2012 Ford E-Series Wagon Van - FROM $28,760
When it comes to all-out utility and passenger hauling, the 2012 Ford E-Series full-size van remains a decent choice among a decidedly small group of competitors.
What's New for 2012
For 2012, the Ford E-Series Wagon sees just a couple of minor changes, including a standard audio input jack and new alloy wheels.
There's no getting around it: the most efficient way to transport a lot of people and/or cargo is a very big box on wheels. That's no doubt why the Ford E-Series (or Econoline) has been a mainstay of the full-size van market for decades.
Compared to earlier versions, the 2012 Ford E-Series has seen little in the way of changes. It's still basically a large steel box with a pug nose, riding on a full frame chassis. Of course, advancements in performance, safety and features have been made, but the essential and effective blueprint remains.
That means it can transport up to 15 passengers or handle the move of a small apartment. The base engine for the E-Series is a 4.6-liter V8 that struggles with the van's heft, but the 5.4-liter V8 and 6.8-liter V10 are more than up to any task you can throw their way. What's missing, though, is a turbodiesel option, which would provide even greater grunt along with better fuel economy.
Compared to its chief rivals, the similarly designed Chevrolet Express and its GMC Savana corporate twin, the Ford E-Series has a few advantages such as a factory navigation system and Ford's commercial-oriented Crew Chief and Ford Work Solutions options. But if you can think outside the traditional box, there are other vans worth considering.
Ford's own Transit Connect is quite a bit smaller and doesn't have as much brute hauling ability, but it still offers a surprising amount of space and utility in a more fuel-efficient package that's also easier to drive. And then there's the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, whose tall architecture allows 6-footers to stand up inside and offers an even greater amount of space than the E-Series along with better fuel economy, thanks to its small turbodiesel engine. We suggest cross-shopping the competition, but the 2012 Ford E-Series Wagon remains a very popular choice for passenger van use.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The full-size 2012 Ford E-Series Wagon is offered in three basic configurations: eight-passenger E-150, 12-passenger E-350 Super Duty and 15-passenger E-350 Super Duty Extended. Each model is offered in basic XL or better-equipped XLT trim.
Standard equipment on the base XL includes 16-inch steel wheels, vinyl upholstery, front air-conditioning, a tilt steering wheel and a six-speaker AM/FM radio with an auxiliary audio jack. The uplevel XLT adds chrome bumpers, cloth upholstery, rear air-conditioning, cruise control, power accessories and a CD stereo.
The XLT is available with the Premium package, which includes alloy wheels, running boards, leather-trimmed quad captain's chairs, a power driver seat, keyless entry, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, privacy glass, Sync voice activation and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
Other available options include a sliding passenger-side door (as opposed to the standard swing-open dual doors), upgraded towing packages, telescoping side towing mirrors, Ford Work Solutions options for commercial use, different seating configurations, an in-dash six-CD changer, a navigation system and a rearview camera.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 E-Series Wagon has three engines to choose from. 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 E-Series passenger vans come standard with four-wheel antilock disc brakes and stability control. Side airbags are not available.
Interior Design and Special Features
Don't expect too much in the way of captivating design with the 2012 Ford E-Series. Function definitely takes a priority over form inside, with blocky, industrial shapes dominating the dash and hard plastics far outnumbering padded surfaces. Fortunately, controls are well placed and storage is plentiful. Opting for the captain's chairs provides better comfort, but legroom can be tight for second-row passengers.
The base 4.6-liter V8 seems ill-suited for such a utilitarian and brawny hauler as the 2012 Ford E-Series. It is just barely sufficient for motivating light loads, and acceleration is lethargic at best. Either of the more powerful engines will likely satisfy most drivers, but we still wish Ford offered a diesel option. 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. Passengers used to a carlike ride will probably find the E-Series a bit crude but forgivable, considering its considerable utility.