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Ford Excursion will be cut after 2004

August 15, 2003|by JEFF JOHNSTON/Motor Matters

Ford's Excursion, the king of the SUVs in size and towing capability, was introduced not so many years ago and, alas, will be dropped from the Ford lineup as of the end of the 2004 model year.

Regardless of its features and superb towing capabilities - to say nothing of its macho good looks - it apparently arrived at the wrong time and has been relegated to the discontinued vehicles file way too early in its lifeline.

Although the economics of Ford's decision have many explanations, it's hard to miss the coincidence that this is also the time when many anti-SUV zealots are taking falsified and misleading potshots at any SUV they can target when the media is watching and providing a nationally distributed sounding board. Perhaps the timing is simply coincidence.

I've always preferred big, healthy and capable tow vehicles for my RV trailers. Past ownership of large tow rigs, including a Chevrolet Suburban and two Ford F-250 and F-350 pickups, have given me an appreciation for big tow rigs and the positive features they deliver. There's nothing quite like the feeling of safety and control a driver gets when using a larger-size vehicle as a tow rig. Properly matched to a well-balanced trailer and coupled together via a nicely adjusted, weight-equalizing hitch, a big tow rig and trailer combo is a joy to guide down the road.

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The generally stiffer suspension and truck-like chassis components deliver a firm, well-controlled ride. There's also an extra margin of safety in the larger brakes on a bigger rig.

It's not for lack of such capabilities that the Excursion has drawn so much unwarranted flack. For basic towing ability, it's rated to handle up to an 11,000-pound trailer. Buyers have a choice of a small-block 5.5-liter V-8, the big 6.8-liter V-10 gasoline-powered engine and the healthy 6.0-liter Powerstroke diesel backed by a new 5-speed automatic with overdrive. The new TorqShift automatic is equipped with a "Tow/Haul" mode that provides improved shift points and better grade-holding capability, both of which come in handy when towing a big trailer.

Safety also is a big factor with the Excursion. Second-generation air bags, side-impact door beams and a Blocker Beam under the front bumper to protect smaller vehicles in an impact, are standard features. Heated towing mirrors with built-in turn signals and a reverse-gear obstacle-sensing system can further the cause of safe driving.

If hauling a big crowd is part of your intended vehicle use, the Excursion will accommodate a large crew and then some. With the rig's two buckets up front, middle bench seat and optional third-row bench, the rig can handle as many as eight full-size adults in comfort. Even at that, there's enough cargo space in the back to swallow a pile of luggage, sports gear and other hardware.

While few will claim the Excursion is anything but fuel thirsty, it's still an environmentally friendly vehicle. Both versions of its gasoline engines are certified to meet the toughest California emission standards and they qualify as extra-low-emission engines, so they run cleaner than many small cars on the road today.

Oddly enough, while the zealots complain about the alleged evils of anything that remotely resembles an SUV, they seem to ignore the full-size vans, pickups, older-model full-size sedans and station wagons and similar large personal-use vehicles that share the highways with SUVs. These other rigs have similar powertrains and size characteristics with the full-size SUVs, in particular, yet they are somehow exempt from the attacks. At the same time, the Chevrolet Suburban has been on the market for many years and is the direct functional soulmate of the Excursion, yet it's been largely ignored by the zealots while the Excursion has taken most of the potshots. It's a very curious type of selective condemnation.

Whatever the reason, the Excursion's time is limited.

© 2003, Motor Matters

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