Ford revealed its 2009 E-Series full-size van alongside its newest commercial vehicle offering — the direct-from-Europe Ford Transit Connect compact van. “The E-Series features an all-new driver cockpit focused on usability and the comfort of the operator,” said Rob Stevens, chief engineer for commercial vehicles, speaking at a news conference at the National Truck Equipment Assn. Work Truck Show.

Stevens said E-Series improvements include a redesigned instrument panel and console, door trim panels with more storage, built-in auxiliary switches users can customize, wider-opening rear doors, more comfortable seats, and a “first in class” factory-installed navigation system. In addition, a new message center features standard vehicle maintenance information, as well as miles-to-empty and fuel economy numbers. The message center is standard on vans equipped with the 6.0L Power Stroke V8 turbodiesel engine and includes an engine-hour meter that keeps a running total of engine use, even during idling.

Other key enhancements listed by Ford include:

  • New door system makes it easier to move the rear doors to their full-open position. A detent allows the doors to be held open at 95 deg. When needed, they can be opened to 172 deg. with a simple push.

  • More fueling options. E-Series full-size cargo vans equipped with 4.6L and 5.4L engines can run on E85, pure gasoline or any blend in between. All E-Series engines are designed to meet 2010 emissions standards.

  • Added safety equipment, including new optional, dash-mounted front-passenger air bag cutoff switch on vans and cutaways; standard AdvanceTrac with RSC (Roll Stability Control) on all wagons and recreational vans and optional on commercial vans with gasoline engines; and an optional factory-installed integrated trailer brake controller that allows direct operation of the trailer's electronic brakes by squeezing the control module on the instrument panel with more confidence than typical aftermarket systems.

E-Series vans can be ordered with any of the four Ford Work Solutions “smart” technology features:

  • An in-dash computer developed with Magneti Marelli and powered by Microsoft Windows for Automotive that provides full high-speed Internet access via the Sprint Mobile broadband network and navigation by Garmin. It's the first broadband-capable, in-dash computer in production and features available wireless accessories, including a mouse and printer. System allows customers to print invoices and access documents stored on their home or office computer networks right on the job site.

  • Tool Link, an RFID asset tracking system developed with DeWalt and ThingMagic. This enables customers to maintain a detailed real-time inventory of the tools or equipment stored in the vehicle.

  • Crew Chief, a fleet telematics and diagnostics system that enables small fleet owners to efficiently manage their vehicles, quickly dispatch workers to job sites, and keep detailed vehicle maintenance records.

  • Cable Lock, a security system developed in partnership with Master Lock to secure large tools or equipment in the cargo area of E-Series vans and wagons.

All four Ford Work Solutions technologies will also be available this fall on the new 2009 Ford F-150 XL, STX, XLT and FX4 trucks, as well as F-Series Super Duty XL, XLT and FX4 pickup trucks.

Stevens called the Transit Connect a compact van purpose-built for small business owners seeking a fuel-efficient alternative to full-size vans. It is designed, engineered and manufactured by Ford of Europe. According to Stevens, its standard 2.0L 4-cyl. engine and automatic transmission will deliver estimated fuel economy of 19 mpg city and 24 mpg highway. Cargo capacity is 143 cu. ft., and it can handle loads up to 6.5 ft. in length and 4.7 ft. in width.

The compact van boasts a flat load floor, dual sliding side cargo doors, and rear doors that open 180 deg., as well as front doors with large openings to make entering and exiting the vehicle easier for delivery drivers.

Transit Connect is built at a Ford light-commercial plant in Turkey and will be available in “select” North American markets in mid-2009. www.ford.com