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New Ford Expedition makes a great towing vehicle

September 01, 2006|by JEFF JOHNSTON / Motor Matters

Ford's Expedition full-size SUV has been a popular tow vehicle ever since the truck was introduced in 1997. With the launch of the 2007 model, Expedition towing fans have even more to be excited about. The all-new Expedition EL, which measures in with a 14.8-inch longer body and a 12-inch longer wheelbase, offers even more capability and function for the RV towing enthusiast.

Styling cues borrowed from the Super Duty truck series influenced the new Expedition body. A tough-looking front end and crisp, contemporary lines give the Expedition a definite Ford truck family look that should appeal to a wide range of RV drivers.

An all-new frame, designed around Super Duty truck parameters and strength requirements, was used to support a familiar suspension setup. Up front there's an independent A-arm suspension with coil springs, and out back, the second generation of the independent rear suspension (IRS) used on the previous Expedition model. Coil springs and a five-link-style suspension setup are used out back, and four- wheel disc brakes with four-wheel ABS are standard features.

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Ford's 5.4-Liter Triton V-8 is the sole engine available and is mated to an all-new six-speed automatic transmission with two top-end overdrive gears. The engine is rated at 300 horsepower and 365 lbs.-ft. of torque, so it's more than strong enough to handle its rated trailer payload.

The IRS configuration is low profile and made possible the inclusion of the extra-roomy third-row seat. Extra legroom accommodates passengers up to 6 feet 2 inches tall, and the optional Powerfold feature folds the seat away at the touch of a button.

All-new interior features, including redesigned seats and a new dashboard, are standard on all Expedition models.

Safety hasn't taken a back seat. All Expeditions now receive a standard side-curtain safety canopy that provides crash and rollover protection for all three rows of seats. Dual-stage front air bags and seat-mounted side air bags for front-seat passengers are also standard.

Ford's exclusive AdvanceTrac with RSC (Roll Stability Control) uses a gyroscopic roll-rate sensor to monitor and measure the vehicle's yaw and roll angles. If a rollover seems imminent, the system works with the ABS and engine controls to apply countermeasures to help maintain safe driving.

In addition to all the slick new hardware, Ford has also lowered the price of 2007 models by an average of $4,300. This is on top of incorporating more standard features than previously available. You literally get more for your money with the 2007 model.

We took a short test drive in a 4WD Expedition EL with an Arctic Fox model 25R trailer on board. The approximately 6,300-pound trailer was sized right for the Expedition, yet it didn't even seriously push the rig's 8,750-pound tow rating. The rating can be as high as 9,200-pounds for standard-length Expedition models in 2WD form.

The first thing we noticed was the lack of noise. Ford has done a superb job with sound insulation and wind noise control. This is one quiet ride.

As a rule, adding wheelbase to a given tow rig equates to more towing stability. That seems to be the case with the Expedition. The rear overhang - the distance from the rear axle to the hitch ball - remains about the same, and the extra 12 inches of wheelbase helps stabilize the towing experience.

We took on city streets and state highways with equal ease. Braking and cornering felt solid and secure, with no sense that the trailer was pushing us around at all. A trip across the bridge over the Columbia River between Astoria and the Washington state shoreline subjected us to some terrific crosswind conditions, but again, the Expedition held straight and true.

As anticipated, the RSC setup helps keep the aft end of the tow rig in line and avoids having it push right and left as the trailer hitch applies lateral force in corners or crosswinds. That's a big drawback to leaf springs and solid axles in that they can flex laterally quite a bit, resulting in less than optimal handling. Ford has eliminated that problem with its RSC on the Expedition.

We were impressed with the truck's ride and handling with the trailer aboard. The original Expedition is a good tow vehicle, and the new 2007 model is even better. Combined with its extra people hauling capacity and other features, it's a good bet if such a full-size SUV is in your future.

Copyright, Motor Matters, 2006

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