Full 2009 Ford Expedition Review
What's New for 2009
For 2009, the Ford Expedition gets a handful of new features that include a capless fuel filler, a perimeter alarm, rain-sensing wipers, satellite radio, 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.
Recent years have seen sales of truck-based, full-size SUV fall as dramatically as fuel prices have risen, forcing consumers to be more realistic about what they drive. The growing number of crossover SUVs (which are based on lighter car platforms) has given those who need the passenger and cargo-carrying capacity of a big SUV a more reasonable alternative. Though not as capable in terms of heavy-duty towing and off-road ability, these more maneuverable and fuel-efficient crossovers are ideal for most large-SUV intenders. But for that smaller percentage of buyers who require the serious work capabilities of a traditional full-size SUV, there is the 2009 Ford Expedition.
Always a strong contender in this segment, the Expedition recently received some useful upgrades, including revised suspension and steering systems and a six-speed automatic transmission. The Expedition steers precisely, feels composed while rounding corners and has a supple ride quality. Part of the credit goes to the Expedition's independent rear suspension, a rarity in the segment that also provides plenty of room for those riding in the third seat. We found the Expedition's seats to be among the most comfortable to sit in and the easiest to fold down -- a pleasant contrast to the cramped, non-folding third-row bench in the Chevrolet Tahoe.
All is not excellent in Expedition world, however. The big bruiser has a few minor faults. Some controls and displays aren't always easy to read or use, and some plastics feel cheap. And rivals beat the Ford in a few areas. The Chevrolet Tahoe rides a bit smoother, the Nissan Armada has more off-road prowess and the Toyota Sequoia has a more powerful V8. But in the areas that typically matter the most, the 2009 Ford Expedition compares favorably. It's the king at carrying both people and cargo, it's relatively easy to drive and it boasts a lower-than-average price. For those shopping for a traditional full-size SUV, Ford's Expedition is certainly worth consideration.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Ford Expedition is a full-size, body-on-frame SUV available in four trim levels: XLT, Eddie Bauer, Limited and King Ranch. The well-equipped XLT model seats five and comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, running boards, air-conditioning (with rear controls), front captain's chairs, a power driver seat, cruise control, full power accessories and a six-speaker CD stereo with an auxiliary input jack. Next up is the Eddie Bauer, which adds 18-inch wheels, gold body cladding and running boards, a power-folding third-row seat, leather seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, an upgraded sound system (with an in-dash CD changer and satellite radio), the Sync multimedia voice control system, power front seats with driver memory settings, and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls.
Topping the Eddie Bauer is the ritzy Limited, with its 18-inch chrome wheels, monochromatic paint job, rear parking sensors, back-up camera (with rearview mirror display), perforated leather seats (heated and cooled up front, heated in the second row), wood-and-leather-trimmed steering wheel and power-adjustable pedals. Finally, there's the King Ranch edition, which is similar to the Limited but wears its own 18-inch wheels, upgraded Chaparral leather upholstery in all three rows and wood trim.
Major options include 20-inch chrome wheels, a manually folding third-row seat for the XLT (increasing seating capacity to eight), second-row captain's chairs, a sunroof, a rear entertainment system and a load-leveling rear air suspension. Exclusive to the Eddie Bauer, Limited and King Ranch are a power liftgate and a navigation system with a display-based back-up camera.. Opting for the nav system gets you Sirius Travel Link, which provides traffic conditions, weather forecasts, sports scores, movie listings and local fuel prices. Expedition XLT buyers can also get an off-road package with skid plates and tubular step bars.
Powertrains and Performance
All Expeditions come standard with a 5.4-liter V8 making 300 horsepower and 365 pound-feet of torque. It's matched to a six-speed automatic transmission. Two-wheel or four-wheel drive (with low-range gearing) is offered. An Expedition 4WD we tested accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 8.9 seconds, a respectable time for this heavyweight class. Properly equipped, the Expedition can tow a 9,200-pound trailer.
Fuel mileage estimates for a 2WD Expedition stand at 14 mpg city/20 mpg highway and 16 mpg combined, about par for the segment.
All major safety equipment is standard on the 2009 Ford Expedition, including antilock disc brakes (with brake assist), a rollover-sensing stability control system, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Rear parking sensors and power-adjustable pedals are optional across the line. In government crash testing, the Ford Expedition received a five-star rating (the best possible) for all frontal-impact (driver and passenger) and side-impact tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
Expeditions can seat anywhere from five to eight passengers, depending on configuration. The standard second-row bench seat has a 40/20/40 split, and the middle section can be moved forward to provide easier access to an infant. Opting for the second-row captain's chairs drops seating capacity to seven but gains a storage console between the seats.
The Expedition'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. As expected, there's not much cargo room behind the third-row seat (18.6 cubic feet), but folding it down increases that to 55 cubes. Folding down the second row expands cargo capacity to a generous 108 cubic feet, nearly as much as the Chevrolet Tahoe offers with its ungainly rear seats removed. Best of all, folding down both rear rows creates a perfectly flat load floor.
The Expedition's cabin has up-to-date electronics and a generally modern feel, though there are quite a few small, cheap-feeling buttons that are hard to tell apart at a glance. One family-friendly touch is the overhead conversation mirror -- a valuable tool for keeping tabs on squabbling siblings.
Drive a 2009 Ford Expedition and you might be impressed by its handling. For such a big and heavy vehicle, its steering response and general composure are pleasing. Ride quality is fairly smooth (more so with a full load), though the big Ford isn't as plush on the highway as some competitors. Despite some noticeable noise from the tires, the Expedition's cabin remains quiet enough to carry on a conversation. The V8 offers solid acceleration in most situations and delivers its power in a smooth manner. The six-speed automatic generally makes good use of the V8's reserves but occasionally has difficulty finding the right gear during passing maneuvers. Overall, the 2009 Ford Expedition behaves like a smaller vehicle, perhaps the biggest compliment you could give a 3-ton SUV.