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The last time the Ford Econoline passenger van or E-Series Wagon underwent a full redesign, George Bush was president. No, not W, but the original "no new taxes" edition. But there's more to the Econoline's staying power than Ford simply sticking with a product that has been the top-selling full-size van since 1980 (although that certainly has something to do with it). For up-fitters, or those who turn E-Series vans into commercial vehicles, any change to the Econoline's basic structure and dimensions means they also have to change the dimensions and tooling of their customizations.
However, in its unmodified form as a high-capacity passenger van, the Ford Econoline is showing its old age. It has received only minor changes over the years, the most significant of which occurred for 1997 (engine and interior updates) and for 2008 when it received a radical new grille along with steering, brake and suspension improvements. Yet the basic vehicle and its passenger comfort have remained virtually unchanged. As such, other full-size vans can outclass the Econoline in terms of versatility and ride and handling dynamics. But considering Ford's lower price and respectable reputation for reliability, it's a very comfortable choice for a full-size passenger van.
Current Ford Econoline Passenger Van
The Econoline passenger van is available in three basic models: the eight-passenger E-150, the 12-passenger E-350 Super Duty and the 15-passenger E-350 Super Duty Extended. Each of these vans is offered in XL and XLT trim, with the E-150 also available in a high-end Chateau trim. The base XL is just that, with vinyl upholstery, air-conditioning and an AM/FM radio as its notable standard features. The upper trim levels come better equipped and options are plentiful. The standard passenger-side rear opening is a pair of barn-style swinging doors, but a single, minivan-type sliding unit is a no-cost option. Unlike on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, dual sliding doors are not available.
There are three different engines available on the E-Series Wagon. A 4.6-liter V8 that makes 225 horsepower and 286 pound-feet of torque is standard on the E-150. A 5.4-liter V8 capable of 255 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque is optional on the E-150 and standard on the E-350 Super Duty models. Both of these engines come with a four-speed automatic. E-350 buyers can upgrade to a 6.8-liter V10 that churns out 305 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic comes with the V10.
Despite its segment-leading sales, we feel the Ford Econoline passenger van suffers from its ancient design. Steering, braking and suspension updates have improved its driving dynamics, but there's no escaping more than 15 years of age. The Econoline is, therefore, an OK option given its low pricing and strong dependability record, but buyers should be prepared to drive a hard bargain to make up for the van's dynamic deficiencies.
Past Ford Econoline Passenger Van Models
The Ford Econoline has been produced since 1961, and the current generation has technically been produced since 1992. From then until 1998, the passenger van was technically known as the Club Wagon, and thereafter as the E-Series Wagon.
Whatever it has been officially called, the Econoline has always been available in E-150 and E-350 styles with two vehicle lengths, and XL, XLT and Chateau trim levels (the latter of which disappeared in 2001 and reappeared on the E-150 only in 2004). An E-250 was also offered for most of this model's run. Like the current model, there have been numerous options and packages available, so be sure a potential used Econoline has the features you're looking for. For instance, a sliding passenger-side door was a no-cost option.
Although the basic body design remained unchanged, the Ford Econoline passenger van underwent a slight redesign for 2008. There was a new front fascia, along with significant changes to the steering system, brakes and suspension to improve driving dynamics. There are also all-new seats, and rear center position passengers now benefit from seat-integrated three-point belts. The 6.0-liter turbodiesel V8 (235 hp and 440 lb-ft) was replaced by the 6.8-liter gas V10 for 2009, a year that also saw a welcome interior redesign and some new options.
The original vans from this generation came standard with a 4.9-liter inline-6 engine or a choice of three gasoline V8s and a diesel V8. In 1997, these engines were replaced with a base V6, two Triton V8s and a Triton V10. The diesel V8 carried over unchanged. That year, the Econoline underwent other significant upgrades. The dashboard was redesigned for the only time to meet the latest Ford interior standards. (Some switchgear and gauges have changed slightly since then, though.) The grille was also freshened to match Ford's ongoing oval theme.
Items like tilt steering wheel, antilock brakes and a passenger front airbag were added at the turn of the century. In 2003, the E-Series was given another grille design to match the latest F-Series Super Duty, featuring two vertical bars and an integrated Ford badge (rather than perched on the hood lip). Engine output continued to rise, with the current E-Series engine lineup (including the new 6.0-liter turbodiesel V8) established in 2004.
The previous Ford Econoline was produced from 1975-'91.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Ford Econoline Wagon page.