If you’ve been considering wading into the world of cargo van overlanding, adventuring, pretending, or even living full-time, and you wanted 4WD or AWD, you’ve probably been pricing an eye-wateringly expensive Mercedes/Freightliner/Dodge Sprinter. That’s pretty much the only option right off the lot. Or there’s also been the possibility of buying a cargo van from another manufacturer and going the expensive aftermarket 4×4 conversion.
But Ford has, wisely, looked around and realized that Mercedes is building 4×4 Sprinters so fast it can barely keep up, and decided to throw their hat in that very trendy ring. Starting next year, Ford will sell their popular Transit vans (they call them vanwagons) with a robust AWD system—the same drivetrain available on the off-road-ish capably Explorer—in the United States. European adventurers have had access to Transits with AWD for a while now.
The vans will still be predominately rear-wheel-drive, but when needed all 100 percent of created torque can be directed to the front wheels. Unlike the Sprinter, the AWD Transit vans will have the same ride height as their strictly 2WD versions. The Sprinter also has true 4WD with selectable low range gearing; the Transit is just a computer-controlled AWD system that sends power to the wheels with the most traction. Though the Transit will offer a diesel option, the AWD system is strictly gas only. So, if you want diesel and 4WD/AWD, you have to opt for the Sprinter.
Where the Transit may better compete is in price. A base, diesel 4WD Sprinter starts at roughly $55k, depending on wheelbase options. Pricing for the AWD Transit isn’t yet available, but a high-roof, extended wheelbase Transit equipped with a limited slip rear differential runs roughly $45k, and that’s near the priciest model. Figure something similar for the base model with AWD, and these are just back-of-the-napkin calculations, and it’s possible the Transit AWD could come in somewhere around $10k less than a Sprinter. Maybe.
The Transit will also include WiFi, and, my favorite, swiveling forward seats are an option. Far as I’m concerned, real vans have swiveling seats.
Look for more details in the coming months. Ford says these new Transits will be available in the fall.