I’m going to keep this as short as I can since I only spent a bit over an hour driving this van and I don’t want to spend any more time writing this than I did driving it. So here goes: My sister lives in Chicago about 25 minutes from the Home of the Magnum. She and her husband used to live in Madison while she was going to grad school and I crashed at their place on several occasions, usually to catch a good rock show. When I stayed there, I was grateful for their trusty red couch, a cheap-but-impossibly-comfortable piece of furniture that put people to sleep on it faster and more thoroughly than three shots of Nyquil and a Netflix streaming queue filled with all nine (!) season of According to Jim.
Several years ago, my wife remarked that she’d like to have that couch if it were ever replaced and when my sister told me last week that it was marked for replacement, I immediately said yes. Visions of Sunday afternoon naps sprawled out on the now-a-bit-dingy couch are undeniable. Lacking the time to borrow a truck, I instead rented a van from the local rentalry. I had thought nothing of it and figured I’d get a run-of-the-mill Econoline, but I was excited to be greeted instead by a low-mileage Ford Transit 250.
That’s a long introduction, I suppose, but it’s a way of explaining that I was only moving a 60-pound couch and needed a van because borrowing a truck on short notice was probably going to be more of a pain in the ass than shelling out $50 for Ultimate Napping Furniture (UNF). There was no exploring the capacity of this van’s cargo space, which seemed roomy and was a completely usable rectangular box. It was, as you can see, completely up to the task of moving a couch.
Ergonomically, the Transit 2500 was laid out in a familiarly ill-fitting way for those short of stature like myself. The column-mounted shifter was nice and nearby, but the arm rest sits too high for me (I’m 5’5″ if I’m generous about my height). Sightlines are actually fairly excellent forward and to the side, although I found rear views a little less inspiring compared with Econoline and full-size GMC vans I’ve driven. I suppose the typical work-van user is a bit bigger than me.
The center console is functionally laid out, though, with two 12-volt charging inputs so that a two-person work crew can simultaneously charge their phones. Once upon a time, I wrote a review of the ridiculously silly and overpriced leather-wrapped USB phone charger that you see above. It will probably never see the light of day because even I think it makes me look a little crazy.
Like all rental (and press) cars, the 7,700 miles on the odometer are hard miles. People who rent vans tend not to beat on them so much by flogging them s they do pushing the limits of the posted 3,400-pound capacity (That’s U-Hauls’ number; Ford says 3,600; I suspect the difference has to do with U-Haul’s company-wide additions to the fleet or with trying unsuccessfully to keep people from overloading the vehicle). Either way, the drivetrain seemed strong-enough and the ride was bit harsh but not overwhelmingly so.
Speaking of the drivetrain, the first thing I noticed when driving was the tachometer showing a 6,800 RPM redline. I’d not really looked into the Transit Van ever so I assumed a V6 was under the hood since most of the haggard Econolines I’d ever rented had a lugging V8 that bleated its distaste for you at being revved over 3,500 RPM.
I was curious so I popped the hood to see it was indeed a 3.7-liter V6. With an empty van, it pulled adequately though unspectacularly, but good lord does that engine enjoy revving. I just now read that it’s the same dual overhead cam engine used in the Explorer and F-150, putting out 275 horsepower. I was pretty impressed with it, although my brief attempts at defeating Traction Control with it were unsuccessful. However, I found the manual-shifting mode on the six-speed automatic transmission to be pretty responsive as far as such things go.
The engine sounds like a typically blatty V6, but nobody in the real world care show a work or moving van sounds. So what do people who would buy one of these care about? Well, two things: cost-per-mile and ease of driving.
Let’s take the second item first, although it correlates to cost-per-mile. If you’re renting these out to any Joe Schmo Q. Public, you really need the van to be easy to drive and in that, the Transit succeeds. It drives not unlike a big car and actually probably drives better than many old cars. There’s enough power to get away from stop lights and the forward seating position means you can see exactly where you are, especially when cornering or maneuvering into a driveway. If you happen to own a business and have a couple of these with employees driving, having ease of driving matters so that you’re not shelling out cash for repairs when someone smashes a side mirror or worse.
And that brings us to cost-per-mile; as I don’t own a relevant business, I can’t really say what efficiency is. I suspect the fuel tank wasn’t completely full when I took the keys because I put in 3.5 gallons of gas after logging just 31 miles of combined highway and city driving. Since the rated mileage is 12 city, 19 highway, 16 combined, I think the tank must have been short a gallon or so. Either way, this is a—
[Timer goes off]
Ah, well, I’d love to go on, but my hour is up and I have a nap that isn’t going to take itself.
[All photos hastily taken by iPotato and copyright 2015 Hooniverse/Eric Rood]