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Drove Ram, Transit and Sprinter - my thoughts

44439 Views 34 Replies 13 Participants Last post by  sportcoupe
Sorry for the upcoming novel. My first post here and I need some info from Transit owners.

I currently own a 2013 Mercedes 3500 dually extended Sprinter and am looking for a 2nd van for our business. So the last few weeks I've driven 3 Ford Transits, a Ram Promaster diesel and a 2015 Sprinter 3500 170 dually.

First off, I need to make the point about the price difference between competing vans of the type I'm looking for. It's not really a factor. I need the tall roof and longest version I can get that has a capacity of around 9500 pounds fully loaded. In this class all 3 are pretty close in price. In fact the other day I drove the 3500 sprinter with a 9990 GVWR and a Dually Transit with a 10360 GVWR. The difference in price is about $1000 between the two with the Sprinter being the higher. But, the discounted prices I was quoted were almost identical, maybe a $100 between them, with the Sprinter being the cheaper of the two.

My usage: This will be loaded down to near capacity almost 100% of its usage, and it will be taken on an 11k mile 2 month trip around the US once a year, and lots of 300 to 1000 mile trips the rest of the year. So I need something that gets at least as good of mileage as my current van, and enough power and torque for this type of usage. This is why I'm thinking diesel is my best choice.

I liked the drive of all of them, with the exception of the way the transmission shifted on the diesel Ram. It emulates a standard transmission with slow manual type shifts between gears. And the position of the steering wheel was not ideal, as the distance to the pedals were out of whack with the comfortable steering wheel position - for me. The weird transmission shifting with the diesel was better when I stepped on it, but driving it with a regular foot on the accelerator was weird and makes me think you could potentially get in trouble if you have to get out of a dangerous situation immediately while waiting for the van to shift slowly between gears. That didn't give me too much confidence so I narrowed my choices to the Transit and Sprinter.

The Transit I first drove was a 3.5 EcoBoost and it surprised me with power, but I think this engine might be better suited for shorter drives and not fully weighted down as far as mpgs are concerned. Then I drove a diesel passenger van because it was all they had in San Jose at the time. It was a great driving machine, but it had very little power on the freeway. I tried stepping on it to simulate passing while going 65 mph and it sped up very gradually even when I floored it. Then I finally found the exact match for the vehicle I would buy in Newark CA and drove that last week. A 350 tall roof dually cargo van with the diesel 3.2 engine. It drove like a car but again it dogged on the freeway when stepping on it. And this is an empty van. What happens when I put 3500 pounds in it?

The Sprinter, in comparison is the same engine as my Sprinter, the V6, and it took off when I stepped on it. It also was rock solid on the freeway, as is my Sprinter, empty or fully weighed down. Plus it has the new wind avoidance system, which may or may not work perfectly, but is of interest for anyone that has driven across the country with a tall roof van on a very windy day. Regardless, the dual back wheels definitely make it more stable than single wheel tall vans. I know because my first van 3 years ago was a 2500 170 tall roof Sprinter and it moved around in the wind much more than the dually. More white knuckle drives in high winds.

And as far as mileage is concerned, my 11k GVRW extended high roof Sprinter fully maxed out in weight got an average 16.4 mpg across the country this Spring in all kinds of different weather and winds over the course of 2 straight months. It was driven at speed limits or 5 mph over, which means it was being driven between 65 and 80 depending on the highway limits across the country. This is calculated by hand after each fillup, not using the display as those are rarely correct. Empty, I have gotten as much as 21 mpg btw.

So I need to know if the Transit diesel gets peppier when it breaks in or if this is just the way it reacts. Plus it seems that the few mileage reports I've seen here and at another site so far have the Ford 3.2 getting less mpgs than my Sprinter even when their Transits are not fully loaded to capacity.

I'm not a Sprinter fanboy, but I need some more reports from actual users, which I haven't found too many yet online, before I put down my $44k to $48k. Please help if you have experience with your Diesel (or even 3.5 Eco Boost) Transit at full GVRW. I'm about a week or 2 away from buying this second van and I want to give the Ford the benefit of the doubt, but it's hard with so few being reported on and no long term reports yet in hand. Any help would be appreciated.

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Did you consider driving the Sprinter 4cyl w/7spd. Reports on them are low to mid 20's loaded up, but with less umph at highway speeds. A bit slower going onto on ramps too.

It seems to me that he's looking for more power than the Transit's diesel, not less. And also that he's very pleased with the Sprinters. Overall his is quite an endorsement of the Sprinter, with superior rating over ProMaster and Transit.

Objective testing shows that newer vehicles don't get significantly faster or stronger with initial break in. So if he's looking for Transit to get more powerful or get better MPGs, what are the odds that's going to happen?

If I were that happy with 2 Sprinters I don't see why I wouldn't buy a third.
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When it comes to Gross Vehicle Weight Rating for Single Rear Wheel vans, Sprinters lag the rest in US. In Europe and other markets they have Super Single (larger single rear wheels and tires) models, but they are not offered in US.

The single wheel ProMaster has GVWR up to 9350 pounds, and the Transit up to 9500 pounds. Because the PM is lighter due to FWD, the SRW model can haul more. The SRW Mercedes Sprinter is well below 9000 pounds.

Not having dual rear wheels doesn't inherently limit payload. The Ford Super Duty SRW F-350 is rated at up to 11,500 pounds GVWR. Ford accomplishes this rating by using a rear axle above 7000 pounds. I'm certain Ford could have made a heavier duty SRW Transit if they thought there was a large-enough market.

I won't be surprised when someone offers an aftermarket SRW conversion for DRW Transits. I had DRWs on an E-350 Class C and hated them.
Interesting info Chance. You may have hated DRW on a truck, but I guarantee you wouldn't feel the same about it with a high roof long wheelbase cargo van. Quite a different beast on the highway, when the wind and passing big rigs can blow you around like a big sail. It's definitely white knuckle time when you have strong side winds hitting you at gusts of 40 to 50 mph at times. Not fun driving so you want the most stable situation you can get.

I'm committed to a Dual Rear Wheel van since I've tried both on long drives around the whole of the US a few times, and will continue to do that type of driving. That leaves out the RAM, although it may be a bit more stable than a SRW Sprinter because it sits a little lower because of the FWD.

Problem is that I will be loading a standard cargo van down with an extra bench seat, a heavy duty partition, 3 to 4 grown men, and about 3000 pounds of gear and luggage on long drives, so I need the van to offer a good load rating and largest sizing available. That limits my choices to the Transit and the Sprinter at this time.

I personally think that the effect of crosswinds involves a lot more than DRW versus SRW. My van-based DRW camper got blown around far worse than any van I've driven. And the same also goes for DRW van-based campers I've rented since then. But what can I expect from an 11-ft tall box going down the road? Also as important, if not more, is that these campers had a very long rear overhang, particularly in proportion to their wheelbase.

Another problem with DRW vans like Sprinter and Transit is that rear leaf springs have to sit closer to van's centerline in order to clear tires. This doesn't help prevent body roll when cross winds hit a tall van from side.

Like you I'm looking at all three vans but I can wait if needed. The Ford is too narrow and I don't like long rear overhang, but Ford has stated more versions would be coming in future. How long who knows?

The Sprinter has bad reputation for costly repairs and dealer network is limited.

The ProMaster seems best otherwise but I don't like either transmission (diesel or gas).

As to load capacity it's interesting to me that smaller ProMasters are rated to carry nearly as much or more. The DRW Transit has higher GVWR but also weighs a lot more empty. For my needs either can handle load, but I expect PM to ride much smoother. Everything I've read suggest DRW camper vans ride harsh in rear.
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The trouble with the Transit diesel is power to weight ratio:
Vehicle Transit- LWB HR EL DRW - 10,360 GVWR

3.2 diesel 190 horsepower = 54 hp/lb (same/tata nano)
unladen 6,014 lbs = 31 hp/lb (same/toyota prius)

You are absolutely right about low power to weight ratios, although for a lot of drivers that's not as important as it seems to you (based on your posts in other threads). Some claim diesel torque makes it OK but instrumented objective tests say otherwise. Diesels "seem" fast but gasoline vans "are" fast by comparison. Motortrend tested many vans and found gasoline ProMasters could run circles around both 4- and 6-cylinder diesel Sprinters. I expect the same holds true for gasoline versus diesel Transits. Other than at high elevations even the standard engine has much more power than diesel.

Anyway, what really caught my attention on your post is the 10,360 GVWR versus 6,014 pound unladen weight. That only leaves 4,346 pounds of cargo carrying capacity. Seems a little low to me.
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