2008 Ford Expedition Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
July 23, 2008

The 2008 Ford Expedition is a big, capable SUV with a truly useful and convenient third row.

TheCarConnection.com's editors read the latest reviews on the new 2008 Ford Expedition to write this comprehensive review. Experts from TheCarConnection.com also drove both the Expedition and Expedition EL to offer you a definitive opinion on this full-size SUV. In addition, Tthis review also compares the 2008 Expedition with other vehicles in its class to give you the best advice even when other reviews present conflicting opinions.

The Expedition comes in two configurations: a regular-length model and an extended-wheelbase Expedition EL offering 14.8 inches of additional overall length and 130.8 cubic feet of cargo space--including 24 cubic feet more behind the third-row seat than the standard Expedition. The Expedition EL rides on a 131-inch wheelbase, 12 inches longer than the standard Expedition.

All versions are powered by 310-horsepower, 5.4-liter V-8 engine teamed with a new six-speed automatic transmission and either rear- or four-wheel drive.

For 2008, a King Ranch edition joins the lineup with special trim and a unique leather interior. If you like the feel of supple top-grain leather, you'll love the stuff that covers this interior. However, the plastic panel that covers the top of the dash looks and feels cheap, and it detracts from an otherwise premium experience.

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The 2008 Ford Expedition may be huge, but it's an easy vehicle to get used to, and the more you drive it, the smaller it seems to feel. Handling and acceleration are both responsive for such a gargantuan vehicle, and the cargo volume can easily move the contents of a college dorm room while still comfortably transporting five adults. The ride isn't as creamy as you might expect, and the sole engine choice can feel labored.

A keyless entry keypad, an electrochromic rearview mirror, heated power mirrors, auxiliary A/C, an overhead console, illuminated visors, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel are now standard on all Expedition models. And on Limited and King Ranch Expeditions, the following items are standard as well: power adjustable pedals, power rear-quarter windows, a universal garage door opener, and a reverse-sensing system.

The Expedition also offers an optional DVD-based navigation with 6.5-inch color touchscreen and voice activation, as well as a 340-watt AM/FM audio system with MP3 capability, an in-dash six-CD changer, six premium speakers, and a subwoofer. An iPod jack is standard.

Since this SUV is basically still new, changes for 2008 are pretty minimal but include more standard features, an optional backup camera, and a new trim package. Important items that were already standard include side-impact airbags and a three-row Safety Canopy rollover detection system with stability control.

If you determine you do need a rugged and supremely capable full-size SUV, the 2008 Ford Expedition in its regular- or stretched-wheelbase EL edition are good choices. But so might be the full-size SUVs from General Motors. The Chevrolet Tahoe is equal in size to the GMC Yukon and its ritzier Denali edition. The Chevrolet Suburban is a longer Tahoe, and the GMC guys call that a Yukon XL or Denali XL. Regardless of which one you get, this quartet from General Motors has a slight edge in interior quality, but the Ford wins with better room in the third row. Plus, the Ford offers a power-folding third-row option, and with that, the seat automatically folds flat into the floor. This is a big plus over the GMs.

However, the GMs strike back with more engine choices (including a hybrid) and a more supple-riding suspension, but the Ford offers what some consider more responsive handling. However, we're discussing a vehicle that weighs almost three tons, so regardless of its responsiveness, we're not talking Corvette- or Mustang-type handling here.

When facing off against the two full-size SUV imports, a properly equipped 2008 Ford Expedition can tow four and a half tons, besting the Toyota Sequoia and Nissan Armada in this important category by a bunch. These imports are both larger than the standard Expedition, but not quite as enormous as the long-wheelbase Expedition EL.

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2008 Ford Expedition

Styling

A strong exterior offers great road presence, but the interior of the 2008 Ford Expedition suffers from some poor styling decisions.

With the Ford Excursion discontinued several years ago, the Ford Expedition has taken over the top spot in Ford's SUV lineup. After a redesign for the 2007 model year, the 2008 Ford Expedition arrives in dealer lots sporting the same well-received styling.

The 2008 Ford Excursion "is available in four trim levels," according to Edmunds, which lists them as "XLT, Eddie Bauer, Limited and new King Ranch." Edmunds writes that the exterior differences are minor but noticeable, and mostly include larger wheels on the higher trim levels and "gold body cladding and running boards" on the Eddie Bauer trim, which changes to a "monochromatic paint job" on the Ford Expedition 2008 in Limited trim. Aside from a few variations on the exterior, all trim levels of the 2008 Ford Expedition feature what Kelley Blue Book describes as "Ford's now-signature four-bar grille" that "sits front and center," along with a "raised 'powerdome' hood, new headlamps and larger wheel 'lips.'" For those who need a bit more space than the already-expansive Ford Expedition offers, Car and Driver says that a "stretched Expedition EL" that boasts "an additional 14.8 inches on the standard truck" and "arguably looks more proportional in a world accustomed to Suburbans and Yukon XLs" is available. ForbesAutos adds that the Ford Expedition is "unashamedly big and bold," flaunting its size with "cues from Ford's F-Series pickup."

While the exterior of the Ford Expedition 2008 lineup doesn't draw any significant criticisms in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, the interior is another story. Edmunds opens by saying that "the interior controls and displays aren't always easy to read or use." ConsumerGuide adds that "most controls" on the Ford Expedition are "logically placed, though the switchgear lacks a precision feel" and the navigation system "absorbs most audio functions, awkwardly combining pushbutton and touch screen operation, and its screen washes out in even moderate sunlight." Motor Trend brings a few more criticisms, finding that "the instrument panel, with its mix of round and rectangular gauges and chrome, plastic, and wood trim, appears retro for the sake of being retro and at the expense of good function." However, on the positive side, Kelley Blue Book reviewers feel that "driver and passengers will enjoy tone-on-tone leather," along with "a stylish center stack on the instrument panel and cup holders galore."

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2008 Ford Expedition

Performance

The 2008 Ford Expedition offers surprisingly good handling and decent acceleration, but at the cost of a thirsty engine.

The 2008 Ford Expedition surprises in terms of overall speed and acceleration, but its heft shows when it comes time to turn, though not nearly as much as you might expect.

The 2008 Ford Expedition is available with just one engine on all trim levels, "a 5.4-liter V8 making 300 horsepower and 365 pound-feet of torque," according to Edmunds. They add that either "two-wheel or four-wheel drive (with low-range gearing) is offered." ConsumerGuide writes that the engine allows for impressive acceleration and finds that the Expedition has "sufficient power for any situation." Kelley Blue Book adds while they "weren't overwhelmed by the 5.4-liter V8's acceleration while towing, the Expedition seemed fully up to the task." Of the reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, Motor Trend offers one of the most critical reviews of the engine, saying that the Ford Expedition "feels sluggish right out of the gate," and "you can tell there's a lot of weight here, and the engine doesn't seem interested in compensating." For a hard number to hang your hat on, Edmunds says their test Ford Expedition 4WD "accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 8.9 seconds," which they feel is "a decent time for this class."

Along with one engine, the Ford Expedition 2008 lineup is available with "a six-speed automatic transmission with manual-shift capability," according to Edmunds. The transmission fares well with reviewers, as ConsumerGuide claims "the alert 6-speed automatic transmission is always in the right gear." Cars.com adds that the automatic is a plus, and "it never made a harsh shift" during their test period. Once again, however, Motor Trend weighs in with a negative assessment, saying "sure, there are six speeds, but without a true manual mode, the tranny hunts with the same fervor as Dick Cheney."

On SUVs the size of the 2008 Ford Expedition, fuel economy will always be a sore point. Cars.com notes that Ford claims their new six-speed transmission "improves performance and gas mileage" over the old model's four-speed automatic, but the EPA still rates the 2008 Ford Expedition at 12 mpg city and 18 mpg highway. On the heavier, stretched version of the Ford Expedition 2008, ConsumerGuide says that their "4WD Expedition EL averaged 13.4 mpg."

The 2008 Ford Expedition is large, but that doesn't mean it can't handle decently. ConsumerGuide reviewers are surprised to find that the Ford Expedition 2008 lineup boasts "impressive agility for large SUVs" and that the "nicely weighted steering has a natural feel." Most other reviewers agree, with Kelley Blue Book chiming in that "the driving impression feels connected to the road, helped in no small part by steering with a good degree of precision." Overall ride quality is equally impressive, and Cars.com reviewers write that they are "a bit surprised by the Expedition's exceptional ride quality," noting "body roll has been reined in fairly well." The one gripe that arises frequently from reviewers is brake pedal feel, as Cars.com finds that the Ford Expedition's "brake pedal has the same spongy feel that plagues the smaller Explorer Sport Trac." Aside from the pedal feel, Motor Trend says that brakes are "strong and a match for the cumbersome curb weight."

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2008 Ford Expedition

Comfort & Quality

A few interior quality blemishes are not enough to outweigh the 2008 Ford Expedition's strengths in terms of comfort and cargo space.

The generous dimensions of the 2008 Ford Expedition may make it difficult to maneuver in a parking lot, but they also afford a tremendous amount of interior space. Build and materials quality are also on the rise at Ford, especially with the King Ranch trim of the Ford Expedition.

The monstrous 2008 Ford Expedition "can seat up to nine occupants across three rows of seats" when equipped with the optional front bench seat, according to Cars.com, and it does so with impressive comfort levels. ConsumerGuide writes that the front offers "generous room on supportive seats," while the "second-row seat moves fore and aft and the seat backs are split 40/20/40," allowing for multiple configurations to achieve a comfortable riding position, according to ForbesAutos. Surprisingly, the third-row seats receive some of the highest praise in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, as ConsumerGuide claims "3rd-row accommodations are among the best of any SUV, with adult-sized headroom and legroom on a chair-height bench." Car and Driver adds "third-row seating space is generous, easily besting the GM offerings."

Rear cargo space and other interior storage also benefit from the overall size of the Ford Expedition 2008, especially in stretched EL form. Cars.com says that "the Expedition EL offers 131 cubic feet" of total cargo volume with all the rear seats folded, while the standard Ford Expedition's "maximum cargo capacity is 108.2 cubic feet." ConsumerGuide praises the "available power-folding 3rd row," which they say "saves awkward stretching," and they further note that "a large glovebox, roomy center console, and large door pockets provide abundant small-item storage." For those who need even more storage space, Edmunds writes "opting for the second-row captain's chairs drops seating capacity to seven but earns a storage console between the seats."

The Ford Expedition 2008 lineup boasts improved materials and build quality, and while it's still far from perfect on most trims, the King Ranch edition will satisfy all but the most discerning of buyers. On regular 2008 Ford Expeditions, ConsumerGuide is disappointed to find "a plethora of hard-plastic panels" that "cheapens Expedition's interior ambiance," and Edmunds adds that there "are quite a few small, cheap feeling buttons that are hard to tell apart at a glance." However, Kelley Blue Book appreciates the "softer cushions and upgraded materials" on the Ford Expedition 2008, and Motor Trend writes that "every editor was impressed by the luxurious 'Chaparral' leather" and "the ultraquiet ambiance" of the Ford Expedition King Ranch.

The ultraquiet ambiance that those Motor Trend reviewers mentioned is characteristic of all 2008 Ford Expeditions. ConsumerGuide says that the Ford Expedition is "impressively hushed," and "road noise over most surfaces is minimal." Edmunds agrees, finding that "despite some noticeable noise from the tires, the Expedition's cabin remains quiet enough to carry on a conversation."

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2008 Ford Expedition

Safety

The 2008 Ford Expedition offers tremendous occupant protection and just about all of the latest and greatest safety features.

Large SUVs like the 2008 Ford Expedition look safe, thanks to their large dimensions and road presence, but safety ratings don't always support these visual impressions. Fortunately for Ford Expedition buyers, this full-size SUV can back up its safe appearance with strong crash-test ratings and an impressive list of safety features.

The 2008 Ford Expedition has been crash tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the government's crash-test agency, and the results certainly inspire confidence. After subjecting the Ford Expedition 2008 lineup to its complete range of tests, the NHTSA awarded the Ford Expedition a full five stars in every impact category, including driver and passenger protection during both front and side impacts. The one blemish on the 2008 Ford Expedition's crash-test scorecard comes in the rollover rating, where the NHTSA awarded only four of a possible five stars. However, it is rare for an SUV to score a five-star rollover rating, so even four stars can be considered impressive. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has not tested the 2008 Ford Expedition.

In terms of safety features, the Ford Expedition 2008 doesn't disappoint. Edmunds writes "all major safety equipment is standard on the 2008 Ford Expedition, including antilock disc brakes with brake assist and a rollover-sensing stability control system." Kelley Blue Book elaborates by saying that "the AdvanceTrac stability controls system with Roll Stability Control modulates braking and engine power to help maintain driver control in marginal conditions, particularly those involving slippery surfaces." Cars.com adds "side-impact airbags for the front seats and side curtain airbags for all three rows of seats are standard."

One area of particular concern in large SUVs like the Ford Expedition 2008 is driver visibility. On the Ford Expedition, "visibility is hampered by thick roof pillars and large headrests, particularly over the left shoulder," according to ConsumerGuide. For the Ford Expedition, 2008 brings a pair of optional visibility assistance features, including "a back-up radar system to help making parking this giant a bit easier," according to ForbesAutos, that J.D. Power says complements the optional "rear-view camera." Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com overwhelmingly recommend the rearview camera, which ConsumerGuide describes as "helpful when backing up."

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2008 Ford Expedition

Features

A full assortment of technological goodies propels the 2008 Ford Expedition near the top of its class in terms of features.

The 2008 Ford Expedition is a full-size SUV that Ford has filled to the brim with enviable features, both standard and optional.

The standard features list on the 2008 Ford Expedition is impressive, even in XLT trim. Edmunds writes that the "well-equipped XLT" offers "automatic headlights, running boards, a Class III trailer hitch, air-conditioning (with rear controls)" and "a six-speaker CD stereo with auxiliary input jack," along with "cruise control and full power accessories."

Moving up to the Eddie Bauer edition of the Ford Expedition 2008, ConsumerGuide finds that "dual-zone automatic climate controls, leather upholstery, 10-way power driver seat, 6-way power passenger seat," and "Audiophile AM/FM radio w/in-dash 6-disc CD/MP3 changer" are all included as standard features.

On the even more luxurious Ford Expedition Limited trim, J.D. Power says to expect a "rear parking sensor" and "wood and leather-trimmed steering wheel" to go along with the "perforated leather seats" that come standard. Finally, the 2008 Ford Expedition King Ranch incorporates all of the Limited trim's standard features and adds "upgraded leather upholstery, [and] unique interior and exterior trim," according to ConsumerGuide.

While the Ford Expedition's standard features are impressive, its options list makes it a true class standout. On lesser trims, many of the Limited's features can be added as stand-alone options, but for all trims of the Ford Expedition 2008 lineup, options include a "DVD entertainment system," "iPod integration," and "satellite radio," according to ConsumerGuide.

Edmunds adds that "exclusive to the Eddie Bauer, Limited and King Ranch are a navigation system, power liftgate and a rearview backup camera." Kelley Blue Book notes that a "340-watt audio system" and "PowerFold third-row seat that folds flat with the touch of a button" are also available on the Ford Expedition 2008.

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