If you need a van with a bit of all-road capability, Ford’s Trail specification for the Transit and Transit Custom is well worth a look, says Dan Gilkes.
If you really have to cross a ploughed field, or regularly drive deep into a working quarry, then a heavy-duty four-wheel drive is almost certainly the answer to your requirements. But for those businesses that only have an occasional desire to get to a broken digger on site, or to deliver a team of workers to a remote Highland location, a high-riding mud-plugger can be overkill, especially for on-road use. Ford is hoping that its Trail range of Transit and Transit Custom vans, along with their Tourneo people-carrying counterparts, could provide the answer.
Developed in-house at the firm’s Dunton base, global home of Transit development, the Trail range, along with the more leisure-focussed Active line, have been produced by very carefully selecting a group of options from Ford’s existing massive parts bin. That’s not to say that this is a purely cosmetic exercise however, though the Trail models are certainly striking, with their enlarged FORD grille, black cladding to the sides and bumpers, 16” alloys and Trail logos.
Front-wheel drive Transit Trail models and all Custom Trails get a Quaife mechanical Limited Slip Differential (mLSD) as standard, providing additional traction in slippery ground conditions. This automatically transfers engine torque to the wheel with the most traction. The Electronic Stability Control (ESP) has been recalibrated to work with the mLSD, which is said to have no effect on fuel consumption or emissions levels when running on the road.
Rear-wheel drive versions of the larger Transit can also be had with a full all-wheel drive system. An upgrade of the previous generation AWD Transit, the system is fully automatic, calling upon the front wheels as the rear axle struggles to maintain traction without any input from the driver. However, unlike previously, the driver can select Slippery and Mud-Rut modes using a drive mode controller on the dash. The intelligent AWD system features an AWD Lock, that splits drive 50:50 front and rear on extreme low grip surfaces. In action, both systems work very well.
Ford provided an opportunity to try the mLSD-equipped Custom on mixed friction surfaces, while the AWD Transit was put through its paces on Millbrook’s full off-road course. However, perhaps more impressive than their performance on difficult terrain, was the fact that both models drove much like any other Transit or Custom on normal roads.
Transit Trail and Transit Custom Trail models can be ordered in van or double-cab-in-van body styles, with a choice of 130, 170 or 185hp engines. The Transit Custom Trail can also be had with Ford’s EcoBlue Hybrid powertrain, with any of the three power outputs, that incorporates 48V mild hybrid technology, to recover energy from deceleration and help reduce fuel consumption and emissions.
Transit Trail fuel consumption starts at a claimed 35.3mpg, with emissions of 210g/km (WLTP). For the smaller, lighter Transit Custom Trail, those figures start at 40.3mpg and 183g/km.
The external and under-bonnet updates are not the only changes to the base vehicles. Inside all Trail models, the seats are leather-trimmed, though apparently that’s to make them easy to keep clean, rather than to add to the luxury feel of the van. You also get air conditioning, power-fold door mirrors, auto lights and Ford’s Quickclear heated windscreen. In all, it’s a very nice place to spend the day.
The Transit Trail is available in L2, L3 and L4 body lengths, with medium roof height on the L2 and high roof offered on all three. All are offered at 3.5-tonnes maximum weight. For the Transit Custom Trail, the options are L1 or L2 in van and double cab, while the vans also have a choice of H1 and H2 roof heights, the double cab being restricted to the standard roof height.
“Perhaps more impressive than their performance on difficult terrain, was the fact that both models drove much like any other Transit or Custom on normal roads”