2009 Ford Expedition Expert Reviews

Expert Reviews

2009 Ford Expedition

New Car Test Drive
© 2009 NewCarTestDrive.com

When it comes time to fill up the tank, it's not easy to justify a full-size sport utility vehicle. But, even as you pour 28 gallons of regular unleaded into the gas tank of the 2009 Ford Expedition, you can take heart in this sport-utility's ability to make a family vacation not only possible but practical.

Ford is the first to admit that the sales of full-size, truck-based sport utilities have suffered as people turn to smaller, more fuel-efficient, car-based utilities for their daily transportation. But many experts say fuel prices have simply chased away the people who shouldn't have been driving a full-size sport-utility in the first place. Left are those who really need one for hauling people and gear and towing trailers.

The Expedition carries people, hauls gear, tows boats, and pulls campers. When it's equipped with four-wheel drive, the Expedition will also get you there whether the road is dry, wet, snowy, or even when there's hardly any road at all.

The cabin features rich materials and generous space in all three seating rows. The second- and third-row seats fold flat to create a useful rear cargo area. Extended-length Expedition EL models add even more cargo-carrying capacity, especially noticeable when trying to load groceries or gear behind the third-row seats.

All Expeditions are powered by Ford's 5.4-liter V8 that makes 310 horsepower and offers towing capacities in the 9000-pound range. Thanks in part to independent rear suspension, the Expedition offers a smooth ride that is more car-like than most big, truck-based SUVs. That's nice on long drives.

With its combination of utility, a smooth, stable ride and a pleasant interior, the Ford Expedition is a fine choice for families that tow or take driving vacations.

Model Lineup

Ford Expedition XLT 2WD ($34,845); XLT 4WD ($37,745); XLT EL 2WD ($38,370); XLT EL 4WD ($41,270); Eddie Bauer 2WD ($40,180); Eddie Bauer 4WD ($43,080); Eddie Bauer EL 2WD ($42,830); Eddie Bauer EL 4WD ($45,730); Limited 2WD ($43,010); Limited 4WD ($45,910); Limited EL 2WD ($45,660); Limited EL 4WD ($48,560); King Ranch 2WD ($44,950); King Ranch 4WD ($47,850); King Ranch EL 2WD ($47,600); King Ranch EL 4WD ($50,500)

Walk Around

The Ford Expedition is a truck and it doesn't pretend to be anything else. This is a good identity to have, because Ford trucks continue to have an outstanding reputation for utility, reliability and durability.

Both the long and regular-length versions of the Expedition use many of the components from the Ford F-150 pickup. However, the Expedition features independent rear suspension, which improves driving precision, ride comfort, and rear-seat roominess.

This third-generation Expedition features a three-bar grille, large headlights, and a domed hood that combine to deliver a look that's both distinctive and respectable. There are several different wheel designs, including 20-inchers with a chrome finish.

Expedition EL models stretch the wheelbase to 131 inches. Overall, the EL measures 14.8 inches longer than the standard Expedition, and that adds 22 cubic feet of cargo volume. Expedition offers 108.3 cubic feet of cargo space, while the EL delivers 130.8 cubic feet.

The Expedition and the Expedition EL are big vehicles, measuring more than 17 feet from nose to tail. As a result, crowded parking lots can be challenging. The Expedition has a turning circle of nearly 41 feet, while the EL requires 44 feet.

They're also heavy, as even the base 2WD Expedition weighs almost 6,000 pounds, and a loaded EL with 4WD will be comfortably over that.

The King Ranch model can be identified by its gold exterior accents and unique wheel design.

The Expedition comes with running boards as standard equipment. Power retractable running boards that deploy when the doors are opened are optional. Some prefer no running boards, but that doesn't appear to be an option.

Interior

The Ford Expedition features a rich blend of finishes, textures and color. Indeed, a King Ranch is the best representation of modern American-style luxury within Ford's lineup. Wood, chrome and leather make the Expedition an inviting place to spend a day on the road. The layout of the gauges and controls is easy to understand and no controls are too far out of easy reach.

Captain's chairs with movable armrests are standard across the four model lines. Leather-upholstered examples are available with a heating/cooling feature that makes them a more comfortable companion in winter and summer. Generous driver's-seat travel helps accommodate taller drivers, and it's a perfect match for the Expedition's movable pedals, so a wide range of sizes of drivers can sit comfortably.

The second seating row reflects Ford's thoughtful approach to passenger comfort: the standard 40/20/40 bench seat incorporates a center section that slides, bringing a child seat within easier reach of front-seat passengers. Optional second-row captain's chairs with a center-aisle pass-through can be substituted for adult-rated comfort.

Packaging advantages afforded by the Expedition's independent rear suspension enable the third-row seat to deliver more comfort for adults compared to the accommodations provided by the Chevy Tahoe. In fact, third-row room is among the best of any SUV, though three adults won't want to sit in the back for long. The high ride height also makes getting in and out a task for children.

The Expedition's liftgate with its flip-up glass hatch makes access to the cargo area very easy. The Expedition's second- and third-row bench-type seats fold flat into the cargo floor, affording a long cargo area that can be easily loaded. This means you don't have to unbolt the passenger seats and leave them on the floor of your garage every time you're making a serious run to the home improvement store. In this regard, the Expedition is much better designed than GM's large SUVs. The Expedition is also available with an optional power-folding third-row seat and electronically powered liftgate to make it even easier to load cargo. However, the seat cushions of the second- and third-row seats are a little slim in order to allow the seats to fold properly.

The Expedition is about more than convenience. A DVD-based navigation system with sizable 6.5-inch screen is available as an option. The rear-seat DVD entertainment system has an eight-inch screen that flips down from the headliner and also includes two sets of wireless headphones. A plug-in jack for an MP3 player is standard across the line. The Expedition is even a nice place to be when all the entertainment is switched off, as the combination of thick glass and a generous amount of acoustic insulation behind the dash and on the floor makes this a remarkably quiet interior; it's actually possible to have a conversation with the people in the third-row seat while you're at the wheel.

Ford's rear backup camera is less impressive than many others. The image is shown in the rear-view mirror, and is quite small. While the image is useful, obstacles are not as easy to spot as they are in systems that show their images on six- or seven-inch dash-mounted screens.

Driving Impressions

Full-size sport-utilities aren't known for their driving manners, but the latest-generation of vehicles from both Ford and General Motors offer real progress in delivering a more car-like impression.

In this regard, the Ford Expedition tracks down the highway with excellent straight-line stability, negotiates forest roads with surprising agility, and absorbs impacts from bumps or broken pavement without straying from its path. It maintains a surprisingly calm ride considering its truck heritage. Most of the advantage comes from the synergy between a rigid frame, high-pressure gas shocks that afford excellent wheel control, and a second-generation, link-type independent rear suspension.

Steering effort is light and easy. The two-speed 4WD system is engaged with a simple rotary knob mounted on the dashboard, and it automatically reduces throttle sensitivity in low range for better traction in slippery circumstances.

The overhead-cam 5.4-liter V8 delivers 310 hp, but it's really tuned to deliver torque, 365 pound-feet of it, for towing. The six-speed automatic transmission runs seamlessly through the gears, keeping the engine from laboring through its rpm range. The result is a lot of reliable power.

We did notice some hesitation at initial throttle opening in some situations. It we came to a stop sign at the top of a hill, stopped, then accelerated, there was sometimes a pause while the transmission engaged and forward momentum began.

The Expedition makes an excellent tow vehicle. With the optional towing package, the standard 4WD Expedition is rated at 9000 pounds, the 2WD at 9200 pounds, the 2WD EL at 9000 pounds, and the 4WD EL at 8750 pounds.

For all its comfort and stability, the Expedition is still about utility rather than sport. When it comes to driving, the Expedition feels big and heavy, which it is. As good as it is, the Expedition certainly isn't sporty and no one should expect it to be. Still, the Expedition's overall driving performance is quite refined for its class.

Among full-size sport-utilities, the Ford Expedition stands apart with its superior driving comfort and utility package. Ford is right on target with its family adventure concept, and the Ford Expedition is one of the best vehicles for family vacation travel on the American road. It makes an excellent tow vehicle, smooth and stable, with tow capacities in the 9000-pound range.

Kirk Bell contributed to this report from Chicago, with staff reports from NewCarTestDrive.com.

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