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Last Post 28 Jul 2007 12:10 PM by  Mugenlude
Diesel Excursion... 4x4 or 2WD
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Mugenlude
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23 Jul 2007 06:18 PM

    OK, so I've decided to start looking for a permanent tow vehicle and have pretty much narrowed it down to the 99-02 Excursion Diesel.

    Now the question is do I go for the 4x4 version or do I stick with the 2WD model to save some gas mileage and purchase price? Not to mention I need to drive farther to find a 2WD model (I'm in WI, so not to many 2WD model available). I'm thinking about resale value, repair costs, and MPG. This will be mostly a tow vehicle and weekend trip type vehicle, however, if I had 4x4 I might use it in a snow storm. The problem is that it has only been snowing a couple times a year, and then after a couple hours the road are clear anyways.

    Has anyone purchased a 2WD tow vehicle (not just an Excursion) in the past then regretted not getting the 4x4 model? Enough that you sold your 2WD model?

    Any model years to say away from, generally I try to buy the later model years to allow time to address little bugs.

    Any recommended ECU upgrades that improve gas mileage?

    Thanks everyone...

    JSirota
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    23 Jul 2007 07:06 PM

    The 7.3 was also available early in the '03 model year. If you want the last of them, you should look for an '03.

    NoCones
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    23 Jul 2007 07:07 PM

    I have an 01 V10 2WD Excursion bought used last fall...It's been all over the eastern half of the US this year...no regrets, but I live in NC where snow is rarely a factor

    reddog_es22
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    23 Jul 2007 08:00 PM

    Jason-

    I tow with a 3/4 ton Chevy truck with an open diff and have never regretted getting a 2 wheel drive. I like the steering feel of the 2 wheel drive trucks better than the four wheel drive, the mileage is a little better, and there are fewer parts to break. If you take your time you can still get around in the snow (had mine out in 18" once).

    Downsides I see are lower resale value (everyone thinks they "need" a 4 wheel drive), probably harder to find, and it is possible to get a 2 wheel drive stuck. I never have, but I loaned my truck out to someone who was moving and they got it stuck in the front yard after some rain.

    I know roadracers sometimes need 4 wheel drive because they paddock in the grass and have to get the trailer moving on wet grass if it rains. Never had a problem like that at an autox though.

    Iain Mannix
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    23 Jul 2007 08:52 PM

    Re 2wd vs 4wd in snow - I have a Ford E350 van, 2wd, open diff. I'm using Kumho load range E tires - Road Venture HT or something? - it is actually pretty awesome in snow.

    We got several big snowstorms in a row here (Denver), like 2-3 feet at a time, 3 or so subsequent storms - I did not see the pavement in front of my house for ~4 weeks.

    The van was awesome. I did run cable-chains a few times, but when I did, it was about as bad as I've ever seen the roads - deep, lots of ruts/ice-potholes, etc. Clearance certainly helped. It was an unusually "bad" winter here (I put "bad" in quotes because I like snow and generally consider snow a good thing), but the van was pretty impressive in snow.

    I started using it as the ski car, as a matter of fact, rather than my WRX with studded snows. The morning of the first big storm, I managed to get the van out (with cable chains) of the neighborhood - the city was closed down, was getting on the onramp to I70 to go ski from C470 (for those who know). Saw a bunch of flashing lights up ahead, had to stop.


    A front end loader was tugging the snowplow out. Yikes?

    The van was fine - getting started after stopping on the onramp (they'd not plowed the last 100' or so) was a bit tricky, but it got going OK. Bear in mind that this was a storm that dumped close to 3' overnight - it was mid-thigh deep in my driveway, when I opened the van door, it pushed snow out of the way (and the 1-ton van is pretty tall, a good 8" taller than the typical E150 Econoline Ford van). One of the plow guys yelled at me for being out - umm, it SNOWED, dumdum, I don't care what the mayor says, I'm going skiing.

    I don't miss 4wd - my winter vehicles have all been 4wd for many years. The van has not left me wanting, and I suspect the Excursion would be the same - pretty much unstoppable.

    "Normal" snowstorm - 6-12" - I'd not even think about the chains. It'll barge right through that without a second thought.

    I started looking at the E350s for several reasons - but one of the big ones is that the E350 is what all the airport-ski area shuttle companies use; I called one of the companies and asked them about it - "they're unstoppable" was their answer.

    They're right. 4wd is absolutely better, no two ways about it, but the 2wd 350 is very, very good - the WRX would not have gotten out that morning, no _WAY_ - too deep.

    If you're a skier, or snowmobiler, 4wd might be good. If I could have found the same van for 25% more $$$ with 4wd, I'd probably have bought it - but I was truly impressed by it's snow capabilities.

    If 12" is a "big" snowstorm in your neck of the woods, 2wd + good tires (I really like the Kumhos, btw, and they're WAY cheaper than the competition) = great.

    .02c - I was worried about snow performance, not anymore. Thinking about a LSD or locker for the rear, that should fix all the "I don't want to get stuck" concerns.

    Iain

    mattm
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    23 Jul 2007 09:09 PM

    STS_Underdog wrote:
    Downsides I see are lower resale value (everyone thinks they "need" a 4 wheel drive), probably harder to find, and it is possible to get a 2 wheel drive stuck.

    I'd agree about future resale in Wisconsin. You should look at the used auto for sale sites and do a price match on 2WD and 4WD in a small radius in your area.

    preparedcivic
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    23 Jul 2007 09:39 PM

    A diesel is a pretty heavy lump on the nose. I'm rather partial to having 4WD in my GMC 2500HD. This truck has the optional Eaton locker rear in it, and is pretty much useless getting up any incline in snow when not in 4WD. My driveway is an 8% grade, and in 2WD I can barely get the truck to clear the sidewalk. In 4WD, I've gotten up in 12-15" of uncleared snow.

    4-Lo is also an extremely handy tool to have when backing and manuvering a trailer. My trailer parking spot at home requires a k-turn in my backyard, with more big elevation changes. In 4-Lo, I can walk through it all putting the 7500lb enclosed right where it needs to go.

    Resale in a northern climate on a 4x4 will definitely be better. Having had two 2WD trucks, and now on my 2nd 4x4, I would not buy anymore 2WD's.

    Stan Whitney
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    23 Jul 2007 11:19 PM

    Any truck in your year range will be fine. I had an '02 2WD, and would get a 4WD for towing dutiy. The soft front end of the 2WD really made the truck wallow and drive like a school bus. The first one I test drove was a 4wd v10, it drove and felt great. I bought a 2wd diesel, and it never felt as crisp and stable. Sure, it rode better, but felt like a bus or conversion van, they also look too low, and sag in the rear. I changed shocks, added airbags, sway bars etc. to make it livable.

    The programmer I ended up with was the Edge evolution, worked great at the 50hp and 80hp level. The downside with any of the ECU mods, is the mileage computer accuracy goes out the window. You will need to hand calculate. The trucks really need some ecu mod, as the factory tune is pretty gutless, especially in town.

    autoxgod
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    24 Jul 2007 09:17 AM

    I looked at the 2wd and 4wd back when I was shopping. I found lowering kits for the 2wd that would make the Excursion look really cool. There's also kits for the 2wd GM 3500 dually that is awesome. Lowering the truck helps the mileage and the handling. A set of airpsprings also would be great to help in the load leveling as you put a lot of tongue weight on it.

    Personally I was more interested in the 2wd for the added fuel economy and the lowering availability. I didn't need it as a daily ride so the winter issues are non-existent.

    You can find some 2wd Excursion diesels in the area too. I've come across quite a few and they are cheaper. 4wd is nice when you need it, just ask yourself how often you are going to need it.

    Excursions are basically F250's enclosed so if you have a hard time finding one, consider the F250's or F350's and get a cap. I have seen a lot of the used Excursions with low miles going for mid $teens to high $20k. As an option, you can talk to the guys at Mueller's and Tom will likely have one on thelot or get one for you.

    Jim

    Mugenlude
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    24 Jul 2007 09:47 AM
    JSirota wrote:

    The 7.3 was also available early in the '03 model year. If you want the last of them, you should look for an '03.

    Great thanks... that makes more sense now because I thought the '03's had the 7.3L, however I kept finding them with 6.0L engines so I just eliminated them from my searches.... Now I have to decide if the extra money for a '03 model is worth it to get one with low miles on it, we're talking about an extra $10k or so for 50k miles.... For as much as I'm planning to drive it I'm not sure it's worth it. I was planning on something under $20k.

    Mugenlude
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    24 Jul 2007 10:39 AM
    STS_Underdog wrote:

    Jason-

    I tow with a 3/4 ton Chevy truck with an open diff and have never regretted getting a 2 wheel drive. I like the steering feel of the 2 wheel drive trucks better than the four wheel drive, the mileage is a little better, and there are fewer parts to break.

    ...snip....

    Downsides I see are lower resale value (everyone thinks they "need" a 4 wheel drive), probably harder to find, and it is possible to get a 2 wheel drive stuck.

    How much better is the gas mileage? Obviously there is more weight, but the thing already weights like 7000 lbs, so is weight really an issue. Not to mention the weight I'm towing... Are there normal parts on the 4x4 models that are an issue?

    Around here everyone has 4x4's, I see lots of 2WD models in Texas thought [:)], however, it will cost me extra money to have it shipped from TX (or travel there) so I'm starting to think I should just get the 4x4 model and at least have the extra money in the actual vehicle in lieu of in "shipping/handling" fees.

    Mugenlude
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    24 Jul 2007 10:47 AM
    mattm wrote:

    STS_Underdog wrote:
    Downsides I see are lower resale value (everyone thinks they "need" a 4 wheel drive), probably harder to find, and it is possible to get a 2 wheel drive stuck.

    I'd agree about future resale in Wisconsin. You should look at the used auto for sale sites and do a price match on 2WD and 4WD in a small radius in your area.

    Haha, the probelm is that there aren't many around to compare it to. Price-wise around the county at this point the 2WD models seem to be around $1k cheaper than the 4x4 models from what I see on autotrader and ebay. KBB said $600 difference on a 2001 Excursion Limited w/ 100k miles in my area.
    JSirota
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    24 Jul 2007 11:35 AM

    BTW, another good option is the 8.1L 3/4-ton Suburban (or Yukon XL) gasser. All the power without the noise, and they cost a lot less.

    This is what I'm using. They were available through the whole previous-generation run, '01-'06. With the 4.10 gears they can tow 12K lbs (10K+ with the 3.73).

    Mileage is awful, but this thing pulls as well as the Duramax (really, no kidding), and it's easier around town than the even-larger Excursion. Mine is a 2WD with the 4.10 and I'm getting 13.5 on the highway unloaded, 11.5 around town, and 7.8 with the 24' triple-axle enclosed.

    If you can live with a gas-guzzler, I recommend it.

    Mugenlude
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    24 Jul 2007 11:35 AM
    autoxgod wrote:

    I looked at the 2wd and 4wd back when I was shopping. I found lowering kits for the 2wd that would make the Excursion look really cool. There's also kits for the 2wd GM 3500 dually that is awesome. Lowering the truck helps the mileage and the handling. A set of airpsprings also would be great to help in the load leveling as you put a lot of tongue weight on it.

    You have any links to lower kits you were thinking of? I too like the look of a lowered Excursion, however, I'm not looking for another project vehicle. =)

    autoxgod wrote:

    You can find some 2wd Excursion diesels in the area too. I've come across quite a few and they are cheaper. 4wd is nice when you need it, just ask yourself how often you are going to need it.

    Yeah, that is what I'm going through... I don't know if I'll use it.

    autoxgod wrote:

    Excursions are basically F250's enclosed so if you have a hard time finding one, consider the F250's or F350's and get a cap. I have seen a lot of the used Excursions with low miles going for mid $teens to high $20k. As an option, you can talk to the guys at Mueller's and Tom will likely have one on thelot or get one for you.

    I'm really anti-truck. I've just seen so many people have stuff stolen out of the back of their truck that I'm turn-off buy it. At least with a SUV or cargo van it's more work to get it. Not much, but they seem to target truck caps and utility boxes for some reason.


    rtp.rick
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    24 Jul 2007 11:53 AM

    Excursions sit on the F350 frame, it's the one ton truck frame.

    I haven't used the 4 wheel drive often, but it sure is handy when you need it. Often you can get away from a slippery situation with a 2wd after some work, but with the 4wd, you just go.

    H's & K's,
    Rick Ruth

    Mugenlude
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    24 Jul 2007 12:05 PM
    JSirota wrote:

    BTW, another good option is the 8.1L 3/4-ton Suburban (or Yukon XL) gasser. All the power without the noise, and they cost a lot less.

    This is what I'm using. They were available through the whole previous-generation run, '01-'06. With the 4.10 gears they can tow 12K lbs (10K+ with the 3.73).

    Mileage is awful, but this thing pulls as well as the Duramax (really, no kidding), and it's easier around town than the even-larger Expedition. Mine is a 2WD with the 4.10 and I'm getting 13.5 on the highway unloaded, 11.5 around town, and 7.8 with the 24' triple-axle enclosed.

    If you can live with a gas-guzzler, I recommend it.

    I decided a long time ago that I was going to purchase a diesel engine when I bought a tow vehicle. At this point I'll be towing an open trailer, however, I would like to do an enclosed trailer in the future. And since I don't want to tow an enclosed with gas, this is the first step to getting an enclosed trailer (I don't want to pay for both the trailer and tow vehicle at one time).

    I know that it is going to take awhile to make up the price difference with the diesel, but in the long run I think I'll be happier... I don't like to do things half-ass because it just end up wanting the good stuff and costing me more money. I'm towing with a Jeep GC (5.7L Hemi) now and I'm getting like 11mpg with ~4000 lbs open trailer.

    EDIT to add... and I feel better purchasing a diesel with 100k miles more than than I do any gas-guzzler.

    autoxgod
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    24 Jul 2007 02:41 PM

    And the difference between the F250 frame and F350 is what? Rick's Excursion is pretty awesome and I can remember when he got that with a little help from Tony in negotiations.

    The 4wd chassis is out there in greater numbers I think and the older 7.3's are the better choice from what I have seen. Take a look at some of the diesel forums and you'll find references for lowering kits. I think I recall Eric Strelneik's has a lowered Excursion but I could be wrong.

    Josh isn't wrong about the strong 8.1 liter GM's either.

    I'm currently towing with my G3500 and the 6.0 liter gas motor, 4.10 rear diff and it does OK with my 24 ft enclosed trailer. I get 14-15 mpg not towing and about 9-10 mpg towing. Through Missouri I-35 and the hills I get closer to 7-8 mpg running a lot in 3rd gear and a/c at 95°F. There is one nice thing about using a small class B RV though, no hotel bills on top of expensive fuel expenses.

    The Padberg's have the 8.1 liter in their Class A and he is knowingly overloaded with his enclosed trailer. Either way he's getting single digit gas mileage.

    Also, if you're concerned over the gas vs diesel cost/return on investment issue, do the calculations and you'll find that there's a lot of time and miles you'll have to cover to make significant savings when you factor all the expenses involved. It's been discussed at length in several forums on RV.net. If you're going for the long run on this, then sure you'll eventually make out but the tranny will still need a couple replacements before you get there.

    Another thing to consider is the addition of a nice tranny cooler and Bilsteins (I have those already), airsprings, tranny temp gauge, exhaust temp gauge, electronic boost controllers, bigger exhaust, (all those good hop-up diesel power stuff). Sure it reduces the engine life but the pulling power is much improved. Add the sway control weight distribution hitch and a really good brake controller for the enclosed trailer too.

    Talk to Wynveen and he'll tell you to get a Dodge :-) Not that there's anything wrong with that... Those Cummins diesels are really good too. Too bad it's not in an Excursion chassis with an Allison tranny.

    And yeah there's the whole Chevy thing with the Duramax but it's still not in the Suburban chassis either.

    The other thing to consider (you probably have though) is to look at Ford E350's with the diesel ala Cashmore. Oh yeah, he had to go to Texas for that didn't he? Ebay was helpful on his.

    Jim

    Mugenlude
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    24 Jul 2007 03:21 PM

    My plan is tow vehicle for now, but weekend trips and travel in the future (ie. kids) with it (another reason I don't want truck). I just don't see me cruising around in a E350 cargo or passenger van, I'd rather pay the premium to get the Excursion with some luxury over that option.

    I know that it will take a long time to make up the diesel price difference, but it's nicer with the towing power... I don't want to be pulling a 24' enclosed with a gasser. Hills are bad enough with my 5.7L Hemi and the open trailer.

    Steve Hoelscher
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    24 Jul 2007 03:21 PM

    Mugenlude wrote:

    I decided a long time ago that I was going to purchase a diesel engine when I bought a tow vehicle. At this point I'll be towing an open trailer, however, I would like to do an enclosed trailer in the future. And since I don't want to tow an enclosed with gas, this is the first step to getting an enclosed trailer (I don't want to pay for both the trailer and tow vehicle at one time).

    I know that it is going to take awhile to make up the price difference with the diesel, but in the long run I think I'll be happier... I don't like to do things half-ass because it just end up wanting the good stuff and costing me more money. I'm towing with a Jeep GC (5.7L Hemi) now and I'm getting like 11mpg with ~4000 lbs open trailer.

    EDIT to add... and I feel better purchasing a diesel with 100k miles more than than I do any gas-guzzler.

    I am anti truck myself, that's why I tow with a van. Like Ian, I use a full size Ford Clubwagon. These things are awsome tow vehicles and they make an Excursion look positively small inside. More room and more room for passengers to move around in makes them very comfortable to travel in. I wouldn't use anything else. You can get the PowerStoke in a Clubwagon but you might also consider the V10. It tows just about as well as the 7.3 and generally gets better mileage than the GM 8.1. The V10 is an awsome engine in its own right and is a proven piece.

    As already noted, you will save a bunch of money on purchase price going with a gasser. The V10 can be had in either the Clubwagon or the Excursion. You will also save a ton of money on maintenace. Oil changes, fuel filters, coolant flushes all add up quickly. Cost of ownership on the Diesel is much higher than the V10 gas engine. When I bought my Clubwagon it was intended to be an interim vehicle while I shopped for a Diesel. I liked it so much and it performed so well that I never bothered to upgrade. I have had it now since '97 (it was a year old when I bought it) and put 200,000 miles on it, mostly towing. It still runs and tows just fine. I am wondering how far it will go?

    Since you don't want a truck, take a look at a Clubwagon XLT. They usually can be had cheaper than the Excursions. There are 4x4 conversions from Quigley out there but I wouldn't bother with them. Also, if I remember correctly an E350 Clubwagon XLT weights about 1000 less than an Excusion.

    Mistersolo
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    24 Jul 2007 04:23 PM

    I have a 2000 4x4 that works really well. I rarely use the 4wd, it comes in handy when pulling away from a snowy stoplight here in Nebraska, but I’ve never been in a situation where I had to use the 4wd to get unstuck. A difference between the Excursion and the F250/350 is weight distribution. I recall reading that the Excursion is close to a 50/50 weight distribution. That seems to make a difference in the snow.

    I agree that the diesel needs a chip. I don’t think I could go back to driving a stock truck. I purchased a DP Tuner chip and greatly improved the throttle response and spool up. No other mods, the truck gets 16-17 mpg on the highway and about 13 in the city. I get about 14-16 mpg towing my Miata on a single axle trailer.

    John Becker
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