2007 Ford Expedition Eddie Bauer 4x4
car in Ford's lineup these days, and the behemoth SUV sports many of the design cues that are currently in vogue among Ford's designers, including a three-bar chrome grille, chiseled front fenders, and a bug-eyed headlight arrangement. Inside, the Expedition has been given even more of an overhaul. For those willing to tick the boxes on the options sheet, there is a world of digital diversion available, including a voice-activated navigation system, an MP3-compatible stereo, and a rear-seat entertainment system.
Test the tech: Lunch in Monterey
For our tech test of the 2007 Ford Expedition, we decided to take the car at its word--on an expedition--using some of its advanced cabin tech features. While the Expedition's voice-recognition system doesn't understand spoken addresses (the Honda/Acura system is the only one that we've seen that can), it will understand spoken directions to a specific point of interest category. For our adventure, we took our Expedition tester to Monterey for lunch, or, more accurately, we let it take us to Monterey for lunch.
Our plan was to program the Expedition's touch screen navigation system to lead us to Monterey some 120 miles away and, once there, to ask the voice-recognition system to recommend a restaurant. Our first impression of the navigation system when we climbed (yes, climbed) into the cabin was not altogether positive. Despite the car's enormous size, the in-dash LCD screen is small, and its fonts and menus have a very basic appearance. However, when we got to programming the unit we found it extremely responsive and user-friendly. The main reason for this accessibility is the system's touch screen interface. Rather than having to twist knobs or repeatedly press buttons, we were able to punch in our address directly on the screen. Adding to the speed of programming destinations is the system's ability to process each selection almost instantly, ensuring that we didn't have to endure the frustration of waiting around for the processor between menu screens (a welcome change from the navigation system in the 2007 Mercedes-Benz E320 BlueTec that we reviewed last week).
Having set our destination as downtown Monterey, we put ourselves in the hands of the navigation system and set out to follow its directions exactly. Like other leading navigation systems, the Expedition's features text-to-voice technology enabling it to call out specific road names during voice guidance. Making our way through the city to the highway, we found the directions to be timely and accurate, albeit a little too chatty (there appears to be no way to lessen the frequency of the voice prompts). Once on the freeway, the navigation system continued to impress us. At intersections, the display changes to a split-screen format, showing a large turn arrow on the right-hand side and a larger map on the left. We managed to cover the 120 miles to Monterey--including a stretch over the winding, mountainous Highway 17--without once losing the GPS signal, which is more than can be said for the navigation system in the 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid.
Once in the city's center, it was time for voice-recognition system to take on the next stage of the challenge. Pressing the Voice button on the right-hand side of the steering wheel brings up a spoken menu of available voice commands.
For some reason, the voice that speaks each menu option differs from the turn-by-turn voice guidance from the navigation system: The latter has a human intonation, but the voice-recognition menus are spoken in a voice that sounds like a drunken robot slurring its words. The second gripe we had with the voice-recognition system was its way of asking for confirmation at each stage of a multistep command. For example, when trying to call up restaurants in the vicinity, the procedure went like this:
System: "Please say a command."
System: "Navigation, is that correct?"
System "Navigation, main menu; options are Destination or More Options."
System: "Destination, is that correct?"
System: "Please select a category."
System: "Navigation, destination, all restaurants; is that correct?"
System: "American, Italian, Mexican, fast food..."
System: "Navigation, destination, Mexican restaurants; is that correct?"
System: "Please make your selection from the screen."
There appears to be no way to shortcut this constant stream of confirmation requests after each selection, making the whole process very cumbersome. After enduring this long and uninspiring conversation, we were then provided with a list of options of Mexican restaurants on the touch screen, listed by proximity. With an impulsive press of the top button, we chose the closest option--Taco Del Mar--which turned out to be a felicitous choice, and we set about dispatching a very tasty fish burrito (no, we'd never heard of it either) before setting out home.