Tow/Camera Vehicle Comparo – Expedition vs. Suburban

Here at RFD we like our cars fast, light, and agile.  The trucks in this comparison are none of those things, but they are very good at a lot of other things.  Our current camera vehicle is a 2008 Suburban LTZ.  It has seen duty chasing, and being chased by, BMWs and Porsches among others.  But it’s got some miles on it, and it may be time to replace it.   So is the latest big SUV offering from Ford better than our Chevy?  Let’s find out.

First of all, special thanks to General Manager Marc Bortnick at Upper Marlboro Ford for loaning us the Expedition for the weekend.  Let’s go ahead and start with the challenger.  This tuxedo black metallic 2014 example is a “Limited” model.  Having spent some time in driving around in it this weekend, there was nothing limited about it so let’s get started with the Ford.

2014 Ford Expedition Limited

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Featuring heated and cooled 10-way adjustable leather seats up front, you get a near luxury car experience.  Easy to use dual zone climate control keeps you and your (numerous) passengers comfortable and the USB and line-in functions, paired with Ford’s Sync system mean you can get fluid control of your music.  You can even watch movies on the front screen.  As long as you have it in park.  Everything is power activated, including the split folding rear seats, the rear hatch, even the running boards that deploy every time you open a door.  A neat feature, although at one point, while in a tight parking spot, my shins were attacked when I was trying to get into the driver’s seat.

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But we buy these vehicles for their utility and that’s where we spent the most time comparing the two.  With the rears seats in place, the Expedition has 18.6 cu. ft. of cargo space. Not a ton, but more than you get in a similarly sized Tahoe, which is the Suburban’s not quite as long brother.  You can get a routine grocery run back there without moving the seats.

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Hold down a couple of buttons however, and your utility expands quite a bit.  108.3 cu.ft. to be specific, which should take care of your most adventurous run to Sams Club.  Which is exactly what we did with it.  An Expedition payment later and we had lots of frozen foods, and other things sold by the gross, lot, pound, etc.  The big Ford stood up well, with both seats down it swallowed all of the goods with room to spare.  We probably could have kept one of the back seats in place and been just fine.

If you need more, Ford will sell you an “EL” which I assume means “Extended Length” model which is a solid foot longer and increases your cargo room seats up and seats down to 42.6 cu. ft. and 130.8 cu. ft. respectively.  You are probably saying “What about racecar” and that’s a good question.  You can tow 9000lbs of track day goodness.  That’s like 3 Mazda Miatas or one Chevy Camaro.

How much will all this cost?  MSRP on a “normal sized” Limited starts at $51,805 and a touch more for the EL model coming in at $53,425.  I can say from experience, you can get a hell of a deal on one of these and even though this one stickered for $55,240, they were selling it for less than that.  That’s less than $10/pound.

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2008 Chevrolet Suburban LTZ

So what about the incumbent?  Chevy’s biggest offering, until the 2015 model year, had gone largely unchanged for quite a few years.  Get into a mid 2000s Suburban or Tahoe and it was pretty much the same as a 2013 Suburban or Tahoe.  But they did a lot right and stuck with it.  This particular example came with pretty much everything, leather, captains chairs, dual zone climate control, DVD with flip-down screen, the works.

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Even with some miles on her, she rides well but we would have to give the edge in ride comfort to the Ford.  It could new vs. used, so let’s give it an * and rate it at a slight edge for the Expedition.  The Chevy is big, and feels a lot bigger than the Ford.  I link some of that feeling of size to the dash layout.  In the Suburban you have a very high, expansive dashboard. You could play a game of Trivial Pursuit on the ‘Burbans dash.  Not sure why you would, but you could.  Road trip perhaps, I’m not sure.  At a big longer, the Suburban is super practical, we have had 16 foot pieces of wood sticking out the back with bags of concrete planted under them in the rear of the big Chevy.

Tow rating is less than the Expedition’s at 8000 lbs, so you can still bring your race car, but maybe not your really big camper for your weekend trip to the track.  This particular model has the 5.3L V8 which is the “small” engine option but gets 14/19 MPG which is pretty damn respectable for such a big vehicle.  Cargo capacity is comparable to the Ford at 137 cubic feet.   So it can haul all your crap suffice to say.  Pricing on a comparably equipped new 2014 Suburban LTZ will run you almost $60,000, but you can get a stripper LS model starting around $45,000.

In the end it comes down to a couple of factors.  One big one is, are you a Ford guy or a Chevy guy?  Personally I wouldn’t make the decision based solely on that, but some readers will, and thus have already decided which one is better.  For our purposes, both have a rear window that you can open separately from the gate, which means mounting camera gear in the back is easy.   Both have big V8 engines with mountains of torque and adequate horsepower to lead, or follow the cars we feature.

Push comes to shove, you should call a teacher, but then read my final verdict which follows.  The Ford Expedition has evolved a bit more over the years, particularly from a fit and finish perspective, than the Chevy.  Combine that with the ergonomic advantages of a better dash layout and I would have the Ford.  But either will do a lot for you and, particularly for those of you dead set on not owning a minivan, both make for a great addition to your driveway.  Plus Chevy is just rolling a redesigned Suburban out to dealerships near you as we speak, so we will see of Ford can retain the “RFD tow-car, camera-car-challenge-crown”.  In the meantime we’ll try to find a shorter name.