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2003 Ford Expedition XLT

Sunny Side Up

     “Lets take the Bonneville to Florida,” somebody says. “OK” came the unanimous response. Who wouldn’t take the opportunity to get out of the office for a few days? Of course, the rest of us didn’t know what Executive Editor Dye had up his sleeve. “We’ll make it a working holiday!” he exclaimed. Some low mumbling followed. So we packed up Assistant Editor Vloet, which in itself is no small task, and readied for the journey. Then, at the last moment, there was a problem with availability. The Bonneville had decided it needed to be at the other side of the state. Being the flexible people we are, we readied the next best of our armada of vehicles, a 2003 Ford Expedition XLT.
     We immediately found that the Expedition was the wiser choice for the excursion, having approximately seven times the interior volume of the Pontiac. Editor Vloet, who is a 6 foot 4 inch Dutchmen, found that he didn’t even have to cock his head sideways while he occupied more than his fair share of seats. However, finding legroom for the big guy in all but the front row became a problem as seats are mounted low and his knees tended to occupy the same location as his chin. Average height occupants won’t have this problem. As you’d expect, cargo space proved to be abundant, and with the third row seat that folds into the floor, there was no need for back-breaking seat juggling. Two small levers and, poof, 60.9 cubic feet of suitcase holding, beverage toting, lumber hauling and package carrying room becomes available. If needed, the second row will also fold flat for a maximum of 110.5 cu ft.
     Exec Dye found the ergonomics the most noteworthy complaint. The absence of a dead pedal kept our left foot searching. The power adjustable pedals drew praise however, as did the driver seat travel
range. Front seats were noted as comfortable and supportive, though the rear seats would benefit from more support than the straight-backed approach Ford has taken. The massive front console garnered some criticisms for its size, but those on this trip found it to be a welcome storage tool for cell phones, drinks, CD’s and small dogs. The map also found refuge there while not in use, because our tester did not come with the optional navigation system. The trip computer and compass did come in handy though. “Keep that thing on the south!” shouted Dye as yours truly found yet another turn that led us away from the intended destination.
     The Expedition’s heft and size turned out to be quite manageable on the freeway, though it can be daunting come time to park. Our tester came equipped with the 232 horsepower aluminum block 4.6L V8. While stronger then the anemic 4.6L from the original Expedition, this engine still strains to keep pace in Kentucky’s hills. Performance on flat land proved adequate. However, when the terrain climbed to ear-popping heights in Kentucky’s hill country, she positively ran out of breath. Our tester also came equipped with 4-wheel drive. While useful in January (in Michigan), the extra weight just penalizes fuel economy in the summer. Either way there is a sacrifice. The new 4-wheel fully independent suspension proved to be more responsive and surefooted then the old rigid axle setup. Coil over shocks all around managed wheel travel well, keeping tire to the tarmac in all but the worst of Michigan’s roads. 17″ wheels and tires smoothed out
road irregularities before they made their way inside.
     While we have enjoyed having the Expedition for our weeklong trip to the Sunshine State, she didn’t pass the scrutinizing eyes of the AT staff unscathed. The use of plastic body cladding is growing old. There is just something about having 8 inches of gray plastic wrapped around the bottom edges of a vehicle that turns our
stomachs foul. Didn’t anyone learn from the Aztec and Avalanche?
     Overall, the second generation Expedition is a vast improvement upon the original. A good family vehicle, and we’ll vouch that it handles 2,000 mile trips without a hitch. Gas mileage isn’t great, but no SUV’s is. For around $37,000 our XLT tester represented a good value in the full-size SUV field.

The Good:
Room for everyone and everything, no weather is too much, did we mention there is a lot of space?
The Bad:
Engine runs out of breath when trying to move everyone and everything, no deadpedal.
The Verdict:
A good value among the behemoths. 
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