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Car Review: 2015 Ford Transit Family - The Future Of Full-Sized Vans By Larry Nutson

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      SEE ALSO: Ford Truck Buyers Guide 2015-1997

The future of full-size vans is here now

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor, New York Bureau
The Auto Channel

I consider myself a car guy. And, admittedly, I am not a truck guy. However, I felt compelled to take up Ford on their invitation to get up close and personal and to also drive their all-new full size vans. After all, I have had an occasion or two to rent a truck from U-Haul.

The all-new 2015 Ford Transit is new from the ground up. It features lightweight yet durable unibody construction and is available with a choice of five wheelbases, three roof heights and four models including cargo van, passenger wagon, chassis cab and cutaway. It has GVWRs from 8,550 lbs. to 13,360 lbs. and can accommodate payloads of more than 5,000 lbs. Whew. There’s too many choices to make and oh so many combinations to pick from.

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You may have heard of and perhaps seen the Ford Transit Connect. There’s many of them in use across the U.S. Don’t confuse that with the Transit.
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Transit Connect is a compact van that has been on the market in the U.S for a couple years. Transit is a full-size van that goes on sale for the first time at U.S. and Canadian dealerships this summer, eventually replacing America’s best-selling van for 35 years, E-Series, first sold in 1961 as Ford Econoline. Yes, one of the ‘60s hippie vans.

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Transit has a long legacy with more than 7 million units sold worldwide since being introduced in Europe in 1965. Ford has been the best-selling commercial vehicle brand in the United Kingdom for nearly 50 years and Transit is the recipient of two International Van of the Year awards.

With the auto industry being very global and the “One Ford” plan in place, it’s time for one full-size van from Ford for around the world, and Transit is it. One Ford leverages global assets, enabling better scale and more choices. Ford’s brand manager for Transit/Transit Connect/E-series is Minyang Jiang, or “MJ” as she suggested we call her. According to MJ, 20% of Ford global sales are in commercial vehicles.

The commercial vehicle business, in total for all manufacturers, is expected to grow by thirteen percent by 2017. In the U.S. today, 44.9 percent of the commercial vehicles on the road in Classes 1 to 7 are Ford vehicles. Commercial vehicles mean compact vans, medium and heavy duty trucks, light commercial vans and buses, compact pickups and full-size pickups

Ford thinks of the Transit as tough, smart and efficient. The equivalent of seven million customer miles have been driven in testing the new Transit. Interestingly, we’ve all heard the talk about autonomous or self-driving vehicles. Some of the tests that Ford runs are too tough for human beings. The tests are conducted by robots. Yes robots driving the Ford Transit around a testing road course. There are over 58 body configurations making for smart choices for customers needing flexibility in their truck fleet. The all-new 2015 Ford Transit delivers as much as 46 percent better gas mileage than Ford E-Series.

Transit comes standard with a 275 HP 3.7-liter V6 engine, and customers also can choose from an available 310 HP 3.5-liter EcoBoost or 185 HP 3.2-liter Power Stroke diesel.

When equipped with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine, all-new 2015 Transit low- and medium-roof regular wheelbase wagons get a 14 mpg city/19 mpg highway EPA-estimated test rating. That reflects an improvement of as much as 46 percent compared with the 10 mpg city/13 mpg highway EPA-estimated test rating for the Ford E-Series 6.8-liter V10 premium gas engine. The improved gas mileage translates to fuel savings as high as $1,700 annually, based on EPA data.

The available 3.2-liter Power Stroke five-cylinder diesel engine provides 90 percent of its peak torque from 1,500 to 2,750 rpm. Quick-start glow plugs offer fast startups at temperatures as low as 10 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. Towing and hauling are made easy by the standard six-speed SelectShift automatic transmission.

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Transit customers can add smart technology, including available Crew Chief telematics to help track service and mileage costs and MyKey to help encourage safer driving. The MyKey can be set to limit top speed, thus saving fuel. An available lane-keeping alert system detects lane markings with a forward-facing camera and vibrates the steering wheel to help alert drivers to steer back toward the center of the lane. A back-up camera with trailer hitch assist is offered as a individual option and is great item for in-city parking maneuvers.

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The all-new Transit van offers a maximum cargo capacity of 487.3 cubic feet when properly equipped – 75 percent more than the largest E-Series van. The extended-length wagon model offers best-in-class cargo storage (100.5 cubic feet) behind the last row of seats in a 15-passenger version – ideal for shuttle service. The van comes in eight, ten, twelve and fifteen seat configurations. The fifteen-seat Transit features the world’s largest side impact airbag.

Ford says Transit high-roof van models offer best-in-class cargo height to make loading easier, and high-roof wagon models deliver best-in-class passenger compartment height, enabling passengers as tall as 6 feet 4 inches to stand upright. Transit also has a best-in-class rear door opening height and the available 270-degree swing-out rear cargo doors offer quick and easy access.

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I was impressed by the quietness of the 12-passenger van that I took for a quick spin on local roads. Ford had set up a handling course and a couple drives on that proved out the good handling, tight turning circle and easy maneuverability of the full-size Transit.

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Beyond all the must-haves in a full-size van, Transit has some neat items like a built in step in the front bumper so you can clean off the windshield; there’s also a step built into the rear bumper to enter the cargo area. Body design has taken into consideration tight maneuvering in big cities so headlight and front fender design and wide body-side moulding help minimize damage.
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Magnetic latches hold open the rear cargo doors in their 270-degree position. Ford’s cap-less fuel filler, an offshoot of NASCAR racing, is also fitted.

Transit van is ideal for custom storage and shelving systems such as cargo dividers, multi-racks, bulkheads and sliding platforms. Upfitting is made easy with 11 available upfit ship-throughs, eight of which are located within 20 miles of Kansas City Assembly Plant where Transit is built.

U-Haul, UPS, FedEx, Hertz, Avis, Joe the Plumber and whomever may just be Transit-ing soon.

And that’s the Truth about Transit.

Larry Nutson