When a company such as Ford invites me to test-drive its new line of trucks, I understand the reason is not because I’m a truck expert. The real reason is that contractors who read Plumbing & Mechanical and Reeves Journal every month buy lots of pickups, vans and cube vans from Ford and other truck manufacturers.
So, when I flew June 4 to Kansas City to test-drive Ford Transit full-size cargo vans with other members of the media, I was in a distinct minority. All the other media people there write articles and blogs about motor vehicles all the time. They know much more about what’s under the hood than I do, and they throw around terms such as torque, quick-start glow plugs and torsional stiffness.
On the other hand, I comprised a distinct minority in another respect in that I probably was the only member of the media who once drove a cargo van for a job. This happened many summers ago when I drove the delivery truck of my dad’s dry-cleaning business. All these years later, I had a blast driving the highways and streets of Kansas City — in a heavy rainstorm and then bright sunshine — in vans that boast more creature comforts, maneuverability and fuel economy than my dad’s bare-metal cargo van.
I drove that delivery truck a dozen years after Ford introduced its Econoline vans in 1961. The Transit full-size cargo and passenger vans will take the place of those vans, which evolved into the E-Series, when they go on sale later this summer.
In Kansas City, we learned the Transit will get 46% better highway fuel economy than the E-Series when it’s equipped with a 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine. Other Transit engine options are a 3.7-liter V6 and or 3.2-liter diesel. The Transit surpasses the E-Series in payload, too. Its 4,650 lb. of maximum capacity increases payload at least 600 lb. vs. comparable E-Series vans. Maximum towing capacity – which fortunately wasn’t an issue in delivering dry cleaning – is 7,500 lb. on Transit.
Comfort, however, is a concern of everyone who drives a truck. A good-looking, comfortable vehicle can be a recruiting tool to plumbing-and-heating service contractors and other business owners. At 6-1, now and then, I could stand up straight in the cargo and work area of the Transit with a couple inches to spare where I would bump my head on the metal ceiling and rods of the old delivery van. The Transit’s seats were designed more as car seats than truck seats, our Ford hosts told us, and they felt much more comfortable than what I remember.
And, as promised, the Transit drove more like a car than a truck both on the public byways of Kansas City and a closed course in Kemper Arena’s parking lot, which was lined up with orange traffic cones. This was the case regardless of the Transit model, which come in three different heights: low, medium and high.
About the only creature comfort I didn’t get a chance to experience was the Transit’s sound system. That’s because the media member with whom I drove — the publisher of a magazine for owners and operators of limo companies — and I kept up a constant conversation about trucks, the media business and our families. This was, of course, when she moved to the front after she first took a backseat to test the comfort a limo customer would experience.
I would have liked to hear the Transit’s sound system because I can’t think about driving a van without remembering how awful the music was that summer when the only sound system was an AM radio, and I would have to listen to The Hollies, Gilbert O’Sullivan, and Tony Orlando and Dawn over and over again.