If you live in the United States, chances are you've spent some time in a Ford Econoline/E-Series van. For decades, Ford's iconic box-on-wheels has done yeoman's work for a wide variety of operators, from churches and schools to airport shuttle services and commercial contractors.
But the all-new 2015 Ford Transit marks a changing of the guard. With its slippery styling, carlike unibody construction and superior fuel economy, the Transit starts the next chapter for big American vans.
At first glance, the Transit looks like an homage to the similarly sleek Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, but that's because we Americans aren't privy to Ford's overseas portfolio. In fact, Ford has been building aerodynamic Transits in Europe and elsewhere since 1986, whereas Mercedes didn't modernize its van lineup till 1995. So Ford was first, and the Transit has been redesigned no fewer than three times since then -- most recently last year. That means we're getting the latest and greatest version, shaped by countless miles of service in practically every imaginable scenario.
As ever, customizability is king in this segment, so there are three body lengths to choose from, along with two wheelbases and three roof heights. A windowless cargo van is offered for business use, while the passenger wagons offer plenty of space and luxury. The U.S. version will also benefit from an exclusive engine lineup, including Ford's robust EcoBoost twin-turbo V6 and a hardworking 5-cylinder turbodiesel that's particularly good on gas.
Now that the 2015 Ford Transit has arrived, will anyone miss its predecessor? Nostalgia aside, we doubt it. There have been countless advances in automotive technology since the Econoline's day, and the Transit employs them to great effect. Bottom line: Don't buy a new van without giving Ford's latest a try.
What's New for 2015?
The 2015 Transit is an all-new model.
What We Like
Vastly improved drivability; highly customizable; capable engines with fuel-efficient turbodiesel option; modern look and feel
What We Don't
Price can escalate quickly
The 2015 Transit's standard powertrain consists of Ford's familiar 3.7-liter V6 and a 6-speed automatic transmission. Output is pegged at 266 horsepower and 249 lb-ft of torque -- a bit lower than usual for this engine. Likewise, the Transit's optional 3.5-liter EcoBoost twin-turbo V6 has been slightly detuned, though we can't imagine anyone complaining about its projected 320 hp and 400 lb-ft.
Slotting in between is a new 3.2-liter 5-cylinder turbodiesel that promises ample low-rpm grunt and the lowest fuel consumption of the bunch. It's expected to crank out 190 hp and 346 lb-ft.
Notably, all U.S.-market Transits are rear-wheel drive, so we don't get the front-wheel-drive version offered across the pond. If you're bummed about that, you may want to give the smaller, front-drive Transit Connect a look.
We'll bring you official output and fuel-economy numbers as the Transit's Summer 2014 launch approaches.
Standard Features & Options
The Transit is offered in three main trim levels: cargo van, XL wagon and XLT wagon. Note that the wagons are available in 8-passenger, 12-passenger and 15-passenger configurations.
The cargo van ($30,560), offered with either single or dual rear wheels, starts with 16-inch steel wheels with hubcaps, power mirrors, variable intermittent wipers, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, power windows and locks, front air conditioning and a 2-speaker AM/FM stereo with an auxiliary input jack.
The XL wagon ($33,095) adds standard 8-passenger seating, tinted windows all around, front foot-well illumination, a full-length cloth headliner and six audio speakers. The 12- and 15-passenger versions also get rear air conditioning.
The XLT wagon ($34,595) steps up to a chrome grille surround, silver wheel covers, automatic chrome-trimmed headlights, rain-sensing wipers, adjustable driver lumbar support, full-floor carpeting, a rear dome lamp with theater dimming, reclining rear seats and an upgraded 8-speaker CD audio system.
As usual for a full-size van, these trim levels are just the beginning. In addition to the two available wheelbase lengths, you can choose from three different roof heights depending on what your parking parameters allow. You can even order the Transit as a cutaway or chassis cab if you so desire -- these models are generally equipped like the cargo van.
There are also numerous options to consider, highlighted by long-arm exterior mirrors, 16-in alloy wheels, Crew Chief commercial telematics, cruise control, power front seats, leather upholstery, a rearview camera with trailer hitch assist, rear parking sensors, a keyless entry pad, satellite radio, the SYNC voice-command system and the MyFord Touch infotainment system with a 6-in color touchscreen, a navigation system and steering-wheel-mounted controls.
The 2015 Ford Transit comes standard with 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and stability control with rollover prevention technology. The cargo van has only driver and passenger front airbags, while the passenger wagons add side-curtain airbags and thorax airbags.
Behind the Wheel
Ford's European engineers have been designing nimble, carlike vans for years, and the 2015 Transit lets American drivers reap the benefits. You'll never forget that the Transit is a very large vehicle, of course, but its carlike unibody platform gives it a massive drivability edge over the old E-Series. Nonetheless, Ford claims the Transit can actually haul more stuff than its predecessor, so it doesn't give up as much toughness as you might think. Unibody construction is the future, no doubt, and with the arrival of the 2015 Transit, Ford's future is right now.
Other Cars to Consider
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter -- If you're thinking the legendary Sprinter must be prohibitively expensive, check the pricing. You may be pleasantly surprised. In terms of brute force, however, no Sprinter can match the Transit EcoBoost.
RAM Promaster -- Cargo-only to start, with a passenger wagon waiting in the wings for 2015, the FIAT-derived Promaster is similar in concept to the Transit. See if the oddly angled steering wheel is to your liking.
Our eye's on the diesel-powered Transit, though we wouldn't mind the EcoBoost model, either. This Ford is one to watch.