From a commercial fleet perspective, the notable additions to the 2021-MY Ford Transit are the ergonomic enhancements, in a nod to the burgeoning delivery market whose drivers enter the cargo area and exit the van hundreds of times a day.
The 2021 Transit model follows a major refresh in 2020, in which Ford added a Crew version, a new standard engine, standard active safety technologies, and embedded modem to the Transit van family.
In all 2021-MY Transit van models up to 9,500 lbs. GVWR, Ford replaced the manual parking brake on the floor with an electronic parking brake, creating a 50% wider clear aisle between the front seats. The overhead shelf is now optional for more clearance when standing.
An optional center console with right-side shifter further improves walkthrough and offers more than 7 inches of additional driver legroom.
For fleets all in on parcel delivery, Ford is now offering the Parcel Delivery Package, which adds 50/50 hinged rear doors with a wide 253-degree opening. Full interior lighting facilitates early morning and late evening deliveries.
As well, the armrests have been eliminated from both the driver and passenger seats to further improve cargo access.
For limousine fleets, Ford added a Livery Package available for the XLT passenger van model. The Livery Package includes 10-way power seats with upgraded leather on all seats, power sliding side door, HID headlamps, full privacy glass, and 16-inch silver wheels.
On the leisure side, Ford added RV and Adventure Prep packages and updated the Motorhome Prep Package available for 2021 models.
For the biggest jobs, the Transit cargo van can be configured with dual rear wheels and a maximum GVWR of 11,000 pounds.
For the 2020 model year, Ford added a plethora of features and updates that carry forward to 2021.
The most significant change for 2020 was the addition of a Crew version to the Transit family. The Crew van offers a happy medium for fleets looking for ample cargo space and the ability to haul a crew of five with a second row, three-person removable bench seat.
With two engines, three roof heights, three lengths, nine GVWR choices, and three rear axle ratios, spec’ing the latest Transit could send fleet managers into “option fatigue,” says John Diederich, vehicle engineering supervisor at Ford. “This is when involving your commercial dealer really matters.”
For 2020, the new standard engine became the 3.5L V-6, which offers the same 275 hp and similar torque (262 lb. ft.) as the outgoing 3.7L. Yet the newer engine’s port fuel direct-injection technology is more efficient, particularly when combined with the new 10-speed transmission, says Diederich.
The 3.5L EcoBoost gas engine carries over from 2019. The EcoBoost, available as an upgrade, churns out 310 hp and 400 lb.-ft. of torque at much lower RPMs than the standard engine and now includes startstop technology.
The EcoBoost is designed to support high frontal area conversions like RVs, so it’s included in the Motorhome Prep Package, but it can also be ordered for certain cutaway and chassis cab configurations that will be built into other vehicles with high frontal area conversions such as large box trucks.
The Power Stroke diesel engine is no longer available, due to “limited market demand.”
We tested a 2020-MY Transit Crew Van with the EcoBoost engine. For never-EcoBoost traditionalists, think more Boost, less Eco. This engine had plenty of guts to power through steep grades in the foothills of California’s San Bernardino National Forest, albeit with fewer than 200 lbs. of camping gear.
Added in 2020, Ford’s optional all-wheel-drive system (AWD) is always engaged. It gives Ford an edge over Ram ProMaster and allows comparisons to the 4x4 package in the Mercedes Sprinter. The system will send 100% of the torque to the front or rear axles as needed for better performance on snow, ice, or in mud.
The benefit to Ford’s AWD system, says Diederich, is that it does not raise the load floor or seat height over the standard rear wheel-drive model.
Since time immemorial, automakers seemed content to keep the user experience in commercial vehicles austere and lacking the driver upgrades of passenger cars. Thankfully, automakers have converged truck and van cockpits even closer to consumer design, and the Transit is a good example.
As of the 2020-MY, the Transit has standard tinted glass, more standard USB ports, a 110v power outlet, and automatic rain-sensing windshield wipers. New options for 2020 included an extended-range fuel tank, new swivel seat package options, and a power sliding door.
Fleets can choose between small, medium, and large instrument panels and opt for a premium infotainment system that includes Bluetooth, an 8-inch touchscreen, satellite radio and navigation.
All Ford commercial vehicles starting in the 2020-MY come standard with an embedded modem, further easing the aftermarket install burden for fleets connecting to Ford Commercial Solutions’ new telematics system or third-party systems.
Our test vehicle was equipped with Ford’s new proprietary platform, aptly named Ford Telematics, which can be activated with a mouse click through the Ford Fleet Marketplace. The new web-based software platform and subscription service was developed completely in house.
In keeping with broader consumer “subscription-everything” trends, Ford Telematics runs month-to-month and fleets can cancel any time.
Safety technologies found in passenger cars have migrated to commercial vehicles as well. As of 2020, Transit comes standard with Ford’s Pre-Collision Assist with automatic emergency braking and Pedestrian Detection, forward collision warning, post-collision braking, a lane-keep assist, and auto high-beam headlamps.
Other new driver-assist features available as options include cross-traffic alert, active park assist, front and rear split-view cameras, an adjustable speed limiter, and adaptive cruise control.
It’s about time that fleet drivers get used to the functions that will take us down the path to our driverless future. This future may not be upon us anytime soon, but technology such as adaptive cruise control is permeating into all consumer and commercial vehicle platforms today.
Our 2020-MY Crew Van came with Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), which uses advanced radar and camera technology to automatically keep a pre-set distance from the vehicle in front of you. When it slows down, the Transit automatically does too; when traffic picks back up, the vehicle resumes its preset speed and distance.
This Transit also features Lane Centering, which scans roadway lane markings to help prevent the driver from drifting out of the lane. Other Ford models take the tech one step further with Stop-andGo, which will actually stop the driver’s vehicle when the vehicle ahead stops. The Transit doesn’t have this feature.
After a bit of time to figure out the settings — you can designate four lengths between the vehicle in front — allowing the tech to do its job on the road took some faith. Getting the hang of it means avoiding the foot pedals and understanding that the Ford computer won’t drive like you and being okay with that. (“Use the Force, Luke.”)
With a longer following distance, other cars squeezed in between our van and the car ahead. The van reacted appropriately. You might find the computer drives better than you — acceleration may be a bit slower, but smoother in my case.
I did not use ACC in conjunction with Lane Centering, which would bring the experience even closer to Level 2 autonomy. I just didn’t want to test drifting out of my lane in busy Los Angeles freeway traffic.
Some Ford models also add Speed Sign Recognition, which can automatically adjust the set speed of the vehicle to the posted speed limit (for those who follow the posted speed limit).