Exterior Color: Black
Interior Color: Black
Number of Cylinders: 8
Drive Type: 2WD
Saint Petersburg, Florida, United States
We may regard Ford as an American automaker, but ask a Brit and they may tell you otherwise. The Blue Oval has, after all, been selling cars in the UK since 1903, and started manufacturing there as far back as 1911 when it began local production of the Model T in Manchester. Last year Ford ended 100 years of vehicle manufacturing in the UK when the last Transit van rolled off the assembly line in Southampton, but it's still the biggest-selling automotive marque in Britain.
Ford has led the British market for 34 out of the past 45 years, selling more Fiestas than any other company sells any other car in the UK since 2009... when it overtook the Focus. In fact the Fiesta has now become the best-selling car in British history, topping 4,115,000 units since its introduction in 1976. The previous record was held by - you guessed it - another Ford: the Escort sold 4,105,961 units over the course of its 32 years on the British market.
Although the Fiesta is no longer manufactured in the UK (previous versions having been built at Dagenham until 2002), engines are: the EcoBoost line was developed at the company's R&D center in Essex and are built at the factory in Dunton, while its diesel engines were developed at Dagenham in East London. Even the 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine in the Fiesta ST is built in South Wales.
Well, look at what we have here. Judging from these spy shots, Ford is indeed working on the next generation of its off-road-ready F-150 Raptor pickup truck. We've made no attempt to hide our appreciation for the Baja-style truck, which combines most of the usability of a fullsize truck with heavy-duty suspension components to make a kind of performance vehicle that is unique in the market.
What we haven't known, until now, is whether Ford would push forward with its Raptor program now that it has a completely new F-150 to serve as its base. And that's especially true since Ford made the bold move of switching the bodywork of its best-seller from tried-and-true steel to aluminum. As you can see above, the front and rear of this silver truck are clad in current-gen Raptor bodywork, while the center section that houses the occupants appears to come from the upcoming 2015 F-150.
Dissecting the views above, we note a few interesting tidbits. First, there looks to be a bulge in the truck's hood. Second, we see a new grille between the current Raptor's headlights, sporting a mesh finish and two horizontal bars. Lastly, our eyes can't help but lock in on those burly A-arm suspension pieces down below, not to mention all that ground clearance the specialty suspenders bring to the table.
As a segment, fullsize vans are stealth-fighter invisible on most consumers' radar. Visit a dealership for any of the four brands that offer them and you'll be lucky to find even one on display. These are commercial vehicles primarily, even more so than pickup trucks. Vans are the shuttles for plumbers, caterers, carpenters, concrete layers, masons, electricians, florists and flooring, and a huge part of this country's productivity is accomplished using them. At the moment, Ford is the 800-pound gorilla in that room - fully 41 percent of commercial vehicles wear a Blue Oval. So when Ford announced three years ago it would be ditching its commercial bread-and-butter E-Series, it meant the Transit that would be replacing the Econoline had huge, 53-year-old shoes to fill.
We were still a bit nostalgic about Econoline vans going away until going directly from the Transit first drive in Kansas City to an E-350 airport shuttle. Climb up through the Econoline's tiny double doors and bang your head on the opening, crouch all the way to your seat then enjoy a loud, rattle-prone, creaky, harsh ride on beam-hard seats while struggling to see out the low windows. This is an experience nearly every traveler has had. By comparison, the Transits we'd just spent two days with were every bit of the four decades better they needed to be. It cannot be understated just how much better the Transit is in every single way. The load floor is barely more than knee high. There's a huge side door, and hitting your head on a door opening is nearly impossible. Stand up all the way if you're under six-foot, six-inches - no more half-hunching down the aisle. There are windows actually designed to be looked out of. The ride is buttery smooth, no booming vibration from un-restrained metal panels and no squeaks. Conversations can be held at normal levels rather than yelling over the roar of an ancient V8. The seats are comfortable. The AC is cold. There are cupholders.
Enough anecdote-laying, what's in a Transit? We're talking about a very fullsized unibody van that's enjoyed a 49-year history in Ye Olde Europe. This latest iteration is part of the "One Ford" initiative, so it was designed as a global offering from the get-go, eschewing the body-on-frame construction the E-Series has used since 1975. Instead, the Transit integrates a rigid ladder frame into an overall frame construction made of high-strength cold-rolled and boron steel. The suspension is a simple but well-tuned Macpherson strut array up front with a rear solid axle and leaf springs.