standard 5.4-liter V8, but we suspect it would struggle if you loaded six passengers and luggage and headed for the mountains. With 255 horsepower at 4500 rpm, and 350 pounds-feet of torque at 2500 rpm, the V8 is best suited for the flatlands.
While 2WD Excursions come with Ford's signature Twin I-Beam independent front suspension and coil springs, the 4WD version rides on a solid front axle and leaf springs. But differences in ride and handling between the two are surprisingly subtle. Our test vehicle had the 4WD Trailer Tow Group ($275), which includes a rear anti-roll bar, and it seemed to compensate for some of the weight up front from a handling standpoint. The 4x4 handles well for a big rig, tackling corners with confidence and offering good grip on dirt roads.
At high speeds, the Excursion is stable. Strong crosswinds and an 18-wheeler going in the opposite direction had little effect. However, Excursion does not offer the ride sophistication of the Chevrolet Suburban and GMC Yukon XL 1500 models. The all-terrain tires that are now standard on all 4WD Excursions are good for muddy trails, but the all-season tires that come with 2WD models are smoother and quieter for towing long distances.
Its long wheelbase means the Excursion is not a serious off-road vehicle. But the part-time four-wheel-drive system and 8.1-inch ground clearance should get you up some pretty gnarly dirt roads in nasty weather. Ford's clever vacuum-controlled hub-locking system quickly engages four-wheel drive on the fly by pressing a button. A low-range set of gears is ready whenever you need to tackle steep, slippery terrain. If you do drive off the pavement or on snow-covered roads, you'll want to opt for the limited-slip differential ($250) and the transfer-case skid plate ($100).
Towing, more than anything, is what the Excursion is designed to do. Properly equipped, it can tow trailers up to 11,000 pounds. That's more than enough to pull a hefty boat. All Excursions come ready to tow, with a C
Ford's gargantuan sport-utility is a stable platform for towing heavy trailers and can at the same time carry a truckload of fishermen. It rides fairly well for a heavy-duty truck and it's luxurious and comfortable. For those who want to tow trailers up to 11,000 pounds, the Excursion is a good alternative to a pickup with a cap. Ford says it will continue to produce the Excursion through the 2005 model year.
The Ford Excursion should not, however, be considered an alternative to a minivan. It's far too thirsty, and its size, weight and design make for poor maneuverability and handling when compared with minivans and light-duty SUVs.