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CarGurus Expert ReviewThe Good
A roomy cabin with tons of cargo space, a reputation for durability and dependability, plenty of cargo configurations and load ratings, and a potent yet efficient 5.4-liter V8 all contribute to the 2011 Ford E-Series Van’s continued popularity.The Bad
Brutish handling and ride characteristics, lackluster seats, tepid gas mileage with its 4.6-liter V8, and the deletion of the well-wrought turbodiesel V8 may detract from the full-size 2011 E-Series Van's cargo/commercial appeal.
The CarGurus View
As the best-selling full-size cargo van in the U.S., the 2011 Ford E-Series Van has a proven record of can-do reliability. This no-frills workhorse won’t win any beauty contests, but it’ll darn sure keep the profits rolling in. A plethora of available comfort, convenience, and appearance features and nearly unlimited job-friendly and recreational configurations don’t hurt its “get-‘er-done” reputation, either.
At a Glance
It’s not glamorous, nor is it particularly fun to drive, and it sure looks dated, but the 2011 Ford E-Series Van can handle just about any task imaginable. This two-passenger, three-door full-size work van is available in three trims, the half-ton E-150, three-quarter-ton E-250, and one-ton E-350 Super Duty, often called the Super Duty. At the ripe old age of 50 this year, the E-Series (ex-Econoline) vans have toted a lot of cargo to a lot of places, to the extent that it’s been the largest-selling van in the U.S. for some 31 years running. Numerous upgrades in performance, creature comfort, and techno-gadgetry over the decades have kept this venerable van current, though its fixed roof height and lack of all-wheel drive (AWD) limit its overall utility in certain situations. Curiously, Ford has decided to drop the potent and necessarily fuel-efficient V8 turbodiesel engine for this year, leaving the less torque-endowed and significantly more gluttonous V10 gasoline engine as the E-Series’ only heavy-hauling powerplant.
Make no mistake, however; the 2011 E-Series Van still pulls its weight – and more. Trailering capacity in the beefy E-350 Super Duty trim level is maxed out at 10,000 pounds, with the V10 and the proper towing equipment, while payload capacity tops out at a whopping 4,050 pounds. Each of the E-Series trims sports a standard 138-inch wheelbase and 216.7-inch overall length. Extended (Ext) versions of all three trims, however, stretch to 236 inches in overall length with the same wheelbase and can hold some 275.1 cubic feet of cargo. Standard-length vans limit cargo capacity to 236.5 cubic feet, but are a tad easier to maneuver around town. A 3.73 axle ratio, meanwhile, is standard on all three trims, but a towing-oriented 4.1 axle ratio can be ordered for more serious hauling intentions. Finally, notwithstanding its reputation as a work-oriented heavy lifter, the E-Series Van remains an owner-malleable, woods-loving, campground-savvy, fishing-pole-toting recreational vehicle, too.
The Jimmy Savana and Chevy’s Express vans continue to challenge the E-Series in the full-size van (and wagon) market, with the more recent Mercedes-Benz (ex-Dodge) Sprinter making a serious move on the outside. Both GM products are fully as competent as Ford’s capable hauler, with wider door configuration selections, all-wheel-drive (AWD) options, and standard front side-mounted airbags, though neither has the performance oomph to match the E-Series’ available V10 engine. The Sprinter, meantime, offers an altitudinous roofline, more-efficient engines, and headier handling, but costs nearly $12,000 more than the base E-Series and can’t touch Ford’s workhorse in towing capacity. If there’s one area in which the E-Series shines, however, it’s in available, over-the-top technological advantages. In-dash computers, Ford’s Work Solutions tracking and security technology, and even entertainment, communications, and navigation gizmos far outstrip most of the competition.
Though long in the tooth, the 2011 E-Series still gets a nod or two for its looks, especially since a 2008 re-work of its grille and front fascia. It can’t be stressed enough, however, that these types of vehicles are designed for work, not egos. All trims, though, are easily adaptable for recreational use, with pop-up roofs, opening side-panels, and nearly unlimited comfort and accommodation configurations. While the competition certainly makes it worth kicking a few tires, the E-Series isn’t the best-selling cargo van in the U.S. for nothing.
For 2011, three gasoline engines are available in the utility-oriented E-Series Van, each with a standard integrated auxiliary transmission cooling system. First off, there’s the 4.6-liter Flex Fuel (FFV) V8 engine that’s standard in the E-150 and E-250 trims. When mated with the standard 4-speed automatic transmission with overdrive, this minor potentate puts out 225 hp at 4,800 rpm and 286 lb-ft of torque at 3,500 rpm. All this is good to tow up to 6,500 pounds of trailer at an EPA-estimated 13/17 mpg burning regular gasoline. (Fuel efficiency numbers ordinarily drop when Flex-Fuel-designated engines burn E85 ethanol-based fuel.)
Next up is the 255-hp (at 4,500 rpm) 5.4-liter FFV V8 powerplant that’s standard in the E-350 Super Duty trim level and available with both the E-150 and E-250 trims. Again mated with the standard 4-speed automatic transmission, this midsize V8 throws down 350 lb-ft of torque at 2,500 rpm and can tow up to 7,500 pounds, again, with the proper equipment. Mileage, meantime, is estimated at 12/15.
Finally, a 6.8-liter V10 monster is available for E-350 Super Duty standard-length and Ext vans. This mill pounds out 305 hp at 4,250 rpm and 420 lb-ft of torque at 3,250 rpm when mated with its standard 5-speed TorqShift automatic transmission. Expect to tow up to 10,000 pounds of trailer with this beast, when properly equipped, while fuel numbers are, understandably, not available. One road test of the V10, however, claims an average of 11.6 mpg in combined city and highway driving.
Reviewers warn that the 4.6-liter V8 is useful only when light loads are anticipated. The 5.4-liter V8 is more what the average E-Series Van owner would probably need and appreciate, with the V10 suitable only for those with off-the-wall hauling needs and a hefty fuel allowance. The 4-speed automatic transmission, though not the most up-to-date system available, seems up to the job, according to reviewers, while the available 5-speed automatic, on the other hand, fits the huge V10 nicely. It is to be hoped that the deletion of the powerful and efficient turbodiesel V8 won’t hinder this worthy workhorse to any great extent.
Ride & Handling
The 2011 E-Series Van certainly is not plush or stately. However, no cargo van yet conceived is. With standard 16-inch steel wheels, a twin I-beam front independent construction, front and rear stabilizer bar, and solid live-axle rear suspension, Ford’s steady-as-she-goes cargo van won’t exactly devour bumps and ruts, but with no rear-passenger comfort to worry about, owners can at least look forward to its front end providing a competent if not endearing ride. Ride quality will, of course, tend to improve with a significant load on, according to virtually all reviewers.
Steering, of the hydraulic power-assisted variety, is ponderous at best in these leviathans, and body roll in corners may leave passengers grabbing for handholds, but all that is to be expected. Additionally, a massive turning radius, especially for the Ext versions, won’t endear this hefty van to mall patrons. As for driving in windy conditions, virtually all reviewers warn that these types of vehicles are particularly vulnerable to buffeting and can be downright bearish to control. Then, too, traction on wet roads can be iffy with no weight on the rear wheels. Braking, though adequate with standard four-wheel disc brakes, is, according to most reviews, not even in the same league as a minivan as far as stability and stopping power are concerned.
All in all, owners of this worthy workhorse are content to forego heady handling and a posh ride for good old-fashioned utility and hauling prowess. Owners of the E-Series Van's recreational variants, however, do have the added advantage of Ford’s AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control for a bit more confidence on the open road.
Cabin & Comfort
Bear in mind that the 2011 E-Series Van, no matter the trim level, is a dedicated work truck. Those vans destined for recreational purposes are special-order vehicles and can, of course, be configured to owner specifications.
In any case, all commercial trims are delivered with only the basic creature comforts, including vinyl upholstery, captain’s-chair front seats, a front storage console, tilt-wheel steering, and manually adjustable air conditioning. Standard audio features are limited to an AM/FM stereo system with two door-mounted speakers.
Options, however, do abound for this workaholic, including such cabin perks as cloth upholstery, a single-CD player with additional speakers, an in-dash message center, satellite radio, second-row bench seats for a total capacity of five passengers, high-capacity air conditioning, and a power-adjustable driver’s seat. Ford’s SYNC hands-free audio and media interface, as well as a DVD-based navigation system with integrated rear-view camera, are also available as standalone options, while available 16-inch forged aluminum wheels add to the E-Series’ exterior appeal.
Option packages further enhance this full-size van’s comfort and convenience goodies, with the most comprehensive being the Interior Upgrade packages. These popular packages add power windows, power door locks and power-adjustable mirrors, cruise control, a sliding side cargo door, floormats, rear-door windows, rear parking sensors, and upgraded cabin trim to the basic configuration, as well as integrating a number of the above standalone options.
More prosaic options available to the commercial aspects of the E-Series include Ford’s Work Solutions with various tracking and security enhancements, a variety of dashboard-mounted personal computer systems, some even including a wireless mouse and printer, and various bin and shelving configurations are also available. There are, too, Class II, III, or IV trailer towing packages with hitch, tow mirror, and integrated trailer brake control. Trailer wiring, by the way, is standard across the lineup.
Reviewers point out that the E-Series Van is truck-like and strictly utilitarian in its standard configuration. Controls are simple and straightforward, front passenger space is considerable, and entry and exit are, for the most part, hassle-free. Visibility is severely limited, according to reviewers, unless the optional rear windows are added, though even these aren’t as effective as the optional rear-view camera that gives drivers a more detailed view of what’s behind when backing up. Seats, meanwhile, are noted by reviewers to be barely adequate and not designed for long-distance comfort, and cabin ambiance is all plastic and all business.
Standard safety features with the 2011 E-Series Van include four-wheel disc antilock brakes (ABS) with electronic brakeforce distribution and traction and stability control. Standard front airbags can be controlled with an optional passenger deactivation switch, and a final item of safety equipment is the standard post-collision safety system. Optional safety equipment of note includes reverse sensors, a remote antitheft alarm system, daytime running lights, and a cargo protection system.
The E-Series is a sizeable commercial vehicle and, as such, is not rated by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
What Owners Think
Owners of the 2011 E-Series Van tend to purchase this workhorse for its utilitarian value and restrict their commentary accordingly. Ride and handling, as well as seating, for example, are described as truck-like, which is expected, but nonetheless can take its toll on longer trips. A minor but apparently annoying additional glitch is spotty reception with the standard AM/FM radio.
Passenger and cargo room, on the other hand, are considered laudable by virtually all owners, while mileage with the 5.4-liter V8 is described as better than expected in many cases. The number and variety of available options is mentioned favorably by owners, as is the E-Series’ reputation for no-nonsense utility and reliability.
by Eric Tallberg
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