MYSTIC, Colo. -- On Rocky Mountain asphalt of U.S. 40 running west out of Mystic, Colo., the pedal goes down and the power pops up quickly in a stretched edition of Expedition, a massive full-size sport utility vehicle from the Ford Motor Company.
For models of 2014, Ford builds two versions -- a standard-length Expedition with 119-inch wheelbase and the stretched EL ("extended length") edition with a foot-long wheelbase extension and vast space in the 7-passenger cabin including 24 cubic feet of extra space in the cavernous cargo bay.
Expedition's name traces to its inception in 1997 as Ford's full-size SUV in two trims and two V8 engine options plus modes for 2-wheel-drive and 4-wheel-drive traction. A second design in 2003 resembled the original but added room in the passenger compartment and a third-row bench seat which collapsed into the flat cargo floor for a slick disappearing act with optional push-button power. For 2007, Expedition and the stretched EL scored a robust fully-boxed tube-through-tube frame which measured stronger and far less flexible than the previous chassis.
The 2014 editions of Expedition ride on this rigid chassis and carry a suspension system rarely found on a truck -- there are independent components suspending the rear wheels as well as the front ones.
The scheme in front uses an independent double wishbone short- and long-arm (SLA) configuration with coil-over shocks and a 36-mm stabilizer bar. In the rear there's an independent multi-link arrangement with coil-over shocks plus a stabilizer bar sized from 18 mm to 21 mm, depending on trim. And monotube shocks mounted at the four corners allow for precise tuning.
The steering mechanism is a low-friction rack and pinion device with power assist which provides precise control and good feedback to the driver.
Stopping capability is impressive due to large brake calipers plus thick rotors and a dual-bore master cylinder which adds a firm feel to the brake pedal.
And every Expedition has a standard anti-lock brake system (ABS) on tap to effect straight-track stopping, plus Ford's AdvanceTrac electronic stability control device with Roll Stability Control (RSC) and Trailer Sway Control (TSC).
Despite its full-size girth and triple-ton weight, Ford's big wagon acts surprisingly nimble so it's easy to maneuver on pavement as well as dirt or snow and seems entirely pleasant to drive.
There's big-time muscle aboard every Expedition with Ford's 5.4-liter flex-fuel V8 engine linked to an electronic 6-speed automatic transmission. The plant generates 310 hp at 5100 rpm with torque of 365 lb-ft at 3600 rpm, and it burns 87-octane gasoline or E85 ethanol.
Ford offers 2WD and 4WD options for the '14 Expedition.
The 4WD models use a 2-speed transfer case with optional electronic shift-on-the-fly capability as controlled by a dash-mounted rotary knob for dialing up a driving mode, from rear 2-wheel traction to 4-wheel high and low or automatic all-wheel-drive. For pavement ventures the system seamlessly distributes traction to wheels with grip, but when heading off-road the 4WD high and low system locks the differential and applies torque evenly to all wheels.
Layout of the cabin for Expedition shows captain's chairs on the front row, a middle row with optional captain's chairs or standard bench split 40/20/40 with easy fold-and-flip outboard sections, and the optional third-row 60/40-split bench that tucks flat into the floor with optional PowerFold electric power controls.
Rear cargo room for Expedition measures to 18.6 cubic feet, increasing to 55.0 cubic feet with Row 3 seats folded and 108.3 cubic feet with only Row 1 seats upright. For the EL version, cargo room expands from 42.6 cubic feet behind Row 3 seats to 130.8 cubic feet behind Row 1 seats.
Ford fills the 2014 Expedition with a load of equipment increasing through trim tiers of XLT, deluxe Limited and over-the-top King Ranch.
Standard equipment for Expedition XLT ranges from power controls for windows and door locks to air conditioning and rear-seat heat ducts, a floor console dividing the front seats and an overhead console stretching the length of the cabin. The leather-wrapped steering wheel tilts and various power points dot the cabin. Further, there's a reverse-sensing system aboard, Ford Sync with voice-activated control over in-car phones, media players and USB storage devices, and a nice audio system.
Limited trim brings leather upholstery, heated/cooled front seats, twin-zone automatic climate controls, a rearview camera, power liftgate and PowerFold Row 3 seat. But King Ranch goes further with gold exterior accents, Chaparral leather upholstery, MyKey, heated power exterior mirrors and front assist parking sensors.
Expect MSRP figures for Ford's 2014 Expedition line to stretch from $41,190 to $54,450.