Is bigger better? If it is, Ford's 2000 Excursion SUV has made a giant leap forward in stature, prestige, and towing capability. Its tow rating starts at 6,200 pounds in its base form but hits a whopping 10,000 pounds with a full option package. We wanted to put this behemoth through all its paces, so we ordered the largest engine available with a 4x4 driveline and all the trimmings. The standard engine is a 260-hp, 5.4-liter V-8. Options are a 300-hp, 6.8-liter V-10 and a 7.3-liter turbocharged and intercooled diesel V-8 (our test model). Supplied by Navistar, this oil burner peaks at a mere 235 hp, but it cranks out an all-mighty 500 ft-lb of torque at only 1600 rpm. When this engine says go, big ships get a move on.
The Excursion rides on Ford's F-250 heavy-duty pickup truck underpinnings. That means meaty axles, a substantial frame, and brakes theoretically capable of stopping a speeding locomotive. Inside, there's ample room for eight passengers and all their gear. Climb two steps to enter the cab, where you ride tall in the saddle; in fact, your sight line will skim the top of a Ford Explorer's roof. Most traffic looks up at you...in awe.
For ballast, we hooked up a Four Winns 248 Vista cruiser riding on a tandem axle trailer. King Marine of Walled Lake, Michigan, provided the boat and trailer rig, which tipped the scales at 7,180 pounds.
Diesel engines are not for the hollow of pocket. There's a $4,005 stipend to purchase the torque monster. Diesels offer a significant efficiency advantage over gas engines: 30 percent more mileage than the base gas engine according to Ford. We measured a towing fuel consumption of 11 mpg, quite remarkable for a gross weight of 7.6 tons, but the payback requires roughly 90,000 miles of use.
One thing that can't be debated is this SUV's appetite for hard work. At the launch ramp, a mere 1500 rpm was enough to roll us out of the water and onto dry land. Dropped into low range, the big diesel was barely above idle at 1000 rpm when we began inching up the grade. On the road the compression-ignition rattle is nicely subdued. As diesel's go, this one is powerful, responsive, and well behaved.