The most exciting news as far as operators are concerned is the introduction of the 200hp, five-cylinder 3.2-litre TDCi powerplant — known internally at Ford as the i5 — first displayed at the 2007 British CV Show. An extremely healthy peak torque of 470Nm (347 lb/ft) is on tap from 1,700rpm to 2,500rpm. It's available solely in the heavier weight rear-wheel drive Transits, starting with the medium-wheelbase 350.
Built at Ford's Inonu engine plant and slotted into vehicles at the Kocaeli assembly facility — both in Turkey — the new powerplant is mated with an upgraded Durashift six-speed manual transmission.
Featuring a new dual mass flywheel and clutch assembly for the higher torque output of the new unit, the durability of the new gearbox has been engineered specifically to meet the high levels of punishment that are part and parcel of the van market.
Service intervals for the new engine are quoted as 30,000 miles or two years, whichever occurs first.
Detail changes to the front of Transit — the nose has been extended by around 100mm —were necessary to mate the new engine to the vehicle. These include a new front bumper and bumper beam, new heat shields, a modified grille opening panel to accommodate the redesigned front grille, a modified air intake which includes additional 'ribbing' to improve Sound Quality and Vibration (SQ&V) behaviour, a new exhaust system and an uprated cooling system.
The suspension has also been tuned for the weight distribution of the new powerplant and the redesigned front bumper used on models fitted with the five-cylinder engine is uniquely one-piece. A further action to contribute to the best possible SQ&V is the fine tuning given to the engine mounts. The reduction of vibration through so-called 'noise transfer paths' further contributes to the car-like driving quality of the latest Transits.
The second new drivetrain replaces the 130hp 2.2-litre unit currently found in front-wheel drive models. Power has been bumped to 140hp and the peak torque figure has risen from 310Nm to 350Nm (258 lb/ft) and is available between 1,800rpm and 2,400rpm.
This new engine gets a six-speed manual transmission out of the box, replacing the standard five-speeder fitted to all current front-wheel drive Transits, and can be found under the bonnet of the special edition Transit Sport.
Ford has also extended Transit's appeal at the heavier end of the market with the announcement of 350HD and 460 rear-wheel drive models which join the existing 430 derivatives. These feature dual rear wheels as standard and have an uprated towing ability of 3,000kg.
Both axles have been strengthened and can take 1,850kg at the front and 3,300kg and 2,600kg at the rear for the 460 and 350HD respectively. The heavy duty front axle was available previously as an option.
To cope with the raised payload potentials, these heavy duty models are fitted with larger rear brake callipers, an upgraded handbrake, uprated rear springs and revised front and rear damper settings. Chassis cab versions also benefit from uprated front dampers assemblies.
As well as the new 3.2-litre these newcomers can also be specified with the existing 140hp version of the four-cylinder 2.4TDCi; a six-speed manual transmission is also standard with this engine.
Dual rear-wheel drive Transits now have ESP fitted as standard and this includes Jumbo vans, chassis and chassis double cabs and 17-seater minibuses. The ESP system has also been improved across the whole range to include Hill Assist Launch which does exactly what it says on the tin.
Last, but not least, Ford has announced the availability of a coated diesel particulate filter for £850 and a 103 litre-capacity fuel tank (£55) on certain derivatives (all prices exclude VAT).
We have sampled the new 3.2-litre TDCi in both a long-wheelbase EL Jumbo (high roof) 350HD and 460 EL and can report that it's one hell of an impressive engine.
Having an odd number of cylinders means that there's a very pleasant exhaust note, but it's the spread of low-down torque that really catches the driver's attention. Once on the move gearchanges become infrequent as fifth and sixth gears seem to be all that's necessary.
We even tried taking a couple of 90° right turns in third gear— we were in Germany so didn't want to risk this manoeuvre turning across on-coming traffic — and to our amazement it didn't complain at all. Picking up speed after the turn took a while, but even with the throttle nailed to the floor power delivery was silky smooth.
Following these two heavyweights, the SportVan with its new, uprated 140hp 2.2TDCi felt positively pedestrian, but take it from us, it is perfectly powerful enough have fun behind the wheel. The low profile tyres help to tighten-up the handling and the steering response increases.
Based on a standard front-wheel drive short-wheelbase Transit, SportVan really stands out from the crowd. It's wrapped in unique Performance Blue paintwork with GT40-style white bonnet stripes, has twin exhaust pipes and sits on 18in alloy wheels fitted with low profile 235/45 tyres.
The front grille and bumper are body-coloured, as are the rear spoiler, front air dam, side skirts and wheelarch extensions. Mud flaps all-round complete the external cosmetics.
With Transit being so high profile as far as the general media is concerned Ford would have been foolish to endow the SportVan with an engine outside of the existing line-up in the range. It would have been accused of irresponsibility at the very least.
With this in mind SportVan is powered by the standard 2.2-litre TDCi which now produces 140hp. Take it from us, this engine provides perfectly acceptable performance thanks to its high torque output of 350Nm which is available from as low as 1,800rpm.
It isn't just SportVan's exterior that has received a makeover; the interior gains a host of goodies as well, on top of the standard remote central locking — including deadlocking — driver's airbag, ABS and ESP, including Hill Assist Launch.
Lucky owners get full leather seats, air conditioning, in-dash six CD player with steering column remote controls, cruise control, electric windows and door mirrors (heated as well), tinted glass and leather steering wheel and gearknob.
The list doesn't end there. Rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights, front fog lights. a passenger airbag and a load area lining kit.
The 3.2TDCi and the new heavyweight models will be of minority interest, but just go to show that Ford is not taking its dominant market leadership for granted. The engine is a masterpiece of engineering and is likely to turn a few heads over at Volkswagen, the only other manufacturer with a five-cylinder engine in its LCV line-up.