Big people. Big country. Big houses. Big money... well, until recently.
America is all about being big, and just as a McDonald's value meal was already a great deal, Ford takes the Expedition Eddie Bauer and and supersizes it, hence the Ford Expedition EL.
Over the original model, the most notable change is the length. Ford adds a further 305mm of wheelbase, translating to an extra 379mm of length, taking the grand total to 5621mm. Width stays the same at 2001mm, while the EL is slightly taller at 1966mm.
The exterior is fundamentally the same as the regular-sized Expedition, if you can classify the original as "regular" sized. Up front there's a tough and bold chrome grille, flanked immediately by Ford's tapered headlamps. The hood bulges to follow the lines of the grille, hinting at the power underneath, and the entire EL is complemented by a new set of 18 inch aluminum wheels.
Open the massive doors and you'll be greeted by supple leather seats, sporting two tones and tactile textures. The dashboard is a traditional truck yet modern; utilitarian yet quite elegant in execution. There's an abundance of storage spaces, as expected, and cupholders are all around. With the longer wheelbase, ingress into the 2nd and 3rd rows is made relatively easier, as the wheel well no longer protrudes into the door frame. Seating for three is available at each of the 2 subsequent rows and, mind you, that's three heavily built adults.
In the back, there's plenty of cargo room to go around, even with the 3rd row occupied. Over the original Expedition which has 526 liters of space, the EL has more than twice at 1,206 liters of cargo capacity. Should you want to carry more, either fold the 3rd row via the power fold switches or go truly American by hitching a trailer at the back, as the EL can tow up to 8700 pounds.
Sitting on the driver's seat, you're greeted by a well shaped steering wheel with satellite controls for the audio system and cruise control. SYNC, Microsoft's easy to use, intuitive voice command hardware, is wired into the audio system for hands free access to your Bluetooth phone or an MP3-loaded USB flash drive.
After adjusting the seat, steering wheel and pedals to my liking, I fire up the engine for the first time, letting the huge 5.4 liter V8 light up under the hood. Rated at 300 hp and with 495 Newton-meters of torque, there's ample power to go around for the 3 ton Expedition EL, rendering acceleration from a standstill to 100 km/h in 9.7 seconds. The engine is superbly silent and smooth. Ditto for the 6-speed automatic transmission sending drive to the rear wheels (in 2WD mode). Braking is quite powerful too, thanks to ventilated discs at all four corners.
The Expedition EL is really more at home cruising on the boulevard or the highway. At speed the body does pitch quite a bit while braking and roll when cornering, but thats really a given considering the heft and high center of gravity. The double wishbone front suspension and multi link rear set up doesn't really inspire confidence in the corners, but copes well with the size, takes care of road imperfections and is quite good at minimizing the nausea-inducing float (that odd, zero gravity feeling going over a crest) typical of older American SUVs.
When taken off road, all it takes is a twist of a knob on the dashboard (and the shifter in neutral) to switch the transfer case to send power to all four wheels. The ride height does give quite a feeling of invincibility over the rough stuff, and the 4x4 system does work quite well to keep traction constant, though the standard highway tires are best left on the highway.
In terms of safety, the Expedition EL is fully loaded. Apart from the usual complement of airbags, side impact beams, and anti lock brakes, the Exped line also gets AdvanceTrac traction control to keep the vehicle in its comfort zone while Roll Stability Control keeps steamship body roll in check. A further slew of security features like a SecuriCode anti theft, keypad entry and reverse sensor and back-up camera complete the package.
However, there's really no tiptoeing around the fuel consumption of the massive 5.4L V-8. In city driving with moderate traffic, an already discreet right foot yields 4-4.5 kilometers to the liter. They really do need to start thinking about a diesel engine for this market for several reasons. For one, unlike the good ol' US of A, diesel fuel here is far cheaper than gasoline. More importantly, modern common-rail turbo intercooler diesels like those found in, say, the Hyundai Veracruz V6 or the Toyota Land Cruiser V8, have proven that power, torque, efficiency, refinement and economy go hand-in-hand-in-hand. I'm just floating the idea (albeit an expensive one, in terms of development), but I'm also relishing the idea of a DuraTORQ TDCI V8 under the hood of the Expedition EL.
Nevertheless, it's noteworthy that demand for the Expedition EL is quite high here, even with the fuel consumption. Maybe thats an indicator as to what the Exped truly represents. Sure, you can say that the Exped EL sells solely because it's a status statement, but when all is said and done, the EL has the comfort and space of a house and lot... at condo prices.
Now that's a great deal.