Spied: Ford’s American-Market Transit Cargo Van

Ford has repeatedly shown off its new Transit Custom front-wheel-drive cargo van that will go on sale in Europe, but these spy photos are our first look at the American-market, rear-wheel-drive Transit that should debut by the end of this year. In keeping with its utilitarian purpose, this heavy duty Ford Transit is bigger and boxier than its lighter-duty European siblings.

To help distinguish the pair, Ford deems the Euro-market Transit Custom a “light duty” cargo van, while the American model is a “heavy duty” model (think F-150 compared to an F-550). The American Transit also will be sold around the world, but there is zero chance of the European Transit Custom coming stateside. On our shores, the Transit replaces the E-Series/Econoline models, which will be phased out over the next few years.

Compared to the crossover-like Transit Custom, this Transit is much more upright and square, similar in overall appearance to other cargo vans like the Nissan NV and the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. The long, flat body sides and tall roof might not be especially attractive, but they will permit plenty of space for hauling large objects. The stubby nose has giant headlights, just like the European vans, but it appears that the fascia is flat with a large grille opening. We expect the American Ford Transit will look more like the F-150 pickup truck; the European vans have curving front ends more reminiscent of Ford cars and crossovers.

Ford has previously revealed that the new Transit will offer the company’s popular twin-turbo, 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6, as well as a new-to-America diesel engine. In Europe, the Transit Custom is available with a 2.2-liter turbo-diesel I-4, but it’s still unknown whether that mill could be federalized or whether it would be powerful enough for the large American van.Europeans also get six-speed manual transmissions, but clutch-phobic America will probably only get traditional automatics. Regardless, Ford says the Transit will be 25 percent more fuel-efficient and at least 300 pounds lighter than the E-Series.

As for the cabin, we’re expecting the modern and car-like interior shown in the Transit Custom to make its way into the American Transit. Expect a host of tech gadgets that have never before been offered in Ford cargo vans: Bluetooth, the Sync voice recognition software, a backup camera, and lane-departure warning. The prototype spied here has a hitchreceiver, which unsurprisingly suggests the Transit will be able to tow.

The Ford Transit is expected to go into production in Kansas City, Missouri, later this year. That means we should see it make its official production debut this fall.

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