Editorial: Spacious Bouncy 2008 Ford E-Series Wheelchair Vans

editorial-2008FordE-SeriesWheelchair-van

As a working full-sized van, the Ford E-150, E-250 or E-350 has its charms. It’s nearly indestructible and it offers a great deal of space. As an individual wheelchair van, however, there isn’t much to love about the newest full-sized Ford vans.

Looking at the E-Series

There’s not much to look at that you haven’t seen before. Ford keeps churning out the same full-sized van year after year. They make slight adjustments (the 2008 models have an updated front grille), but the basic structure of the van remains the same.

It’s a big and boxy. It looks like – well, it looks like a van!

Let’s put it this way, Ford is obviously far more interested in other aspects of the E-Series than it is in turning heads.

That reality is hammered home by the simple, spacious interior. The cabin is massive and is undecorated. Even the seats are plain. For has obviously decided to pay more attention to creating a flexible full-sized van for any type of job site than it is about making people comfortable.

That’s one reason why they sell special tool racks and bin storage systems for the van. It’s also why they offer special prep packages for common E-Series uses.

Driving the E-Series Wheelchair Van

The focus on utility over creature comforts isn’t reserved exclusively for the interior of the E-150, E-250 and E-350. It also applies to the way the vehicle performs.

Ford did try to improve the ride quality somewhat this year by modifying the vans’ chassis. However, the ride is still rather loose and bouncy. Steering is less responsive than you’d expect–even from a full-sized handicap van. It takes a great deal of effort to stop something as big as an E-Series wheelchair van once it’s in motion, so you won’t be stopping on a dime, either. The engines available for the E-Series are more than adequate to power the vehicles, but they don’t provide any real punch. Fans of rapid acceleration are bound to be disappointed.

Those engine options include two Triton V8 options. One delivers 225 horsepower while the upgrade produces 255 horsepower. These engines, which are partnered with the Ford four-speed automatic, are available for all E-Series vehicles.

Those who purchase the 15-passenger E-350 can choose from two other engine upgrade options. One is a big V10 and the other is a turbo-diesel V8 that creates an amazing 440 pound-feet of torque. Both of those engine options come with a five-speed automatic transmission.

Modifying the E-Series

You can turn Ford E-Series vans into wheelchair mobility vehicles. The bigger question is whether you really want to do so.

The advantages of doing so are obvious. These are big vehicles and that means that the wheelchair user will have maximum access. It also means that E-Series vans can support heavy duty lifts on the side or in the rear of the vehicle. When equipped with a good lift, an auto kneel system and other modifications, and you consider the fact that the E-Series is well-known for reliability, it’s easy to understand why some people would consider transforming an E-150 into a wheelchair van.

However, those perks need to be weighted against the disadvantages of using the E-Series handicap vans in that role. Fuel efficiency is horrible compared to minivan options. Additionally, the ride quality isn’t even comparable to those other options. There’s also the question of price. An E-Series van will cost considerably more than a minivan.

Overall, it makes more sense to leave the E-Series vans for those who need hardcore working vehicles and to invest in a minivan option if you’re a wheelchair user looking for a reliable ride.

Options for the E-Series

Ford offers their E-Series wheelchair vans in three different trim levels. The XL and XLT badges are available for all models. The Chateau package is reserved exclusively for the E-150.

The XL package isn’t really a package at all. It’s a stripped down option that’s best suited for those who plan to use the van in all work and no play environment. It has an AM/FM radio, tilt steering, air conditioning and precious little else in terms of options.

The XLT increases the length of the feature list considerably. In addition to carpeting and CD player, XLT buyers also receive power mirrors, power locks, power doors and cruise control.

The Chateau trim level attempts to add curb appeal to the E-150 for those who plan to use it as a regular passenger vehicle or in work settings where a slightly more attractive appearance is necessary. It features running boards, two-tone paint jobs, aluminum wheels and privacy glass.

Ford has a number of additional options for the E-Series wheelchair vans that one can purchase individually. These range from tow kits to rear parking sensors. Ford also offers the vehicle in a number of prep packages for those who plan to use their van for a specific work function.

Safety and the E-Series

You may have concerns about drive quality, but there’s no reason to be worried about the safety of the 2008 Ford E-Series vans They come standard with stability control, antilock brakes and a full range of airbags. Once again the vehicle received high marks from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for its performance in collision tests. Numerous options, including the aforementioned parking sensors can add to the vehicles’ overall safety.

Conclusion

If you’re interested in purchasing a full-sized van for work use, it may make sense to join the large club of E-Series owners. These rugged vans have proven themselves to be real workhorses.

On the other hand, those considering the purchase of an E-150 for use as a wheelchair van should probably look at other options. The combination of negatives associated with any full-sized an option is significant. The size and ability to handle a heavy duty lift may be attractive, but those advantages won’t justify the purchase for most people. The majority of wheelchair drivers will find that they’re happier with a minivan, even that involves utilizing a ramp instead of a lift.

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