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  • Full-Size SUV Comparison: 2007 Chevrolet Suburban 1500 LTZ vs. 2007 Ford Expedition EL Limited

Full-Size SUV Comparison: 2007 Chevrolet Suburban 1500 LTZ vs. 2007 Ford Expedition EL Limited

Battle of the Sixes: Part Work Truck, Part Luxury Car--It's a Classic 6-Speed Ford versus 6.0L Chevy

G.R. Whale
Feb 15, 2007
Photographers: John Kiewicz, Brian Vance
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.
Photo 2/11   |   2007 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.
Photo 3/11   |   2007 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.
Photo 4/11   |   2007 Ford Expedition El Limited 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.
Photo 5/11   |   2007 Chevrolet Suburban 1500 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.
We tied a two-ton boat to the back of each and headed up and down our test route's six-percent grade with the same cargo, full fuel tank, and weather, and in three acceleration trials--one roll-on and two standing start, uphill and level--the extra cogs gave the EL a 1.2- to 3.1-second advantage, and they both climbed to near 70 mph where the EL leveled off at 72 mph and the Sub at 69 mph. In ambient temperatures of 86 to 99 degrees F, we kept an eye on the gauges (we didn't want to cover our new Monterey--courtesy of Castaic Boat & Marine--in undercoating). The Ford coolant indicator never moved, though we've questioned them as nothing more than analog idiot lights before. The Suburban, which has superior numbered and fast-to-respond analog gauges plus a digital ATF display, raised coolant temp from 210 to 235*F and transmission from 190 to 221*F during tow climbing. All the revving caused by Chevy's four-speed generated heat and noise; The Ford was quieter except at wide-open throttle redline and ran much lower revs for the majority of the exercise.
Photo 6/11   |   2007 Ford Expedition El Limited towing Boat
Extra gears mean better mileage, too. The Motor Trend duo had the EL ahead 18.7 to 15.0 mpg compared with the 5.3-liter V-8 with Active Fuel Management. Our Chevy's 6.0-liter V-8 with cylinder deactivation, didn't surprise us either. Towing, the Ford covered the 84-mile loop at 11.3 mpg while the 6.0-liter Sub slurped along at 8.7; combine that roughly 30 percent advantage with a larger tank, and the Expedition's range is better by 100 miles per fill (on-board trip computers showed our empty EL was more efficient, but they were both off by 10 percent on the tow loop, so we're discounting those observations). Finally, the extra gears allowed the smaller displacement of the EL to provide better compression braking, limiting speed to 65 mph in fourth while the 300-odd-pound-lighter Chevy used third to hold 64 mph.
Photo 7/11   |   2007 Ford Expedition El Limited towing
Either truck makes a suitable towing platform, though hardware may be optional, as the hitch/wiring and rear air suspension were on the EL. We parked, engine off, prior to loading the trailer, and each dropped about two inches; firing them up engaged air leveling, and they returned to standard ride height, the Suburban's hitch a good 2.5 inches further off the ground. Excepting the domed hood that costs some visibility, the view outward was better in the EL, especially to the rear and in rear-wipe coverage.
Photo 8/11   |   2007 Ford Expedition El Limited power Outlet
Round the Bend, the Block, the Rock
The Sub's new suspension calibration has removed a lot of the pitch and busy motion from the previous model, buttoned up but not strangled, and Autoride real-time damping makes it a bit sportier--it's not sporty, but is slightly better than the nanny-tethered EL in the slalom and tied in the figure eight (note the earlier Sub stopped and slalomed better on 17s). But with a trailer in tow, the Sub felt tightened further, resulting in a crisper ride and sharper pitching motions that jiggled rear-seat riders' bellies more. The Sub's steering is quicker and lighter than the EL's. Some felt it was too light at times, as it almost banged at the end of the rack maneuvering to full lock.
Photo 9/11   |   2007 Ford Expedition El Limited tow Hitch
In contrast, the EL's rear air suspension (as opposed to air shocks), which is on a wider track than the front, has significantly less pogo-sticking, and slower but still accurate and nicely weighted steering made towing almost plush. Indeed, we likened the road isolation to a Sequoia or GX 470 and the towing ride to the difference between pulling a fifth wheel with a conventional hitch and an air hitch and got the impression it would take a lot more trailer to "drive" the Ford than the Chevy. With big discs and ABS all around, they stopped in the same 140 feet, an average number at best for passenger vehicles, but GM's brake feel has improved so much, neither truck had an obvious advantage.
An uninstrumented test was run over a loop, first with each vehicle empty and then with six more bodies spread across three rows to duplicate a load (about 70 percent of rated payload) and found manners didn't change much. The Suburban actually felt like it had more understeer, perhaps as rear shocks firmed up and the rear tires now carried the larger weight split--it's probably good that it's not as entertaining loaded as it is empty. The riders also noted that Chevy A/C gets cool air to the back sooner despite the Ford's venting quarter windows and that the Ford's third-row legroom was clearly superior while comfort ratings for the forward rows were debated until everyone agreed to disagree.
We tested 4WD versions but didn't take them off-road. One look underneath at plastic gas tanks, cross pipes below frame level, GM's 16-degree approach angle, Ford's fixed side steps, and generally way too much open real estate between the wheels suggests you use 4WD on these for inclement weather, muddy roads, or slippery launch ramps and otherwise tow an old 4WD for real "off-road" use.
Photo 10/11   |   2007 Ford Expedition El Limited towing
Pushbutton Central
Five or 10 years ago, Land Rover, BMW, and Mercedes were lambasted for having too many similar buttons on the console stack, but now that Ford and GM have a lot of features, these trucks have the same problem. Ten or 11 on the steering wheel (horns don't count), a few overhead, and 40 to 45 mostly on the center stack, all white-on-black (except for temperature), requires some familiarization. We can't name a winner here, but prefer the Ford simply because it has more functions (a nav system) and the pedal adjustment is located near the tilt wheel and not among five others that are lined up under the climate control.
Both have or offer features galore, up to cooled seats on the Ford and a rear camera available with Chevy's optional navigation system, and storage galore with the nod going to Chevy--a larger center console and six cupholders for the second row alone is something the Ford can't match. And we have to admit any GM pride in the new interior is well-placed, as every observer preferred the styling treatment and execution.
Photo 11/11   |   2007 Ford Expedition El Limited front View
We've noted the Sub's superior instruments and the Ford has the same gauges, which are separated in rectangular chrome nacelles like those on a 1960s domestic with a horizontal speedo, and the larger two gauges have big chrome carved surrounds, all of which seem unnecessarily busy. Both trucks have dark red needles that often disappear in sunlight as they are deeply recessed, whether or not your sunglasses are polarized, and the Chevy's gauges aren't centered with the driver's seat.
Six-Guns
Any commercial fleet manager or owner/operator will tell you proper spec-ing has a lot to do with a truck's usefulness. We think GM's six-speed automatic should've been used first with smaller engines instead of the 400-horsepower 6.2-liter, while noting the Sub offers an optional engine and 3/4-ton version the Expedition doesn't. However, we work with what we get, and in this case, Ford's more flexible layout, towing and ride comfort, higher towing capacity and mileage, better value--a DVD player, moonroof, and navigation the Sub didn't have, for $25 less--and six-speed automatic beats Chevy's nicer interior, crisper handling, lighter base weight, and 6.0-liter V-8.
Things We Discovered
Chevy
•Six-blink turn signal is just right for towing.
•Power runningboards are defeatable.
• Fit and finish markedly improved. No sharp edges on the plastic even in the door pockets, but there are still issues, like a rear wiper that doesn't park in its slot and then rattles.
•Dual overhead visors appear victims of cost cutting.
• Low fuel warning drops gauge below "E" instantly so you really need to get gas soon.
•At night, mirror switch is illuminated but doorlock switch isn't.
Ford
•Engine access vastly improved--we can even see the heads and fuel rails.
•Why does the AdvanceTrac RSC safety system name sound like "risk?"
•No defeat for park sensor means a lot of beeping when backing a trailer.
•Lowered DVD screen renders inside mirror near useless, but outward-angled reading lights don't interfere at night.
•Brake and hood releases are close--I pulled the wrong one three times.
•Signal repeaters under mirrors don't distract at night like Sub's in-mirror units do.

 2007 Chevrolet Suburban 1500 LTZ 2007 Ford Expedition EL Limited
General
Location of final assemblyJanesville, WisconsinWayne, Michigan
Body style4-door SUV4-door SUV
EPA size classSpecial purposeSpecial purpose
Drivetrain layoutFront engine, 4WDFront engine, 4WD
AirbagsFront, front side, side curtainFront, front side, side curtain
Powertrain
Engine type6.0-liter V-85.4-liter V-8
Bore x stroke, in4.00 x 3.623.55 x 4.17
Displacement, ci/L364/6.0330/5.4
Compression ratio9.6:19.8:1
Valve gearOHV, 2 valves/cyl VVTSOHC, 3 valves/cyl
Fuel inductionSFI, AFMSFI
SAE horsepower, hp @ rpm366 @ 5500300 @ 5000
SAE torque, lb-ft @ rpm380 @ 4300365 @ 3750
Transmission type4L70 4-speed auto6R 6-speed auto
1st3.06:14.17:1
2nd1.63:12.34:1
3rd1.00:11.52:1
4th0.70:11.14:1
5thNA0.86:1
6thNA0.69:1
Reverse2.29:13.40:1
Axle ratio4.10:13.73:1
Final-drive ratio2.87:12.57:1
Indicated rpm @ 60 mph18001600
Transfer-case modelNV246Borg-Warner 4417
Low-range ratio2.72:12.64:1
Crawl ratio (1st x axle x low)34.1:141.1:1
Recommended fuelRegular unleadedRegular unleaded
Dimensions/Capacities
Wheelbase, in130.0131.0
Length, in222.4221.3
Width, in79.178.8
Height, in76.878.3
Track, f/r, in68.2/67.067.0/67.2
Headroom, f/m/r, in41.1/38.5/38.139.5/39.7/38.0
Legroom, f/m/r, in41.3/39.5/34.941.1/39.1/37.7
Shoulder room, f/m/r, in65.3/65.2/64.763.2/63.7/67.1
Cargo volume, 3rd row seat up, cu ft45.842.6
Cargo volume, 3rd row down, cu ft90.0 (removed)85.5 (folded)
Cargo volume, 2nd row down, cu ft137.4130.8
Ground clearance, in9.28.7
Approach/departure/breakover angle, deg16.7/20.9/NA24.1/20.9/18.7
Load lift height, in32.635.9
Base curb weight/as tested, lb5745/58776053/6277
Base weight dist., f/r %51.0/49.051.0/49.0
Payload capacity max/as tested, lb1657/15231775/1551 (est)
GVWR, lb74007828 (est)
GCWR, lb14,80015,000
Towing capacity max/as tested, lb8000/78008750/8569
Fuel capacity, gal31.533.5
Chassis
Suspension, front; rearIndependent, double A-arm, coilovers,anti-roll bar; solid axle, coil/link, anti-roll barIndependent, double A-arm, coilovers, 36mm anti-roll bar;independent, multilink, airbags, 21 mm anti-roll bar
Steering typeRack-and-pinionRack-and-pinion
Ratio17.7:120.0:1
Turns, lock to lock3.253.75
Turning circle, ft43.043.9
Brakes, front13-inch vented disc;13.5-inch vented disc;
Brakes, rear13.5-inch vented disc, ABS13.1-inch vented disc, ABS
Wheels20x8.5-in alloy20x8.5-in alloy
TiresP275/55R20 Bridgestone Dueler H/L AlenzaP275/55R20 Pirelli Scorpion STR
Load index111S111H
Performance
Acceleration, sec 0-302.82.7
0-404.04.3
0-505.96.0
0-608.18.7
0-7010.511.5
0-8013.815.0
0-9018.419.4
Standing quarter-mile, sec @ mph16.1 @ 84.916.5 @ 83.5
Braking, 60-0, ft140140
Lateral acceleration, g0.690.69
Speed through 600-ft slalom, mph55.555.1*
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy, mpg * electronically limited14/19 (est)14/18 (est)
Price
Base price$39,860$42,575
OptionsLTZ group, 3-pax 3rd row, pwr side steps, 6.0-liter, HDtrans cooling, 4.10 axle, rack cross bars, freight DRL, moonroof, reverse park sense, adj pedals, pwr quarter windows,tow pkg, navigation, pwr liftgate, Sirius, chrome-clad 20-in. wheels,rear load-level suspension, DVD ent
Price as tested$51,105$51,080

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Ford Expedition

Fair Market Price
$42,118
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Basic Specifications
MSRP: $44,585
Mileage: 16 / 22
Engine: 3.5L V6
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