The UK’s big supermarket chains are increasingly contemplating switching to zero-emission battery-electric 3.5t vans for home delivery work. Range limitations and the constraints imposed by the charging infrastructure mean that they are not yet suitable for all applications, however, so diesel is still likely to be favoured for much of the work that the fleets handle.
Home delivery is a harsh environment for vans, with clutches taking a real hammering. As a consequence, more home delivery companies are specifying diesels with multi-speed automatic boxes, and Mercedes-Benz’s Sprinter is attracting much of the business.
Not surprisingly, other manufacturers are hoping to snaffle a piece of the pie. Iveco has made some progress with the Daily, Volkswagen is hoping to do the same with the automatic Crafter that was tested in the May issue, and Ford is aiming to get a foot in the door with its 10-speed automatic rear-wheel drive Transit. The same box is deployed in the Ranger pick-up and the Mustang car.
Unfortunately, the big Blue Oval has taken rather too long to launch it in Transit, just as it has been behind the curve with the introduction of the electric Transit. Good news if you happen to be selling Sprinters, and there seems little doubt that Mercedes-Benz’s offering has been putting the Transit under pressure.
Ford has of course been offering front-wheel-drive Transits with a six-speed auto box for some time. Not all home delivery fleets want to go the front-wheel-drive route however, and the six-speed box is somewhat long in the tooth.
It was with these thoughts in mind that we took to the highway in a rear-wheel-drive Ford Transit 350 L2 H2 in Limited trim, powered by a 170hp 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel married to the 10-speed auto transmission. How did we fare?