By Christopher A. Sawyer
It’s the end of the road for Ford’s long-in-the-tooth Econoline. Though comprehensively redesigned in 1992, the E-Series van, as it is now known, can trace its current configuration back to its last major update in 1975, making it one of the longest-lived vehicles on the road today. It will be replaced by Ford’s global Transit, which will come in 150, 250, 350 and 350 HD versions, and various heights, lengths and wheelbases. The U.S. version will be built at Ford’s Kansas City assembly plant.
This two-ton leviathan should not be confused with the similarly named, but much smaller Transit Connect. That vehicle, available in cargo van and passenger-friendly wagon versions, is aimed at small businesses, in-city delivery companies and families, and is built off a modified front-drive Focus platform. The larger Transit is Ford’s workhorse, rear-drive, and slated for everything from airport shuttle vehicles to 15-passenger vans to delivery and work trucks. In the short term, the E-Series will continue to be sold to companies needing a chassis cab or cutaway, but eventually the Transit will replace these offerings as well. The Transit chassis cab and cutaway models will offer three wheelbases and three models (250, 350, 350 HD).
Available in three heights and two wheelbases, the regular Transit does away with the E-Series’ body-on-frame construction, replacing it with a unitized body with integral chassis rails and front and rear subframes. Not surprisingly, it has the largest application of boron steel (pillars, roof rails, floor) in the Ford universe, and will offer Roll Stability Control, Curve Control and Trailer Sway Control as standard equipment. Other available safety options include MyKey, lane departure warning, park assist, and a rearview camera.
To help reduce running costs, Ford raised and recessed the headlamps. This makes them less susceptible to damage in low-speed crashes. Ditto the rear lights which are also much more visible from their raised position. In addition, the bumper covers are made from multiple pieces so you don’t have to replace the complete fascia when only one part is damaged.
Standard models come on a 129.9-in wheelbase, while long-wheelbase Transits span 147.6 inches between the front and rear wheels. The low roof model is 83.2-in tall, the same as today’s E-Series, and has 55.8 inches of interior height. Medium roof Transits are 100.8-in tall with a cargo height of 72.0 inches, and high roof versions are 110.2-in tall, and have an interior cargo height of 81.5 inches. Not only does the jumbo model carry 80% more than today’s largest E-Series, Ford claims it can carry more than twice the cargo of a standard E-Series van. In order to make it easy to get all that cargo in and out, the rear doors open through 270 degrees, and can be opened to such an extent that they are nearly flush with the body sides yet out of the way of the sliding side door.
Single and dual rear wheel variants also will be offered with gross vehicle weight ratings from 8,600-10,000+ lb. Interestingly, the dual rear wheel models are a scant 2.0 in wider than their single wheel cousins. This is due to the fact that European roads are narrow, and would not accept an extended width rear end. As a result, the rear wheel tubs extend into the cargo area, and are flat topped and slab-sided to make it easier to mount racks, etc. to them.
Unlike the European Transit, the U.S. version will not offer a 2.0-liter turbo diesel and manual transmission. Nor will it use V8s and V10s like the E-Series. The base engine is the same 3.7-liter V6 found in the F-150. Those needing more power can order the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6, also sourced from the F-150, while those needing to do maximum hauling with the greatest fuel efficiency can choose a 3.2-liter five-cylinder turbo diesel. All are mated to Ford’s 6R80 six-speed automatic transmission.
Though Ford has yet to set the final specifications for these engines, the naturally aspirated 3.7-liter V6 in the F-150 produces 302 hp @ 6,500 rpm and 278 lb-ft of torque at 4,000. The EcoBoost V6, on the other hand, pumps out 365 hp @ 5,000 rpm and 420 lb-ft @ 2,500. The 3.2-liter turbo diesel uses selective catalyst reduction (urea injection) and a particulate filter to control emissions, has a variable-flow oil pump to cut parasitic drag, and uses a variable-geometry turbocharger for quick turbo spool-up. In the global Ranger pickup (ironically not sold in the U.S.), this engine produces 197 horsepower and 347 lb-ft of torque. Its output should be similar in this application. The Transit will be available from Ford dealers next fall.