When Ford started development of the Excursion in the late 1990s, SUV sales charts were reaching near-vertical trajectories, particularly for the larger 'utes. Prognosticators saw the need for big SUVs and were all too happy to fill it. Bigger would indeed be better. Ford turned to the rugged Super Duty line of trucks to act as the foundation for the larger-than-Suburban behemoth.
The Excursion made its debut to the gasps of environmentalists who ran screaming from the 7000-pound vehicle. Owners of Chevy Suburbans who needed more stretch-out room were overjoyed by the Excursion's house-like dimensions: its overall length and wheelbase beat the Suburban by roughly seven inches, and because of its solid-front-axle configuration on 4x4s, it was a half a foot taller.
In the name of full disclosure, make no mistake: The Excursion is bred from heavy-duty truck stock and it acts and drives just like one; as a result, this is a huge vehicle that's hard to park in urban settings and doesn't respond to anything like a sedan's body or suspension do. Likewise, fuel economy is miserable, even with the various diesel options. (The more efficient 6.0-liter Navistar International turbodiesel and five-speed automatic gets 15 mpg on a good day.) Don't go looking for the specs at www.fueleconomy.gov--the Excursion has a GVWR rating above 8500 pounds, so the EPA doesn't calculate fuel-economy numbers. And as you might imagine, the gas motors don't feel nearly as strong as either of the two diesels offered in the Excursion.
Shortcomings aside, for those who have big needs and want a big truck, there's a lot to like here. If you bypass the base 5.4-liter V-8 (255 horsepower/350 pound-feet of torque), the Excursion has reasonable acceleration for its mass. The next engine up is the 6.8-liter V-10, rated at 310 horsepower and a solid 425 pound-feet of torque. From model-year 2000 until midway through 2003, the diesel option was the 7.3-liter turbodiesel V-8, but a significantly improved engine would follow: an all-new 6.0-liter V-8 with 325 horsepower and 550 pound-feet of torque mated to an all-new five-speed automatic transmission. All nondiesel Excursions, 2WD or 4WD, were joined to a heavy-duty four-speed autobox.
Year-to-year changes were minimal. Power-adjustable foot pedals arrived in 2002, standard on the upmarket Limited and Eddie Bauer editions and optional on the XLT. Otherwise, beyond the difference in diesel choices, not much changed until Ford quietly ended the Excursion's run at the end of 2005.
A few maintenance items are worth pointing out. The truck's prone to heater-core failure that seems to be the result of improper ground paths; according to technical service bulletins, redundant grounds take care of the problem. In addition, there are numerous reports of failing ignition coils. Electric doorlocks also tend to fail. The largest issue by far, though, is ongoing glitches with the 6.0-liter's turbocharger. Its new, high-tech fuel system--which is fed information from the on-board computer and a gaggle of sensors--has been troublesome and the variable-geometry turbos haven't proven as durable as simpler, more traditional units. If you're considering a later 6.0-liter V-8 Power Stroke Excursion, be sure you can check its service history to verify that all the proper repairs have been performed.
Beyond that, the Excursion has proven to be much like the Super Duty on which it's based: It's big, ornery, able to carry large packages and trailers and is generally impervious to a world clamoring for smaller vehicles.