Editorial: Undesireable 2010 Ford E-Series Wheelchair Vans

editorial-2010FordE-SeriesWheelchair-van

If you know someone who drives an E-Series van, he or she probably does so while on the clock. If there’s an E-Series van in your neighbor’s driveway, it’s probably because he or she takes it home from work.

While Ford once made a legitimate effort of selling E-Series wheelchair vans designed to serve as everyday drivers and family haulers, that’s really no longer the case. The E-Series really is, for all practical purposes, a work van. It’s a commercial wheelchair vehicle.

That’s one reason why people didn’t seem particularly surprised when a rumor started circulating that Ford would no longer sell the vans to the general public, instead focusing exclusively on fleet and commercial sales. That rumor, although it turned out to be inaccurate, made sense. Very few people are purchasing E-Series vans for personal use.

There are good reasons for that, too. One is the rise of the SUV and improvements in the quality of minivans. Another is the basic fact that the E-Series wheelchair vans are horrible options for the average driver. They just don’t perform up to the expectations of most consumers.

That isn’t slowing Ford down, however. They continue to dominate the class in sales because the people who are spending $28,000 or more on vans are doing so because they want tough-as-nails vehicles that will stand up to workplace challenges. Details like good looks or handling just aren’t that important in that specific wheelchair van marketplace.

Ford is selling the 2010 E-Series of rear-wheel drive vans to the public. They’re just like the 2009 editions and one wonders who is going to buy them outside of the commercial sector? They’re a poor purchase for people who want an everyday vehicle or a personal wheelchair van.

Looking at the E-Series Wheelchair Van

The E-150, E-250 and E-350 look the same way they did before Bill Clinton was elected to the White House. The underlying style has remained consistent since the early 1990s. Ford occasionally updates the vans by slapping a new front grille or light casings on them, but they’re the same plain vans they’ve been as long as anyone remembers. The abbreviated front end looks like it was stolen from an F-Series truck and the rest of the vehicle is nothing more than a large box.

The interior offers flexible seating options and a great deal of space for wheelchair passengers. It doesn’t offer much in the way of comfort or aesthetics. The instrument panel received a makeover last year so that it could support some new electronic options and that one slight area of modernization was the only significant interior change in years.

Ford does sell a variety of pre packages for the E-Series that make it easier for up-fitters to convert the van to its eventual use. These include significant differences in interior layout. Other inside options include special tool racks and bin storage systems. As you may have noticed, none of those options are the kind of thing your average family will really care about.

Driving the 2010 E-Series Vans

Driving one of these wheelchair vans is like stepping into a time machine. You’ll think you’re behind the wheel of a 1970s era full-sized pickup truck. You’ll bounce and sway without having a clear sense of the road upon which you’re driving. You’ll find the brakes mushy, the steering soft and the acceleration wanting. In short, they offer a miserable wheelchair driving experience.

That’s okay with the people who buy them, though. Those companies want vehicles that will run and do their jobs every day. It’s all about being tough and reliable. Commercial buyers are more than happy to make the performance compromise because it serves their business needs.

Modifying the E-Series

The smallest of the E-Series family, the E-150 has been converted into a wheelchair van on many occasions. However, most of those conversions took place before minivans improved and while Ford was still offering trim packages designed to turn the E-Series into a family hauler. Back then, there were fewer choices and the driving limitations of the E-Series didn’t stand out the way they do now.

It’s true that the E-Series vans offer a great deal of space, the ability to utilize even the mightiest wheelchair lifts and great reliability. It’s also true that one can install a lift, drop the floor and use an auto kneel system to produce a fully functional wheelchair van. However, it really just doesn’t make sense to do that these days. It’s a matter of trying to make a square peg fit into a round hole.

The E-Series is a working van and its shortcomings in other areas de-legitimize it as a personal wheelchair van option.

Options for the E-Series

Ford sells the E-150, E-250, E-350 and E-350 Super Duty. These vans are divided based upon their gross weight. They can transport between eight and fifteen passengers.

All variations are available in XL and XLT trim packages. The XL is a bare bones arrangement suitable only for the Spartan needs of some job sites. The fact that it even has air conditioning and an AM/FM stereo is almost a surprise. The XLT arrangement is slightly more refined. It comes with power accessories, cruise control and a few other options.

Ford sells many other options for the vans. These include fleet management electronics, message centers, navigation systems and other electronic hardware. Those who do feel the need for a slightly more entertaining ride will be happy to know that Ford makes its rear-seat DVD entertainment center and satellite radio available on E-Series vans.

Safety and the E-Series Vans

For several years, Ford could claim to have the safest wheelchair van on the market. That came to a surprising halt last year when they received a poor ranking in insurance industry rollover testing. The vans come with anti-lock brakes, stability control, air bags and other safety features. They continue to do very well in crash tests. One can only assume that the E-Series handicap vans will rebound from last year’s surprising rollover deficiency and will emerge as an ultra-safe heavy duty work van in 2010.

Conclusion

If you run a commercial wheelchair transport business and you need a strong wheelchair van that will be on the job day after day without fail, look at an E-Series option. If you’re looking for a family vehicle, an everyday driver or a wheelchair van, explore alternatives. The E-Series just won’t give you what you really want.

to top