Used 2003 Ford Excursion Review

Edmunds expert review

A big vehicle for people with big needs. For everyone else, a Chevrolet Suburban or 2003 Expedition is a better choice.

What's new for 2003

A new Eddie Bauer trim level debuts. It's equipped similarly to last year's Limited trim and also includes Arizona Beige exterior trim, two-tone leather seating and available second-row captain's chairs. Limited models get as standard equipment a six-disc in-dash CD changer, new aluminum wheels, cherrywood interior trim and a reversible cargo mat. In terms of mechanical changes, a new 6.0-liter turbodiesel engine arrives mid-year with more power and efficiency, connected to an all new five-speed TorqShift automatic transmission. Why anyone would use this mammoth rig to go trail busting we have no idea, but Ford will be offering an off-road package shortly after the first of the year. Finally, all Excursions get revised front suspensions for improved ride and handling.

Vehicle overview

Introduction: Ford unleashed the Excursion on North American consumers in 2000. Based on the F-250 and F-350 Super Duty pickup trucks, the Excursion is Ford's largest SUV. It's also bigger than the Chevrolet Suburban and GMC Yukon XL. The Excursion is intended to serve those with large broods and towing needs.

Body Styles/Trims/Options: The four-door Excursion is offers eight- or nine-passenger seating with either two- or four-wheel-drive. XLT, XLT Premium, Eddie Bauer and Limited trims are available.

XLT models come well equipped, with Premium versions adding power rear quarter windows, illuminated running boards, aluminum wheels, rear audio controls, automatic headlights, a trip computer and front captain's chairs. Eddie Bauer models include Arizona Beige trim, fog lights, turn signal sideview mirrors, automatic climate control and power adjustable pedals. Limited ups the ante with body-color trim, a premium audio system, a reversible cargo mat, heated front seats, a memory feature for seats and pedals and a HomeLink universal transmitter.

A notable option for XLT Premium, Eddie Bauer and Limited is a DVD-based rear seat entertainment system. Other options include an in-dash six-disc CD changer for all trim levels except for Limited trim and second row captain's chairs (available on Eddie Bauer and Limited). We'd recommend that you opt for the reverse sensing system to help maneuver this behemoth.

Powertrains and Performance: Three engines are available on two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive Excursions. Standard on all models is a 5.4-liter V8 that makes 255 horsepower at 4,500 rpm and 350 pound-feet of torque at 2,500 rpm. Optional engines include a 6.8-liter V10 or a 7.3-liter turbodiesel V8. The V10 produces 310 horsepower and 425 pound-feet of torque. The Power Stroke turbodiesel generates 250 horsepower and super-beefy 525 pound-feet of torque. All are matched to a four-speed automatic transmission. A 3.73 rear axle ratio is standard. When properly equipped, the Excursion can tow 11,000 pounds.

A more powerful and efficient 6.0-liter turbodiesel will be released later this year, making 325 horsepower at 3,300 rpm and 550 foot-pounds of torque at 2,000 rpm, offering up to 10 percent better fuel economy and 20 percent lower emissions. It's mated to a new five-speed automatic transmission that features higher first- and second-gear ratios to launch a truck loaded with cargo more quickly and smoothly.

Safety: The Excursion comes standard with dual front airbags and four-wheel disc antilock brakes. Optional equipment includes power adjustable foot pedals and a reverse sensing system. Designed to be as crash-compatible with regular passenger cars as possible, the Excursion includes a Blockbeam at the front of the frame to help dissipate crash energy during a collision with a smaller vehicle. The Excursion hasn't been crash tested by NHTSA or IIHS.

Interior Design/Special Features: Donated by the Super Duty pickup truck, the rather industrial dashboard of the Excursion prioritizes function over form. Eddie Bauer models dress things up a bit with a two-tone color scheme, while Limiteds get cherrywood trim to jazz up the interior. Excursion can carry nine passengers in XLT trim, but all other models are restricted to eight because of the front captain's chairs. Maximum cargo space is 146.4 cubic feet.

Driving Impressions/Opinions: Remember that time you moved from your apartment or condo to your first home and rented one of those local U-Haul rental trucks? Driving an Excursion is a lot like driving that U-Haul, albeit one with far more refinement and creature comforts. While the 2003 suspension changes have improved the ride quality somewhat, this is still a large vehicle, one that doesn't take kindly to most urban parking garages and lots. It takes longer to stop than most of the cars on the road, so tailgating isn't such a wise idea. Fuel economy is also quite poor.

On the positive side, you get tons of cargo- and passenger-carrying capacity, plus the security of knowing that no one else on the road will try to mess with you. If you're in the market for such a vehicle, and neither the Chevy Suburban nor the GMC Yukon XL does it for you size-wise, this is your SUV. Otherwise, we recommend that you try something a little smaller on for size, like the all-new 2003 Ford Expedition.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.