- The Washington Times - Friday, January 28, 2000

MODEL: Ford Excursion XLT 4x4
VEHICLE TYPE: Four-door SUV
PRICE-AS-TESTED: $38,000
MILEAGE: 12 approximate

When does a vehicle become too big? Evidently we are going to find out.
As with the number of doors on a pickup truck or cup holders in a minivan, the domestic manufacturers seem committed to a course of one-upmanship in the full-size sport utility vehicle category. For decades the Chevy/GMC Suburban reigned as the king of the SUV hill. As you read this, though, the new Ford Excursion is rolling off its assembly line at the truck plant in Louisville, Ky., and out of showroom doors faster than you can say "mine is bigger than yours."
Outflanking the Suburban for the title of biggest of the big, Excursion has captured the top spot for exterior dimensions, at least until something bigger comes along.
The Excursion XLT 4x4 I drove for this review was a production prototype. While it didn't have a window sticker price, it was representative of the actual production versions. This thing is big. It dwarfed the Hummer I was also testing at the time. It was all I could do to park these two behemoths side by side in my driveway.
Roughly 7 inches longer, 3 inches wider and 6 inches taller than the Suburban, the Excursion is also a couple of thousand pounds heavier. It is intimidating from any angle.
The standard engine for 4x2 Excursions is a 255-horsepower, 5.4-liter V-8. Opting for four-wheel drive (4WD) makes the 6.8-liter V-10 the standard engine. A third optional choice is the 235-horsepower, 500 foot-pounds of torque 7.3-liter turbocharged diesel.
My test Excursion was a 4x4 with the V-10. At 4,250 rpm it produces 310 horsepower with its peak torque of 425 foot-pounds arriving at the 3,250 rpm mark. An automatic four-speed transmission sends power to either the rear or all wheels. With more than 7,000 pounds to haul around, even the V-10 is challenged; however, acceleration is fairly brisk and it doesn't run out of breath when passing on the highway.
The transitions from gear to gear are smooth and unobtrusive. Reaching 60 miles per hour from a standing stop requires 11 to 12 seconds. So far there isn't an automatic 4WD system available, but switching from 2WD to either Hi or Lo 4WD is accomplished with a knob on the instrument panel.
At the time of my test drive, the Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy ratings had yet to be released, but expect something in the neighborhood of 12 mpg.
If you expected Ford to work the same suspension magic in the Excursion it managed in the Expedition, you may be somewhat disappointed. More trucklike in its ride, Excursion has a more difficult time hiding its F-Series roots. However, it is surprisingly nimble and manageable even in tight quarters. Throwing it into a corner produces some body roll, but this is a SUV after all and a very big one at that. Reeling in this freight train falls to four-wheel disc brakes monitored by an anti-lock system. It stops remarkably well.
Able to seat up to nine adults, my Excursion had room for eight. Standard running boards ease the climb into it. Designed to recline the 60/40-split, second-row seat slides forward for accessing the third-row seat. While the second-row seat can be folded flat, the third-row seat can be removed. Every seating position offers a decent view of the road and sufficient room for a comfortable ride.
All the controls and gauges are convenient to the driver. A large center console provides lots of storage space and is the location of the optional six-disc CD changer. There are as many as 10 cup holders and five power points are sprinkled throughout the vehicle. As might be expected, visibility is outstanding.
By any standard, the Excursion is a bruiser, but there seems to be a market for it and probably for something even larger. A complete price list had not been published at the time of this writing, but the base price of the 4x2 XLT will be $34,135, while the upscale Limited 4x4 will have a suggested price of $40,880. Expect the XLT 4x4 like I tested to ring the register at approximately $38,000.
Standard equipment not already mentioned will include front/rear air conditioning, power windows/ door locks, six-speaker AM/FM stereo/cassette, cruise control, tilt steering wheel, dual front air bags, power rear-quarter windows, roof rack and rear-window washer/ wiper.


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