2020 Ford Transit 250 AWD Driven: The Van That Spawns a Hundred Chores
Everyone loves you when you’re the man with a van.
When word went up on the company blower that we were getting a 2020 Ford Transit 250, freshly updated with a new engine, transmission, and all-wheel drive, I thought to myself, "Hey, that'd be handy." I had a staycation coming up with plans to help my wife's maiden aunt move in with my sister-in-law. There was an antique curio cabinet with my wife's name on it, and we were going to pick it up in our pickup, but the enclosed van seemed like a better proposition.
This was when I made my first mistake: I told my wife, Robin, about the impending Transit loan. "Oh, great," she said. "I have a great idea for testing it. We can clean out the storage unit!" This was something I apparently promised to help with, though I have no memory of making such a promise.
Learning to Appreciate the 2020 Ford Transit
So, on the day our nice, clean, Ford van arrived, we drove off to the storage unit, a multi-story affair designed by the same architect who did the Death Star. The Transit in question is a medium-roof model, which I thought was silly—who needs anything other than a high roof or a low roof? Shame on me because I found that the Transit was low enough to fit into the Death Star's hallways but tall enough for us to stand up in and stack stuff. Score one for Goldilocks: The height was just right.
Truth be told, the Transit was way better for this job than our pickup. We opened the big barn doors and billboard-sized sliding door and divided the floor into four sections (trash, donate, electronic waste, and take home, if you must know). There is abundant room in the back of that Transit, way more than in a traditional van, and it was nice having what was essentially a room on wheels to sort our stuff. Nice, bright LED lights in the cargo area and giant cup holders big enough to hold our 64-ounce bladder-buster water bottles (Tetris-stacking furniture is sweaty work) were added bonuses.
Squeezing the Ford Transit Into Small Spaces
Driving into the storage complex is easy but getting out is horrendous: There's a 90-degree left turn with a cement wall ahead and a sheet metal-eating post on the corner. It's tricky in a car and downright frightening in a van, but this Transit came thoughtfully outfitted with parking sensors (bumper beepers, I call 'em), ace side mirrors with both flat and convex panes, and a backup camera with a Panavision view. It took a little backing and futzing, but I squeezed the van around the corner without adding any paint streaks to the concrete wall. I didn't even need Robin to get out and spot me, which was good, as she'd made it clear she had no intention of leaving the Transit's ice-cold A/C until we got home.
With the van unloaded—well, mostly unloaded—I figured I could park it until the weekend. Wrong! Seems that one of the other things I'd promised my wife I'd do while off work was getting new wheels for the pickup truck. (It's nearly impossible to get rubber for the 16.5" rims it has now. Apparently, there is only one tire that fits, and it's made in Malaysia by an old man who only works on the third Thursday of months with an R in the name, provided it's not sunny enough to go surfing.)
(Finally) Trying Out the Ford Transit's New Powertrain
A set of cheap steelies was an easy find at any junkyard . . . 10 years ago. Today, those same wheels are as rare as a teenager without an Instagram account. I found a set an hour away for a price that wasn't too painful, and I jumped into the van to barrel my way down there before someone else got 'em.
Turns out, the Transit is halfway decent to barrel someplace in. This one had the new base engine, a 3.5 liter naturally aspirated V-6 with the same 275 horsepower and nearly-the-same 262 lb-ft as last year's 3.7-liter unit. It has a new 10-speed transmission and newly available all-wheel drive, though the latter is a bit lost on us Los Angelinos. I found the new powertrain to be more than scooty enough, and in power delivery and sound, it reminded me of the V-8 powered vans I'd driven in my misspent youth.
I had marveled at the Transit's car-skinny 235/65R16 tires, and frankly, I wondered how they would allow the Transit to turn a street corner without understeering, but the van felt planted enough. There was a bit of steering wander at speeds (because van), and the concentration required to keep it on course rises exponentially above 65 mph. Still, I thought the ride was pretty good considering the 250-class (9,070-lb GVWR) chassis. The adaptive cruise worked well, picking up and dropping speed smoothly enough to not disturb stacked cargo, though I was dismayed to find that it didn't work below 20 mph.
The shop still had my steelies, and they laid them out on the van's floor. Heading for home, I was glad for the Transit's rubber flooring. In a van with a steel floor, they'd be sliding around, scraping up paint and wreaking havoc with the more delicate items in the still-extant "take home" pile. The rubber helped somewhat with sound absorption; the Transit is an echo chamber, but the stereo's voice recognition worked perfectly, and when I called my mother on the Bluetooth speakerphone, she said the sound was crystal clear. (Scoff if you like, but when it comes to Bluetooth sound quality, there is no harsher critic than Mom.)
How One Curio Cabinet Filled an Entire 2020 Ford Transit
Finally, moving day! It was easy to thread the van through the narrow streets to my aunt's double-wide (don't judge), and my sister-in-law was pleased at the roomy van we'd brought—a little too pleased, it turns out. The delicate curio cabinet fit in nicely. So did the massive hall rack that Auntie gave us. And the old-fashioned sewing machine that someone turned into a lamp, and the lamp with a base filled with seashells, the antique head and footboard my wife had to have, the old Smith-Corona typewriter I had to have, a perfectly good stepladder, a dozen one-gallon jugs of spring water that were just going to go to waste, and assorted boxes of old glassware, pots, and pans. The cargo tie-downs came in handy to keep the heavy stuff from bashing the delicate stuff, though I wish they had some located above floor level. But I was thankful for how low that floor is—at least I didn't have to kill my back packing the Transit to the gills.
The van stored way more stuff than would have fit in our pickup—or my sister-in-law's house, which means another trip to the storage unit in my future. And my wife informs me that because we have a van and I'm already going there (I? Not we?), I might as well take one of our bookshelves to storage so she can set the hall rack up in our apartment.
Grrrr. I mean, yes, dear.
Although I would never admit this to anyone but you, I'm almost glad I put my hand up for the 2020 Ford Transit. OK, so my one-curio-cabinet move turned my week off work into a marathon of moving jobs that should qualify me for membership in the Teamsters, but the fact is that the Transit did a better job than our pickup truck would have and, at 16.2 mpg, was more efficient to boot. It stored the whole universe, was easy to load, easy to drive, and easy to live with.
Now, I just have to figure out where to put all this stuff. Anyone want a lamp filled with seashells? I have a van, and I'm happy to deliver.
|2020 Ford Transit 250 AWD|
|LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 2-pass, 3-door van|
|ENGINE||3.5L/275-hp/262-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6; 3.5L/310-hp/400-lb-ft twin-turbocharged DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|CURB WEIGHT||5,200-5,800 lb (mfr)|
|L x W x H||219.9-263.9 x 81.3 x 82.3-107.7 in|
|0-60 MPH||7.7-10.0 sec (MT est)|
|EPA FUEL ECON||Not rated|