The biggest players in the commercial van segment are part of GM and Ford teams. Everybody knows that the Ford E Series has always struggled to stay in front of its rivals and most of the time had succeeded.
The E Series is around since 1992 and since then, it received a lot of upgrades which helped it stay on top of the sales chart. However, Ford ’s E Series has its roots planted back in 1960 when it was known as the Econoline.
Ford ’s van was always considered a practical, utilitarian workhorse and every generation was stronger and more refined than the previous one.
The 2003 model received a few major upgrades and was available in a wide range of body configurations. The 2003 upgrades included new engines, a new transmission, standard rear disc brakes, four new exterior colors, standard battery saver, optional AM/FM/CD audio system and remote keyless entry on cutaway models.
The 2003 Ford E-Series gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) ranged from 6,700 lbs. to 19,000 lbs, depending on the engine.
As most vans of its type, the 2003 Ford E Series had a conventional design and won’t win you any beauty awards.
The vehicle had a pretty short bonnet that was dominated by a wide radiator grille. The grille was available with a shiny chromed treatment, while the badge was mounted directly on top of the bonnet. Talking about the bonnet, it had a pretty dull design, but it was slightly raked to improve the front road visibility.
The metallic bumper was part of the heavy duty class and had a solid build quality, in order to resist without breaking in case of light impacts.
The rest of the body was boxy, without any fancy lines to break up the monotony. However, Ford added some bold details around the front and rear wheel arches to give the vehicle a purposeful stance.
The 2003 E Series came with sliding side doors and rear hinged doors which offer easy access to the load area.
For a utilitarian van, the E Series has a pretty nice looking interior. The plastics and materials however aren’t something to rave about, but they are better than what you’d find at the GM’s vans.
Needless to say that you are treated with plenty of space and you also have a great road visibility thanks to the wide glass area that surrounds you.
Unfortunately, the seats are on the basic side of things, and are devoid if proper side bolstering. At least they had a wide range of adjustments which to help you find a decent driving position.
The instrument cluster is fitted with a set of big, easy to read gauges and has an intuitive layout. The engine cover has a pretty practical design too and features a set of storage places and cup holders. There is also a pretty big glove box and spacious door pockets fitted in both doors.
The steering wheel is more comfortable than the one from GM’s vans and offers a confident grab. There are also offered a few adjustments and some convenient controls.
Engines and performance
The 2003 generation kept most of the old engines. The standard Ford E 150 is equipped with a 4.6 liter SOHC V8 which replaces the old 4.2 liter V6. On the options list you’ll find a 5.4 liter SOHC V8 which delivers a maximum output of 255 hp. The 4.6 and 5.4 liter units are pretty smooth and the latter can tow maximum loads of up to 6800 pounds. These two entry level engines offer decent performances and are perfectly suited for moderate weights or passenger transport. You can also overtake small and slow hatchbacks, but definitely not a good companion to relieve your sporty fantasies at night. Though, the 4.6 and 5.4 liter units are pretty smooth and the latter can tow maximum loads of up to 6800 pounds.
If you want to tow heavier weights, Ford offers the 5.4 liter V8 unit which delivers a strong pulling power and plenty of grip.
Other optional engines include a 305-hp 6.8-liter SOHC V-10 and a new 235-hp 6.0-liter Power Stroke V-8.
The 2004 Ford E Series is offered with both 4 and five speed automatic transmissions, depending on the engine.
Ride and handling
Despite its gargantuan dimensions the Ford E Series is pretty easy to drive around town. However its tall stance it’s still translated into a considering body lean, but the body float is kept in check better than the one from the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana.
On the highway the vehicle’s road manners will improve even more, as the Ford E Series is perfectly able to hide its true heft and sizes making you feel like driving a smaller vehicle.
The middle pedal offers a decent bite and the capable all around disc brakes can bring this big van to halt in a matter of seconds.
The 2003 facelift wasn’t a major upgrade for the E Series, yet it was enough to keep the vehicle on top on the sales charts.
The cabin was pretty comfortable and came with a surprisingly nice design which is less rugged than expected. The build quality and materials are also better than what you’d find at the Chevrolet Express and space is far from being a problem.
The Ford E Series comes with a very wide choice of engines too and all of them are capable to get the job done without too much fuss.