Ford's new Control Trac transfer case (a Borg-Warner 44-16) still allows for all-wheel drive, four-wheel-drive high range, and four-wheel-drive low range, but a new two-wheel-drive mode has been reintroduced. Benefits include reduced driveline wear, improved fuel economy, and it provides the driver one more choice. The 2WD setting is made possible because of a new vacuum-operated axle disconnect between the half-shafts and wheel hubs, allowing free-wheeling when disengaged and front drive when engaged. In four-wheel drive (AWD or 4x4), the new transfer case reads wheel slip much faster than the previous system and is capable of providing faster, more seamless traction to a given tire. In addition, Ford's stability-control program, called AdvanceTrac, is smart enough to help prevent a vehicle from dangerous over- and understeer situations. Further, AdvanceTrac can learn and predict events by using various sensors, combined with recent driving history. We're told it can figure out when we want plenty of wheel speed during dune-running or turning on snow and not cut power to the engine via the engine-management controls. Regardless, we are encouraged that Ford has included a dash-mounted engine-management cutoff switch.
Always an important issue, but increasingly so lately, Ford has placed a high priority on developing safety technologies that not only protect the occupant inside its vehicles, but also in technologies that could also benefit accident victims in another vehicle. The new Expedition, like the Ford Explorer before it, uses specifically designed frame sections under the front bumper to help provide a better, more carlike bumper height. Inside, a front- and rear-seat head-canopy airbag system protects passengers from both high- and slow-speed accidents and rollovers. Likewise, the front-passenger airbag offers dual-stage deployment, depending on how severe the predicted (in milli-seconds) collision will be. Finally, all Expeditions have tire-monitoring devices, located inside the tire to directly measure pressure, that indicate when pressures are up or down an inappropriate amount.
As improved as the chassis and suspension appears, the interior has gone through quite a transformation as well. With the first, standard electronically controlled third-row seat, the Expedition offers a huge benefit for people looking for more flexibility and convenience, without the typical sacrifice of cargo area (read Tahoe and Sequoia). The fold-flat 60/40-split third-row seat is made possible because of the rear independent suspension that allows the floor pan to be 9.0 in. lower than with the previous solid- rear-axle design. A full-size spare is still housed under the floor pan, with all the necessary tire-changing tools mounted in a hidden storage compartment under the floor. Likewise the second-row seats are 40/20/40 split with the outside seats able to flip forward and flat for third-row access or extra-cargo carrying. The middle seat also offers an industry-first slide-forward function, where drivers with child seats mounted in the second row can move that seat up 11.0 in. for easier access from front seats. Dash and gauge instrumentation is, again, similar to the smaller Explorer with less of the bulbous, rounded, over-stuffed edges of the previous model in favor of more angular geometric shapes. Instruments are clean and readily distinguishable. Other interior optional equipment includes a DVD player and 7.0.-in. roof-mounted LCD screen, a center-console navigation system, and sonar-based backup sensors.