Road Test : 2006 Ford E-Series Wheelchair Vans

road-test-2006FordE-SeriesWheelchair-van

If you’re looking for a full-sized option for your next wheelchair van, the 2006 Ford E-Series line is definitely a vehicle worthy of your consideration. For twenty five years, Ford has consistently produced some of the most reliable and functional full-sized wheelchair vans on the market.

The E-150, E-250 and E-350 are primarily designed for commercial use. These are the vans you see serving as airport shuttles, plumber’s vans, city haulers and in other capacities. They’re not your standard passenger vehicles. That means that they aren’t necessarily ideally suited as an everyday wheelchair vehicle for some people. When one’s needs line up with what the E-Series offers, however, they can be a great purchase.

Mobility Model Lineup

Ford produces the E-Series with three different trim levels.

The basic XL model comes with only the bare basics. Air conditioning, tilt steering, an AM/FM stereo and antilock brakes are standard.

The XLT is a nice upgrade from the XL. This trim package adds cruise control, a better stereo system, nice seats, carpeting and electric windows, doors and locks.

The Chateau package is an option for E-150 buyers. It’s as close to a traditional passenger vehicle as an E-Series gets. Much of the Chateau difference is cosmetic. Two-tone paint options, aluminum wheels, running boards and privacy glass are all part of the package.

Ford sells the E-Series with a number of specialty preparations. Those purchasing an E-150, E-250 or E-350 for use as an ambulance, crew van or shuttle bus, for instance, will find specially tailored option packages available. That isn’t the case for wheelchair vans, though. If you plan to use an E-Series as a mobility vehicle, you’ll need to start with the foundation of your choice and to rely on a conversion manufacturer to make the necessary modifications.

Limited Style and Appearance

Those who worship at the altar of style won’t take a second look at the 2006 E-Series accessible van. It’s nearly an identical twin of the 2005 edition, which was a twin of the 2004 model. The 2004 model looked suspiciously like the previous five or ten incarnations of the van, for that matter.

Basically, Ford produces a nearly identical full-sized wheelchair van every single year. They make a few exterior adjustments to save the vehicle from looking hopelessly outdated, but the basic construction hasn’t changed much since the early to mid 1990s.

That’s not a sign of Detroit laziness, though. It’s a recognition that things are working well. Ford has been intentionally slow to make major changes because so many businesses rely on the vehicle and appreciate the consistency in size, shape and design. They don’t to give customers who are comfortable with a certain conversion pattern to find that major changes will be necessary from year to year. That consistency is one reason the van sells so well.

The interior of the E-150, E-250 and E-350 are pragmatically designed. They lack extra features and ornamentation. Instead, Ford offers a number of packages designed to maximize the functional use of the vans’ spacious interiors. These include special bin set-ups, tool racks and other layouts.

Powertrain

E-Series vans are large and they require a beefy engine. Ford obliges that need with three different Triton gasoline engines and a Turbo-diesel option for the E-350. The gas engines are coupled with four-speed automatic transmissions and the Turbo-diesel receives a five-speed automatic treatment.

The gas engine line up consists of two different V8s (on of which boasts approximately thirty horsepower more than the other) and a big V10. The Turbo-diesel generates a seemingly modest 235 horsepower, but delivers an impressive 440 pound-feet of torque, making it ideal for heavy-duty applications.

Driving the 2006 Ford E-Series Van

There are two different ways to look the quality of the E-150, E-250 or E-350 mobility driving experience.

If you compare it to SUVs or minivans, you’ll think you’re experiencing a disaster. These vans don’t move quickly, they brake slowly and the steering is as loose as anything you’ll find in a beat-up old pickup truck. That’s pretty scary in a wheelchair or scooter.

If you compare the E-Series vans to other full-sized wheelchair vans, however, you’ll come away with a different impression. The Ford measures up well against its in-class competition. You’re not going to find that a Safari or Sprinter that is any better to drive.

Safety and Reliability

The E-Series scored extremely well in collision tests. The NHTSA gave it a five-star ranking, its very highest. The van comes standard with antilock brakes and airbags. Ford has added a stability control system for 2006, as well. It’s a safe and secure vehicle.

The 2006 Ford E-Series Wheelchair Van

You’ll find many E-Series vans converted to move wheelchairs and their occupants. Most of those are commercial vehicles, however. They belong to rehab and medical facilities. Personal-use E-Series wheelchair vans are less common.

That’s somewhat surprising, however. If you look at the options an E-150 provides to those in need of wheelchair vans, you’ll find that it’s an attractive option.

That’s primarily due to the space it offers and its overall muscle. That’s what allows the van to handle even the toughest heavy-duty lifts in both side and rear-entry configurations. Of course, those who prefer ramps for access can use them.

The conversion process usually involves the installation of an auto kneel system and a floor drop in addition to the ramp or lift. The van is amenable to other adaptations including seating adjustments and control adaptations.

Admittedly, minivans provide a better driving experience and offer more amenities. However, those who’d like to rely on a good lift, especially in a side-entry configuration, may want to consider converting an E-Series van for wheelchair use.

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