Ford Transit is a Surprising Showcase for ADAS

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CHATHAM, Mass – I was concerned about piloting the 2020 Ford Transit Cargo Van 150 LR AWD around the tight roads of Cape Cod, but thanks to precise steering, compliant suspension, excellent forward visibility, comfortable seating, good driver ergonomics and a comprehensive suite of advanced driver-assist systems (ADAS) the experience has been surprisingly satisfying.

I expected a large (by my driving standards) bare-bones commercial vehicle aimed at providing maximum operational value for a commercial customer with little regard for drivers – the way vehicles like this had been designed and sold for decades.

Instead, Ford has engineered this box-on-wheels to be able to perform a myriad of business functions thanks to a model range including three different lengths and three different body heights, rear-wheel or all-wheel drive, and two engine options, while still being a comfortable, well-equipped and thought-out place for driver and passenger to spend a day of work.

Features like standard air conditioning, FordPass™ Connect 4G Wi-Fi Hotspot Telematics Modem, power-assisted steering, rear-view camera with trailer-hitch assist, power windows and rain-sensing automatic windshield wipers are not what you might expect in this type of vehicle.

Extensive advanced driver-assist systems

Also beyond expectations was the standard Ford Co-Pilot360™ collection of advanced driver-assist systems (ADAS) including: Post-Collison Braking, Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking, (AEB), Auto High-Beam Headlamps, Lane-Keeping System and Forward Collison Warning.

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Ford Co-Pilot360™ Technology Adds Hands-Free Driving

Upping the safety and driving help were several additional features added to the Ford Transit I drove. The most helpful in driving this 220-inch-long van without side windows was the Blind Spot Information System (Ford calls it BLIS®) with rear cross-traffic alert which greatly reduced any anxiety caused by trying to maneuver in parking lots and on multi-lane roads. And this option brings power folding outside rear-view mirrors, a big help when pulling up to the drive-in window to do Covid-era banking.

Another helpful Ford Transit feature was the Enhanced Parking Assist which can help find an adequate parallel or perpendicular parking spot and then “drive” the Transit Cargo Van into the space. And it works, and it is easy to use – push one button on the dashboard, activate the turn signal, step on the brake, shift into reverse and the truck does the rest.

Also on the job were advanced cruise control, front/rear split-view cameras and front/rear parking aids (which warned when I got to close to objects while navigating the Stop&Shop parking lot).

Interior amenities list reads like a modern SUV

I thought I would need a long time to get comfortable driving the Transit, but, even after a five-inch snowfall, I never felt intimidated or out of sorts. Playing a major role in that was comfortable power-assisted and heated leather (!) seats (even the one passenger is cossetted in leather, while the driver also has a power-adjusted lumbar support) and steering wheel with tilt/telescope adjustability.

Transit has a new interior with a modern dashboard and features designed to improve comfort and practicality, such as durable new fabrics on the seating surfaces, plus myriad cupholders and compartments for storing gear and gadgets.

What’s behind driver and passenger (in this case without a wall or barrier) is a vast 246.7 cubic feet of empty, well-lit cargo space, so you cannot call the cabin “cozy,” but in front of them is the well-designed dashboard with ergonomically placed controls, new electronic instrument cluster and eight-inch color touchscreen-centric infotainment system with navigation.

AM/FM/SiriusXM satellite radio/streaming audio along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto provide the same entertainment sources found in today’s passenger vehicles. Six or eight bottle/cupholders (two angled, padded storage bins which can hold a bottle or another large, long object), several USB as well as 12-Volt and 110-Volt outlets help make it an even more livable space.

The hardware underneath

The optional 3.5-liter EcoBoost® V6 engine with automatic stop-start technology puts 310 horsepower and 400 pounds-feet of torque via Ford’s 10-speed automatic transmission on its way to the road through the new-for 2020 all-wheel-drive system. A system which worked wonderfully driving through the largest snowfall of the season.

The power came on smoothly and enabled me to keep up with traffic during highway driving without any concerns. Again, transitioning to the Transit did not need any major changes from my normal driving style.

The suspension system is simple in design – MacPherson-type struts up front with stabilizer bar and gas-pressurized shock absorbers while a leaf-spring solid axle and gas-pressurized shocks do the job at the rear – but so well executed that despite the empty cargo space, I never felt the rear-end of the Ford Transit was driving the van. Simple but well-engineered for the job at hand.

The 16-inch wheels, shod with 235/65R16C (Michelin on the test vehicle) tires, house disc brakes at all four corners. Working under anti-lock control (ABS) are 12.1-inch rotors with two-piston calipers in the front, 12.1-inch rotors with single-piston calipers at the rear.

Exterior updates for Transit are subtle but functionally driven. A new power sliding door is available for cargo van and passenger van to make getting loaded up as well as exiting the vehicle easier.

The bottom line

The extensive, diverse Ford Transit Cargo Van 150 range covers numerous configurations (and the number is staggeringly higher when the 250-350 variants are considered and there is an extensive range of passenger versions as well) from the RWD short wheelbase (129.9 inches, 219-inch overall length) which has a $34,510 base price to the AWD high roof, extended (147-inch wheelbase, 263.9-inch length) with an MSRP of $45,950.

The Ford Transit I drove came in just under $50,000 – $49,575 including $1,695 destination charge. (The base price was $39,205.) The pricing fits in with the segment and brings a host of very useful features.

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Fuel economy has been about 18 miles per gallon. The federal Environmental Protection Agency does not rate commercial vehicles such as the Ford Transit so there is no baseline for comparison. The number I saw seems reasonable considering the size, weight and virtually square box of a van body moving through the air.

The empty 2020 Ford Transit Cargo Van 150 LR AWD was full of surprises from the leather seating to the eight-inch color screen to the long-list of ADAS to the ease of driving and comfortable ride. Impressive.

Next week TBR Drives the Genesis GV80 luxury SUV

Mike Geylin
Mike Geylin

Mike Geylin is the Editor-in-Chief at Hagman Media. Geylin has been in automotive communications for five decades working in all aspects of the industry from OEM to supplier to motorsports as well as reporting for both newspapers and magazines on the industry.