The sudden explosion of crossover SUVs combined with the uncertainty over fuel prices has put a hammer-size divot into large SUV sales, but even that isn't enough to stop Ford and GM from rolling out new ones for 2007. This is only the second time they've done this simultaneously, previously in 2000 with the Excursion. Now, Ford's new Expedition EL is hitting the market at the same time as the all-new Chevy Suburban. Which is better? It came down to a battle of the sixes. Read on.
Ford Expedition EL Limited Engine
Used Trucks Are Better
As with 4WD low-range, a truck that gets used for its designed tasks is always better than one that isn't, and these tri-tons are no exception. If all you have to do is haul around more than five people and perhaps some moderate-weight cargo, a van (whether minivan or a full-size) is a far better solution based on costs, practicality, and to a lesser extent, comfort and performance. However, if you ever need to carry a brood to a traction-challenged campsite or tow anything more than a pair of watercraft, the Sub and EL are the two top choices.
Chevrolet Suburban 1500 Engine
Reversing recent GM historical trends, the new Suburban/Tahoe reach showrooms before the pickup trucks do, demonstrating a new degree of confidence regarding the interior or logistical constraints in model changeovers. Irrelevant of Ford's wishes, the Expedition EL is bound to be labeled a replacement for the Excursion, albeit one that offers the eight seats and big box space but lacks a diesel, 3/4-ton option, or solid axle at either end. For the curious, an EL tows roughly a ton less than an Excursion, is five inches shorter on six inches less wheelbase, gives up an inch in third-row legroom (but adds two for shoulder room), and offers six cubic feet less cargo space behind the third row and 15 feet less behind the first or second rows.
Ford Expedition Interior
Although these brutes look more similar than ever and are within an inch or two of having identical dimensions, the Suburban can claim space rights on published cargo-capacity figures. However, the advantage is a question of three to six cubic feet, roughly what the third row of seats consumes in the Suburban, so unless you're making a round trip, the Sub seats will have to stay in it, negating the advantage. There are plenty of tie-downs in each, but the EL has a movable divider to segment cargo, the third row folds flat with the push of a button, the second row splits in three, the hatch window can be released from the remote or the gate (neither offers barn doors), and the spare underneath the EL is a matching 20-inch alloy, unlike the steel 17-inch wheel under the Sub. It's a tad smaller, but the more flexible EL gets the nod as a freight utensil.
Chevrolet Suburban Interior
Towing in 10 Words or Less
Those words: six-speed automatic, three-valve heads, and rear air suspension. The EL has all these, and the Suburban doesn't. When Motor Trend compared a 5.3-liter Sub with the EL (November 2007), the Expedition was the quicker of the two, a 10 horsepower and 393-pound deficit overcome by 30 pound-feet more torque (also available earlier in the rev band) and two extra gears. Our EL was the same spec, but for this test, our Sub is an aluminum, variable valve-timed 6.0-liter with 20-inch wheels and 4.10:1 gears, and it got to 60 almost a second quicker than the 310-horsepower 5.3 and our EL, although the latter hung on for a quarter-mile trap speed just 1.4 mph behind. We tested in Tow/Haul mode on the GM while noting the Ford didn't need one.
But, and this is a huge but, 50 percent more gears and a long stroke handily outmuscle 35 big-bore cubic inches, 66 horsepower, and a shorter rear end when it comes to hard work. The EL's overall first gear is more than 20 percent shorter than the Chevy's, Ford's fourth is shorter than Chevy's third, and the ratios in the EL are virtually identical to those in a BMW 3.0si ZF automatic--how's that for good company? This is why the EL gets to 30 mph first and why it covered the Sub with a load.