Figured I'd throw in my .02c on vans. I have a 96 E350 with 96k miles - it is the 12 passenger variant, so it does not have an enormous overhang at the rear (but it is still long enough to put two fullsize dirtbikes in back, behind the forwardmost passenger seat).
I got it cheap ~3 years ago. I thought I got it cheap because of the nasty paint on the hood and front fender - it was in a front end sheetmetal bender collision at some point, and they did a lousy repair job, so the hood and fender need replaced/repainted. No biggie, right?
Wrong - it needed a tranny, too. I just recently got it done (it did not fail outright, but it did some odd stuff every now and then). I'd not bothered hitching it and towing with it, as I figured that _would_ make it fail. Since I purchased it, I've put about 3k into it - tires, balljoints, tranny (got a really good deal on the tranny - wholesaleish cost for everything/trade for labor), tie rods/steering linkage, battery, alignment, oil changes, fuel filter, plugs, etc. Maybe $3500, but some of that (tires, plugs, filters, oil) is maintenance.
Anyway - I towed with it for the first time fairly recently. The most severe duty it'd seen before was a trip to Moab with dirtbikes and a short stint on Hell's Revenge (yes, it was scary). It tows _wonderfully_. I got 12.5 miles out of that tank - I'd put 250 miles on that tank, forget how many gallons, ~150 of it was towing a big open trailer/2000# car. I figure it gets 11 or so towing, it gets 14-15 highway/unladen.
Mine won't comfortably go 85 like Steve's, but the trailer I'm using is probably close to 2k#, and that might have more to do with _me_ than the van. I averaged 70mph on the highway - was a bit nervy, towing for the first time. No sway, no wobble, trailer just followed me around. Altitude might have something to do with it, too - I'm interested to see how it does in Topeka/closer to sea level. 70 was comfortable. 55 on steeper hills if I could not get a run at the hill, 65 if I could.
I bought mine largely because of Steve's experience (and the fact that the airport shuttles that focus on vacationing skiers - DIA to Vail and the like - all use big Ford vans - they can't _suck_ in snow, right?). I do not regret it for a second - it drives very nicely (a bit stiff empty, but wow, that's splitting hairs), handles more like a car than a TRUCK, holds tons of stuff, it is nice and comfortable inside, A/C kicks butt, and the snow performance is nothing short of astounding. I have Kumho Road Venture AT78s or some such nonsense on it, and we got a LOT of snow in Denver this year - I did need to chain it up twice, but when I needed to chain up, they were closing roads, "stay at home," my WRX with studded snows would not have moved.
On the "TRUCK" front - I borrowed a friend's F150 4wd to tow, and WOW, I was _really_ hoping the van would not tow like that - rode like crap, uncomfortable, SCARY oscillations, etc. Thankfully, that was not the case.
12" storm? No chains, no problem.
36" in 36 hours? Chains, but it'd -probably- get through without them (I don't want to find out - it does not seem like a huge vehicle until it does not move under it's own power).
Blah blah blah. I love the van. Wifeunit hates it. Whatever. She seems to like it fine when there's something she HAS to have at a garage sale, hmmmm, selective van-hatred?
Vans are cool. Thanks, Steve!