2012 Ford E-Series Van - FROM $26,630
Though it's based on an aging platform, the 2012 Ford E-Series Cargo van remains a decent choice for heavy-duty hauling.
What's New for 2012
For 2012, the Ford E-Series Cargo sees just a couple of minor changes, including a newly standard audio input jack and available alloy wheels.
There's no getting around it. The most efficient way to transport a lot of cargo is a very big box on wheels. That's no doubt why the Ford E-Series (or Econoline) has been a mainstay in the full-size van market for decades.
The 2012 Ford E-Series' engine lineup consists of a 4.6-liter V8, a 5.4-liter V8 and a 6.8-liter V10. The base V8 struggles with the van's heft, but the 5.4 and 6.8 mills should be more than enough for most any task. Although its chief competitors -- the Chevrolet Express and its GMC Savana corporate twin -- offer the even greater hauling ability and better fuel economy of a turbodiesel engine, they don't offer some of the Ford's commercial-oriented tracking features such as Crew Chief and Work Solutions.
If you can think outside the traditional box, however, there are other vans worth considering. Nissan's new NV has similar capabilities as the E-Series, yet also offers a tall roof option. And then there's the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, which also offers a tall roof option along with better fuel economy, thanks to its small turbodiesel engine. We suggest cross-shopping the competition, but the 2012 Ford E-Series Cargo van remains a decent choice for heavy-duty hauling.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The full-size 2012 Ford E-Series Cargo commercial van is offered in three variants. Shoppers with lighter-capacity needs can start with the E-150 model, while those with more demanding requirements should focus on the E-250 and E-350 Super Duty models. These heavier-duty vehicles come in two different lengths -- 212 inches for the regular version and 232 inches for the Extended model.
Standard Ford cargo vans are as basic as they get, with 16-inch steel wheels, a limited-slip differential, vinyl front bucket seats, vinyl front floor coverings, air-conditioning, a tilt steering wheel, manual telescoping mirrors and an AM/FM radio (with an auxiliary audio jack). Functional extras include a second-row bench seat, upgraded towing packages and performance axle ratios for increased towing capacity. Those desiring more creature comforts and style can spring for alloy wheels, interior insulation, cloth upholstery, captain's chairs, cruise control, keyless entry, power accessories, a navigation system, Ford's Sync voice activation system, user-defined upfitter switches, a rearview camera, satellite radio and a six-speaker CD stereo.
For the business on wheels that demands additional customization, Ford offers several special packages that equip the E-Series with a variety of racks, bins and drawers, as well as the optional Crew Chief and Ford Work Solutions. Crew Chief keeps tabs on vans in its fleet, tracking location, speed, idle time and maintenance, while Work Solutions turns the E-Series into an office on wheels, with a built-in computer, mobile Internet, remote file access and even on-site tool inventory.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 E-Series Cargo van has three engines from which to choose. Standard on the E-150 is a 4.6-liter V8 that produces 225 horsepower and 286 pound-feet of torque. Optional on the E-150 and standard on all E-350 models is a 5.4-liter V8 that makes 255 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are paired with a four-speed automatic transmission. E-350 buyers can upgrade to a 6.8-liter V10 that churns out 305 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic comes with the V10. Properly equipped, an E-350 can tow up to 10,000 pounds.
Fuel estimates vary depending on axle ratios. The 4.6-liter V8 turns in an EPA-estimated 13 mpg city/17 mpg highway and 15 mpg in combined driving. The 5.4-liter engine is rated at 12/16/13 mpg for the E-150 and 11/15/13 mpg for the E-350. The 6.8-liter V10 is estimated at 10/14/12 mpg.
All 2012 Ford E-Series Cargo vans come standard with four-wheel antilock disc brakes and stability control. Side or side curtain airbags are not available.
Interior Design and Special Features
Don't expect too much in the way of captivating design with the 2012 E-Series Cargo. Function definitely takes a priority over form inside, with blocky, industrial shapes dominating the dash and hard plastics far outnumbering padded surfaces. These vans practically define the term "stripped" in base form, but they can be made a bit more civilized with the addition of an optional second-row bench, front captain's chairs, an insulation package, side or rear window glass and/or a sliding side cargo door.
Unlike in the Sprinter, there is no optional driver-side sliding door, nor are there different roof heights. Standard-length vans have a maximum cargo capacity of 237 cubic feet, while extended-length vans check in with a voluminous 275 cubic feet of space.
The base 4.6-liter V8 seems ill-suited for such a utilitarian and brawny hauler as the 2012 Ford E-Series. We find it just barely sufficient for motivating light loads, and acceleration is lethargic at best. Either of the more powerful engines will likely satisfy most drivers. The big van drives just about how you'd expect. The turning circle is enormous and any change in direction is accompanied by a sizable amount of body roll. Those used to a carlike ride will probably find the 2012 Ford E-Series Cargo a bit crude but forgivable, given its considerable utility.