Every now and again, I drive something that surprises me with its comfort, driveability, and overall charm. Usually, it’s a family hauler or upscale sedan of some sort, but this time around, it was, as they say, something completely different.
This one definitely came out of left field: A Ford F350 Transit. Not exactly the stuff of dreams.
But if you are in need of a competent, well thought-out commercial rig, this may be right up your alley.
A few particulars. The F350 Transit is one in a long line of vans from Ford aimed at commercial buyers. It is big, no-frills, and strictly business. Power is delivered via a 3.2 litre in-line turbocharged five cylinder diesel, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Horsepower output is about 185, but more to the point, torque is a healthy 350 foot-pounds. In a vehicle like this, bottom end torque grunt is much more important than horsepower, and this engine is a nice match for the Transit.
There are other engines available….a 3.7 litre V6 and 3.5 litre turbocharged V6, but I would suggest that for a working truck, with all the stopping and starting of city traffic and ever-escalating price of fuel, this would be the appropriate choice….especially if you run a courier business or shuttle transport. That said, it adds almost six grand to the vehicle’s base price.
Still, it gives the Transit a solid stable feel and behaves itself on the highway and around town. Ford introduced this engine in the Transit sometime in 2014 and it’s used throughout their truck range.
Elsewhere, the F350 Transit will provide a maximum of 13797 litres of interior cargo space. That translates into over 487 cubic feet of elbow room….I’ve been in smaller apartments. It will also give you 2780 mm – nine feet of head room – so this thing is absolutely cavernous inside. If you were to rent one, for example, to move, you could easily stash the contents of most studio apartments into the back, no sweat. And is has generously sized sliding side doors, so getting in and out of the thing is a breeze….a bit of a step up, but it is a truck, after all.
So, why do I like it? It’s not as though I run a courier delivery service and I have no plans to start a bus shuttle company either. No…I liked driving the Transit because, for its size, it drives like a mini-van. A little bigger, yes, and care must be taken to negotiate tight corners, but anyone can drive this rig and not have to worry about crashing into things. That said, you can’t take it into parking lot parkades, obviously, and crowded mall parking lots can be a challenge, but take your time and think things through and you’ll be fine.
It also offers a nice high driving position with outstanding visibility…that said, peripheral visibility is not what you’d find in most conventional sedans or SUV, and if you drive one of these, you better learn how to back up using side mirrors. I also could do without the loud beeper that comes on automatically when you back up. Reminded me of the “If The Van’s A’rockin’, Don’t Come Knockin’” episode on Seinfeld.
And as it turned out, I used my tester to move a bunch of household items: a full-size desk, some bookshelves, a bed frame, and various other bits and pieces. The whole load barely made a dent in the Transit’s overall storage capacity.
However, this is not a cheap set of wheels. Base price for my F350 Transit was $41,749. Add a few extras, like the aforementioned turbo-diesel, limited slip rear diff, running boards, vinyl floor mat, a reverse parking aid, and other gew-gaws, and you’re up to and over fifty-two large. Final damage with taxes and various duties and levies, was just shy of $54,000.
But if you need a serious workhorse, it’s money well spent. I regularly see tarted-up 4X4 pickup trucks that will never see a lick of work in their lives, going for much much more.
AT A GLANCE
Engine: 3.2 litre turbocharged five cylinder diesel
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Drive: Rear-wheel drive
Horsepower: 185 hp @ 3000 rpm
Torque: 350 ft. lb. @ 1500 – 2500 rpm
Price: $41,749 (base); $53,934 as tested.
Fuel Economy: N/A. Regular fuel.
Alternatives: Nissan NV Cargo, Dodge Ram ProMaster, GMC Savana.
Manufacturer’s Site: Ford
Ted Laturnus has been an automotive journalist since 1976. He has been named Canadian Automotive Journalist Of The Year twice and is past president of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).