Test Drive: 2008 Ford Expedition

I?ve been in so many Crossover Utility Vehicles lately that I?ve forgotten what a real old-fashioned SUV was like.? The CUV segment is generally built on platforms shared with passenger cars. They have bigger engines, taller suspensions and AWD, but a CUV still has more car habits than truck habits.

That?s not the case with the Ford Expedition. This rig is built on the same platform as a full size Ford Truck, just a bit smaller than the maximum-sized Ford Excursion. The Expedition is built at Ford?s Michigan Truck Plant in Wayne, Mich.

That?s the central fact to know about the Expedition. In this rig, you?re getting a real truck ? with all the good and bad features that implies. This thing is solid in a way that no unibody stamped CUV will ever be. You?ve got the benefit of Ford?s decades of experience building full-size trucks, and you can tow your whole house behind this vehicle.

But on the other hand, the Expedition drives like a truck and it gets truck gas mileage. If that?s OK with you, then the Expedition should be on your short list of SUVs.? Especially if you?re looking for a luxury SUV, because the Expedition is very very nice inside, and has all the nifty electronic bells and whistles.

Let?s run down the specs and get acquainted ? the Expedition uses Ford?s current standard truck V8 ? a 5.4-liter plant with SOHC 24-valve heads, yielding 300 horsepower and 365 lb-ft of torque. This is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission with 4WD. You have a dial on the dash that allows you to select 2WD, full-time auto 4WD, true 4WD high range, and low-range 4WD for serious work. And that?s something you just won?t find on any crossover.

The Expedition also inherits the truck?s towing capacity. You can put a real hitch on this truck and Ford offers an explicit ?tow package? on this model. With that, you can tow up to 9,050 pounds.

A word to the wise ? any time an automaker offers a towing package, buy it. They?re generally not a lot of money and they upgrade your engine cooling, transmission cooling, and your suspension. Sometimes you?ll get a tougher rear axle as well.

The Expedition puts all this together with a surprisingly trim 5,783 pound curb weight ? that?s a full half-ton less than my diesel F250 2WD pickup, yet you will never feel like you?re in a cheaply-made vehicle. The Expedition just feels solid.

Now, there are tradeoffs on that, too. A big SUV like this is comfortable, but you?d never call it nimble or brag on your cornering ability. And your fuel mileage will be 12/18 MPG, according to Ford. Our real-world experience was closer to 12 in combined driving.? Not a carefree giggle with gas prices north of $3 a gallon, though I note with pleasure that the Expedition takes 87 Octane regular.

But assuming that you?re not buying this truck as a replacement for your Miata, the Expedition continues Ford?s great truck tradition. This rig?s DNA goes back to the great Broncos of the 60s, and it just shows. Even dolled up with leather and wood trim and navigation and with a DVD player, this truck is tough and usable ? a great balance between functional and luxurious.

Ford gets a base price of $39,925 for the Expedition, and with options like Navigation, power everything, tow package, power liftgate, auto-leveling suspension, and DVD for the kids, our test model?s window sticker says $48,430.? If you?re shopping this segment, you know that?s not a bad price at all, and so I recommend you check out the Expedition before you make your choice. I think you?ll like it.

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