Breaking News: NASCAR developing 2018 commercial van racing series.
The NASVAN Home Depot Cup will feature the Ford Transit, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Chevy Express, Nissan NV and the Ram ProMaster.
Each van will hit top speeds of more than 199-mph while they trade paint around circuits like the legendary Charlotte and Atlanta Motor Speedways….”””
The news above is pretend. There are no current plans for a NASVAN series.
But if there were, we could sign up for the new Ford Transit as our ride first time, every time. This rear-drive big van is shockingly good on the road and at the work sites — and its far superior stats in every measure are detailed below in 40 new photos and a 4K first drive that includes many full-throttle starts.
SITUATION ANALYSIS: BIG VANS
At a Ford Transit intro event last week at Atlanta Motor Speedway, we had the pleasure of meeting the 2015 Ford van revolution in the flesh. After some interesting briefings about the state of the commercial vehicle markets and time exploring the 20-plus factory upfitters outside, we were set loose on the roads for a quick spin around the block.
We trotted quickly to the most powerful engine and sportiest body option available on any Transit, the 3.5-liter EcoBoost with a low roof.
For anyone to be excited about driving a full-size van is, in itself, big news. But there is alot of excitement around the replacement for Ford’s geriatric E-Series trucks.
Fun fact? The last time Ford ran a television commercial for the Econoline? 1969. That ad delivered so much reach and impact via all three television networks — that it pushed the Econoline to sector dominance for the next 45 years!
Just kidding. The Econoline did well as a modestly updated truck in a sad, lonely segment of the market. Until the Sprinter and Nissan NV vans arrival — the segment was as exhausted as a contractor after a 16-hour overtime.
The Econoline sold on price and capability — but definitely not comfort, cabin technology, efficiency or style.
The sub-10-MPG E-Series kept buyers with a low price — but that also-ran position is now owned exclusively by the wretched Chevy Express and GMC Savana.
The Transit’s all-new self is most announced outside. There is not a lightbulb or bolt or wire carried over from the old Econolines. The new Transit is all-new in every one of its 57 body and engine styles.
They all look really interesting and appealingly modern. The blocky shape is hard to decorate or lavish with design style, but the Transit — honest to Jeebus — has interesting panel surfaces, angular design features and a lovable puppy-dog face.
In chrome or black, painted-bumpers or flat plastic — the Transit is handsome and fresh and keeps the eye moving around to absorb its new details. It is so, so much different than any large van on the market.
Functionality is king in the exterior, though. This is evidenced by the step-in front bumper for washing the windshield, and the magnetic door stays on the rear flanks. This is the cargo variant with optional glass side and rear windows. In back, the new Transit is badged EcoBoost and 350 — a number that notes the chassis weight rating, and is not related to the engine.
Thin and modern taillights are a revolution, looking crisp and clean.
Overall, the Transit is technical and interesting in its design — and a beautiful canvas for the millions of graphic wraps buyers will use to advertise their tradecrafts.
Inside, the Transit is pretty comfy with optional power-adjustable front seats, a tall driving position and the Focus-style sporty steering wheel falling right to hand.
Tilt and telescope? Yes.
Eight cupholders with driver’s reach? Check.
MyFord SYNC and optional MyFord Touch navigation? Check.
Media and smartphone integration, bluetooth, 115-volt accessory jacks, huge bins for work plans and armrests for highway comfort? Check.
The checklist is totally full. This van can be seriously pimped out, including a standard second HVAC unit in the wagon models with back seats up to 15.
TRANSIT WITH MyFord Touch Navigation pictured:
The only odd thing versus an SUV is the huge, huge windshield giving an IMAX view of traffic ahead and to the sides. Standard dual-element mirrors have a big fisheye portion on the bottom to eliminate any blind spots over the shoulder. On the safety front, ABS, ESP, Roll Stability control, EBD and traction control are long-needed standard features on the Transit. It also crashes well, which is a big “unknown” with the seriously unsafe Chevrolet Express.
The cargo area is suitably gigantic. Up to 470-cubic-feet of room is in back, and the floor is a foot lower than the E-Series. Overall space is up 40-percent across all sizes, and payloads are better too. It is a win/win/win.
The only issue we found in the test trucks are a gas cap cover that is right next to the driver door. We pinged this open by accident sliding out, and it needs some kind of latch or clasp to live mast the 200,000-mile mark of many big vans. Unless magnetized by owners with stick-on pieces — or altered by Ford for production — Expect to see many Transits with a missing fuel door, unfortunately. If not careful or holding something, another few inches of nudge felt like it might snap it off its hinge.
It is conveniently located, however, for quick fillups.
TRANSIT Power Stroke Diesel shown below:
The test Transit cargo with a long-wheelbase, long-length and low roof is sporty. The 1500-pounds of horse mats in the cargo area help simulate actual use scenarious, and the low weight of their placement surely helps keep the Transit feeling planted.
With the $2000 optional EcoBoost gasoline twin-turbo V6, Ford has tuned it for 400-pound-feet of torque hitting low in the rev band. Along with a six-speed automatic with selectable manual gear changes, the Transit turbo is sporty. Honest.
It is also pretty quiet and rides nicely, despite the lack of any interior fittings in back — or the sound-absorbing (optional) inside rear panels that Ford says make the cargo vans much nicer. A rear-view camera is welcome, and optional jumbo mirrors will be handy if towing — but the regular ones are best for cities.
Around the roads near the speedway, the Transit is amazing versus any other van. Ever. Good and smooth steering that is stable but responsive inspires confidence, and the turning circle is 10 feet tighter than any pickup truck. Seriously nimble.
We also sampled the Transit around a mini autocross course, and came away similarly impressed.
The only mechanical reco we can make is to go for optional Continental tires versus the standard Hankook 16-inchers. The Hankook’s — rub ragged by testing journalists, no doubt — have almost no grip. The is evident most of all under braking, where the Transit on Hankooks is not nearly as grippy as it is on Conintental tires.
Odd for Ford to be skimping on tires … but Firestone rubber is obviously not on any price lists for Blue Oval trucks since the 2000s.
So, will it drift!?
Yes, yes it will! The TCS off lets the Transit turbo smoke the back tires easily, but stability-control keeps things in line with no disable button inside. Only a pulled fuse would do it, and this is obviously not recommended.
This body style based at about $30,000 — and climbed to about $35,000 with the optional paint, optional wide windows, power seats and EcoBoost engine. All money well spent.
The SYNC and MyFord audio is not as handy as the MyFord Touch with Navigation, which also has better speakers and more inputs like AVI cables, SD slots and extra USB ports. As equipped, just a 3.5MM audio jack and single USB are present.
Back on track. If tires and ESP are a big vans worst issues, you know it is seriously good. The last E-Series we drove was terrifying from the front, and nauseating from the back. So, truly, the Transit is a revolution.
We love it.
We love it so much that we cant help but imagine a slammed suspension, huge grip package and a chopped-roof NASVAN racing series.
And when or if that series does commence — we put all out chips on the Ford Transit.
Sporty, fun, safe, economical, capable, durable, affordable, dependable?
The Ford Transit arrives in volume to Ford dealers nationwide this December. Stay tuned for drive reviews of the Power Stroke diesel and info on the Crew Chief fleet systems, plus details on how to order your Transit pre-fitted with custom cargo solutions right from your Ford dealership.
Previous Transit preview articles show all the body styles and some of the fun colors offered on the 2015 Transit.
2015 Ford Transit 3.5L EcoBoost
Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of Car-Revs-Daily.com, an innovative and rapidly-expanding automotive news magazine.
He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank.
Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)car-revs-daily.com.