What was tested? 2007 Ford Expedition EL Eddie Bauer 4WD ($41,945).
Price as tested: $41,945.
It's amazing that some vehicles ever leave the drawing board.
Consider the giant Ford Excursion. It's almost laughable that somebody, somewhere -- probably wearing an expensive suit and collecting a big salary -- actually thought the world needed an SUV that's bigger than the Chevy Suburban.
Ford didn't say, "We want to make an SUV that's better than the Suburban. Quieter. More comfortable. Better looking. More exciting."
No, the Excursion was all about size, and Ford didn't seem to care that it was nothing but a heavy-duty pickup with a cheap roof stuck on top and some seats bolted in the back.
It's no wonder why the Excursion didn't last long. It croaked in 2006 after a few years of pathetic sales and criticism from environmentalists who thought it was killing the cute little penguins. Instead of just saying "buh-bye" to its supersize SUV, though, Ford decided to replace it. And in doing so, it created the most wonderful, amazing, impressive SUV that buyers will pay huge wads of cash for because they don't care about gas prices.
Oh, sorry. I thought it was 1997 for a second.
Actually, the new Expedition EL -- Ford's replacement for the Excursion -- comes about 10 years too late. It's a good SUV, and certainly far better than the uncivilized Excursion ever was, but it seems to be made for a time when Clinton was still in the White House.
Today's market for full-size SUVs is crashing like the Hindenburg, only faster and more explosive. It's clearly the wrong time for a car company to introduce a gas-guzzling beast, but that didn't stop Ford.
Like its name suggests, the Expedition EL is an extra-long version of the popular Ford Expedition. That means it's big, tough and heavy, but also civilized enough for comfortably driving around town.
Unlike the Excursion, which was the kind of vehicle you wrestle with to make it behave in the city, the Expedition EL is surprisingly easy to drive considering its giant size. It's almost car-like in its quick response and light feel -- that is, except for the brakes.
Most cars have brakes that respond in a linear fashion. If you push the break pedal gently, the vehicle slows down just a little bit. If you push a little harder, the vehicle slows down more. On this stretched Expedition, though, you can press the brake pedal softly and get no response whatsoever. Press a little harder, and still nothing.
And then, when press just a tiny bit harder, it screams, "OH MY GOSH! YOU MUST WANT TO STOP! AHHHHHHHH!!!!!" as it finally grips the wheels and sends all the unsecured cargo inside flying toward the front windshield.
That's not such a bad thing, though, because when you get hit on the head by a flying Kleenex box, you're more likely to forget how much you spent for your last fill-up. Ford and the EPA haven't published this SUV's gas mileage ratings yet, but it-s bound to be ugly with a three-ton curb weight.
Aside from the schitzo brakes and Exxon-friendly gas mileage, there's not much to gripe about. Its engine is smooth and strong, the six-speed automatic transmission shifts nicely, and the cabin is brilliant for a Ford product.
It's everything Americans wanted a decade ago.
Pros: It's a vast improvement over Ford's previous heavyweight champ, the Excursion. It drives exceptionally well and is surprisingly easy to maneuver around town.
Cons: It's an outdated poster child for the SUV craze, a trend that's barely surviving while strapped to a ventilator in a Detroit nursing home.