2015 Ford Transit 350 Diesel: First Drive

Transit dump 2 II

By G.R. Whale

We finally got our hands on a 2015 Ford Transit 350 Power Stroke diesel and apart from the occasional drive-through clearance issue and lower overall tow ratings, found it quite a bit better than the E-Series van, and in some cases, no more expensive.

We drove the largest Transit offered — a high-roof, long-wheelbase, extended-length dualie 350HD. It's about 6,200 pounds empty with spare, jack and less than half a tank of diesel exhaust fluid, split roughly with 3,200 pounds on the front axle and 3,000 on the rear. With a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,360 pounds, the working payload 4,160 is pounds, and the max trailer rating for our configuration is 6,900 pounds, allowing for a 200-pound driver to stay within the 13,500 gross combined weight rating. Although the Transit is usually higher than wide and access to the roof can be tricky, load carrying up top is rated for 420 pounds.


If you think ordering today's Euro-style vans is a simple process with simple choices, think again. They probably have more configurations than pickup trucks, which typically have the most complex ordering books in the industry. This dualie container runs from about $42,000 with the destination fee, and of the 18 options available only two are four-digit numbers: a $1,070 Interior Upgrade Package (AM/FM/CD/Sync, cruise control, illuminated visor mirrors, etc.) and the diesel engine at $4,130. On lesser-equipped Transits the diesel is pricier, but not so much here because the 3.5-liter V-6 turbo is standard on the 350HD.

Cargo vans come standard with front windows, and you can add fixed glass for the rear doors, most side panels and sliding side doors; a left-side slider is coming later this year. That option on a Sprinter costs $818. The one option we couldn't find for the rear windows was a wiper — if you're paying for glass you might as well be able to see through it.

We'd likely choose most of the options on tester except the Green Gem paint ($150) and white wheels ($35). The van had rear glass, parking sensors and a camera; a 3.73:1 limited-slip differential; long-arm mirrors; cloth power seats; the trailer package and integrated trailer brake controller; LED lights; a heavy-duty alternator; a manual regen with active inhibit (for cleaning the diesel particulate filter); and upfitter switches for a total that came to $50,295 including destination.

As a competitor, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter makes for an awkward comparison because the standard Sprinter wheelbase of 144 inches is just 4 inches less than the long-wheelbase Transit, and the extended-body Sprinter comes only on the 170-inch wheelbase. By length and GVWR, the Sprinter nearest this Transit is a 170-inch wheelbase, high-roof super-single rear at $45,790; a dualie is $630 more but eclipses this Transit in GVWR, payload and towing by roughly 600-700 pounds.

How It Drives

The 3.2-liter, biodiesel-capable, cast-iron-block, 20-valve aluminum-head inline five-cylinder diesel starts quickly at ambients down to 49 degrees. There is some diesel cackle when the engine is cold and at initial tip-in, and even a little bit at torque-converter hookup following a shift. However, in general, the characteristic diesel and five-cylinder syncopation are evenly split and seem to cancel each other out. Engine noise was never an issue; this drivetrain seemed no noisier than a Sprinter Class C motor home full of sound-absorbing carpet, upholstery and curtains.

Despite 185 horsepower at 3,000 rpm and 350 pounds-feet of torque from 1,500-2,750 rpm, initial acceleration was surprisingly lively — rear-wheel spin would invoke traction control when empty and more so when flat towing. The six-speed automatic transmission's ratios are identical to the half-ton F-150, but the Transit's small tires and 3.73:1 axle ratio have the same effective gearing as a base F-150 tire and a 4.10:1 axle. The Transit tires weigh just 32 pounds each, a good amount less than the pickup's. At 65 mph the tachometer showed 2,100 rpm and pushed low/mid-20s for fuel economy when empty; our best leg was 27 mpg cruising at around 60 mph. During our week with the Transit, we averaged 19 mpg combined (20 percent of our driving was highway miles).

Once rolling at highways speeds, acceleration levels off and passing must be planned accordingly; upshifts occur between 3,500-3,600 rpm but it carries to 4,000 rpm in Manual mode if you prefer. Expect hand-timed zero-to-60-mph empty runs in the 12.7-second range; we ran out of unenforced roads before getting to max speeds and while the van was still stable at 85 mph, road and wind noise, and fuel economy would keep me from doing that routinely.

For fun, we hitched an old small-block Toyota Land Cruiser to the back, and the empty zero-to-50-mph time (the Cruiser is not deemed "tested" enough for 60 mph) of 10.3 seconds went up to about 15 seconds towing; on every attempt the truck shifted right on the 50-mph hash mark. Our estimates have the classic Land Cruiser weighing about 4,000 pounds. Although it's not recommended, the Transit brakes were more than capable of handling the Cruiser, and in Tow/Haul mode it downshifted automatically on descents without brake pedal or shifter input; the engine/transmission marriage is as good as any we've tested in a while, as is the integrated brake controller.

Transit hitch II

To further exercise the trailer brakes, I hooked up a tandem-axle dump trailer that weighed around 2 tons. That brought my zero-to-60 time up to 21 seconds, while fuel economy on my testing loop dropped from 15 mpg empty to 12.7 pulling the trailer. On a typical interstate grade averaging 6 percent, we could climb at 65 mph at 2,600 rpm, virtually equaling the speed posted in a 2014 two-wheel-drive F-150 base 3.7-liter V-6 turning 5,700-6,100 revs. When traffic forced a slowdown, the Transit recovered to about 63 mph.

How It Tows

The Transit tows like a pickup with a long camper, with the tow ball around 84 to 86 inches from rear-axle centerline, depending on ball mount. A 7-foot overhang on a 12.25-foot wheelbase brings some pivoting and requires attention to weight distribution. The receiver height of 14.75 inches will often require a ball flip or lift hitch. However, with either setup we appreciated that the right-side rear door could be opened; we were also able to open the left side while flat towing.

The optional rear camera is low on the door and a great help with tow-ball guidance. It proved more accurate with shorter ball mounts, but two other issues provided more difficulty. First, the smaller screen is a fair bit away, and second, the Transit turns quite tightly — a shorter-wheelbase Sprinter needs 4 feet more curb-to-curb, so it was easy to swing that long rear end right past the target.

A thick rear anti-roll bar complements the smaller cab, so empty roll control is respectable; passing a bus at 75 mph shoved it over just a foot. Crosswinds were limited to 25-mph gusts and didn't seem to affect it much; the steering is not fast but is easy to point accurately.

Finally, with approach angles what they are, we were surprised that we never had an issue rolling into driveways, but with a hitch that is only a foot off the road and 7 feet behind the tires you should expect that sooner or later it is going to drag.


The Transit's interior is huge — as you'd expect — with enough room for five rows of seats and a cargo area equivalent to a full-size SUV with all its seats folded. My "assistant," a 6-foot-4 test dummy, stood comfortably inside the van wearing a hat and shoes, and a 6-by-5-foot package went through the rear doors without any trouble. In dualie form at least, the Transit has two advantages over the Sprinter: a lower load deck and 6 more inches of space between the wheel wells, though neither dualie will carry a 4-foot section flat.

We loaded the Transit with various items throughout our test. A patio set didn't tax it at all. If we had wanted to fill the cargo area with bags of mulch, charcoal or smoking chips we'd still be loading it. On one trip we put a Yamaha Raptor 660 through the rear doors and two small all-terrain vehicles through the side door and still had room for fuel jugs, firewood and camping gear; heck, we could have slung some hammocks over it all.

Cavernous is the operative word when talking about the Transit's cargo capacity.

The interior has a dozen big, unrecessed D-rings along the floor edges, including one in the side step, so securing loads was never an issue. Overhead LED lights simplified working at night, though we're curious as to why there are two sets aft, two forward and one in the middle offset to one side. Consider this a blank canvas that will carry about 485 cubic feet of whatever you want as long as it's less than 12 feet long or 2 tons in weight.

Transit dash II

As someone who has driven many E-Series cutaways that weren't properly balanced or loaded properly, the Transit is a revelation. You have about 1,000 pounds leeway on the front axle (which should include your own weight) and 4,300 pounds on the back axle, so when loading think gooseneck and try to center the load a few inches ahead of the rear-axle centerline.

Instrumentation could have been pulled from any Ford diesel; it provides the basics. The message display always showed DEF as "less than half full" without any more specifics, and the diesel particulate filter capacity appeared to vary in 5 percent increments. There are many storage compartments, including a good phone spot if you use one for navigating and some hidden compartments for your wallet and other valuables. The rear parking sensor is automatically disabled with a trailer plugged in; that switch and the traction control above both have light amber "off" lights you can't see in the sun's glare.

All tallied, would we spend $50,000 on a boxy player like this? Ahead of an E-350, a pimped-out half-ton or any other vehicle in the class, we'd say yes.

For a price sheet, click on the image below.

2015 Transit GRW price (2)

Cars.com photos by G.R. Whale


Transit eng r II

Transit rr ax II

Transit IP II

Transit DPF msg II

Transit OHD II

Transit furn II

Transit ATV 4 II

Transit rr dr II

Transit TLC2[5] II




Finally a Ford worthy of praise, hope this shakes up the Class B market and puts pressure on MB and Ram. I call it like I see it and this is a winner unlike the F150 which is a big loser.

The pressure it would put on Ram would be to bring in the IVECO Daily as the Ram ProMaster HD. The Daily offers a similar high-roof long-body (up to 161-inch WB, 692 cu-ft) dually configuration on rear-wheel-drive - so if FCA wants to join that market, it won't take a lot of work, other than possibly making sure there are enough engines if they choose to use the 3.0L V6 EcoDiesel which outpowers the Ford's I-5 at 240/420.

Eh still looks like a catfish.

27 mpg best is pretty impressive for a big van with DRW weighing 6200 lbs. Think of the mpg in a 4500 lbs. 2wd scab f150. Then add the coming 10 speed. Your easily in the 30 plus mpg range.

Total Commercial Van Sales: June 2015

Ford(all models): 21,419
General Motors(all models): 8,888
Chrysler(all models): 2,746

I'm guessing both GM and Ford are waiting to see how the Ram and Titan diesels work before they decide to join the diesel game. I hope they both join in, but we will see.

Frito Lay had a brand new Ford Transit 250 cube van hauling chips on gravel roads where I live and after only 3 weeks on the job it had $4000 worth of damage done to it and it wasn't involved in any accidents at all. Like anything new let someone else do the torture testing first to find out if it is any good. So far it's not looking good unless you drive on pavement all the time.

Welcome to the land of European Vans. Similar vans and capabilities shared by many of their Vans

Cab chassis version not a cutaway

Good article Mark.

I can comment on the fantastic diesel fitted to these Transits as I have one in my pickup.

Ford really need to use this diesel in the new aluminium wonder F-150. I know some will want the V6 Lion, which is also a nice diesel in the F truck. From a cost perspective this engine would be the superior choice. It is a truck engine.

I regularly pull over 32mpg in my pickup at highway speeds.

The torque is delivered in a very linear fashion from 1 500 to 3 000rpm.

I would like to see dual cab versions of this with a 8 to 9 foot flat bed on the back.

A flatbed Transit will make an ideal work vehicle in many situations where HDs are currently used. Even carpenters with a single cab could have a 10-12 foot flatbed on the back in a vehicle the size of a full size pickup and far easier on FE.

I own a promaster but must give props , great mpg and the cockpit is a lot better than the ram BUT you pay for it the transits are not cheap.

Ford needs to install their 4.4 liter diesel in this.


You realize that the Transit outsells both the Chevy Express and GMC Savana COMBINED, right?

And what evidence is there that the Transit isn't reliable?

It uses the same engines as the F-150.

supercliffy - what kind of damage?

The MPG seems impressive for such a large van.

I love the 3.2 I5 and wish it were in my truck.

My new F150 weighs only 4200 lbs. I've got 325 rated horsepower in the smaller Ecoboost version in a reg cab, and 3.31 rear axle and can eek out 24 mpg under the right circumstances and a very light foot. But all that horsepower in a reg cab, 2wd, short bed used for light tasks is unnecessary. I never use it and my tranny rarely drops down below 5th gear once underway unless I'm cruising down a steep grade, and the truck's cruise control shifts on down to try and maintain speed.

But imagine my setup with the 3.2 I5. It'd be perfect and that 350 peak lbs foot of torque @ 1500-2500 RPM would be awesome and mpg could be mid twenties without me trying so hard.

But the problem is not with my truck, but the other configurations and variations of the F150. The 185 peak horsepower would be plenty for me my truck and for what I do with it, but most folks drive the big ones, with the four big doors, and the 4wds, the 20" rims and so on and so on. And some people actually try to tow a lot of weight nowadays with 1/2-tons, and so Ford couldn't let folks option the 3.2 I5 for those bigger configurations, because it'd be too weak. And to put it just in the 2wd, short-bed versions of the reg., super cab and super crew versions would make the diesel option too expensive for customers at that price point to consider. It's around a $5700 option for the Transit, and so if you take my $27K truck and add $5700, that's a huge jump in price percentage wise, yet it's not enough power for the $40K trucks where Ford could stand to lose a little margin for the engine.

On the other hand, if they use the Lion engine, it'll work for all the trucks, but then it would be even more expensive for both Ford and the customer. So it's a conundrum that can be solved only through cheaper technologies for exhaust treatment systems or for people to go back to buying regular 1/2-ton trucks for regular 1/2-ton duty like the good ole days, but I don't see the latter occurring any time soon.

2 weeks ago bought a class C Thor compass RV ... it is ford transit 350 ... it run all the way from Chicago to ABQ ... the wt. total is 10360 Ib ... it runs AWESOME ... with a listed 180 hp and a torque of 350 , the driving was a breeze ...it made 15.4 mpg with a 2000 rpm , the hill ups were a breeze , sometimes with rpm goes up to 3000 but mostly not ... i loved it and no way to compare to gas engines .... once i got the spare rim and tire i ordered from Ford , as NO ONE have it cause its new to the USA market , sure i will use it and put more info ... just to remember DEF should be always there , otherwise ... !!!! lol ... problems ..thanks


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