To help determine if a Transit is the right van for me or not, I strolled into the local Enterprise Rental Car (truck) and plunked my credit card on the counter, and drove away in a Medium Roof 250 with a 3.7L engine.
I loaded it up that night, and left for a 1000 mile work trip the next morning. I do this same trip monthly and it takes me from Denver to Vail to Four Corners then back up through Moab and Eastern Utah and back home over 2-3 days. I used to fly on this trip, but my work is variable, and it's sometimes hard to predict how long I'll need to be at customer sites. Driving gives a lot more flexibility. Sleeping in the van gives even more flexibility, so I hope to build a work/play van with seating for 5, a bed, and sink and storage for work/play items. I normally bring a mountain bike since there are so many incredible trails through this part of the US.
Here's my view. Short version? Impressive road handling and nice amount of power from the base engine.
I've been shopping for a 3.2L diesel or 3.5L EcoBoost, but the only available rental was with a 3.7L. I was prepared to be bored with the engine. To my surprise, the engine was quite enough power for the van. I was loaded with about 600 lbs of gear. My drive included 5 significant mountain passes, including Wolf Creek Pass that crests at 10,800' elevation. Unless towing or very heavily loaded, it's hard to imagine needing more power than this. I easily maintained (well above) the posted speed limit. The transmission hunts a bit for gears when it got steep, so using manual is handy to prevent that.
Some engines beg to be pushed (BMW 330i/335i, Honda 3.5L), some tolerate being pushed, and some fight it. This one does a little bit better than tolerate it, but not quite beg for it.
My recent daily drivers have all been german sport sedans. I have a low threshold for the cheap rental-car interiors of so many domestic vehicles. Plastic chrome bits, hard plastics, cheap cloth, etc.
I think Ford engineers really excelled at a few things - the steering wheel is superb. The right size with very good materials. the turn signal stalk is a joy wit that little ramp at the end, and the feel of the clicks. The shifter and manual button is great.
Where they fall down, and where corner-cutting is obvious are:
- seat cushion feels cheap and squishy and like it's not going to last more than 20k miles
- arm rest fabric and cushioning is horrible. Below
rental car quality.
I also wonder what's going on with that brake pedal - why is it 4" higher than the gas pedal? You have to lift your foot off the floor to reach it. Seems dangerous to me.
The lights seem fine right up until you try the brights. Then you realize how dim the regular lights are. During a night rain, all I could do was watch the white line to know where I was. Also - the bright blue dash indicator for the brights was too bright - it's distracting.
The side view mirrors are great. I like the adjustable convex mirror.
The tilt/telescopic wheel should come out another inch or so. For good hand position, I had to slide the seat too far forward.
HANDLING AND BRAKING
What impressed me the most is the handling of this behemoth of a van. I'd like to meet the engineering team that has somehow found the magical blend of firm cornering, yet huge ability to soak up bumps, ruts, and potholes, with hardly any notice. It certainly surprised the Volvo V70R driver as I passed him along a very twisty section of road. I could see his face in the rear view mirror as I followed him in a spirited pace. Ditto the Miata that couldn't believe that I was on him up the twisty on-ramp. Turn-in is super crisp, and that billboard of a van can hold a corner.
Brakes were great - grippy, good feel, and confidence inspiring. Ford has really done a great job with this and in the various rental Ford cars I've had. The more you push them, the more you realize how planted they are.
If Ford can engineer this type of suspension in all their cars, I will become a longtime loyal customer (and hopefully, they'll sell more cars, and my stock will become more valuable).
- The slider door is a bit wonky - I still never figured out how much effort was the right amount to get it to close
- The rear door was dented due to someone closing the wrong door first. I'd bet all of them will have this dent after a few years.
- I like all the storage areas for drinks, etc.
- there's a lot of wind noise with windows open - the annoying noise comes from the seatbelts flapping, I noticed.
- sleeping in a metal shell of a van can get cold - evenings were 37 degrees.
- backup lights could be brighter - it's a bit tough to see backing into a campsite at night
There's a lot to like about this van. For biking, it's so nice to stand up to change into biking clothes in privacy. For work, it's great to have ample room inside. For sleeping (in bear country), it's good to sleep without worrying about being dinner for a large bear. Hanging a solar shower from the side door and washing off the day's dirt and sweat, makes a 400 mile drive so much more refreshing.
I'd love to see Ford step up the quality of the seats and a few materials, and hit a grand slam with their product lines. That being said, I'm very impressed with the Transit, and am moving closer to choosing my options and ordering one.