You may have a grown up in a family that used a conversion van for daily transport like I did. If so, perhaps you share my strange appreciation for these haulers of human and commercial cargo. They rarely ever receive redesigns, just updates year after year that evolve them into something resembling modern transports.
The Ford E-Series dominates the van segment, holding court with 49.5% market share. The Blue Oval has given the old Econoline a new face for 2008 that draws heavily on the bold grille design of its Super Duty trucks, which isn't a bad connection to make when many of your customers work at construction sites or warehouses instead of cubicle-bedecked office spaces. All the sheetmetal ahead of the A-pillar is new, and that brick wall of a grille actually improves airflow to the engine, as well. Much of the van was kept the same, however, in deference to the large number of upfitters who take an E-Series and make something else out of it. If Ford were to come out with an all-new van, that entire industry would have to reinvest in tooling, equipment and machinery to work with the new design.
Check out additional impressions of the 2008 E-Series and Ford's official press release after the jump, and view the enw van from all angles in our high-resolution gallery.
Mechanically speaking the 2008 E-Series receives bigger brakes all around, an upgraded front and rear suspension, and tweaks to the steering to improve the van's on-center feel. As always, the range goes from the E-150 all the way up to E-450 models with a class-leading maximum gross vehicle weight rating of 14,500 lbs. There are newly designed seats inside for those employees who find themselves on the road constantly, as well as a new feature called E-guard that can "double-lock" the side and rear doors. By doing this, only the van's actual key can unlock them from the outside and not the key fob.
The standard engine on the E-Series is the 4.6L Triton V8, except for the E-450 that now comes from the factory with a larger 5.4L V8. E-350 customers can also opt for the 6.8L Triton V10 with 305 horsepower and 420 ft-lbs. of torque. In the most extreme case, an E-350 Super Duty or Super Duty Extended Wagon can tow a maximum of 10,000 lbs., as well.
2008 E-SERIES; BOLDEST, MOST CAPABLE FORD COMMERCIAL VAN EVER
- All-new, F-Series Super Duty-inspired front-end design makes a bold statement while improving engine capability with increased airflow.
- Revised steering system and front and rear suspensions improve driving dynamics, braking performance to help drivers navigate urban streets.
- Improvements also increase load carrying capability, including class-leading gross vehicle weight rating of 14,500 pounds.
- Passenger wagons feature all-new seats for commercial customers who take on the most grueling city driving conditions.
- All-new, segment-exclusive E-Guard Cargo Protection System™ is a double-lock design that adds cargo security straight from the factory.
- Ford-exclusive, AdvanceTrac® with RSC is standard on E-350 passenger wagons with the 5.4-liter V-8. Exclusive engine-only traction control system is now available on all other models.
Ford trucks are the trucks that America takes to work. In 2006, Ford posted a 40 percent share of the total commercial vehicle market for class 2 to class 7 trucks, up 1 whole percentage point from 2005. That means that nearly half of all of the commercial and fleet vehicles sold, from F-150 pickups to F-750 chassis cabs, wear the blue Ford oval.
"Ford is the undisputed commercial vehicle leader and growing," says Joe Castelli, director, Ford commercial truck marketing. "We own 40 percent of the commercial vehicle market and nearly 500,000 new commercial vehicles on the way this year alone."
Ford's E-Series line-up has topped its segment's sales charts for 28 straight years, accounting for more than half of all commercial vans and passenger wagons sold in 2006. The commercial van, wagon and cutaway market is strong, accounting for more than 350,000 total vehicle sales just last year. Ford E-Series commands a total market share of 49.5 percent while boasting a 62.8 percent share of the cutaway segment.
"The new 2008 E-Series is the boldest, most capable commercial van ever, building on 28 straight years as America's service vehicle of choice," says Castelli.
E-Series vehicles are on the job every day, delivering packages and people, hauling construction supplies to the job site and among many other duties. The E-Series has earned its reputation as the backbone of America's work force by consistently meeting customer needs, delivering capability, flexibility and dependability in an affordable vehicle.
"The E-Series lives up to the "Built Ford Tough" name," said Cristi Brown, E-Series marketing manager. "My customers consider their E-Series vans to be their largest "toolbox." It's what they work out of. It's an integral part of their business and directly affects how they make a living. They push their trucks to the limit on a daily basis. The improvements we've made for 2008 are in direct response to their ever-growing needs."
Purposeful, functional design improves capability
The 2008 E-Series now looks just as tough as it is. The new design, inspired by the 2008 Super Duty, features all new sheet metal from the A-pillars forward including hood, fenders, radiator support, grille and bumpers.
"We enlarged the front end of the E-series with a bigger, bolder grille to showcase its strength and reliability," says Pat Schiavone, Ford truck design director. "We wanted to carry the distinct "Built Ford Tough" look that our truck and sport utility vehicles resemble into these capable vans."
The larger grille isn't just a part of that bold statement, it also improves capability by increasing airflow to the powertrain. The grille sits on a sharp, horizontal line that defines the upper portion of the bumper and provides a base for the unique stacked, dual-beam headlamps. Base models come with a sharp, contrasting black bumper, grille and headlamp surrounds, while the high series feature an all-chrome treatment.
"For larger fleets the capability is the most important consideration," says Brown. "But for the smaller guys, their trucks are like rolling billboards. They advertise the business so it's very important for them to make a good impression when they pull onto the job site or into the driveway."
Up fitters, those who convert E-Series cutaways into motor homes, box vans, and a variety of other hard working vehicles, will be pleased to know the change in the 2008 E-Series attitude hasn't affected the vehicle's critical dimensions.
"Interestingly, one important thing that many of our customers want to hear about is what's not changing," said Rob Stevens, E-Series chief engineer. "The up fitters make up an important segment of our business and have designed their tooling to fit the dimensions of our vehicles. If we change our door openings, all of their tooling becomes outdated. To that point, door structures and floor structure measurements are carryover and seat attachments are in the exact same location."
All new brakes and suspension improvements add confidence and capability
The 2008 E-Series line-up rides on an improved chassis. A series of upgrades to the braking, suspension and steering systems have resulted in improvements in ride and handling, braking performance and load carrying capability.
A re-engineered front suspension utilizes an all-new geometry and larger sway bars to provide a better stance and firmly plant the front end to the road. New valve technology on the rear shock absorbers further enhances the E-Series ride and handling while upgrades to the steering system provide a better on center feel and reduced steering efforts, adding to the feeling of confidence.
An all-new braking system features larger front and rear rotors and calipers. A great swept area and new brake lining material help lower brake operating temperatures adding to pad and lining life and reducing maintenance costs.
The chassis and suspension improvements have also resulted in an increase in the maximum gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) from 14,050 pounds to a class-leading 14,500 pounds. Additionally, the maximum front gross axle weight rating (GAWR) is increased by about 10 percent, from 4,600 pounds to a class-leading 5,000 pounds.
"Customers are always looking for more capability," said Stevens. "They're asking for the increased capability and we're delivering it to them. That's why we bumped up the gross vehicle weight rating available as an option on the E-350 from 11,500 pounds to 12,500 pounds, to give our customers more capability at the lower end of the segment. We made the E-350 more capable so our customers won't have to jump into an E-450 to get the increased capability."
Ford is also answering customer demand by adding an additional E-350 SRW Cutaway model with an optional mid-ship fuel tank to allow for more usable rear GVWR. The E-450 now offers an optional 37-gallon fuel tank along with the standard 55-gallon tank.
"We are always looking for the opportunity to increase capability, durability and versatility in the E-Series lineup," said Brown. "That's why we offer new models to continue to meet customer's needs."
E-Series cargo vans deliver capability, flexibility and affordability
Ford Motor Company prides itself in knowing its customer and delivering vehicles to meet customer's needs. That philosophy is no more evident than in the world of the E-Series cargo van.
"E-Series buyers have largely moved commercial in the last couple of decades," said Brown. "Today, 95 percent of our sales are to commercial or fleet-end users, with about half of those being cargo vans. We've tailored our E-Series cargo vans to provide the kind of options these customers look for and deliver them affordably."
E-Series vans are available in E-150 regular length and E-250 and E-350 regular- and extended-length models.
The standard E-Series offers up to 236.5 cubic feet of rear cargo space, with up to 275.1 cubic feet in extended van versions. The standard side doors on the van are 60/40 swing-out. A sliding cargo door is a no-cost option.
The E-Series cargo area features a double-wall design - a full-size van exclusive - which leaves the exterior sheet metal less vulnerable to damage from shifting cargo.
Ford Motor Company offers three no-charge ship-through cargo van up-fit packages aimed directly at the commercial market. These convenient options are not only designed to save money, but save time as well by allowing the van to be delivered to the dealer fully equipped and ready to go.
"Commercial customers who buy one or two units at a time from the dealership often wait until their old truck is out of service and need a new truck right now," Brown said. "They can't afford to wait an extra two or three days for bins or racks to be installed. They need something they can drive off of the lot today."
The EconoCargo™ System helps protect cargo with durable panels of high-density polyethylene. This system has a distinct advantage over similar systems sold by the competition: Ford's is insulated, so the interior of the E-Series with EconoCargo™ retains heat and cold more efficiently, which can provide many more vocational opportunities for food service markets, produce farms and medical suppliers.
The Masterack™ work-bin rack system is ideal for customers who must secure tools and parts. It includes fully installed steel shelving, drawers and cabinets. A full-width safety partition provides work-area access from the passenger compartment.
The QuietFlex™ Racks and Bins System, similar to the traditional Racks and Bins offering, is made of composite material and provides a quieter, more flexible storage solution. The QuietFlex™ package includes a lockable composite bulkhead that offers the driver 4 inches of additional seat recline.
Cargo van customers can also opt for a new dome light kit available on all commercial vans, an all-new feature for the 2008 model year.
E-Guard lets you feel secure when your gear is locked and loaded
When your livelihood is loaded inside, you want to know it's protected. Ford's E-Guard Cargo Protection System™, a segment exclusive, factory-installed, double locking system, provides an extra level of security and confidence for van owners.
E-Guard is installed on side and rear cargo doors and is available with either power or manual door locks. The double lock design provides an extra layer of protection, as the E-Guard double lock can only be unlocked from outside the vehicle using the key.
For example, on vehicles with power lock systems, the key fob or interior switch can be used to lock all doors and double-lock the side and rear cargo doors. While the key fob will unlock the front doors, the cargo doors can only be unlocked with the key.
All models feature a new, steel-reinforced license plate bucket. The E-Guard system installs in the steel bucket for added security, while the lock itself has been re-enforced with a steel flange.
"The steel reinforced license-plate bucket is nearly impossible to break through," said Brown. "And the flange on the lock eliminates the ability to use a screw driver or other tool to wedge out the lock. Our commercial customers can now feel as secure as the items inside their vehicle."
Ford's SecuriLock™ Passive Anti-Theft system is now available on all models. To protect against theft, Fusion is equipped with Ford's SecuriLock ™ passive anti-theft system. The system is designed to help prevent the engine from being started unless a coded key programmed to the vehicle is used. There are 72 million billion possible key code combinations.
Standard AdvanceTrac with RSC and available traction control among safety items
The Ford E-Series is the only vehicle in its segment to offer standard Advance Trac with Roll Stability Control (RSC) on all E-350 wagons with the 5.4-liter V-8.
This industry leading technology is an active stability enhancement system that significantly builds upon existing electronic stability control systems in the market.
Conventional stability control systems are designed to help a driver maintain control and avoid fishtailing or spinning out. While some systems can help reduce the potential for rollover, these conventional systems do not directly measure a vehicle's roll motion or the side-to-side tilting that can occur during an accident-avoidance maneuver. Ford's Roll Stability Control rises to the next level by responding to the potential of a rollover, in addition to helping a driver avoid fishtailing or spinning out. Ford's system marries sophisticated electronics and advanced software to mitigate the chances of a rollover during an extreme maneuver.
The 2008 E-Series utilizes an engine only traction control (EOTC), available on all models that are not equipped with the AdvanceTrac with RSC system. The EOTC system uses the anti-lock braking system and engine torque to monitor wheel speed and vehicle speed to detect wheel spin and slip. When wheel spin or slip is detected, the electronic throttle control system reduces engine torque to the optimal level to help retain traction. With the exception of a warning light that reminds customers that conditions have become slippery, the system works in a near seamless manor.
"Engine-only traction control offers several benefits over brake-based systems," said Stevens. "Brake-based systems often cause vehicle shudder and unexpected noise from the wheels. Brake-based systems will also reduce brake pad life as they essentially replicate power-braking maneuvers when used."
All single rear-wheel models come standard with a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS). The system mounts a sensor in each wheel that monitors tire pressure. When the system senses that a tire is low on pressure, it sends a signal to the computer that lights a warning lamp on the dash.
Passenger vans feature all-new seats, and all rear center position occupants now have seat-integrated three-point safety restraints.
A driver and front passenger air bag provides protection in frontal collision while side-door intrusion beams provide additional protection in certain side collisions.
Standard four-wheel anti-lock brake system (ABS) helps provide steering control in hard-braking situations.
Power when you need it designed to meet your needs
The E-Series is the only vehicle in its segment to offer a standard V-8. The E-150 and E-250 cargo vans come with a 4.6-liter TRITON V-8 engine and, new for the 2008 model year, the E-450 now comes standard with a 5.4-liter V-8.
"We're offering a standard 5.4-liter V-8 to give our customers more options," said Brown.
The E-350 can opt for the 6.8-liter TRITON V-10 delivering segment-leading 305 horsepower and 420 ft.-lb. of torque.
Transmission choices include a 4-speed automatic with overdrive mated to the 4.6-liter and 5.4-liter engines in vans and wagons. On cutaways, the 5.4L and 6.8L engines are mated to the 5-speed TorqShift automatic transmission with tow/haul mode.
When properly equipped, the E-150 Van can tow up to 7,500 pounds, the E-150 Wagon up to 7,100 pounds, and the E-350 Super Duty and Super Duty Extended Wagon up to 10,000 pounds each. An available Class II/III/IV Trailer Tow Package includes an electric brake controller with tap-in capability, a seven-pin trailer wiring harness with bumper bracket, and a relay system for backup and running lights.
A Power Take-Off Provision is optional on 6.8L cutaways and strip chassis with 158- and 176-in. wheelbases. It provides an access panel in the transmission housing to connect a PTO system.
E-Series provides a versatile, capable lineup to meet all needs
E-Series vans, passenger wagons and cutaways are available in a variety of models, wheelbases and interior configurations to meet the demands of a wide selection of users.
E-Series vans come in E-150 regular-length and E-250 and E-350 regular- and extended- length with maximum payload ratings from 3,170 to 4,090 pounds. All E-Series vans, including the E-150, are rated as heavy-duty trucks with gross vehicle weights of over 8,500 pounds. The E-150 made the move to the HD class last year and increased the maximum payload by 70 percent.
E-Series passenger wagons, America's most trustworthy, versatile wagon comes in E-150 regular- and E-350 regular- and extended-length models offering seating options for 7, 8, 12 or 15 passengers plus a new 11-passenger optional seating configuration for the extended-length XL and XLT. Payloads range from 2,525 to 2,995 pounds. An XLT Premium package replaces the Chateau for 2007 and features first and second row leather captain's chairs, power driver seat, remote keyless entry, leather-wrapped steering wheel, privacy glass, special two-tone exterior paint, forged aluminum wheels, overhead console and running boards.
E-Series cutaways are available in E-250, E-350 and E-450 Super Duty and E-350 and E-450 stripped chassis with 138-, 158- and 176-inch wheelbases and three axle ratios (3.73, 4.10, 4.56) in both single rear wheel and dual rear wheel configurations. Gross vehicle weight ratings range from 8,600 to 14,500 pounds for cutaways and 9,000 to 14,500 pounds for stripped chassis.