Ford Transit 2.4TDCi (140hp) Cab-in-Van AWD

Date: Thursday, July 29, 2010

Coaxing a panel van heavily laden with equipment and a crew of workmen up a steep and icy rural road miles from anywhere in the depths of winter isn’t the easiest of tasks. No matter how good a driver you are, you run the risk of slipping and slithering all over the place and ending up in a ditch.

 

Life would of course be easier if the engine could drive all four wheels rather than just two, a fact recognised by Ford. For sometime it has been marketing an AWD — All Wheel Drive — version of the ubiquitous Transit.

In ordinary conditions power is transmitted solely to the back wheels. If the road surface turns slippery, however, then some of the engine’s output can go to the front wheels too in a bid to boost traction.

Transit AWD is not designed to cross deeply-rutted terrain. The ride height is the same as that of the standard vehicle, so it doesn’t have enough ground clearance. What it can do, however, is keep you rolling if the local dual carriageway is covered in snow and a black ice warning has been issued.

We sampled our AWD package in a medium-wheelbase Transit Double Cab-in-Van 350 3.5-tonner with a medium-height roof and in high-end Limited trim. It has a second row of seats plus a cargo area right at the back. As a consequence it has plenty of room for a work gang and their tools too. AWD can also be specified on ordinary vans and chassis cabs as well as on minibuses.

Technical

All AWD Transits are powered by the same engine; a 2.4-litre Duratorq TDCi four-cylinder 16-valve common rail turbocharged and intercooled diesel producing 140hp at 3,500rpm. Top torque of 375Nm kicks in at 2,000rpm and a six-speed manual gearbox is a standard feature. It does not come with a low-ratio set of gears.

Independent suspension with MacPherson struts is fitted at the front along with an anti-roll bar while leaf springs help support the rear.

Our Transit’s 16ins steel wheels were shod with 215/75 R16C Pirelli Citynet tyres. Limited specification vans are normally fitted with alloys, but deleting them in favour of steel saves you £350. The odd saving here and there might come in handy given that we’re not talking about a cheap vehicle here.

ABS is standard, but the AWD system means that Electronic Stability Programme and Hill Launch Assist are not installed or up for grabs as options. Disc brakes are fitted all round and power-assisted steering provides an 11.9m kerb-to-kerb turning circle. It increases to 12.5m wall-to-wall.

Gross payload is 1,284kg — 81kg less than the equivalent standard 4x2 van — and our demonstrator could tow a braked trailer grossing at up to 2.8 tonnes.

Load Area

Separated from the passenger saloon by means of a full-height, glazed bulkhead, the rear cargo bay offers a handy 5.7m3 of carrying space.

Access is by means of twin back doors that can be swung through 90°, then through 180° if you press the button that releases the stays. A grab-handle or a step, or both, would be welcome to ease entry. Wayward loads can be secured to four lashing points mounted in the floor plus one above each wheel box.

The wheel boxes are shrouded in hard plastic to protect them against scrapes while a tailored mat protects the floor. Half-height hardboard panels defend the doors and sides.

Maximum cargo bay length is 1,893mm. Maximum height is 1,645mm while maximum width is 1,762mm, narrowing to 1,390mm between the wheel boxes. The rear loading height is 715mm. The door aperture height is 1,566 mm with a width of 1,540mm.

Cab Comfort

Settle down behind the steering wheel and you’ll be in a well-laid-out cab whose only significant drawback is the quality and fit of some of the materials used. For example, we’ve yet to encounter a modern Transit with a glovebox lid that fits properly.


The capacious glovebox isn’t the only place where items can be stowed. Other storage facilities include a big bottle-holder and a cup-holder at each end of the dashboard.

There’s a lidded compartment above the instrument binnacle with a 12v power point — one of two in the cab — plus another lidded compartment on top of the facia on the passenger side. Flip over the lid that covers the shelf on top of the middle section of the dashboard and it transforms itself into a useful desk complete with a couple of cup-holders and a slot for your pen.

Good to see that both the heating and ventilation system — ours included air conditioning — and the MP3-compatible radio/CD player boast such chunky, easy-to-understand controls. You’ll find an additional set of controls for the radio/CD unit remotely mounted on the steering column.

Our demonstrator boasted Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, electric front windows and electrically-adjustable and heated exterior mirrors with a wide-angle section. The driver’s seat is height-adjustable and driver and outer front passenger airbags are fitted.

There are two passenger seats next to the driver plus three in the back and all six are fitted with lap-and-diagonal belts. The back seats are surprisingly comfortable and offer more legroom than you might expect.

Access to the rear passenger saloon is by means of a glazed sliding nearside door. Back seat travellers can stow items in a compartment mounted above the front seats.

On the Road

If you’re in a hurry, then you needn’t worry. This Transit really shifts, with rapid acceleration thanks to big dollops of torque in all the right places.

Once you’re up and running on the motorway, your main concern is reining the engine in while keeping an eye out for speed cameras. A slick gearchange adds to the driving enjoyment and Transit AWD handles well too, with plenty of feedback through the steering.

On the downside it doesn’t ride as well as the standard Transit and the engine is rather noisy. That’s especially the case at idle, when the noise is accompanied by a touch of vibration.

Turn down a wet, muddy rural track that might cause a standard front- or rear-wheel drive Transit to struggle and you’ll keep moving quite happily. The only things that will slow you or bring you to a juddering halt are deep potholes and big boulders. As indicated earlier, Transit AWD has insufficient ground clearance and suspension articulation to cope with them.

Keep within the vehicle’s limitations, however, and you’ll find AWD an invaluable aid to mobility, especially when the weather gets bad. It’s then that you’ll need the front fog lights that have been fitted as standard.

As far as fuel consumption is concerned the demonstrator achieved an average of 33mpg in our hands.

Remote central locking is included in the deal along with an alarm and side-rubbing strips are fitted to protect the bodywork from minor scratches. Unfortunately no protection is provided for the wheelarches. A step in the front bumper makes it easier for the driver to climb up and clean the heated windscreen with its rain-sensing wipers.

Transit is protected by a three-year/100,000-mile warranty with roadside assistance and requires servicing every 15,000 miles.

Verdict

Ford’s cleverly-designed Transit Double Cab-in-Van AWD is invaluable if you need to get a gang of workers and their tools to an awkward-to-access site. With seats for six people and more room in the cargo bay than you might expect, it offers bags of performance on the public highway, handles well and the six-speed manual gearbox is a joy to use. OK, it won’t go where a Land Rover will go — it doesn’t have the ground clearance for one thing — and in our case engine noise and some vibration were causes for concern. Nor is the quality of some of the interior fixtures and fittings all that it should be. That said, it’s a versatile, if pricey, piece of kit that should win plenty of friends; and nobody ever got shot for buying a Transit.

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