As wee ones, my sister and I wanted a dog, but the old man said no. Dogs control your life, he said, so in our household we instead adopted a string of short-lived b-list pets: turtles, hamsters, fish, a guinea pig and several frogs. At one point, we even had a hermit crab, though it died before growing large enough to shed its old shell in favor of a snazzy new one I picked out (and painted) for him. I mention this because if you purchase Ford's outsized Expedition EL, you will die long before you outgrow it.
GMC beat FoMoCo to the "XL" designation as a tag for its longest Yukon SUV. That left Ford scrambling to supply an alternate for its own stretch ute. But why EL? What does it stand for? Extra large? Extra long? Possibly either, though it might just as well be shorthand for El Barge. I cannot overstate this: the Expedition EL is a gigantic automobile. You, seven of your largest, malest friends and a Fiat 500 could all fit comfortably inside. With both rows of seats folded flat, Ford can brag about 130.8 cubic feet of storage. Much more impressive, with all the seats up there's 42.6 cubic footage available behind the third row. Let me put that in perspective. A Honda Fit, which is quite commodious with its seats down, offers 41.9 cubes. Of course, anything that doesn't fit inside the Expedition EL can be towed — over 9,000 lbs' worth.
Call it latent Liberal paranoia, but the big Ford's delivery date of November 27 made me nervous. In the run up to the election gas prices had been as low as $2.19 a gallon for regular, and I was convinced the Bush Administration's oil-company cronies were priming the GOP by deferring their profits. Nonetheless, my delusions remain unproven, as the EL returned surprisingly decent mileage numbers. I was expecting a single-digit nightmare, but hundreds of miles of mixed driving returned 15.6 mpg on the computer. That's about the same as a Shelby Mustang GT500. Still, despite a 500-mile range per fill-up, eventually the Expedition's 33-gallon tummy must be sated.
Nonetheless, the EL's ride is as civilized as teatime at the Pall Mall club. While uneven pavement sends shockwaves through Ford's F-150 pickup, which shares the company's T1 platform with the Navigator, Ford engineers sorted this horror show out with the Expedition. Replacing the leaf springs with a fully independent, multilink rear setup has paid massively comforting dividends. A friend and I made the 100-mile jaunt from LA to San Diego, and though our average speed was 90 mph, we were so relaxed at journey's end it's like we'd been flying business class. I'm not totally unconvinced this sucker's three-ton-plus curb weight didn't simply compress all the bumps, however.
The bottom line is the Expedition EL is useful, comfy and gets better mileage than an Audi RS4. But don't ask me if I'd buy one. Why? It is boring to drive. But aren't all cars of this epic magnitude dullards? No. For five-large over our tester's $50,000 price tag you could be hanging your tail out in a nearly as
effing enormous practical Mercedes-Benz GL450, a car that seems to shrink when you flog it. The EL just gets larger and larger and larger and larger still.