The 2003 Ford Expedition is a better vehicle than its predecessor in just about every conceivable way. Considering that the original Expedition is a pretty good vehicle to begin with, the improvements made by the Ford team are all the more impressive. The new Expedition rides better, handles more adeptly and utilizes its interior space better than the 2002 model, yet it remains competitively priced in the full-sized family SUV market.
There are so many changes it's hard to know where to start; so lets begin with the outside of the vehicle. At first, you may not notice the difference between the old and new Expedition, but as you look closer, you'll begin to pick up the subtle changes. You'll see the new front end with its larger grille and headlamps and a revised front bumper. Look around the side and you'll see larger side-view mirrors that tilt down when the vehicle is in reverse, new integrated door handles and bigger tires. The overall impression is not that of an entirely new design, but simply an improvement on an already handsome vehicle.
Now slip into your coveralls and crawl underneath the Expedition, because this is where the real show is; the changes you'll see here are the reason there are so many improvements up above. Look to the front and you'll see that the bumper's impact seams have been lowered to correspond with the average passenger car's side-impact protection beam; a safety measure designed to protect all those involved in a collision. The frame itself is now boxed (that means the beams used to support the body have steel on all four sides, like a hollowed-out 2x4). The frame railsthe metal supports in between the frame, similar in concept to the steps on a ladderhave been created using hydroform technology. Hydroforming is a process which uses water under extremely high pressure to shape and mold the steel; the result is a stronger, more rigid chassis with less vibration and shake.
We know you are probably anxious to climb out and drive the Expedition, but bear with us, because the best changes are all toward the rear. If you were looking at the underside of an old Expedition, you'd see what is called a solid axle, which looks like a big pipe with a bubble in the middle connecting the two rear wheels. It's a pretty old concept that dates back to the Model T. Look closely at the 2003 Expedition's rear end, and you'll see two equal length half-shafts protruding from the rear differential (the big bubble) that pass through the frame and connect with the wheels. What you are looking at is called a fully-independent rear suspension and it allows each wheel to travel up and down independently of the other. This suspension design is a first for a full-sized SUV and is the reason for the Expedition's vastly improved ride and handling characteristic; it has also allowed Ford engineers to make some pretty cool changes inside.
OK, you can get out from under the car and get out of those dirty coveralls; we are going to climb inside the new cabin and see all the neat things to play with. First off, you'll notice the new dash, with its clean, straightforward design and nifty porthole-like dash vents. The seats should feel better too, with increased side and thigh support and standard adjustable lumbar support; second-row passengers now have more leg and hip room. You may have noticed that there is no third row bench seat and no anchors in the floor to hold it in place. Don't panic, the seat is there, it's just folded flush into the floor well. No more lugging a heavy third-row seat in and out every time you need to haul large loads. Now, with just a gentle push (or push of a button on Eddie Bauer models) you can turn your passenger-hauling Expedition into a cargo-hauling Expedition, and you can thank the independent-rear suspension's small size and placement for providing the space to make such a seat possible.
Look all through the cabin and you'll see a more refined, user-friendly environment. The second-row bench seat now has a sliding center section that can move forward 11 inches, allowing a passenger in the front seat to have easy access to a young child belted to the center seat. There is a new list of optional equipment to complement the Expedition's already generous standard features. Depending on your trim levelXL, XLT or Eddie Baueryou can add such items as leather seats, upgraded high-output audio system, 7-inch LCD DVD entertainment unit, electronic reversing aid, on-board navigation system, power moonroof, power rear-quarter windows, six-way power seats and much more.
Power for the Expedition continues to come from the tried-and-true 4.6-liter V8, with the Triton 5.4-liter V8 optional. The base V8 produces 232 horsepower while the larger Triton puts out 260. Both engines have been refined to lessen vibration, increase fuel economy and increase torque. All Expeditions offer the option of 4-wheel drive, which includes the ControlTrac system. Optional on 4X4 models is the AdvanceTrac system, which greatly improves the driver's ability to control the vehicle when skidding or if wheel slippage occurs. Safety features include dual-stage front airbags, tire pressure monitors and an optional side-curtain airbag that, in the event of a side-impact or rollover, protects the upper body and head of the front and second-row passengers.