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Discussion Starter #1
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.



POWER

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. :laugh:

ERGONOMICS

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). :x

MISCELLANEOUS

- 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

OVERALL

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.



 

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I like your honest and usefull review. I have ordered the 130. I know the drive from Moab and Fruita (mountain biking heaven) to Denver, there are some looong hard climbs. I ordered the 130' to keep things short and sweet, and the 3.5 for the fun of it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I know the drive from Moab and Fruita (mountain biking heaven) to Denver, there are some looong hard climbs.
My day started at 7 am in Cortez and SE Utah for work, then drove to Moab, rode slick rock, drove to Fruita to pickup a Hot Tomato pizza, then drove East. Huge thunderstorm in Rifle all the way to Gypsum, then camped at the base of Vail pass at 11:30 pm. Woke up early, coffee in Frisco (sat in the van with the heater blowing, and working emails), then the quick drive home.

There are SOOOOOO many roads to explore in that part of the state(s), aren't there? There's only so much time in the day. I always bring fishing gear, too, but biking always seems to win over fishing. Time is certainly a luxury.
 

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You got me all worked up to do that trip again! I am retired and mountain bike around Mesa/Sedona over winter. Might talk my spouse into a return through Moab next Spring and spend some time in Utah.
I really liked that solar shower on your pic, will have to look for one as the 130 won't allow too many extra indulgences!
Lots of MTB riders speak highly of the Hurricane area, have never been there....yet. My Transit should arive around Xmas and i will be driving it to Mesa late December to spend the Winter.
 

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Too Short

987R, after you get that brand new 130 home and start loading up the family and gear I think you will begin to regret not getting the 148. This is not a Boeing Jet that can be lengthened by bolting in a section of fuselage, you need to think and decide before you place the order. You have already decided to go big with the medium roof, the extra 18" will give it a nice balanced look.

I have a F150 regular cab 6-1/2' bed.....many times I wished that it was 8'. I have a [email protected] teardrop trailer that while it may appear to look small.....on the inside it's actually even smaller. And, I have a Toyota Sienna travel/camper that's 8' inside and I wished a thousand times it was just one foot longer.

So this time I went to the Ford dealer to order a 130.....and sat there and said to myself....."hey dummy, you've been down this road 3 times already"......so I ordered the 148.

I'm not trying to tell you what to do, only put in my two cents.
 

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987R

Thanks for the review. Your reactions are very similar to mine. I now have 7000+ miles on a EB 148" high roof and am about 1/3 done with the conversion. The most unexpected surprise was the great handling. Ford needs to reward the engineers that did the design work with huge bonuses.

Reading what you want to do inside buying the 130" would be a mistake. Buy 148"

Roof height depends on your height and if you want to insulate the floor. At 5'-10" and wanting a 1 1/2" insulated floor I had to buy the high roof. Can you sleep across the van? 74" bed length is about maximum length with minimum wall insulation at ends of bed platform. If you are not too tall a bed platform high enough to fit bikes under it should be considered.

Be sure to get the tow package so you get the tow/haul button. The reduces the gear hunting and is great to use going downhill. It automatically downshifts trying to maintain the speed you were at at the top of the hill.

Have not noticed any problem with the brake pedal. Seats are comfortable enough and seat material should last.

Should be an ideal vehicle for your proposed use.

And yes my 2002 330ci that I bought new will be kept until I die. Brings a smile to my face every time I drive it. Sports suspension is a bit like a buckboard but well appreciated.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Yes - I could have rented the high roof, but for this trip, I figured the MR would be fine. I can *just* stand up in the MR without insulation, etc., so I'd order a HR. I would also go with the 148" for sure. I've got to sketch out how things would be laid out in the 148, but I don't think the 130 would work as it was a bit crammed even on this short trip.

By the way, my first tank got 18.9 mpg on the 3.7. That included lots of hilly driving and twisty 60 mph roads. I didn't check it on the way back because I didn't fill completely up on my 2nd tank. That part of the trip is a lot of 80+ mph driving, so I'd think it'd drop off quite a bit.

Thanks for all the replies!
 

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Agree that the 148 is the optimum wheelbase for a conversion. I will face some challenges fitting what I want to do in the 130, but am quit proud of my initial design! The 148 was not doable as I live in a condo with restricted parking, and my spouse is not comfortable with the 148 as a daily driver. Did not want to get the 148 and have to drive her to all those quilting shops!! Ahhhh.... Trade-offs!
 

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987R,

Great review and I appreciate you taking the time to do the write up. Very helpful and informative. You've got me thinking.
 

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I didn't notice any brake pedal height issues when I did my ride & drive last year. Jumped from a '13 Sprinter van into 5 different Transits. Felt immediately at home in all of the Transits, (and I'm NOT a Ford guy by any means).
To me, the perfect Transit "look" is the 148 medium roof, and it's probably the most sensible one to buy for most people.....
Great review
 

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I learned a long time ago to never point out a quilt shop, just silently cruise on by.
 

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Probably the most important lesson here is the renting of a van for extended use before a purchase is made. Informed before you buy.

Before I started the Sprinter conversion we rented the same size converted Sprinter for a 3 week tour of New Zealand. That told me I did not want a 3 way refrigerator, I did not want to have to build a bed each night and unbuild it each morning, I wanted to be able to walk in aisle at night, I wanted a permanent table, I wanted an aisle wide enough for two people to pass, I did not want a antenna on roof, I wanted larger house battery, wanted refrigerator up high enough to see in it, etc.

Made designing the conversion much easier. I had some idea what was important. Same goes for driving a vehicle for some miles before purchase. Small investment to be sure your large investment is the correct vehicle.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
1,000 MILE TEST DRIVE PART II

So, I had another 1000+ mile test drive this week. Another work trip taking me from Denver to Vail, Moab, 4-Corners, Aspen, and back to Denver.

Last time, I had a MR 130. This time, I stopped in Enterprise Truck Rental, and spotted a high-roof 130 Transit. I peaked in the window and noticed the seats... "ooooh - leather!". I got through the rental paperwork, transferred my work gear into the van, and headed home to pack. 10 minutes into the drive, my back was a bit "humid". "ooooh leather" turned out to be "ooooh vinyl". Oh well.

I threw a cot in the van, mountain bike, fishing gear, clothes, food, and a warm sleeping bag. I hit the road, made on work stop, and made it to the top of Vail Pass by 9 pm. Found a nice flat pull-out on the road to Redstone, and did some emails and got ready for bed. I realized that I was parked slightly downhill, so I figured I'd park the other way so I was pointing up hill for better sleeping in the cot.

Surprisingly, the tire(s) were spinning in the slight depression where I parked. Oh crap. Don't let me be stuck here. These tires stink and I'll bet it's not a limited slip. 2 minutes of rocking and I got free.

I heard one truck drive past me in the middle of the night. Where he was going at 2 am, I'll never know. Turns out, sleeping at 11,000' in November in a metal box is quite cold. I started the engine at 4 am to warm up a bit, went back to bed at 4:30 and slept nicely until 6 am.





Worked in Vail, and drove to 4-Corners. Around Grand Junction, I hit a head wind / cross wind, and the 3.7 had difficulty maintaining the 80 mph speed limit without downshifting. The gusty cross winds affected the van and made you pay attention, but it wasn't scary. Pics show how the head wind was really blowing the antenna back.



Once in 4-corners, I did some work, had dinner, bought a heater at Walmart, and got to a nice site at 9 pm outside of Dolores, Colorado.

The perfect site was found, and it started to rain. Turns out, a light rain falling on a metal box makes a heck of a racket. After about an hour of rain, I started to worry that the 50 yards of dirt road that I drove down, might be too steep to drive out of, if the rain makes a muddy mess. I started up the van, drove out and found a flatter site, and got some good sleep. At 3 am, I heard the rain stop, and got some good sleep. At 6 am, I woke to realize the rain didn't stop, but turned to snow! I turned on the heater at about 4 to take the chill out. The problem with propane heaters, is that combusting propane results in heat and water. Condensation was on all the windows and walls. Bummer.



Stopped for coffee at a little market, and got on with my work.

After working in the morning, I checked on the weather. A storm was rolling in, and I was a bit worried about driving in a storm with no limited slip, and unknown tire abilities. I decided to avoid the steep Wolf Creek Pass, and head back up to Grand Junction and if the weather cooperated, head to Aspen for more work. If the snow was heavy, I'd skip Aspen, and head home (and hopefully make it over Vail and Loveland passes).

Stopped for lunch at a FANTASTIC spot overlooking the San Miguel river and the hanging flumes. Google it. Cool stuff.



Made it to Aspen in time for some work, and finished up around dinner time. At this point, it was snowing/raining in Aspen, and being the off-season, hotel rates are cheap. A normally $450/night room goes for $95, so I opted for a warm bed with a shower and TV. Yep. I wussed out. Had a nice dinner, a good sleep, and got my work done in the morning.

The drive home was uneventful and comfortable.

Fuel economy (3 tanks) was 14.7, 15.7, 17.4 mpg. Head winds and a 1000-lb + load was the reason for the lower readings on the first two tanks. 75 mph and 80 mph speed limits don't help the mpg when you are driving a billboard either.

Overall, the van is great. The 130 is too short for my use, but it sure helps to do extended test drives to know what to order. Other notes:

- steering wheel is GREAT. Absolutely love it. Compares nicely to the German cars that I drive!
- it sounds weird, but I'd love to have paddle shifters on the steering wheel.
- why Ford puts the seek buttons on the radio on the passenger side of the dash is beyond me.
- try driving 1000 miles without cruise control sometime.
- nitpick: the trip odometer decimal point needs to be bigger and have more space between the 1s and 1/10ths. Ha!
- vinyl is a no-go for me. Cool temps, yet a wet butt and seat? Ick.
- The 3.7 is a very good engine. No problems climbing many steep passes at high altitude and with 1000+ lbs in the back.
- The 3.7 is a very willing engine. Not quite a great engine, but willing. It doesn't love to rev like the Honda 3.5 or BMW engine, but it certainly gets the job done.

I'm tired of typing. Hope you enjoyed my story.
 

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Another useful review

Thanks for the handy review.

Can you elaborate on what actually happened when you lost traction? Did only one rear wheel spin? Do you think the traction control limited the spin using the ABS, or not? I have read that the TC will moderate throttle and brakes to prevent single wheel spin, but am wondering if it is effective. I have also read elsewhere on the forum of the LS getting stuck in light snow. Not sure what to think.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Not sure what happened when I lost traction. It was damp dirt, not quite mud, and it was a bit of a depression. I was tired and not paying much attention what was happening. I hope the LS is decent. I plan on driving everywhere in any weather. I'll buy snow tires for winter.
 

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Overall, the van is great. The 130 is too short for my use, but it sure helps to do extended test drives to know what to order.
I'm beyond pleased with my ProMaster, but yeah... it would have been cool to do some long pre-drives like you've done.

- try driving 1000 miles without cruise control sometime.
Been there, done that. About 15 years ago I drove my '71 Dodge station wagon back and forth from CA to MO for three years of college. Ugh. Some great yet painful memories of those drives.

I'm tired of typing. Hope you enjoyed my story.
Even as a happy PM owner, yes... I did. Thanks for the tales.
 

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I have read both of your reviews and find them most interesting....partly because your route covers some of our favorite camping grounds. I hope the rental company stocks a good variety of Transits.....looking forward to the next review. Thanks for your time and effort.
 
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