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Ford's gargantuan sport-utility is a wonderfully stable platform for towing heavy trailers and can at the same time carry a truckload of fishermen. It rides fairly well for a heavy-duty truck and it's luxurious and comfortable. For those who want to tow trailers up to 10,000 pounds, the Excursion is a good alternative to a pickup with a cap.
The Ford Excursion should not, however, be considered as an alternative to a minivan. It's far too thirsty, and its size and design make for poor maneuverability and handling when compared with minivans and light-duty SUVs.
Cruising along in an Excursion gives you a secure feeling. It's smooth and quiet. The V10 is a delightful engine. It produces 310 horsepower and can propel the Excursion along the Interstate at high rates of speed. The V10 generates a very impressive 425 foot-pounds of torque at 3250 rpm. Tell someone you've got a V10 and they think you're driving a rocket. But an Excursion 4x4 weighs about 7,200-pounds, so its acceleration performance at high altitudes seems no better than an Explorer or Expedition. Still, it had no trouble passing other vehicles on two-lane roads outside Yellowstone National Park. It's rock solid at 97 mph where a governor keeps you from going any faster. The EPA doesn't even rate trucks this big, but you should expect fuel economy in the 10-12 mpg range; we saw 14 mpg on the highway, but 10 mpg is more likely around town.
If you like diesel engines, you'll love Ford's turbocharged 7.3-liter Power Stroke. It seems unaffected by high altitude and I was amazed at its ability to accelerate past slower cars on two-lane roads. The diesel generates 505 foot-pounds of torque at just 1600 rpm, useful for pulling stumps out of your yard or pulling heavy trailers up steep ramps. Ford worked hard to reduce noise from the diesel both inside and outside the Excursion; but you still shouldn't expect to sneak up on anyone. The diesel gets around 16-18 mpg, and with a 44-gallon fuel tank, the diesel has a range of more than 700 miles.
A few Excursions will be available with 5.4-liter V8s, but I suspect they would struggle if you loaded six passengers and luggage and headed for the mountains. Think of it as an economical engine for utility companies in the flatlands.
While the 4x2 comes with Ford's Twin I-Beam front suspension and coil springs, the 4x4 uses a solid front axle and leaf springs. Differences in ride and handling between the two are surprisingly subtle. The 4x4 rides and handles superbly, tackling corners with confidence and offering good grip on dirt roads. It does not offer the ride sophistication of the newest generation Suburban and Yukon XL 1500-series models, however. Strong crosswinds in the Madison River Valley and an 18-wheeler going in the opposite direction had little effect on the Excursion at highway speeds.
Its long wheelbase means the Excursion is not a serious off-road vehicle. But the part-time four-wheel-drive system and 8.1-inch ground clearance should get you up some pretty gnarly dirt roads in nasty weather. The Excursion does not offer a system like GM's Autotrac, which distributes torque front to rear automatically for slushy, inconsistent conditions. But Ford's clever vacuum-controlled hub-locking system quickly engages four-wheel drive on the fly by pressing a button. A low-range set of gears is ready whenever you need to tackle steep, slippery terrain.
Most important, the Excursion is rated to tow trailers up to 10,000 pounds (more than enough to pull a hefty boat). All Excursions come ready to tow, with a Class IV receiver hitch and factory-wired seven-pin electrical connector; a four-pin adapter is also included. I like overkill when towing long distances through bad weather and the Excursion should pull a 6,000-pound trailer better than an Expedition. Unlike most SUVs, all Excursions come with D-load range light-truck tires, LT265/75R-16D. You may want the all-terrain treads if you drive on muddy trails, but the all-season tires are smoother and quieter for towing long distances.
There's no getting around the fact that this is a big vehicle and its size is apparent in Portland, Oregon, and other downtown areas. However, if you're used to big rigs, then you'll find this one surprisingly maneuverable and easy to park.
Ford's Excursion is the king of big sport-utilities. Supremely stable, it feels safe and secure on the open highway. Whether you have a lot of cargo to carry, a bunch of people to transport, a big trailer to pull or all of the above, the Excursion is ready for whatever you throw its way.