The Ford Econoline has carried cargo and families alike for more than 40 years, and it has led the segment for longer than the past two decades. But the rise of the minivan in the 1980s put consumer full-size van sales on the decline, and the still-prominent SUV craze has further eroded sales. Hence, Ford's E-Series, much like the Chevrolet Express GMC Savana twins, has received limited funding for further development, and therefore looks and drives much like it has for the better part of the past decade. While full-size vans remain the standard bearer for airport limousines, service workers, boxless RV platforms, and conversion vans, they can also provide an extreme solution for personal needs, especially with the recent demise of the rear-drive Chevrolet Astro and GMC Safari leaving a vacuum in the narrow family tow van niche.
If you liked the styling of Ford trucks of the early 1990s, the 2005 E-Series will be comfortably familiar. Ford has made an attempt to keep the big van fresh with a new grille every few years, but the utilitarian mission of the E-Series precludes any flair. The design is as square as square can be, and the van hasn't kept up with styling trends in such areas as lighting and wheels. While production trim levels vary in appearance only by virtue of chrome bumpers or two-tone paint, many of these vans will either be used to take people to the surgeon's table in ambulance guise or end up in the operating room themselves, being chopped up into extravagantly decaled conversion vans.
The longest series of options found inside the Econoline's massive interior involves seating options: 7-, 8-, 11-, 12-, 14-, or 15-passenger versions are available to suit the particular needs of your small army. Regardless of how massive the interior feels with the rear benches removed, though, the Econoline's 256.5 cubic feet of cargo space is laughable compared to the 473 offered in the taller Dodge Sprinter cargo van. Other options offered as you move up among XL, XLT, and Chateau trim levels include power windows and locks, a CD player, adjustable captain's chairs, cloth seats, and even carpeting. Air conditioning is standard even on the base XL.
Ford recognizes the Econoline's commercial use by offering a number of no-charge features designed for workaday duty. EconoCargo uses thick foam padding to retain heat or cold more efficiently, giving the van an edge on the competition in the food-service community. Masterack and Quietflex rack and bin systems are aimed at tool-toting trades, with the former providing a set of steel drawers and shelves, and the latter using a composite material to create a less squeaky, more flexible system. Like the exterior, cabin styling is very Clinton-era, with smooth black dash plastics reminiscent of those in the previous-generation F-150 pickup.