Full-size sport-utilities aren't known for their driving manners, but the latest-generation of vehicles from both Ford and General Motors offer real progress in delivering a more car-like impression.
In this regard, the Ford Expedition tracks down the highway with excellent straight-line stability, negotiates forest roads with surprising agility, and absorbs impacts from bumps or broken pavement without straying from its path. It maintains a surprisingly calm ride considering its truck heritage. Most of the advantage comes from the synergy between a rigid frame, high-pressure gas shocks that afford excellent wheel control, and a second-generation, link-type independent rear suspension.
Steering effort is light and easy. The two-speed 4WD system is engaged with a simple rotary knob mounted on the dashboard, and it automatically reduces throttle sensitivity in low range for better traction in slippery circumstances.
The overhead-cam 5.4-liter V8 delivers 310 hp, but it's really tuned to deliver torque, 365 pound-feet of it, for towing. The six-speed automatic transmission runs seamlessly through the gears, keeping the engine from laboring through its rpm range. The result is a lot of reliable power.
We did notice some hesitation at initial throttle opening in some situations. It we came to a stop sign at the top of a hill, stopped, then accelerated, there was sometimes a pause while the transmission engaged and forward momentum began.
The Expedition makes an excellent tow vehicle. With the optional towing package, the standard 4WD Expedition is rated at 9000 pounds, the 2WD at 9200 pounds, the 2WD EL at 9000 pounds, and the 4WD EL at 8750 pounds.
For all its comfort and stability, the Expedition is still about utility rather than sport. When it comes to driving, the Expedition feels big and heavy, which it is. As good as it is, the Expedition certainly isn't sporty and no one should expect it to be. Still, the Expedition's overall driving performance is quite refined for its class.