Behind the Wheel

Your Amazon delivery driver has a secret - she's actually quite comfortable

The Ford Transit offers more comfort than it looks like it should.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Amazon delivery drivers are all over the map. Chances are if you're out and about you'll pass at least one during the day if you live in a major metropolitan area or its suburbs - their fleet was made up of at least 30,000 in December 2019 and has expanded since then. Most of that driving is done behind the wheel of three different vans: Ram ProMaster, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, and Ford Transit.

The vast majority of Americans has never driven any of those. When they think of the word van, their minds inevitably go to the Honda Odyssey, Chrysler Pacifica, and Toyota Sienna before it gets anywhere close to those models. In the U.S., the ProMaster, Sprinter, and Transit are primarily designated for hauling tools and equipment to and from jobs, moving students to and from after school activities, and making deliveries.

2021 Ford Transit The Transit has gotten some new package options for the 2021 model year.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

2021 Ford Transit

In an economy that has gone increasingly toward online shopping, Amazon vans are the ants of the roadway. They start in storage lots each day (nowadays that's often unused off-site airport parking lots or at empty office buildings) then spend their days making their way across a small subsection of your town.

That to-and-from is done in surprising comfort if they're in a Ford Transit. Ford recently lent a Transit for review and the there was one major takeaway - it's not a bad place to spend your day (unless there's a driving rain storm - more on that later).

The steel unibody of the Transit stretches to a maximum 148-inch wheelbase. That's about the same as your average Ford Super Duty. What is essentially a large box on wheels with a pinched front end is powered by either a 3.5-liter V6 or a turbocharged 3.5-liter V6. The tester had the turbo, which delivered 310 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque, which was brilliant off the line when the cargo area wasn't brimming with packages. It got up to speed better than some of the small SUVs regularly making their way through the test drive fleet.

The rear portion of the Transit is printed for aftermarket rack installation - something that Amazon's fleet is equipped with.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Driving the Transit is surprisingly easy. There are pickups that are harder to park. Navigating a crowded parking lot and busy city street in the Transit was easy thanks to its connected and accurate steering, which makes it move more like a Fusion than an F-150, and plenty of forward visibility and large mirrors. The Transit just barely fits into modern parking lot spaces, not unlike it's heavy-duty truck counterparts.

It's not particularly high-tech, but it doesn't need to be. The infotainment screen is straight out of the modern Ford passenger car lineup, meaning it has plenty of connectivity options, and all its climate controls are straightforward in operation. Abundant small item storage makes up the bulk of the lower center console space.

The Transit is big on space. The rear three-quarters of an empty one is large enough to hold a socially distance dance party for a group of three-year olds, or a shift's worth of Amazon packages. When empty, the body of the van is more like a tin can than a typical family hauler. A light rainfall is as pleasing as a drip, drop on a steel roof. A downpour becomes loud enough to require sound-deadening headphones - something not permitted in most states - to allow oneself to think.

The interior of the Transit is plenty spacious for one or two people.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

For the 2021 model year, Ford has updated the Transit offerings to include recreational vehicle and parcel delivery option packages. For 2022, there are big changes ahead. That's when the E-Transit is introduced, giving a new all-electric commercial option to companies. It will start under $45,000 and have a 126-mile range.

Ford instructed the E-Transit earlier this year and showed off similar styling to the current model, but with a fresh interior that brings high-tech components of its traditional passenger cars forward. Whether or not it will be as comfortable or easy to drive as the 2020 Transit has yet to be seen.

The E-Transit will likely be added to Amazon's lineup in the coming years, along with Rivian's customized electric van, which is currently being tested.

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Custom SUVs

Ford Bronco to rule SEMA this year

The Bronco RTR features a fun livery and several off-road upgrades.

Ford

The annual Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show is an opportunity for the aftermarket and manufacturers to come together on wildly customized vehicles and to show off the latest parts and tech in the space. Now that the Ford Bronco has finally made its way to the public, it's not surprising to see several wild SEMA takes on the hottest SUV to hit the market in some time.

2021 Bronco by Tucci Hot Rods The tracks are said to improve the Bronco's abilities in deep snow and ice.Ford

2021 Bronco by Tucci Hot Rods

The new Bronco is capable and rugged on its own, but Tucci Hot Rods felt it needed more. The shop gave it that boost with a set of tracks in place of wheels, which are said to be great for deep snow and ice. This Bronco features a 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine and a seven-speed manual transmission to go with its Mattracks 88-Series quad tracks.

2021 Bronco RTR Fun-Runner by RTR Vehicles

Vaghn Gittin Jr's RTR Vehicles imagined a Bronco package that could be installed at the dealer. The result is the Fun-Runner, which features several Ford Performance and Ford Licensed Accessories parts. It's based on a 2021 two-door Bronco Badlands, and comes with an eye-catching wrap, an Ultimate Dana 44 front axle, Ultimate Dana 60 semi-float rear axle, RCV Performance CV axles, and a performance intake for its four-cylinder engine.

2021 Bronco by BDS Supensions SEMA presents an excellent opportunity for shops to show off their skill and imagination.Ford

2021 Bronco by BDS Supensions

BDS is a subsidiary of Fox Shocks and has worked with Ford for quite some time. The results of that long-running relationship are on display with the BDS Bronco, which features Fox 2.5 PES coilovers, BDS rear adjustable control arms and track bar, swaybar disconnect, and 37-inch BFGoodrich KM3 tires. The Bronco's bumpers have been replaced with CrawlTek Revolution units that feature a recessed winch mount, recovery hooks and more.

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Ford EV manufacturing

Ford plans new plants in Tennessee and Kentucky

Ford's new TN facility may be one of the largest in U.S. history.

Ford

Earlier this year, Ford outlined its plans for significant investments in electric vehicle development and construction. Today, the automaker announced a big step forward in that roadmap that will include two new facilities, billions in new spending, and thousands of new jobs.

The $5.6 billion Stanton, TN factory will be called Blue Oval City and will bring 6,000 new jobs to the area. Ford says the site will include a BlueOval SK battery plant, and that electric F-Series trucks will be manufactured there. The assembly plant is designed to be carbon neutral and to send zero waste to landfills once it's up and running.

Ford Blue Oval City Ford plans to create a combined 11,000 jobs.Ford

Ford notes that Blue Oval City will be one of the largest automotive manufacturing sites in U.S. history. The campus sprawls 3,600 acres over six square miles, and will house assembly, battery production, and a supplier facility. The vertical integration of all functions on one site should lower Ford's production costs and reduce its carbon footprint.

The $5.8 billion Kentucky site will be a dedicated battery manufacturing complex that houses two separate battery plants. The location will supply Ford's North American assembly plants and is expected to create 5,000 new jobs. The facilities in both states are being built as part of a joint venture between Ford and SK Innovation, pending regulatory approval.

Ford Blue Oval City The TN facility is expected to be carbon neutral when it's up and running.Ford

The increase in production capacity can't come soon enough for Ford. Earlier this year, the Mustang Mach-E EV debuted to strong demand, and the automaker will soon roll out the first electric F-Series truck. Called the Ford F-150 Lightning, the pickup will be the first electric truck from a legacy automaker.

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