A complaint about the Ford Expedition was that its ride was awfully rough for a $40,000 vehicle.

People liked the full-size SUV's girth, roominess, towing muscle and off-road talents. It's been a good vehicle for Ford since debuting six years ago, selling about 200,000 units a year.

But that darn ride. It didn't flip occupants around. But it wasn't too refined for a higher-end vehicle.

That's changed on the redesigned Expedition. It's a smoother operator that's showing up at dealerships as a 2003 model.

Journalists, who drove the new SUV at a preview in rugged western British Columbia, particularly praised the kinder, gentler ride.

Credit goes to a new hydroformed frame and an independent rear suspension system.

The redesigned Expedition and Lincoln Navigator share the same platform, incorporating extensive use of hydroforming, a process that uses liquid under high pressure to shape metal and reduce welding. It's credited with improving frame stiffness by 70% — without adding weight.

The Expedition's entire frame, save the rear third, is hydroformed. The rear section is cut-and-weld because its complex geometry isn't conducive to hydroforming.

The Expedition's new independent rear suspension system not only improves the ride, it helps the comfort level for third-row passengers.

The old Expedition's third row had raised flooring to make room underneath for the former suspension system's transverse axle. The slightly raised floor looked innocent enough. But it made people sit with their legs higher than usual. Adults sitting back there on long road trips experienced discomfort.

That's no longer the case with the 2003 Expedition. Its independent rear suspension eliminates the need for the intrusive axle, and allows the third-row flooring to be flush with the rest of the interior.

Ford is using independent rear suspension on its full-size SUVs after seeing the Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer benefit from it. It originated on Lincoln LS and the Jaguar X-Type.