Full 2008 Ford Econoline Wagon Review
What's New for 2008
Ford significantly updates its E-Series "Econoline" full-size van for the first time in years with a bold new look up front and an upgraded chassis underneath, offering improved handling and braking along with greater load-carrying capability. Extended wagons that carry up to 15 passengers feature new, more comfortable rear seats.
A fixture on America's highways since way back in 1961, the Ford E-Series (a.k.a. Econoline) currently accounts for about half of the full-size passenger and cargo vans sold in the U.S. Offering lots of space, versatility and durability, this rear-wheel-drive van has long been a staple of families, large groups and livery companies that need to haul around lots of people and/or cargo.
The 2008 Ford Econoline Wagon addresses many of our complaints by modernizing the handling dynamics with a revised front and rear suspension, refining the steering and adding an all-new braking system. These changes promise to elevate the drivability and ride of Ford's vans to a level similar to the Chevrolet Express/GMC Savana twins, its chief rivals that have already received engineering upgrades in recent years. It's still unlikely to better the thoroughly modern, Mercedes-engineered Dodge Sprinter, however.
Not much has changed inside, but the latest E-Series is visually distinguished from its predecessors outside with a rugged new front-end treatment featuring a new grille, bumpers, fascia and headlamps. Ford is obviously hoping for a more macho look here, though it's not entirely cohesive in our opinion.
The Econoline's various versions can seat between seven and 15 people in models ranging from the E-150 XL to the E-350 Super Duty Extended XLT, while offering plenty of space for their belongings as well as impressive towing capacity. The E-150 starts off with three rows of seating and seats a maximum of eight, or seven with the optional second-row captain's chairs.
Next up is the larger-capacity standard-wheelbase E-350, which squeezes in 11 with an additional row of seating. Finally, the E-350 Super Duty Extended offers near-school bus interior room with five rows of seating and 15-passenger capacity. Smaller front-drive minivans may offer more creature comforts and carlike drivability by comparison, but the tough truck-based Econoline offers amenities like leather trim, CD changer, power driver seat and a reverse-sensing system, as well as hauling capabilities simply not possible with lighter-duty minivans.
With its makeover for 2008, the Ford Econoline Wagon moves closer to its rivals, specifically in terms of road-going dynamics. Thanks to its high roof option, the Dodge Sprinter offers the most cargo- and passenger-friendly compartment, while its class-best build quality and fuel economy make it the best choice for those with a bit more cash to spend. The Ford therefore aligns better with GM's Express and Savana (which feature mildly updated interiors and side curtain airbags this year), as they, too, feature a more traditional American work van design, providing a similarly rugged chassis, ample interior space and torque-rich engines. But the Econoline edges out the others for heavy-duty users with greater maximum payload ratings, available diesel V8 power and its legendary reliability record. If that describes what you're looking for, you won't go wrong choosing a 2008 Ford E-Series -- just ask five decades worth of customers.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The full-size 2008 Ford Econoline Wagon is available in three basic models: the eight-passenger E-150, the 11-passenger E-350 Super Duty and the 15-passenger E-350 Super Duty Extended. Each model is offered in basic XL or well-equipped XLT trim. Standard equipment on the base XL includes 16-inch steel wheels, Class I towing preparation, vinyl upholstery, front air-conditioning and an AM/FM radio. The uplevel XLT adds upgraded halogen headlights, chrome bumpers, cloth upholstery, rear air-conditioning, cruise control, powered accessories and a six-speaker CD stereo. The E-150 is available with a Premium Package, which includes leather-trimmed quad captain's chairs, keyless entry, privacy glass, running boards, two-tone paint and upgraded aluminum wheels. Among other available options are a sliding passenger-side door (versus the standard dual barn doors), upgraded towing packages, telescoping side towing mirrors, different seating configurations, power driver seat, an in-dash six-CD changer and an accessory rear-seat DVD entertainment system. Customers with special needs also have many options through custom-equipped aftermarket and mobility-enhancing conversions.
Powertrains and Performance
Three different engines are available for the 2008 Ford E-Series. A 4.6-liter V8 with 225 horsepower and 286 pound-feet of torque is standard on the E-150. Optional on the E-150 and standard on all E-350 models is a 5.4-liter V8 rated at 255 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. Each of these gasoline V8s comes with a four-speed automatic transmission. E-350 Super Duty buyers can upgrade to the 6.0-liter Power Stroke turbodiesel V8 generating 235 hp and 440 lb-ft of torque, backed by a five-speed automatic transmission. When properly equipped, maximum tow ratings range from 7,500 pounds for an E-150 to 10,000 pounds for an E-350 Super Duty with the diesel V8.
All 2008 Ford Econoline vans come standard with four-wheel antilock disc brakes and a manual deactivation switch for the front passenger airbag. The E-350 Super Duty with the 5.4-liter V8 features standard AdvanceTrac stability control with a rollover avoidance system. Traction control is optional on models without the stability control system.
Interior Design and Special Features
Despite its redesign this year, the Ford Econoline passenger van is still a 1990s time warp inside with essentially the same instruments, switchgear and broad, ovoid dash as before. But most customers in this segment aren't expecting much else, and will appreciate the E-Series' functional setup with logically placed controls, large vents and plenty of walk-through space. The Econoline's optional captain's chairs offer individualized comfort for smaller families, though larger groups will also enjoy enhanced comfort this year with the all-new rear seats in 15-passenger models. Legroom is a bit tight for those sitting in the second row, however. Cargo capacity is one of the E-Series' strengths, of course, ranging from 237 to 275 cubic feet of maximum available space.
It takes a lot of grunt to get more than 2.5 tons rolling, so we recommend the more powerful optional 5.4-liter gas V8 on the E-150. With the 2008 Ford Econoline vans, our choice is the available diesel V8 due to its superior torque and added cruising range. Despite its chassis improvements this year, the Econoline van is still a massive full-size vehicle with a huge turning circle that can make it awkward to maneuver in city traffic. It certainly wouldn't be our first choice as a daily driver -- unless we started to routinely haul around an entire soccer team. The experience improves dramatically during highway travel, where driver and passengers alike can relax and enjoy the E-Series' improved road manners and smoother ride.