Full 2009 Ford Expedition EL Review
What's New for 2009
For 2009, the Ford Expedition EL gets a handful of new features that include a capless fuel filler, a perimeter alarm, rain-sensing wipers, the Sync multimedia voice control system and Sirius Travel Link. Additionally, the 5.4-liter V8 adopts flex-fuel capability, meaning it can also run on ethanol-blend fuels.
Extra long, extra large, extended length. Though the last is Ford's official designation, any of the three could explain the "EL" moniker of the 2009 Ford Expedition EL. Debuting a few years ago to battle the Chevrolet Suburban and GMC Yukon XL, the Expedition EL stretches 15 inches longer from bow to stern than the standard Expedition. It also boasts an extra foot of wheelbase. Thusly supersized, the biggest SUV in Ford's stable is virtually identical in size to those GM brutes.
Ostensibly, folks buy such beasts of burden for maximum passenger and cargo space, and there's plenty of both inside the Expedition EL, especially in the third-row seating area. Scrutinize the spec charts and you'll see that the Expedition EL gives up a bit of ultimate cargo capacity to the GM twins, but its third-row seat is much more spacious. That's made possible by a lower floor that in turn is allowed by the independent rear suspension. The EL's way-back seat also folds flat into the floor, as opposed to the Suburban's hernia-risking third-row removal-only process.
New features for the Expedition EL this year include a capless fuel filler, a perimeter alarm, rain-sensing wipers, satellite radio, the Sync multimedia voice control system and Sirius Travel Link. Also, the 5.4-liter V8 is now capable of running on ethanol-blend fuels. But once again, the Expedition EL sees no significant changes under that big hood. Whereas the GM competitors offer a choice of powerful engines, the Ford makes do with just the workhorse 5.4-liter V8 that's rated for 300 horsepower and 365 pound-feet of torque. Certainly, those are decent numbers, but the EL's rivals offer considerably more power and weigh less to boot. As a result, this Expedition's performance when loaded up can be sluggish when swift acceleration is needed, especially at higher speeds such as when merging or passing on the freeway.
But by most other measures, the 2009 Ford Expedition EL bests the GM mega-utes. Handling and ride qualities are both superior, and the Ford may offer a price advantage. Although the Expedition EL's higher trim levels are priced similarly to the competition's upper trims, the entry-level XLT trim stickers for a few grand less than anything else in its class. It may not be the quickest extra-large SUV around, but its ease of usability and comfortable demeanor should put the Expedition EL at the top of shoppers' consideration lists.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Ford Expedition EL is a long-wheelbase version of the standard Expedition. It is available in four trim levels: XLT, Eddie Bauer, Limited and King Ranch. The XLT is well-equipped with 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, running boards, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, air-conditioning (front and rear), cruise control, full power accessories, front captain's chairs (with power adjustment for the driver), a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a CD stereo with an auxiliary audio jack. The Eddie Bauer trim adds two-tone exterior paint, 18-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather seating, a 10-way power driver seat with memory, a six-way power passenger seat, a power-folding third-row seat, a back-up camera, the Sync multimedia voice control system and an upgraded sound system with a CD changer.
Stepping up to the Limited means getting the Eddie Bauer's equipment plus chrome wheels, a monochromatic paint job, rain-sensing wipers, perforated leather upholstery, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, a 10-way power front passenger seat, power-adjustable pedals and reverse parking sensors. The range-topping Expedition EL King Ranch is similar to the Limited but wears its own 18-inch wheels and has upgraded "Chaparral" leather upholstery in all three rows and wood trim.
Option highlights include 20-inch wheels, a load-leveling rear suspension, second-row captain's chairs (which reduce maximum seating from eight to seven), a sunroof, a rear entertainment system, satellite radio, a power tailgate, a navigation system with its own rearview camera, and power-deployed running boards. Opting for the nav system also gets you Sirius Travel Link, which provides traffic conditions, weather forecasts, sports scores, movie listings and local fuel prices.
Powertrains and Performance
A 5.4-liter V8 that makes 300 hp and 365 lb-ft of torque powers every Expedition EL. No other engine choices are offered. The 5.4 is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. All trims can be had in either two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive (with low-range gearing).
Because the EPA isn't required to conduct fuel economy testing on vehicles heavier than 6,000 pounds, we expect the Expedition EL will achieve a couple of mpg less than the lighter, regular (2WD) Expedition's ratings of 14 mpg city20 mpg highway and 16 mpg combined. The Expedition EL's maximum towing capacity stands at 9,000 pounds for the 2WD version and 8,750 for the 4WD version.
Antilock disc brakes with brake assist, stability control with rollover protection, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags are standard across the line. In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash testing, the 2009 Ford Expedition EL received perfect five-star ratings in all of that agency's frontal and side impact tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Expedition EL's cabin boasts an attractive design and easy-to-use controls. A few points are lost because of some low-grade plastic trim, but overall fit and finish is good, and a number of clever features make this SUV ideal for large families. The second-row bench seat has a 40/20/40 split and allows you to scoot the middle section close to the front seats for easier access to a youngster. If you opt for the second-row captain's chairs, seating capacity drops to seven, though you get a storage console between those seats.
The Expedition EL's 60/40-split third-row seat is one of the most comfortable in the full-size-SUV class. It folds flat with a quick and easy release handle in XLT models or powers up and down at the press of a button in the higher trims. The EL offers 42.6 cubic feet of luggage space with the third row in use. If that's not enough, fold the third row for 85.5 cubic feet of cargo space. When it's time to move the kid to college, flip down the second and third rows and you'll have nearly 131 cubes.
Drive a 2009 Ford Expedition EL and you'll likely be impressed by its smooth ride and agile handling. It's still a big vehicle and demands that you respect it as such, but its steering response and general composure are quite good for a full-size SUV. Still, the parking lot will always be a multiple-turn adventure. From behind the wheel, the Expedition EL's hefty 6,000-pound curb weight is apparent, and even with 300 hp on tap, advance planning is required for highway passing attempts. The six-speed automatic makes the most of the engine's power band but sometimes falters when choosing the right gear in passing situations.