Acquiring a new vehicle is sometimes brought on by embarking on a new hobby. After a somewhat impulsive purchase of an old cabin cruiser boat, we realized that our xTerra wasn’t going to cut it as a tow vehicle. The combined weight of boat, trailer, and everything else that went into a day on San Diego’s Mission Bay over-taxed the xTerra (COAL). It was time to get something bigger, and we really went big.
[The reason we ‘needed’ the Excursion.]
The xTerra got decent mileage for a compact body-on-frame SUV, and the drop in mileage that a full-size V8 powered SUV would have was not something we were looking forward to. A diesel engine would give us the pulling power we needed, and should still keep our mileage in a range that we were used to. Going after a diesel pushed us to looking at ¾ and 1-ton platforms. Add in the fact James wanted to still have an SUV and that limited our options to two. With our affinity for Ford products, we started looking for a Powerstroke equipped Ford Excursion.
The Excursion came out in 1999 as the SUV version of Ford’s new Super Duty pickups. It was available with a 5.4L SOHC V8, 6.8L V-10, or a 7.3L diesel V8 branded Power Stroke. Trim levels were XLT and Limited. Both 2- and 4-wheel drive were available.
[The 7.3L Powerstroke Turbo Diesel V8.]
When it came to shopping for a used Excursion, we didn’t care the trim level or drive type… as long as it had the diesel engine. Searching Autotrader.com, it was clear that the diesel engines commanded a nice premium over the gas counterparts. That did not sway us, it was diesel or bust. We located a nice 2001 XLT 2-wheel drive in Corona, CA. It was about a 90 minute drive just to go look at it and test drive it. After the test drive and paperwork, we now owned the big brute of a truck.
What a beast it was!! This thing was huge!! Mrs. Leona Campbell was right, it was bigger than the Cineplex. During the test drive, I rode part of the way in the 3rd row seat. I was so far away from the front of the truck, almost like being in a limo. As big as it was, it actually drove pretty smoothly down the freeway. The ride was smoother than the xTerra. The big square rig was surprisingly easy to maneuver due to actually knowing where the corners of it were. James became very proficient at parallel parking the thing, in spaces that most Camry drivers wouldn’t try. As heavy as it was, the 7.3L diesel engine had plenty of power to get the thing up to speed. I had always associated diesels with being loud and clattery. Standing outside it, with the engine running, it was clearly a diesel. But, it wasn’t as loud as a Cummins Ram or older diesel heavy duty trucks.
Inside, it was a different story. At the time, this was the closest to a luxury car that we had experienced. Ford did a great job of taming the shakes and the sounds typical of a diesel engine. It was just barely audible, and flooring it only produced a bit more turbo whine from under the hood. The leather seats were comfortable, and at 6’1” I fit everywhere, even in the third row. The dash was shared with the Super Duty trucks, so it was very utilitarian and typical Ford plastic dash. The stereo was the corporate AM/FM Cassette deck, with a remote mounted 10-disc CD changer. Climate control was all manual controls, we didn’t have the optional auto climate control system. No squeaks or rattles anywhere in that truck.
As for the primary purpose of purchasing the vehicle, it made a great towing vehicle. Towing the boat with the xTerra, it was clearly felt. In the Excursion, it didn’t even break a sweat. It was easy to tow with, and still very maneuverable. Another consideration for the diesel was gas mileage. For just around town driving, we averaged 17-18 mpg according to the overhead trip computer. This was equal to what we got with the xTerra. On several longer trips with mostly freeway driving, we averaged 20-22 mpg. The Excursion was equipped with a 44 gallon gas tank, and we determined that we had enough of a (theoretical) range to drive from San Diego to Albuquerque without having to refuel. Another thing we learned because of that 44 gallon tank, most pumps that you pay at the pump would stop at either $75 or $100. While the time between fill ups was almost doubled, it also was still a shock to see the pump stop at $100 and know it still wasn’t completely full.
One nifty feature that the Excursion had compared to other SUVs was the tailgate. The top portion of the tailgate swung upwards, and the lower part of the tailgate was split into barn doors. This made loading things in the back very easy to do when the boat was hooked up to the back.
One glorious afternoon boating off the coast of La Jolla, we heard a loud boom and the boat lost forward motion. We were rescued and towed back to the boat launch by Vessel Assist, loaded up the boat and headed home. A tear down confirmed the suspicion, the outdrive was toast. We had fun times on the boat, but the expense and upkeep costs of the boat had started us to consider selling. This major expense sealed the deal. The boat was sold off to a couple who restored old boats in their retirement.
We no longer had a need for something so large and so powerful. However, without the need James still enjoyed driving it. I had already been shopping for a convertible to replace my Tempo. Our roommate at the time worked at El Cajon Ford. One Saturday afternoon, he called us and begged us to come down. They had just received in trade a car “we just had to see.” It was a Mustang, but it wasn’t a convertible. He thought I would like the car enough to choose it over a convertible. While it was a very nice car, I was not about to give up a convertible. However, James was smitten with it. We came home with it that night. The Excursion was put up for sale, and it wasn’t very long before a family of 7 had purchased it. The Excursion had served us well for about 18 months, and now it was going on to serve this new family. Its now 12 years later, and we now live a few neighborhoods over from where the family who purchased it lived. About a month ago I saw what I thought was our old Excursion fueling up. A quick glance at the plate (and later confirmed via old photos) revealed that it was in fact our old Excursion, still on the road and presumably with the same family considering where I saw it.