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2003 Ford Expedition

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SAN FRANCISCO:  While most companies seem content to focus on the small or mid-size SUV, Ford and Chevrolet have been waging an all-out war for the crown of the biggest, baddest, most functional SUV on the planet. Ford has a new Expedition for 2003, so look out Tahoe!

While we all like a good knock-down, drag-out fight as much as the next person, we have taken a keen interest in this battle because of what it stands for in the lexicon of the American psyche: Bigger and newer is always better.

Take the new 2003 Ford Expedition for example: It is slightly larger than its predecessor, but the real news is with the independent rear suspension and the new safety features borrowed from the new-for-2002 Ford Explorer. Like the new safety canopy system, with rollover sensors that inflate a large airbag when the sensors detect the vehicle flipping over, neither of which GM offers on its big SUVs.

The IRS makes for a nice, comfortable, controlled ride that no other truck or SUV outside of the Ford family can match. We really noticed the new suspension while driving over bumpy roads, especially on freeway ramps where a live axle setup would have bounced us all over the place. Instead, we found the Expedition following the line we chose and it never even hinted at veering off course when a bump got in our way.

We actually found ourselves looking for big bumps and road imperfections because the lack of axle hop was making us giddy with delight and we just had to make sure we weren’t dreaming about the smooth, solid ride. The only drawback of such a large vehicle has to due with the laws of physics, reactions to lane changes were subtle but there. Body roll during cornering was also noticeable but not nearly as much as last year’s Expedition without the IRS.

The new design is a direct evolution of the previous model. It’s more muscular and broad, better to keep the wheels planted during an emergency maneuver. It kind of looks like a bigger Explorer; while this makes for a good familial resemblance, we think a little better differentiation would have made more sense.

As for the interior, the Eddie Bauer model we drove was extremely well appointed, to the point of encroaching on the Navigator’s turf: leather seats, captains chairs for front and rear seat passengers, the power folding option for the third row seat, navigation system, moon roof and climate controlled seats, which we totally fell in love with!

Those seats, with finely stitched leather and comfortable bolsters that kept us in place and kept fatigue down, were heated AND cooled. We really enjoyed the heat in the cold mornings and the cool in the afternoon sunshine. We highly recommend other manufacturers to jump on this bandwagon.

Other interior niceties included the optional navigation system and six-disc in-dash CD changer. We lumped these two items together because they are part of the same unit…the navigation screen doubles as the control center for the radio. Fortunately, everything worked well together, though it did take some time to figure out what button performed which function (of course we didn’t dare look at the owner’s manual).

Of course, it wouldn’t be much of a luxury SUV without the rear DVD system to keep the kids occupied. We like these players because most are versatile, offering inputs for video games as well as wireless headphones so as not to disturb mom and dad while they are driving.

Another nice feature with this redesign is the power-operated third row seats. We actually got back there and can honestly say that we found it comfy for short trips but anything more than a half hour and we’d have to spend a few days with the chiropractor. The power function is good for "oohs" and "ahs" upon the first showing, but then becomes second nature in converting the truck from people to cargo hauling modes and vice versa.

The only real downside to this luxury SUV is its price, and not just the sticker. We drove all over and didn’t get much better than 12 miles per gallon, according to the trip computer. While we weren’t expecting miracles, but the fluctuating price of gas makes us really wonder about ancillary costs like gas and insurance.

The sticker was another sticking point for us. Sure, we loved the luxury features, but unless you own a small country or made a lot of money on your company’s misfortunes, paying almost 50G’s for a Ford truck is pushing it. (But if we had the money to blow, this would be at the top of our must have list!)

Our tester topped out at $49,275.00 with a base price of $41,195.00 and destination and delivery charges totaling $740.00. On the options list we were charged; $795 for the second row of captains chairs, $800 for the power moon roof, another $795 for Advance Trac (Ford’s traction control system), $1995 for the integrated navigation and radio unit, $580 for the safety canopy system, $455 for the power function for the third row seat, a measly $625 for the climate controlled front seats and $1295 for the rear-seat DVD system.

The environmentalists can complain all they want about big SUVs draining the Earth of its resources, but as long as there is a market for these behemoths and as long as they are made as well as this Expedition, people will buy them. These trucks are popular for a reason and that reason is versatility. This new Expedition is more versatile, has better handling characteristics and is better looking than before…all the more reason for us to recommend this over its GM competitor. By James E. Bryson AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

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Byline:  Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo AutoWire.Net
Column Name:  Look out Chevy Tahoe!
Topic:  The new 2003 Ford Expedition
Word Count:   1019
Photo Caption:  The new 2003 Ford Expedition
Photo Credits:  Ford Internet Media
Series #:   2002 - 39

Download the Microsoft Word version here:   2003 Ford Expedition

Download the original image file here:  2003 Ford Expedition

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