Full 2009 Ford Econoline Cargo Review
What's New for 2009
The 2009 Ford Econoline Cargo receives a redesigned instrument panel as well as new options such as user-defined Upfitter switches, a navigation system, satellite radio and a rearview camera. Additionally, a new line of options called Ford Work Solutions includes an in-dash computer with Internet access, which can be paired with a mouse and printer. In the powertrain department, the 4.6-liter and 5.4-liter engines can now run on E85 ethanol. Stability control is newly optional on gas-powered models.
Ford's venerable Econoline Cargo (a.k.a. E-Series) has long been a top seller among such four-wheeled beasts of burden. However, it last received a complete redesign in 1992. Time moves relatively slowly in the passenger-van segment, but the Econoline Cargo's age nonetheless leaves the door open for younger upstarts -- notably the Dodge Sprinter, a rebadged Mercedes that was redesigned for 2007 -- to steal some of the spotlight. Accordingly, Ford has taken numerous steps over the last couple years to spruce up its venerable box on wheels.
Last year saw the introduction of an aggressive new front fascia and an updated suspension, and the 2009 Ford Econoline Cargo ups the ante with a redesigned instrument panel and an impressive array of new options. As usual, the Econoline Cargo boasts scads of space for whatever you need to haul. So does the Sprinter, of course, yet its fuel-efficient but comparatively puny engines can't come close to matching the Econoline Cargo's towing capacities, which range from 6,000 to 10,000 pounds. Indeed, there's plenty of grunt on tap in all Econoline Cargos save for those saddled with the base 4.6-liter V8.
The new line of options called Ford Work Solutions gives commercial buyers even more reasons to stick with the E-Series, enabling everything from radio-frequency tracking of your power tools to the efficient management of your fleet via a telematics and diagnostics system. Perhaps the most noteworthy of these "solutions" is a Microsoft-powered in-dash computer that affords high-speed Internet access as well as mobile printing via an available wireless printer. The Econoline Cargo originated back when stonewashed jeans were still kind of cool, but Ford has done an admirable job of keeping the van's technological side up-to-date.
Behind the wheel, Ford's van drives adequately, though the Sprinter still offers superior handling and refinement. However, the E-Series matches up well with the Chevrolet Express/GMC Savana twins, which are its chief rivals in terms of sales. Like GM's offerings, the Econoline Cargo can't compete with the Sprinter's high-roof option, which enables adults to stand up and move around the cabin. But the Econoline Cargo otherwise offers extensive customizability -- and as for the handling, we doubt commercial van shoppers really care how quickly these behemoths can go around corners.
The 2009 Ford Econoline Cargo may be a child of the 20th century, but numerous updates through the years have kept it competitive in this utilitarian segment. As such, it earns our recommendation, though we'd advise sampling the competition as well to determine which van best meets your needs.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Ford Econoline Cargo commercial van is offered to the public in half-ton, 3/4-ton and 1-ton sizes. Shoppers with lighter-capacity needs can start with the E-150 model, while those with more demanding requirements should focus on the E-250 and E-350 Super Duty models. These heavier-duty vehicles come in two different lengths -- 212 inches for the regular version and 232 inches for the Extended model -- and can haul more than 2 tons of gear, in the case of the E-350 Super Duty van.
Standard Ford cargo vans are pretty basic, with 16-inch steel wheels, front vinyl bucket seats, air-conditioning, a tilting steering wheel, manual mirrors and an AM/FM radio. Functional extras include halogen headlights, a second-row bench seat, upgraded towing packages, a limited-slip differential and performance axle ratios for increased towing capacity. Those desiring more creature comforts and style can spring for forged aluminum wheels, interior insulation, cloth upholstery, captain's chairs, cruise control, keyless entry, power accessories, a navigation system, user-defined Upfitter switches, a rearview camera, satellite radio, a six-speaker CD stereo and an auxiliary audio jack. For businesspeople who demand additional customization, Ford offers several special packages that equip the E-Series with a variety of racks, bins and drawers, as well as the abovementioned lineup of "Work Solutions."
Powertrains and Performance
The 2009 Ford Econoline Cargo offers four different engines, all sending power to the rear wheels. The standard 4.6-liter V8 on E-150 and E-250 models is rated at 225 horsepower and 286 pound-feet of torque. A larger 5.4-liter V8 putting out 255 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque is optional (and recommended) on these models and standard on the E-350 Super Duty. Both engines are paired with a four-speed automatic transmission and can run on E85 as well as gasoline.
Engine upgrades on E-350 Super Dutys include a 6.8-liter V10 good for 305 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque, or a durable and more economical 6.0-liter Power Stroke turbodiesel V8 that produces 235 horses and 440 lb-ft of torque. These larger optional engines are coupled to a five-speed automatic transmission. Maximum tow ratings range from 6,000 pounds for a base E-150 to 10,000 pounds for a properly equipped E-350 Super Duty. The Econoline Cargo's Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) -- the maximum amount a vehicle can carry, including its own mass plus passengers, cargo and trailer -- ranges from 11,500 pounds on the E-150 to an impressive 20,000 pounds on a properly equipped E-350 Super Duty.
All 2009 Ford Econoline Cargo vans come standard with four-wheel antilock disc brakes. A dash-mounted manual deactivation switch for the front passenger airbag is optional, as is stability control on non-diesel models. Side airbags are not available.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2009 E-Series Cargo vans practically define the term "stripped" in base form, but they can be made a bit more civilized by adding an optional second-row bench, front captain's chairs, an insulation package, side or rear window glass and/or a sliding side cargo door. Unlike the Sprinter, there is no optional driver-side sliding door, nor different roof heights. Standard-length vans have a maximum cargo capacity of 230 cubic feet, while extended-length vans check in with a voluminous 271 cubic feet of space. Thanks to its redesigned dash layout, the 2009 Econoline Cargo no longer time-warps you straight back to 1992.
The 4.6-liter V8 is sufficient only for those who don't plan on hauling a lot of stuff -- or who don't mind lethargic acceleration while doing so. Any of the uplevel engines should suit most buyers just fine, particularly the torquey and relatively fuel-efficient diesel V8. Behind the wheel, the 2009 Ford Econoline Cargo feels about how you'd expect. The turning circle is enormous, and body roll in turns is akin to that of a commercial fishing boat riding out a squall. The ride is better than it used to be, though, and most shoppers in this segment will gladly accept the Econoline Cargo's forgettable handling characteristics in return for its impressive utility.