2015 Ford Transit Driving Impressions

The Transit drives well, most like a full-size pickup with a really good view and excellent maneuverability.

Base power is a 3.7-liter V6 with 275 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm, a less-powerful version of what powered the F-150 pickup for years. With more power and less torque than Econoline’s 4.6-liter V8 it gets the job done by revving when power is needed. We’ve worked this engine in pickups running 6000 rpm up long grades with it never complaining, but you will hear it. Fortunately there is no engine intrusion into the front floor area as in Econoline so it’s quieter. It rates 14/19 EPA city/highway.

Standard on the biggest and optional on others is the 3.5-liter EcoBoost turbocharged V6. Here it rates just 35 more hp at 310 but torque is 400 lb-ft from 2250 rpm, outputs that compare to the Econoline’s 6.8-liter V10. The 3.5 delivers effortless performance and is surprisingly potent and delivers the same 14/19 EPA ratings. Our experience has shown EcoBoost an either/or proposition and using the power (boost) will use fuel. We averaged about 15.5 mpg, in town high 13s and pushing 20 on the highway, 90% of it with less than 15% load; in the previous 1200 miles with one-quarter running time at idle, it had done 14 mpg.

The 3.5 has a good exhaust note but the whistling from the turbochargers is near constant in anything but highway cruising. Both engines’ six-speed automatic works as it should and can be shifted manually to limit top gear or manually select any.

A 3.2-liter inline five-cylinder diesel engine is available on most configurations. It rates 185 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque from 1500 rpm, ranking it ahead of ProMaster’s big 3-liter four and Sprinter’s 3-liter V6 diesels. The diesel will cost the most up front, but owner-operators or fleets running lots of miles will appreciate fuel economy that should better the gas engines by 30% or more.

Ride quality improves with some load, no surprise in something rated to carry nearly 3000 pounds; an average for what most ¾-ton heavy-duty pickups can manage. Unlike pickups, there’s no separate frame and body so there’s less motion and no shuddering over bumps, and the empty weight is better distributed. We expected wind noise from the big mirrors but didn’t get much, and most road noise comes from the rear tires on bad surfaces. Throwing the duffel bags over the wheel houses first helps.

Steering has good directional stability, even in a stuff crosswind or passing a truck or bus, and it turns tight for easier maneuverability than the average pickup or SUV this size. Squared corners and big mirrors make reversing into narrow confines easy even without the camera or sensors, and the view forward is excellent.

Maximum payload for Wagons ranges from 2610 to 3480 pounds, for Vans 3060-4560 pounds. Maximum tow ratings range from 2900-5100 and 4000-7600 pounds respectively, and the integrated trailer brake controller is recommended if your trailer has electric brakes. As with pickups, few Transit models (and by configuration/engine/axle ratio there are more than 130 iterations) will carry rated maximum payload and tow its heaviest trailer at the same time.

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