Expert Review: Solid & Reliable 2010 Ford E-Series Wheelchair Vans

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One doesn’t want to put much stock in rumors. However, a certain rumor that was circulating about the 2010 Ford E-Series wheelchair vans tells us a great deal about the vehicle. According to reports (that turned out to be untrue), Ford was considering selling their full-sized vans only as commercial and fleet vehicles for 2010.

The fact that this rumor seemed reasonable enough to be considered speaks volumes about the vans. The E-150, E-250 and E-350 are more so work vans than wheelchair vans. They’re not really aimed at individual consumers. That’s why it wasn’t particularly hard to imagine Ford giving up on selling them as personal passenger vehicles. That’s really not their core purpose.

As it turns out, Ford is still making their venerable and exceedingly popular full-sized wheelchair van available to the public at large. And why not? They dominate the handicap van marketplace and have for thirty consecutive years–even though they’re offering a vehicle that really doesn’t appeal to most individual, non-commercial buyers.

Overall Assessment

Another year, another E-Series. Ford continues to churn out its ever-popular E-Series wheelchair van in 2010. Consistent with their forty-plus year strategy, they’ve made only a handful of updates and adjustments to keep the vehicle fresh enough to maintain its appeal.

Cutting edge design isn’t at the heart of the E-Series’ success, however. Ford has consistently maintained its market share by producing a nearly indestructible workhorse that’s ready to go to work day after day. That commitment to utility has never wavered and it’s readily apparent in this year’s Econoline collection.

E-Series wheelchair vans are an ideal choice for anyone who needs an ultra-reliable, rock-solid working van and who isn’t overwhelmingly concerned about driving a fuel-efficient, performance vehicle. If your van needs are based on utility and ruggedness, you may find yourself becoming part of the long, long list of happy E-Series owners.

Notable Strengths

It’s hard to beat the E-Series’ reputation for durability. These are hardcore working vans. They may not be elegant examples of the latest design trends, but they get the job done over and over again.

Ford’s full-sized vans are incredibly attractive to up-fitters. Ford’s commitment to maintaining consistent interior dimensions and construction means that those who plan to convert the van for specific uses will love how receptive it is to modification. That’s one aspect of the E-Series that regularly piques the interest of those in need of a wheelchair van.

Notable Weaknesses

The E-Series handicap vans do not offer a high-end driving experience. Although the drive quality has improved over the last few years, a ride in an Econoline is still a bumpy, bouncy and unimpressive affair.

These big Ford’s use much more gas than the competition. While Dodge is producing a full-sized van that manages minivan fuel economy, Ford’s big boys are still burning gasoline at an alarming rate. If you have a feeling that the days of $100 per barrel oil may return, you’ll want to carefully consider the vans’ fuel efficiency before making a purchase.

2010 Ford E-Series Overview

The newest Ford E-Series handicap vans are sporting a new and improved instrument panel, doors that open wider, and new optional electronic gadgets. The exterior remains virtually unchanged.

Ford has been producing a consistent vehicle for over forty years. That hasn’t changed in the 2010 model year. This is an E-Series van and it looks like one. If you’re worried about a stale or dated appearance, you’re probably not part of Ford’s target audience. They maintain dominance in the full-sized wheelchair van market based on reliability and durability, not on good looks or creativity.

Trim Levels and Options

The E-Series consists of multiple versions of the E-150 and E-350. When it’s all said and done, there are six variations. The E-150 is available in and XL and XLT trim, as are the E-350 and the E-350 Super Duty (E-350 SD). All six are rear-wheel drive vans that seat between eight and fifteen passengers and that boast cargo space ranging from 237 and 275 cubic feet.

The XL trim level provides the basics: Sixteen-inch steel wheels, live axle rear suspension, AM/FM stereo system with six speakers, and tilt steering are part of the limited feature package. This stripped down trim package won’t appeal to those who plan to use an E-Series van for daily personal use, but it may be enough for many work vehicles.

The XLT trim makes the handicap vans slightly more comfortable. Cruise control, power windows, power locks, power doors, an improved sound system and tilt steering are some of the features associated with the package.

The E-Series has always offered a number of a la carte options and that tradition is alive and well for 2010. Many are new electronic additions designed to belatedly bring the van into the 21st century. These include back up cameras, electronic message centers, satellite radio and built-in, unassigned flip switches for upfitters are all available. So is a rear-seat DVD entertainment center, parking sensors and improved towing packages.

Style and Appearance

From the outside, nothing has really changed. The new E-Series wheelchair van is indistinguishable from last year’s vans. The E-150 and E-350 vans aren’t breaking any new ground. They maintain the boxy standard van look that’s been a Ford tradition since the mid 1990s.

The interior has taken a step forward. While the emphasis is still on space and function instead of appearance, the new instrument panel and many of the new options have given the E-Series a slightly more up-to-date appearance.

The interior offers a great deal of space and easily reconfigured seating. Ford makes converting the interior for specific job uses easier by providing option packages that include special tool racks, bin storage systems and other features.

Powertrain

The E-150 XL comes with a 4.6-liter V6 and a four-speed automatic transmission. The SOHC engine generates 225 horsepower. E-150 buyers may opt for the 255 horsepower, Flex Fuel V8. The 5.4-liter engine is coupled with the same four-speed and produces 255 horsepower.

The Flex Fuel V8 is standard on the E-350. The bigger member of the E-Series family can also support a 6.8-liter V10 that delivers 305 horsepower and is matched with a five-speed automatic transmission.

Driving the 2010 Ford E-Series Wheelchair Van

The story of the E-Series is a tale of incremental change that occurs in fits and starts. It seems as though the driving experience provided by the vans creeps forward slowly in small spurts. Last year’s change to a new chassis helped a bit. This year, there’s no real improvement.

Overall, the E-Series simply isn’t a good driver. The ride is bouncy, the steering is loose, the braking seems weak and acceleration is minimal. If you’re concerned about driving performance more than you are with durability, the E-Series isn’t your best choice.

The 2010 Ford E-Series Wheelchair Van

E-Series vans are frequently converted for use as wheelchair vehicles. That’s due both to their ample size and the fact that they are designed with up-fitting and modification in mind. Most converted E-Series vans find their way into commercial settings–hospitals, care facilities and other businesses or institutions that frequently transport wheelchair users often rely upon the traditional full-sized vans. However, some individual drivers will convert the Fords into personal use wheelchair vans.

Those conversions usually involve the smaller and less expensive E-150. Buyers are attracted to the fact that, unlike minivan alternatives, the full-sized E-Series vans can make use of wheelchair lifts at either the rear- or side-entry points. Although ramps can be used, lifts prevail. They’re usually combined with an auto kneel system and a floor drop to improve overall access. Sliding doors are a key component to side-entry modifications. Interior adjustments including seating changes, chair restraint systems and control adaptations are also common.

An E-150 can make a highly accessible wheelchair van due to its large size. However, most disabled drivers will find that convenience comes at too high a cost. Minivan options provide a much better driving experience, better fuel efficiency, superior style and a lower price tag.

Safety

Standard safety gear includes electronic stability control, traction control, dual front airbags and anti-lock brakes. Other options include backup cameras and passenger airbag switches. This full-size wheelchair van from Ford did very well in crash tests once again. However, the E-Series van did have a blemish on its record this year–the NHTSA gave the vehicles a poor rating for rollover resistance.

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