What's New for 2006
Minor updates for the 2006 Ford Econoline include a standard stability control system for the E-350, a new electronically controlled transmission and the addition of a transmission oil cooler to the trailer towing packages.
What if someone offered you a vehicle with better gas mileage and almost twice the interior cargo volume of a Ford Excursion? What if this vehicle could hold as many or more people (in greater comfort), while also costing less? Finally, what if the vehicle offered superior ride quality, while being no more difficult to drive? "What's the catch?" you might be asking. Well, it only comes in two-wheel drive, and it won't earn you a membership in the not-so-elite club of SUV Pilots Unlimited.
That said, the Ford Econoline Wagon, in either E-150 or E-350 Super Duty designation, offers some significant advantages over its more fashionable Excursion stablemate. The Econoline van offers 257 cubic feet of cargo volume (309 cubic feet in E-350 EXT trim), compared to the Excursion's 146 cubic feet of cargo capacity. The Ford Econoline is also a foot shorter than (except in EXT trim), has a nearly identical wheelbase and turning radius and, depending on trim and equipment, can weigh as much as 2,000 pounds less than Ford's largest SUV.
In the real world, this translates to a vehicle far more capable, and efficient, at toting people and gear from points A to B, unless extreme off-road conditions exist between those two points. Tough, roomy, rugged and reliable, the 2006 Ford Econoline has a favorable, well-earned reputation. Since its introduction in 1960, Ford says it has sold more than 6 million Econoline vans. We recommend that buyers in this market focus on the pricing and packaging that meet their needs.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
There are three Ford Econoline Wagon models to choose from: the base-model E-150, the heavier-duty E-350 Super Duty and the E-350 Super Duty Extended. Each of these vehicles is offered in either XL or XLT trim; E-150s and standard-length E-350s are also available in high-line Chateau trim. Both XL and XLT come standard with items like tilt steering, air conditioning and a Class One trailer-towing package. Chateau models come with second-row captain's chairs, a CD player, keyless entry and running boards. Among the many available options are a sliding cargo door, an upgraded tow package, a power driver seat, leather upholstery and an in-dash six-CD changer.
Powertrains and Performance
Four different engines are available depending on which model you choose. The E-150 offers a choice of either a 4.6-liter V8 or a 5.4-liter V8. The 4.6-liter produces 225 horsepower and 286 pound-feet of torque, while the 5.4-liter makes 255 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. E-350 Super Duty and Super Duty Extended models have the 5.4-liter V8 as standard. To upgrade, you can go with the 6.8-liter, 305-hp V10 or the 6.0-liter, 235-hp Power Stroke turbodiesel V8. Trailer ratings range from 6,600 pounds for an E-150 to 10,000 pounds for an E-350 Super Duty. A standard four-speed automatic handles the shifting duties for the smaller V8s while vans with the V10 or turbodiesel get a five-speed auto. This five-speed tranny is optional with the 5.4-liter V8.
All Ford Econoline models come standard with four-wheel ABS, and extended-length E-350s feature a standard stability control system (not available on other Econolines). It earned four out of five stars for both the driver and passenger in NHTSA's frontal crash test.
Interior Design and Special Features
Inside, the Ford Econoline Wagon offers comfortable seating, particularly if your van has the optional captain's chairs, though legroom is a bit tight for those sitting in the second row. Depending on which model you choose, the Econoline can seat seven, eight, 12 (E-350) or 15 passengers (E-350 Extended). Cargo space is prodigious, with anywhere from 237 to 275 cubic feet at your disposal.
Driving the Ford Econoline Wagon, despite its passenger seating, differs little from piloting a delivery vehicle, so it's not a logical choice for everyday motoring -- though quite a few families happily employ their vans exactly that way. The virtues of sitting tall with a panoramic view of the road ahead can outweigh many a minor inconvenience. Despite their old-fashioned suspension designs, Econolines feel relatively stable on the highway, but the Chevrolet Express, Dodge Sprinter and GMC Savana offer more competent handling overall.