- Ultimate utility
- Nicer interior than before
- Standard V-8 power
- Handles like a box
- Seats designed for shuttles, not long trips
- Thirsty in all versions.
The 2008 Ford Econoline is built for a purpose: carrying heavy stuff and lots of people. Most readers will be better served with a minivan or a big crossover like the coming 2009 Ford Flex.
The 2008 Ford Econoline is a very specific vehicle for drivers with very specifics needs, and the low numeric rating given by TheCarConnection.com is in comparison to the spectrum of vehicles on the road. In its class, for its intended duties, the Econoline only has a couple of peers, and it's good at its intended use: hauling the absolute maximum amount of cargo and people allowed, short of a school bus or a tractor-trailer.
The Ford Econoline competes directly against the GMC Savana and Chevrolet Express. Both GM and Ford have invested in regular updates in these vehicles; since they're based on full-size and heavy-duty pickups, the chassis share much in common with each company's trucks. The Econoline gets running gear from the light-duty and heavy-duty F-Series trucks, with all the associated positives and negatives.
The engine lineup in the Econoline starts with a 4.6-liter V-8, while a 5.4-liter V-8 is an option. Four-wheel drive is available, and the Econoline can tow a substantial amount of weight behind it. Even in its lightest form, with the higher-output engine, the drivetrain's performance is more akin to moving a house than moving a vehicle. Ford's vans are large enough that they are not required to report fuel economy to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), but TheCarConnection.com's editors have observed no more than 12 mpg in some versions of the Econoline and in Ford trucks with similar powertrains and curb weights. The 6.8-liter V-10 option has the most kick in this class at 305 horsepower, and Ford also offers a diesel on some versions, which would be the most efficient option. Four- and five-speed automatic transmissions are offered, and in Ford's heavy-duty trucks, the gearboxes have felt reasonably smooth. The 2008 Ford Econoline can tow up to 10,000 pounds, and a Class IV towing hitch is available.
Ford promises steering and handling upgrades with this year's model. While the editors at TheCarConnection.com have not driven this year's edition, a recent drive in the previous Econoline showed its handling to be about what you'd expect for a van. There's no need to push these vehicles hard, and the ride and steering are tuned for safe transportation, nothing more.
In terms of safety, the Ford Econoline does not offer side impact airbags, and stability control is standard only on the E-350 Econoline, while anti-lock brakes are standard across the line. The NHTSA has issued statements on the rollover risk associated with the largest full-size vans, and Ford has agreed to make stability control standard equipment in the future. The Econoline earns a three-star rating for rollover protection.
The Econoline can be ordered with seating for 2 to 15 people. Bench seats are shuttle grade (airport, not space), and the Econoline's interior is fine, but not luxurious by any means--although a DVD entertainment system is offered.