Ford Expedition EL Review

ford expedition el review

Whenever I show up at my weekly poker game, the boys (being boys) are always interested in what I'm driving. How much? How fast? Not this week. This week, all my friends piled into the driveway and laughed. Can you blame them? Ford's new Expedition EL is so large I had to park it diagonally to keep its butt off the street. The wheels come up to my thigh. One 6'5" friend couldn't see the roof. Remember King Kong Bundy? He now wears dubs.

Despite the comedy (if you attached flippers to an EL, a sperm whale would want to hump its back), the Expedition is a handsome beast. Yes, the grill is only slightly less confrontational than the business end of a DASH 9 locomotive. But it flows smoothly into the massive hood-bulge, especially with the box checked for matching body color. The [optional] blingtastic 20" chrome wheels give the EL pure proportionality– even if everything behind the rear-doors is a single sheet of glass. And yes, despite it all, the EL's still got street cred; seven fast & furious teenagers told me how fly my ride was. Just don't look at its frumpy tuchus.

If the outside is gangsta's paradise, the inside is Harry & David meets Sharper Image. The seats are the best offered in any American SUV. They may have as much to do with proper driving as John Kerry does with Army recruiting, but two-hours on the road feels like fifteen minutes in bed on a Sunday morning reading the papers. Gross Ford binnage abounds. Unless you touch them, the plastics– dyed a deeper shade of drab– don't offend. So don't.

I really fell for the piece of dead tree ringing the upper half of steering wheel. It made me think I was holding the tiller of a Lexus. Or a Riva. Or a minivan on stilts. The EL can legitimately claim enough head, shoulder and leg room for eight adults AND enough cargo capacity for all the stuff they're likely to schlep. And it’s all so easy. Press the plipper twice and the tailgate swings open automatically. Hold two buttons down for about twenty-seconds and the third row falls flat. Although the load-in height is too high, it’s still a Suburban salesman’s worst nightmare.

As you’d expect from Ford’s luxury land yacht, the Expedition is geared-up with gizmos. The bigger, brighter radio and navigation touch-screen is a model of ergonomic ease. Gamers score three power points. A rear-view camera is notable by its absence. It’s a huge, silly misstep; my $49.99 phone can shoot video and a Bighorn Elk could hide behind the Expedition's power liftgate. And the much ballyhooed air-conditioned seats are less cooling than a ceiling fan in Notre Dame cathedral.

If Mazda's CX-7 is the Marvin Harrison of the SUV world, and Porsche’s Cayenne Turbo is LaDainian Tomlinson, then the Ford Expedition EL is John Madden: a bit clumsy, self-satisfied and happiest when cruising. True, the EL’s multi-link, independent rear-suspension and RSC (Roll Stability Control) let you take a bit of speed into a corner– make that “turn"– but you'll feel a whole lot better if you don't.

On the positive side, the EL swallows road imperfections like bon-bons, even if it tends to jiggle at highway speeds. (Let's blame the motion on our 4X4 tester's 6155 pound curb weight.) While the Expedition doesn't waft like a truly dignified luxury vehicle-– no dirt-hauler based SUV does — helming the beast makes you feel like the captain of an oil tanker on the open sea. If something gets in your way, it’s something's problem.

The Expedition’s 5.4-liter big block V8 shares its basic components with the TTAC-debatable Shelby GT500. Unlike the mad Mustang's supercharged motor, which sounds like a circular saw opening a propane tank, the EL’s 300hp mill is eerily quiet. The Triton™ powerplant generates enough torque to amble about town, tow 9100 lbs. of lifestyle gear or both (365ft. lbs. of twist at a leisurely 3,750rpm). The Expedition EL’s intuitive six-speed auto makes the most of the SUV’s oomph, downshifting at the flick of an ankle. Not that you'll ever have to pass anybody, since everybody gets the Hell out of your way anyway.

The Expedition's tall-geared transmission helps peg the monster’s mileage at a not completely derisory 15.6 mpg– at speeds up to 100mph. (Sorry, but it's my job officer.) So should you buy one? No. The Expedition EL is so large it's silly. I know, you “need” to haul a large family while towing the Lusitania. But why not purchase Ford's underrated Freestyle for chump change– which offers almost as much storage/seating– and use the money saved on gas to rent a slip at your favorite marina? Why not indeed.

[Jonny and RF discuss the EL in the podcast below.]

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  • Finderskeepers Finderskeepers on Aug 13, 2007

    I have a soft spot for my 2005 Expedition Limited because its a nice comfy place to spend time. I almost always end up in crazy traffic jams on my way to work and back, and this use to stress me out in my last car. I would arrive home tensed up, with a sore back and gritted teeth. Somehow in an Expedition the outcome is different. You pop in a CD, open the sunroof, adjust the seats and sit back and enjoy the mayhem from your perch. I'm still not sure how some testers come up with 14 mpg, they must be stuck in traffic constantly. I can set the cruise at 55 mph and get 21.9 mpg, or 19 mpg at 65 mph. For sure that will never compete with a Prius, but for a family like ours that loads up every weekend for the cottage, with dog and kids in tow, its pretty hard to beat an expedition. Add the convenience of Advance-trac 4 wheel drive for Canadian winters, and the stability of RSC, it makes a pretty nice all season vehicle. The 5.4 litre engine is silent in operation and never seems particularly stressed, the torque is amazing. My wife loves the power adjustable pedals, the power fold third row, and the DVD system that keep the kids from fighting with one another on trips. I have two small gripes my Expedition, one is that I wish Ford had padded the top of the door where I rest my elbow while driving, it should have been padded like the center console. Secondly the navigation system is great in the city, but when you get way out in the country, the roads it knows are only the major ones. Many sideroads and secondary roads seemingly do not exist, and sometimes the navigation will take you out of your way (it will get you there, but the route might be convoluted at best). We have put on 77,000 miles in two years of driving (123,000km) and have only suffered the failure of the rear wiper motor, which was easily fixed by reaming out the hole in the glass. Keeping our fingers crossed that this reliability will continue, as long as I maintain her. Wouldn't it be neat if one could be had with a Diesel-hybrid option?

  • Tirnaog Tirnaog on Apr 30, 2008

    Loved the review. Very funny. We are getting a limited soon, just order it. We have two BIG dogs, Bernese mountain dog and a Irish Wolfhound. Our wolfie sadly out grew the Freestyle. Best car Ford has at the moment. So Expedition here we go.

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