Although it was last produced for the 2014 model year, the Ford E-Series (or "Econoline") cargo van hadn't undergone a full redesign since George Bush was president. No, not George W, but the original "no new taxes" edition. But there was good reason for the Econoline's staying power other than Ford simply not fixing something that wasn't broken. For upfitters (those who turn vans into commercial vehicles like rental car shuttles and the Channel 5 Eyewitness News van), any change to the E-Series' basic structure and dimensions meant these companies also had to change the dimensions and tooling of their customizations.
As such, the E-Series received only minor changes over the years, the most significant of which occurred for 1997 with major engine and interior updates, and for 2008 when it received a radical new grille along with steering, brake and suspension improvements. The result was a cargo van that looked different, but was still very much the same. For many E-Series customers, that was the best news of all, yet the old Econoline was finally put out to pasture in favor of the modern Transit full-size van.
Most Recent Ford E-Series Cargo Van
Though not a new generation, the most recent version of the E-Series van was produced from 2008 through 2014. It was available in E-150 and heavy-duty E-250 and E-350 capacities. The base E-150 model was available in only standard length, while the E-250 came in two lengths -- regular (236 cubic feet of interior space) and E-250 Extended (275 cubic feet). The E-350 Super Duty van also came in both vehicle lengths. The base E-Series was sparsely equipped, but could be outfitted with numerous options to suit a customer's business needs. The standard passenger-side cargo opening consisted of a pair of barn-style swinging doors, but a single, minivan-type sliding unit was optional.
These E-Series vans offered a choice of three engine options. The E-150 and E-250 models came standard with a fairly weak 4.6-liter V8 rated at 225 horsepower and 286 pound-feet of torque. Optional on these models and standard on the E-350 Super Duty was a 5.4-liter V8 that made a more robust 255 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. Both engines came with a four-speed automatic transmission. The E-350 could also be equipped with a 6.8-liter V10 with 305 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque.
The generation that encompassed these refreshed E-Series vans actually dated back to 1992. These vans originally came standard with an inline-6 engine or a choice of three gasoline V8s and a diesel V8. In '97, these engines were replaced with a new base V6, two new V8s and a new V10. The diesel V8 carried over. Power outputs on these engines gradually rose through the next decade, and a 6.0-liter turbodiesel debuted for 2004.
In 1997, the Ford Econoline Cargo underwent its first significant upgrade. The dashboard was redesigned while the exterior was also freshened to match Ford's ongoing oval theme. Items like a tilt steering wheel, antilock brakes and passenger front airbag were added for 2000. In '03, the E-Series was given another grille design to match the latest F-Series Super Duty truck.
Although it's hard to tell from the outside, notable changes occurred for '08, when the Econoline benefited from modifications to the steering, braking and suspension systems that improved driving dynamics. Load-carrying capacity was also boosted. The following year saw a long-awaited interior redesign and additional optional features. The 2010 model year was the last for the 6.0-liter PowerStroke turbodiesel V8. After that, changes were minimal through 2014.
Despite its segment-leading sales, the Ford E-Series cargo van suffered from its ancient basic design. Although upfitters likely appreciated the same old platform, customers would have probably preferred the increased utility and improved driving dynamics of newer models. For instance, one can walk upright inside the taller yet more maneuverable Sprinter from Dodge, Freightliner and Mercedes-Benz. As a used van choice, however, the E-Series remains a viable option given its low pricing and strong dependability record.
The Ford Econoline name dates back to 1961, and the previous-generation Ford Econoline was produced from 1975-'91.