The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

Minivan Review: 2015-16 Ford Transit 150 LR Wagon XLT Review by Carey Russ +VIDEO


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Ford's NEED Solver

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS

         • SEE ALSO: Ford Research and Buyers Guide


If a three-row SUV or a minivan is just too small for your needs, what can you do? Think big! As in a Ford Transit.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2015-16 Ford Transit - Low Roof

Introduced to North America a year ago as a replacement the long-running Econoline/E-Series full-size van, the Transit has long been a mainstay of Ford's European lineup. Like the E, the Transit is mainly marketed as a commercial vehicle, but can and will fill personal-use needs as well. It's offered in three body lengths on two wheelbases, with three roof heights in cargo van, passenger wagon, chassis cab, and cutaway body styles. Potential cargo volume ranges from 246.7 to 487.3 cubic feet. Passenger wagons can seat eight to fifteen people -- including luggage. Depending on configuration, payloads range up to 4,650 lbs, towing can be as much as 7,500 lbs, and GVWR up to 10,360 lbs.

It's a truck, but the new Transit uses unibody construction for strength with lighter weight and a quieter interior. Extensive use of boron steel, especially in higher sections, keeps the center of gravity low, for improved road manners.

There are three engine choices. Standard spec is a naturally-aspirated 3.7-liter V6 with 275 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. Need more? That would be the 3.5-liter "EcoBoost" turbo V6 familiar from the F150 pickup. With 310 hp and 400 lb-ft there is no need for a V8. Want better fuel economy and a longer cruising range? That would be the 3.2-liter "Power Stroke" inline five-cylinder turbodiesel, with 185 hp and 350 lb-ft. All are matched to a six-speed automatic transmission, in front-engine, rear-wheel drive configuration.

My introduction to the Transit was at a Ford event a year ago. Ford not only had examples of Transits in various configurations, passenger and cargo, with all powertrains, they also invited aftermarket up-fitters who had ready-made solutions to a wide number of business needs, for various construction and maintenance uses, delivery services, florists, auto parts, airport and hotel shuttles, and more. If you have a need that requires a van, there is likely a way to meet it with a Transit.

At that time I had the opportunity to drive Transits with all of the powertrains, mostly in medium- or high-roof cargo trim. I found all to be easily maneuverable, at least in the relatively open spaces in which we drove, and nearly passenger car quiet inside. The 3.5 EcoBoost engine gave the best performance, no surprise, but both the 3.7 gas and turbodiesel were more than adequate. I was not expecting a Transit to be in the press fleet, but never say never. I've just spent a week with a low-roof, regular-wheelbase wagon (passenger version) in upscale XLT trim, power by EcoBoost.




My test Transit was a 2015 model. 2016 is what is available now, and the differences are minimal so we'll consider it to be that. What's new? The SYNC information/telematics system has been upgraded to SYNC3, medium- and high-roof passenger models may be had with dual sliding doors, not just passenger side, a rear-view camera is standard (new Federal requirement), and there are more possible factory or factory-approved configurations. But the basics are still the same.

What's it like to drive? It's big. No, really. 97.4 inches across the mirrors, 81.3 body only. That's eight feet. "Low" roof is relative -- at 82.2 inches, that's still pushing seven feet. "Medium" is 98.7 -- eight and a quarter feet -- with "high" 108, nine feet. Length is also a consideration. This is the "short" one, as 220 inches, over 18 feet. Longer ones can get over twenty feet. Parking, er, docking, can be a challenge. Parallel spaces may not be long enough, never mind ones perpendicular or angled out into the street or aisle. Multi-storey structures may be off-limits, even for the "low" roof. But despite the length, turning is not too bad as the regular-wheelbase model has a 43-foot turning circle, or 48 feet for the LWB version.

That said, other than length, width, and height the Transit feels like a well-designed SUV. Soundproofing in my passenger-spec wagon (wagon means passenger here, with van denoting cargo) was equal to any middle-class family sedan and better than many a small car. Forward visibility is excellent, and the large, multi-element outside mirrors offer good rear and quarter visibility. Because of the side-hinged rear doors there is a large blind spot directly behind, same as with any vehicle with that configuration. The 3.5 EcoBoost engine is in no way deficient in power, and fuel economy was surprisingly good a 16.7 mpg overall. Now load it up with eight people (or get the 4th row for a 10-passenger capacity) and figure in passenger-miles per gallon and it looks even better.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2015-16 Ford Transit

This is not a vehicle for everyone. But for those who need truly need space, whether for passengers or cargo, a Transit is a worthy consideration. If your needs are a bit out of the ordinary, you might find a solution at transitupfits.com or Fordtoughtrucks.com. Or, failing that, at a local shop. The Transit became the best-selling van in the country partway through the 2015 model year, with over 100,000 built at the Kansas City plant. Expect to see even more, and in ever more roles.

APPEARANCE: Yes it is the box it came in. That's the point, form follows function. The sloped nose helps aerodynamics and offers much better close-range forward visibility than an F150 pickup.

COMFORT: Long ago I had a delivery job. The company van was a then-old Econoline. The Transit in XLT Wagon trim is a luxury car in comparison, and I suspect that even fleet-sales base trim is still comparable to an entry-spec midsize sedan.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2015-16 Ford Transit
This one had a comprehensive amount of comfort, convenience, and safety options that would likely be ordered for personal use; there are packages and standalones for far more. Interior styling is contemporary international Ford - the instrument panel shows a more than passing resemblance to that of a Focus or Escape, with similar materials. It's functional, but far more styled than that of an Econoline. Here the leather-trimmed steering wheel is manually-adjustable for tilt and reach and has cruise, audio, info, and Lane Keep Assist controls.

Power-adjustable leather front seats offer good comfort and support. The shift lever is comes out of the dash, conveniently close to the steering wheel. Forward visibility is very good, and the convex lower sections of the side mirrors help the view to the sides and rear. Passenger accommodations? Think "bus". Here both the second and third rows are set up for three people, and, unlike in most three-row SUVs there will be more than enough luggage space at the rear. Headroom is not a problem, but if you consider it inadequate there are always the taller versions. Storage spaces and cup and bottle holders abound.

SAFETY: Four-wheel antilock disc brakes and a rear-view camera are standard, as is the AdvanceTrac® with Roll Stability Control™electronic stability system, frontal airbags, side-intrusion door beams, and a tire-pressure monitoring system. All seating positions have three-point safety belts. The Lane-Keeping System with Driver Alert is available.

RIDE AND HANDLING: Other than the size and height above the ground -- which is not much more than a pickup or large SUV -- the Transit feels like a car. Yes, the wheels and tires are heavy and the solid rear axle can make its presence known, but the same could be said for a pickup. But then, a contemporary pickup doesn't feel like an old truck, either. The brakes work well, steering is properly-weighted, and for it's size the Transit is very maneuverable. The hardest part of driving one is realizing the length, with height second. As with any larger-than-standard vehicle, know the dimensions and be aware of clearances.

PERFORMANCE: "Performance" for such a vehicle is more likely to involve payload and towing capacity than 0-60 time or top speed. Payload is 3,000 pounds -- eight 200-pound people and 1400 pounds of luggage, to mention one combination. Not going to be a problem! Towing? 4700 pounds. No surprise given the 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6's 310 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque, which drive the rear wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. Weight is not stated but I'd guess around 5,000 pounds -- and the big beast has no problem accelerating into traffic, at least lightly loaded. Sorry, I don't know any NFL teams… Figure 0-60 in around 10 seconds, and the 16.7 mpg average I saw for the week was bested by the computer's record of 17.7 for long-term mileage. If your last memory of a van was something from the `70s that was doing good to get into double digits, this will be a revelation.

CONCLUSIONS: The Ford Transit, in cargo van and passenger wagon form, can solve many needs.

SPECIFICATIONS

2015/16 Ford Transit 150 LR Wagon XLT

Base Price $ 34,470

Price As Tested $ 41,850

Engine Type DOHC 24-valve aluminum alloy V6, twin turbochargers and direct fuel injection

Engine Size 3.5 liters / 213 cu. in.

Horsepower 310 @ n/a rpm

Torque (lb-ft) 400 @ n/a rpm

Transmission 6-speed automatic

Wheelbase / Length 129.9 in. / 219.0 in.

Curb Weight n/a lbs.

Fuel Capacity 25 gallons gal.

Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline

Tires Continental Conti Vanco Four Seasons 235/65R16 121/110R m+s

Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc. ABS

Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / solid axle, leaf springs

Drivetrain front engine, rear-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 14 / 19 / 16.7

0 to 60 mph est 10 sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES

Green Gem Metallic paint $ 150

Privacy Glass $ 675

Keyless Entry Pad $ 95

SecutiLock Passive Anti-Theft System with Engine Immobilizer $ 75

Reverse Sensing System $ 295

16-inch Aluminum Wheels $ 395

MyKey $ 5

AM/FM Stereo with Lane Keeping Alert, SYNC®3 with Navigation $ 1,595

Leather 10-Way Power Driver ann Front Passenger Seats $ 1,440

Destination Charge $ 1,195