Preview: '03 Ford Expedition

While Ford made headlines yesterday at the North American International Auto Show with the wacky Mighty Tonka F-350 diesel-powered concept pickup truck, it will make millions on the truck it showed today: the all-new 2003 Ford Expedition full-size SUV.

Ford went way, way out there with some of the features and conveniences on the all-new 2003 Ford Expedition full-size SUV, as big SUV competition gets hotter and hotter. While the outside has been completely made over into a handsome devil from the somewhat lumpy original Expedition, and the new one looks slimmer and trimmer, much of the real innovation is inside and underneath.

2003 Ford ExpeditionThe 2003 Expedition is the world’s first full-size SUV with a disappearing fold-flat rear seat mechanism, standard. The third seat not only splits 60/40 for convenient load handling, the disappearing act is done by wire. The first pushbutton electric disappearing third seat in the industry. The second seat is divided into three sections, 40/20/40, and the center or 20 portion can be moved fore and after independently of the two 40 sections, so that an infant or child can be looked after more closely.

For 2003, the Expedition also comes with a raft of additional safety equipment, including safety canopy side air curtains, tire pressure monitors, bumper beams that align with car bumpers, a new Brake Assist feature that cuts stopping distances by up to 20 percent in emergency stops.

Still underneath, there’s a new hydroformed and laser-welded chassis that is an astounding 70 percent stiffer than the previous frame. Inside the body, where you can’t see it, is structural foam that makes the body some 42 percent stiffer than the old truck’s body and vastly quieter.

Attached to the new frame are more new technologies: the first fully independent rear suspension ever in a full-size SUV, for limo-like ride quality; a wider track, 66.9 inches front and 67.2 inches at the rear, for more stable handling; the largest brakes in the segment, 13 inches in the front 13.5 inches in the rear, with ABS, electronic brake force distribution,
new calipers; new heavier-duty rack-and-pinion steering; ControlTrac four-wheel-drive system with optional AdvanceTrac brake-based automatic stability control. Ford says that even when two wheels are airborne, the system provides traction torque to both axles. The new ControlTrac system completely disconnects all the moving parts when shifted into two-wheel drive, decreasing wear and noise and increasing fuel mileage.

Under the hood is the 5.4-liter single-overhead-cam Triton V-8 engine, this time around with a new cast iron cylinder block, and a 4.6-liter V-8 with a new aluminum block with more power and torque than previous versions, and quieter operation.

The Expedition, Ford says, will have a wide range of music and entertainment options including CD player, and a DVD player with a seven-inch drop-down screen for showing movies to rear seat occupants, also known as kids.

The Expedition is rated for up to nine passengers with three bench seats, but can also be had with up to four captain’s chairs or the standard 40/20/40 second seat. It will be available as either and XLT or Eddie Bauer model, or in a new configuration, FX4, which carries special off-road suspension, skid plates, and other heavy-duty stuff. Pricing was not announced at presstime, but expected to be VERY competitive in the current environment at Ford.

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