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 TransitThe 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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Lincoln will not make a performance variant to compete with Cadillac.

Lincoln

TheLincoln Navigator and Cadillac Escalade have been duking it out at the top of luxury SUV rankings for decades, but there’s one area of the Caddy’s development that Lincoln won’t touch. In a recent interview, a company executive told Ford Authority that it has no plans to create a performance variant of the Navigator to compete with the upcoming Escalade V from Cadillac.

2022 Lincoln NavigatorThe new Navigator features several upscale touches and excellent tech. Lincoln

That means the Navigator will stick with the powertrain it’s carried for years, which is a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine that makes 440 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired with a smooth ten-speed automatic and either rear- or four-wheel drive. While there’s more than enough power to get the hulking Lincoln moving, it’s not a powertrain that inspires excitement or engagement, and though beefy, it’s tuned much more for comfort and quietness than drama.

Though more than adequate, those specs are a far cry from the numbers we expect from the Escalade V. The full-size bruiser from Cadillac is expected to get a supercharged 6.2-liter V8, similar to the unit seen in the CT5-V Blackwing and Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. We don’t know power numbers yet, but the engine should deliver horsepower and torque numbers in the high 600s.

Cadillac Escalade VThe Escalade V will be massively powerful. Cadillac

That Lincoln is taking a different approach isn’t surprising. The automaker has already announced its intention to go all-electric, so pouring more time and resources into creating a performance gas-powered SUV isn’t in line with its goals. Company executives have also expressed a desire to avoid imitating rivals, so the decision to leave a performance Navigator behind is not surprising.

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First-year Ford F-150 Lightning production numbers doubled
Ford

Ford has begun serial production of the new F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck, marking what could be one of the most important days in recent automotive history. The first trucks rolled off the assembly line at Ford's Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Michigan today, so America's best-selling truck has finally gone electric. Ford wants to sell two million EVs per year by 2026 and have half of its global sales volume to be electric by 2030.

Ford F-150 LightningPast meets future: Ford's new electric pickup will be the F-150 Lightningautomotivemap.com

Ford has seen extreme demand for the trucks, with 200,000 reservations since the books opened. To deliver, the automaker plans to increase production to an annual rate of 150,000 units by next year, which involved huge investments in the Rouge Center and created hundreds of jobs. Ford's total investment for the F-150 Lightning crests $1 billion across Michigan alone, and has created 1,700 jobs across various facilities in the state.

Ford F-150 LightningThe first production trucks left the factory today.
Ford Motor Company

Though the Lightning starts around $40,000, the most mainstream models will cost much more than that. The F-150 Lightning Pro, while affordable, is a stripped-down truck intended for commercial buyers. It's still a forward-looking electric truck with amazing capabilities, but it lacks much of the creature comforts and features that everyday drivers expect. Higher trims get the latest driver assistance features, including BlueCruise, which is Ford's semi-autonomous hands-free driving assistant. A 12-inch touchscreen is standard, along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, navigation, a Wi-Fi hotspot, and more.

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