Road Test : 2008 Ford E-Series Wheelchair Van


The 2008 Ford E-Series Wheelchair Van

Most E-Series vans end up in working environments not as wheelchair vans. Many are used by medical facilities and other businesses that frequently transport individuals in wheelchairs. However, it’s also possible to convert an E-Series van for use as a personal mobility vehicle such as the VMI Tuscany.

The E-150 is usually the model of choice, as it’s hard to imagine any individual user needing more space than it provides. The van can handle either a rear or side lift to facilitate access. One could use a wheelchair ramp, instead, if that’s their preference.

One can lower the floor of the E-150 to create additional interior vertical clearance. An auto kneel system can make entry to and exit from the van safe and more convenient. One can remove or rearrange the seats as necessary, may install special transfer seats, and can modify the control systems for easier use, when necessary.

Admittedly, few people will turn their backs on the numerous available minivans when searing for a conversion option. However, those who need to utilize heavy lifts may find that the Ford E-Series makes a good wheelchair van for their specific needs.

If you’re in the market for a state of the art, well-designed full-sized wheelchair van that will impress you with its embrace of new technology and wow you with its creativity, you aren’t going to want to come within three big dealers’ lots of the 2008 Ford E-Series vans.

If you’re searching for a traditional box that will withstand heaps of abuse and are more interested in raw functionality than smoothness and accoutrements, you can join the lines of van buyers who’ll be kicking E-Series tires at Ford dealerships.

The E-Series is back and it’s the same van you saw last year. And the year before. And even the year before that. Sure, there have been some minor adjustments, but the core remains unchanged. That may be an irritant for some buyers, but others will find it nothing short of comforting.

Ford E-Series Handicap Van Model Lineup

The E-Series is available as an E-150, E-250 and E-350 model. Those different models are indicative of the vehicles overall size. They’re all hefty full-sized, rear-wheel drive vans and the E-150 will meet most people’s needs. Some, however, will want a massive 15-passenger hauler like the E-350.

All of the E-Series handicap vans are offered in both XL and XLT trim levels. The E-150 is also available with a Chateau packaged aimed at those who may want to use it as a family truckster.

Calling the XL trim level Spartan would be a compliment. It’s a true entry-level vehicle. Aside from air conditioning and tilt steering, there is very little in the way of options. Even the stereo is a throwback AM/FM radio.

The XLT makes the mobility vehicles slightly more livable. It provides cruise controls, a better sound system, carpeting, power mirrors, power locks and power windows along with other upgrades.

The Chateau is transforms the rough and ready commercial van into something slightly more driveway friendly. Its collection of perks includes chrome bumpers, a two-tone paint job, privacy glass, running boards and better seating.

Ford does offer a nice assortment of individual options and also sells the E-Series wheelchair vans with prep packages designed for specific job functions. Unfortunately, for wheelchair users, there’s no mobility package. That leaves customization of the E-Series vans in the hands of the buyer and the conversion manufacturer of his or her choice.

Mobility Styling

It’s tempting to say that the E-150, E-250 and E-350 don’t have a style. They’re just plain ol’ vans. The design has remained consistent over the last fifteen years and Ford didn’t win any creative design rewards for the vehicle then. The E-Series is a rugged, long, wide box on wheels with a front end that looks borrowed from a pug-nosed pickup truck.

The interior is style-less, too. The seats aren’t the most comfortable in its class and the massive cabin is basically devoid of any creature comforts or decoration. The focus is placed squarely on functionality, a point that’s underlined by the fact that Ford sells and number of special storage bin arrangements, tool carriers and other interior options. The E-Series is all about being ready for the job. It’s not about turning heads.


If you buy the big E-350, you can choose from a massive gas-burning V10 engine or a V8 turbo diesel that provides enough torque to move a battleship. Both options come with a five-speed automatic transmission.

If you don’t go for the upgrade, or if you don’t purchase the E-350, you have two engine options. They’re both Triton V8s and they deliver 235 and 255 horsepower, respectively. These engines are teamed with Ford’s seemingly indestructible four-speed automatic transmission.

Driving the 2008 E-Series Vans

Let’s be honest. Before you even get behind the wheel of an E-Series van, you need to properly calibrate your expectations. You’re dealing with a full-sized van that’s built primarily for a commercial audience interested in tough-as-nails durability. These vans aren’t built to impress you with driving performance. They don’t hug highways, turn on a dime or shoot past the slow traffic in the right lane.

Instead, they start and run every day for a long, long time. The ride in a wheelchair or mobility scooter is bumpy and lilting. The brakes seem soft. They don’t accelerate quickly and the steering is reminiscent of what you might find in an old pick up truck.

Other full-sized wheelchair vans are providing a better driving experience. The Dodge Sprinter specifically comes to mind. However, none of the other vans in the class have Ford’s track record for durability.


It’s hard to feel unsafe when you’re surrounding by more heavy metal than you’ll find in a six-pack of Hondas. The E-150, E-250 and E-350 are big, heavy vans. They also do well in NHTSA crash testing and rollover checks. They feature standard antilock brakes, a stability control system and a full assortment of airbags. Additional options like rear and front parking sensors can increase the safety level even more.

The Bottom Line

It’s boring, plain and seemingly uninspired. It also sells like crazy year after year. The E-Series continues to post great numbers because it does what it’s supposed to do. It moves people and equipment from spot to spot without incident. It’s a solid van.

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