Review: 2005 Ford Econoline

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With the E-Series van, there isn't much to discuss in the way of safety features--except the lack thereof. ABS and dual front airbags are standard, but that's where the list ends. The Dodge Sprinter and the Chevy Express/GMC Savana twins offer stability control, and the GM vans even offer all-wheel drive. The protection offered by stability systems on large vehicles can make an important difference, especially with up to 15 lives at stake. We hope to see these measures implemented on future Ford vans. The National Highway Safety Traffic Safety Administration has awarded the E-150 five stars for its front driver and passenger side crash protection, and three stars for the rollover protection. (Both the Express and Savana also received five-star front ratings; rollover assessments were not performed on 2005 models.)

Every Econoline is rear-driven, and four different axle ratios are available. All gasoline engines are bolted to the same four-speed automatic, while the diesel powerplant gets a tougher five-speed auto. There are three different gasoline engines to choose from: a 4.6-liter/225-horse and 286 lb-ft V-8; a 5.4-liter/255-horse and 350 lb-ft V-8; and a burly 6.8-liter V-10 pushing out 305 horses and 420 lb-ft of torque.All these engines are found elsewhere in the Ford truck line, but each faces a power reduction when settling into an Econoline.

Same goes for the lone turbodiesel engine, a 6.0-liter V-8 that drops sharply in performance from the variant used in the Super Duty pickups, offering 235 and 440 lb-ft here, compared with 325 hp and a battleship-like 570 lb-ft in the trucks. With the proper final-drive ratios, both the V-10 and turbodiesel can tow up to 10,000 pounds.

Ford's Econoline van drives exactly as you would expect an outdated three-ton box to drive. Steering is loose, and the brakes are soft. Without so much as traction control, the E-Series isn't the best performer when rain or snow is present. And due its large, boxy proportions, ascertaining what's beside and behind an Econoline is more of a guessing game than a science. The larger engines provide adequate passing power, and these people-movers can keep up with highway traffic, especially when unladen. But if you don't absolutely need seating capacity for nine adults, or have a true commercial-grade use for the van, there's no good reason to burden yourself with driving such a large, unsophisticated vehicle, especially when prices quickly rise far north of $30,000.

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