I drove the Expedition XL shortly after spending a weekend with our Four Seasons Toyota Land Cruiser. I came away from my back-to-back drives of these two big, gas-guzzling SUVs with this idea: I would like to combine the Toyota's superior powertrain with the Expedition's superior packaging. Now THAT would be one nice SUV! See, I helped my friend Charley with a painting project over the weekend. I supplied much of the equipment, including a small set of scaffolding (when erected, it's about 6 feet long and 5 feet tall and 2.5 feet deep, but I hauled it in pieces, of course); a large halogen work light set on a tripod; a four-foot stepladder; and a plastic bin full of painting supplies. Now, wouldn't you think that I could easily fit these items plus my own self into the huge Land Cruiser with ease? Nope. The middle-row seats fold forward but not flat, and the third-row seats don't remove or fold flat, either; they fold up to the side windows. It was all I could do to wedge the aforementioned items into the Toyota in a haphazard manner.
But tonight I returned to Charley's house to pick up my stuff in the Expedition. The two middle-row captain's chairs folded down flat in a flash, and as for the third-row split bench? I just pushed a couple of buttons inside the tailgate and it folded flat electrically. The interior was so elegantly turned out, I felt kinda guilty about putting anything in it, so I lined the whole cargo area with a couple of thick moving blankets. The scaffolding, the ladder, and the halogen-light tripod all fit in the back completely flat, with plenty of room to spare.
I say, if you're gonna have a big, gas-guzzling SUV, it might as well have lots of space, and in that regard the Expedition serves its purpose well. I just wish it had a more refined and energetic powertrain (not that it's that bad). I agree with Marc that, in terms of solidity, ride and handling, and steering feel, the Expedition is quite well-engineered.
Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor