Expert Review: 2006 Ford E-Series Wheelchair Vans

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The E-Series traces its root back to the 1961 model year Econoline. That makes the 2006 edition the twenty-fifth anniversary line for Ford’s popular wheelchair van. Ford isn’t making a point of that tradition in its marketing, though. Instead, the company remains focused on producing a sturdy work-van that can handle almost any task one might assign to it.

Ford’s full-sized wheelchair vans will undoubtedly continue to dominate the market sector in 2006. Ford has retained the best aspects of its popular E-Series while making some nice improvements to the E-150, E-250 and E-350.

Notable Strengths

Fords continue to sell well because they combine maximum flexibility with good reliability. They’re solidly built wheelchair vans that meet the target audience’s needs.

Notable Weaknesses

The E-Series isn’t particularly attractive and doesn’t boast the best price in its field.

2006 Ford E-Series Overview

Ford has made a nice addition to the E-Series line this year by providing the vehicles with new roll stability control systems. Other cosmetic improvements and small adjustments demonstrate the automaker’s commitment to keeping their venerable van line up to date.

If you’re looking for a high-performance every day driver that will impress the neighbor’s with its cutting edge styling, you don’t want an E-Series van. If you’re looking for a rock solid van that will do its job day after day, it may be an ideal choice.

Trim Levels and Options

E-Series wheelchair vans are available in three trim levels. The XL comes standard with air conditioning, antilock brakes, an AM/FM stereo, front bucket seats and tilt steering. The XLT adds chrome bumpers, stylized headlights, an improved stereo system, carpeting, cloth seats, power accessories and cruise control. The Chateau package provides a two-tone paint job, aluminum wheels, improved seating, privacy glass, keyless entry and running boards.

Ford also offers a number of special packages based on the intended use of the van. There’s a shuttle bus package, ambulance prep package, crew van packages, and special rack and bin systems for storage. The E-Series vans can be converted for wheelchair van use, though Ford doesn’t offer a standard package for that application.

E-Series vans come in both regular and extended lengths. Multiple seating and door configurations are available. Other options are readily available, as well. One can outfit an E-Series van in any number of ways to produce a vehicle capable of handling its planned wheelchair accessible role.

Style and Appearance

The E-150, E-250 and E-350 aren’t particularly attractive. That’s true even of the cosmetically improved Chateau trim level. E-Series wheelchair vans are large, boxy and designed with work in mind instead of style. They’re a no-frills vehicle and it seems as if every bolt is dedicated to function.

The interior follows that same general strategy. It’s a simple arrangement devoid of ornamentation. Instead, the emphasis is on utility. That’s clear when you see the number of storage systems available for the E-Series. Ford offers special packages for tool storage, food service, medical supply applications and other commercial needs.

Powertrain

The 2006 E-Series handicap van has four different engine options. Three are Triton models. Two of those are V8s and one is an impressive V10 that provides maximum power. There’s also a 6.0-liter Turbo-diesel option that generates 235 horsepower and an eye-popping 440 pound-feet of torque. The gas engines are matched with a Ford four-speed automatic transmission. The 32-valve diesel comes standard with a five-speed automatic.

Driving the 2006 E-Series Wheelchair Van

If you’re looking for sports car handling, you’ll need to ask the dealer to see a Mustang. Ford isn’t trying to wow people with the driving experience of its E-Series vehicles. These are workmanlike vehicles that get the job done, and that isn’t always as comfortable or as pretty as one might like.

The E-Series is sufficiently powered, but it doesn’t accelerate well. Braking is a little soft due to its sheer size and the steering isn’t particularly responsive. The E-150, E-250 and E-350 produce a somewhat bouncy ride.

These limitations aren’t a reason to choose another full-sized handicap van, however. They’re an unavoidable limitation of the class. Compared to other full-sized options, the E-Series performs very well.

The 2006 E-Series Wheelchair Van

The 2006 Ford full-sized vans aren’t frequently used as personal mobility vehicles. They are, however, regularly used by care and medical facilities for wheelchair transportation. When individuals do opt to convert E-Series vans for wheelchair van use, they generally work with an E-150 option.

The vehicle can be set for use with either lifts or ramps. The ability to use heavy-duty ramps on either the rear of the vehicle or as part of a side-entry arrangement is one of the more attractive aspects of the conversion.

Other modifications may include the installation of an auto-kneel system and lowering the floor. The Ford E-Series wheelchair van is receptive to most other popular adaptations, including the installation of specialized control and seating options.

The E-150 can make a credible personal wheelchair van option for someone who needs the additional size to maximize accessibility. That advantage may be counterbalanced by the price of the vehicle and its limitations in terms of drive comfort, however.

Safety

The 2006 E-Series does well in terms of safety. Antilock brakes and airbags are standard and the addition of the Roll Stability Control system decreases the likelihood of rollover and helps avoid spinouts and other problems. The NHTSA gave the vans a five-star crash testing rating (its highest) and the vehicles sheer size and toughness provides drivers and occupants with a strong (and well-deserved) sense of security.

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