SAN ANTONIO, Tex. -- On the I-37 interstate slab leading into San Antonio, the pedal goes down and the power comes up quickly in a stretched edition of Expedition, the full-size sport-utility vehicle from Ford.
For the models of 2010, Ford has forged two versions -- a standard-length Expedition with 119-inch wheelbase and the stretched EL ("extended length") edition with a foot-long wheelbase extension and massive room in the seven-passenger cabin including 24 cubic feet of extra space in the cavernous cargo bay.
All issues of Expedition for 2010 pack additional safety devices with standard Trailer Sway Control (TSC) aboard and Ford's AdvanceTrac anti-skid equipment coupled to Roll Stability Control (RSC).
AdvanceTrac brings electronic traction control and can selectively brake a spinning wheel while also rerouting engine torque to an opposing wheel with traction.
Body styling for Expedition reveals a bold design patterned after Ford's best-selling F-150 truck. It looks muscular in a tall stance with a squarish prow, curvy ripples on each side arching around wheelwells and large dual-beam headlamp clusters on front corners flanking a vast three-bar grille.
A band of protective cladding rings the SUV at its base, forming a low fascia up front with inserts for air vents and foglamps, and on sides as door shields.
Overall, it's an eye-catching design of crisp angles and complex curves blending to provide a unique statement for one big SUV.
Expedition's name traces to its inception in 1997 as Ford's full-size SUV offered with two trims and two V8 engine options plus modes for two-wheel-drive (2WD) and four-wheel-drive (4WD) traction.
A second design in 2003 resembled the original but brought more room in the passenger compartment and a third-row bench seat which collapsed into a 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 2010 models 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 with coil-over shocks plus the stabilizer bar sized from 18 mm to 21 mm, depending on the trim. And monotube shocks mounted at all 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.
Despite the 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 six-speed automatic transmission. The flex-fuel designation, a standard feature for 2010 issues, means this engine burns gasoline (with 87 octane recommended) or E85 ethanol.
The plant produces 310 hp at 5100 rpm with torque of 365 lb-ft at 3600 rpm.
Trailer towing capacity climbs to 9200 pounds, the best tow rating in the class of big SUVs.
Ford makes 2WD and 4WD versions of '10 Expedition.
The 4WD models employ a two-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 two-wheel traction to four-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 a 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.
The EL stretch not only brings more rear room but better backseat access with rear doors that swing out wider to open.
Ford fills the 2010 Expedition with lots of equipment increasing through trim tiers of XLT, Eddie Bauer, deluxe King Ranch and over-the-top Limited.
Expedition XLT dresses the cabin with a dark gray dashboard, steel trim and embossed cloth seat inserts.
Standard equipment 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. Standard second-row bench divides 40/20/40 and seatbacks fold flat to expand the cargo bay.
Expedition Eddie Bauer adds equipment like a climate system with dual-zone electronic automatic temperature controls, a chrome-rimmed center console, memory functions for the driver's seat and both exterior mirrors, a reverse-sensing system, keyless entry keypad, a rear liftgate with optional power controls, and a 340-watt premium audio system with six-disc CD/MP3 deck.
Expedition King Ranch carries rain-sensing wipers, power for the liftgate, deluxe perforated Chaparral leather-trimmed seats with internal heating/cooling elements, heat elements in second-row seats and standard third-row PowerFold flat-to-the-floor seat.
Expedition Limited builds on the equipment list for King Ranch by adding power adjustable pedals, a reverse-gear rearview camera, Sirius Satellite Radio and Ford Sync for voice-activated control over in-car phones, media players and USB storage devices.
Options include a navigation system and rear-seat DVD entertainment system.
Expect the MSRP figures for Ford's 2010 Expedition line to stretch from around $35,000 clear up to $51,000.