The slow moving Ford Bronco (in sales, not the speed at which OJ rode in one) was no competition for GM's full-size SUVs, when it went off the market in 1996. But when Ford introduced its replacement, the Expedition, in 1997 it immediately rocketed past the Suburban on the sales charts.

Until 2002 the Expedition was based on the then current version of the Ford F-series pickup truck, which is perennially the best selling vehicle in the US. Expedition is slightly smaller than the Chevrolet/GMC Suburban but a little bigger than the Chevy Tahoe.

If you want a large SUV capable of carrying up to nine people take a look at an Expedition. It's a vehicle that has proven to be a popular alternative to the Suburban. If you want to stand out in a crowd - literally - this vehicle could be the one for you.

 

What You Need To Know:

1. Review of a 1997 Ford Expedition

2. Summary of Good and Bad Points by Owners

3. History of Expedition

4. Review of Current Model

5. Basic Facts

6. Changes Year-to-Year

7. Option Installment Rate

8. Sales History

9. Awards and Commendations Earned

10. Other Reviews

11. Price of Spare Parts

 

1. Pre-Owned Vehicle Evaluation - 1997 Ford Expedition XLT (2WD)

Likes: ride, power (5.4-liter engine), towing capacity

Dislikes: size, fuel consumption, steering

Competitors: (on same platform: Lincoln Navigator), Chevrolet/GMC Suburban, Chevrolet Tahoe/GMC Yukon

Miles: 34,100

Condition: A

Price when new: $32,600 (est.)

Posted Price: $30,820 (Feb. 1999)

My nine-year old son immediately fell in love with the all-black Expedition as we jumped into the vehicle for a test drive. "It's the sort of vehicle for an undercover cop," he said. I think it was the dark privacy glass coupled with the big running boards that caught his imagination because this monster vehicle certainly does not blend into the scenery.

It's quite a climb up into the Expedition but once there you have a commanding view of the road around you. Despite being based on a truck the Expedition has a reasonably car-like feel to it. The dashboard wraps around the driver's position quite nicely. The instrument pod contains a large speedometer and tachometer along with four smaller gauges. The radio and climate controls are placed just to the right of the steering wheel in a convenient location.

The test vehicle had captain's chairs in front instead of a bench seat. It means there is one less space for a passenger but instead one gets a large center console that contains space for quite a few odds and ends as well as holding the (optional) remote CD player. Access to the second row of seats is helped by the (optional) running boards fitted to this particular vehicle and by a large grab handle at the top of the door pillar.

Naturally in a vehicle this size there is plenty of head and legroom, at least in the front two rows of seats. The (optional) third row of seats are located rather high over the rear axle and really only comfortable for children. The rear seat can be removed fairly easily by releasing a latch, however it weighs over 70 lbs. so it's a two-person job. With it removed there is a decent amount of cargo storage space behind the second row of seats which can also be folded down to provide even more space. But with the third row in place there is barely room for more than a few grocery bags in the rear. This is one area where the Suburban scores better as it has another foot or so of cargo space in the rear.

Considering the size, weight and fact that it is based on a pickup truck, the Expedition rides quite nicely. This is undoubtedly because Ford fitted the vehicle with a completely different rear axle from that in the F-150 truck, at least for the rear-drive models. Naturally, the 4WD versions do not ride quite as well and the handling is not on par with a car. As long as one respects the high center of gravity it does fine on all but the windiest of roads. I found the steering to be over assisted making the handling even less precise than I'd like. It might be great for maneuvering the large vehicle in tight spaces but it's not as nice on the open road.

Overall this two-year old Expedition was in good shape. There was some sign of wear in the front seats - it looked as though the owner had not treated the leather regularly and the surface was showing some signs of cracking in places. I could not find any blemishes in the bodywork and there were no squeaks or rattles.

The optional 5.4-liter engine in the vehicle I tested is actually twice as popular with buyers as the standard engine. It gives the vehicle plenty of power but returns slightly worse fuel consumption. You are more likely to find a pre-owned Expedition with this engine than the standard engine and it is also more likely to have 4WD.

Within two years of going on sale the Expedition underwent some improvements. For example, the 1999 model sported a modified front grill and bumpers to make it look less utilitarian. Under the hood both the standard and optional engines got an increase in power output of 25 and 30 horsepower, respectively. What's more the 5.4-liter engine got a substantial increase in torque, making it even better for towing.

Inside, the most significant change was the optional power-adjustable brake and accelerator pedal cluster, which is the first time it had been offered on a SUV. A switch on the dashboard operates a small motor, which moves the pedals up to three inches. This is especially useful for drivers with short legs as it means they do not have to sit as close to the steering wheel.

If you want a big vehicle, need four-wheel-drive or need to tow, the Expedition is an ideal vehicle. If you have to carry more than five people regularly along with a fair amount of cargo a Suburban might better fit the bill. But in my opinion if you only want to haul people and/or cargo around a minivan makes a much more practical and pleasant choice, with its easier access, lower floor and better ride.

 

2. Summing It Up - Owners Views

Good:

"Good ride" (2WD)

"Great for towing"

Bad:

"Too big"

"Unresponsive steering"

"Stiff ride"

"Rattle in dash"

"Too high off ground" (4WD)

 

3. History of Expedition

For many decades GM had the market for nine-passenger sport utility market all to itself with the Suburban. Ford's competitor was the full-size Bronco, which was smaller and only came with two doors. In 1997 Ford replaced this venerable old vehicle with the Expedition which was aimed squarely at GM's Suburban and Tahoe models, slotting right in between the two in terms of size.

The Expedition is based on the Ford F-150 pickup truck although it is only really the same vehicle from the windshield forward as the suspension and chassis are different in the rear. Right from the start the Expedition was a success, becoming the top-selling full-size SUV within its first few months of sale. It did not take sales away from GM as both the Suburban and Tahoe have maintained their sales pace since the Expedition appeared.

An all-new Expedition appeared in 2002 as a 2003 model. It sported major changes to the chassis and suspension resulting in much improved on-highway ride and handling.

For those who want an even bigger SUV, Ford introduced the 2000 Excursion in the fall of 1999. It was based on the Super Duty F-350 truck and is nearly 19 feet in length. That's almost two feet longer than the Expedition and about ten inches longer than a Suburban, easily making it the largest SUV on the market.

 

4. Review of Current Expedition (2003 on)

The success of the Expedition and the Lincoln Navigator, its luxurious brother, encouraged Ford to spend a substantial amount of effort developing an all-new Expedition and Navigator for 2003.

The vehicles have a new frame with all-round independent suspension and a sophisticated rack-and-pinion steering system that is worthy of being used on a luxury car let alone a SUV. The combination of changes has resulted in a vehicle that has amazingly good road manners for such a large SUV.

 

5. Basic Facts: 1997 - 2002 Expedition

Vehicle Type: Full-size Sport Utility

No. Passengers: up to nine

Origin of assembly: Wayne, MI

Engine: (standard): 4.6-liter 215 hp V-8 ('97-'98), 240 hp ('99-‘02)

(optional): 5.4-liter 230 hp V-8 ('97-'98), 260 hp ('99-‘02)

Transmission: 4-spd automatic; rear-drive or 4WD

Length: 205 inches

Wheelbase: 119 inches

Width: 79 inches

Height: 77 inches

Curb weight: 4900 lbs. (approx.)

Cargo volume: 118 cu. ft.

Fuel tank capacity: 26 gals.

Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway): 14/18 (4.6-liter); 13/17 (5.4-liter)

Safety and Recall information can be obtained from a variety of sources including elsewhere on autotrader.com.

 

6. Changes in the Ford Expedition Line 1997 - 2002

1997 Model Year (first year for model)

First year for brand new model, replacing old Bronco

1998 Model Year

De-powered airbags installed

1999 Model Year

New front fascia, grille and bumpers

Higher engine power output

Optional power-operated adjustable pedal cluster

Third-row seat fitted with rollers for easier removal

Control Trac 4WD system improved

2000 Model Year

Second row bucket seats available as option

Reverse Sensing System available as option

2001 Model Year

Entertainment package available as option

Upgraded standard and optional equipment

2002 Model Year

No significant changes

 

7. Option Installment Rate

Generally, when you order a new car you have a choice of factory-installed options. When you buy a pre-owned vehicle the choice is limited to what was actually installed on vehicles sold in that model year. Use this option installment rate as a guide to the chances of finding particular options on a pre-owned vehicle. Source: Ward's Automotive Yearbooks

Standard equipment on all models: automatic transmission, ABS brakes, power windows, remote keyless/entry, (plus from 1999 on: air conditioning, cruise control)

1997 Model Year (first year of model)

Installment Rate

Engine:

4.6-liter V-8 34%

5.4-liter V-8 66%

4WD: 71%

Trailer package: n/a%

Air Conditioning: 100%

Cruise Control: 98%

Leather Seats: 58%

1998 Model Year

Installment Rate

Engine:

4.6-liter V-8 37%

5.4-liter V-8 63%

4WD: 63%

Trailer package: 65%

Air Conditioning: 100%

Cruise Control: 100%

Leather Seats: 65%

1999 Model Year

Installment Rate

Engine:

4.6-liter V-8 34%

5.4-liter V-8 66%

4WD: 57%

Side airbag: n/a%

Trailer package: 60%

Leather Seats: 63%

2000 Model Year

Installment Rate

Engine:

4.6-liter V-8 39%

5.4-liter V-8 61%

4WD: 48%

Side airbag: n/a%

Trailer package: 52%

Leather Seats: 60%

2001 Model Year

Installment Rate

Engine:

4.6-liter V-8 40%

5.4-liter V-8 60%

4WD: 43%

Side airbag: 14%

Trailer package: 47%

Leather Seats: 56%

 

8. Production/Sales Volume History

Normally a model year runs from October to September. Often though, when a new version is introduced it hits the market before October. Legally, a model year can start as early as January of the preceding year. Accurate model year sales counts are almost impossible to collect as different model year vehicles are regularly sold side-by-side for several months. Production figures, when listed, often include vehicles made for export to Canada, Mexico and overseas. Source: manufacturers/Ward's Automotive Yearbooks

1997 Model Year (first year of model)

Production run: Oct. 1996 through Sept. 1997

Total number produced: 199,397

Total no. sold in U.S.: 202,026

1998 Model Year

Production run: Oct. 1997 through Sept. 1998

Total number produced: 237,565

Total no. sold in U.S.: 216,777

1999 Model Year

Production Run: Oct. 1998 through Sept. 1999

Total Number Produced: 240,107

Total No. Sold in U.S.: 242,711

2000 Model Year

Production Run: Oct. 1999 through Sept. 2000

Total Number Produced: 236,644

Total No. Sold in U.S.: 220,206

2001 Model Year

Production Run: Oct. 2000 through Sept. 2001

Total Number Produced: 174,834

Total No. Sold in U.S.: 185,052

2002 Model Year

Production Run: Oct. 2001 through Feb. 2002

Total Number Produced: n/a

Total No. Sold in U.S.: n/a

 

9. Awards and Commendations

1997

"10 Best Engines" - Ward's Auto World (5.4-liter)

1998

"10 Best Engines" - Ward's Auto World (5.4-liter)

"Best Buy in Segment" – Consumer Guide

"Best Full-Size Sport Utility Vehicle in Initial Quality" - J.D. Power and Associates

"Among top three in vehicle dependability -- Full-Size Sport Utility Vehicle" -- J.D. Power and Associates (2002 VDI study of 1998 model year vehicles)

1999

"Best Buy in Segment" – Consumer Guide

2000

"Best Buy in Segment" – Consumer Guide

2001

"Best Full-Size Sport Utility Vehicle in Initial Quality" - J.D. Power and Associates

2002

"Best Full-Size Sport Utility Vehicle in Initial Quality" - J.D. Power and Associates

 

10. Quotes

"The Expedition's size, however, pays dividends inside, where both the front and middle seating positions are spacious enough to be considered almost palatial." - Road & Track, Dec. 1996

"The Expedition stands out not by its test numbers, but by its better-balanced combination of driving characteristics, hauling abilities, and yes, even styling." - Car and Driver, Dec. 1996

 

11. Cost of Parts (relative to other vehicles)

Headlight unit: $141 (average)

Side marker lamp: $46 (average)

Door (left front): $465 (average)

Fender (left front): $145 (below average)

Note: these are estimated retail prices for commonly replaced body parts on a 1995 model. Prices are current as of early 1999 but will vary from region to region and are subject to change at any time. Source: ADP Collision

 

The Rettie Report and Pre-owned Profiles contain objective information from a variety of sources. The subjective comments are those of John Rettie.

AutoTrader.com

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