2017 Ford Transit 350 Quick Take
"Go for the U-turn -- you can make it," my risk-embracing wife prodded. Meanwhile, I was thinking, likely out loud, "I don't know; this thing is huge."
Embracing danger at the last moment, I went for it, swinging the mammoth red van around a tight median on an extremely steep 2-lane street where oncoming cars notoriously flout the law by flying downhill at 70 mph. Just over halfway through the turn, it dawned on me: This thing was actually gonna make it. We cheated death for another day.
That episode was among my first experiences testing the 2017 Ford Transit 350, a massive cargo van that I used in the ultimate real-world road test: moving. We had finally bought our dream home, now all that was left was pack up and haul everything.
Crucial to this would be this heavier duty version of the Transit Van, the cargo-carrying twin of the passenger wagon that can hold up to 15 people, and similar to the cargo vans that can be rented from self-hauling companies. In addition to offering either passenger or cargo van forms, the 2017 Ford Transit can be configured in several lengths, in three different roof heights, and with a choice of two gasoline engines or a diesel. Prices start just under $33,000, including destination, for a standard-length, low-roof Transit 150 model. Our Transit 350, with its upgraded engine and options like the Sync3 infotainment system with navigation, had an as-tested price of $45,520.
This particular model was a long-wheelbase (148 inches) version with medium roof. That specification felt like a misnomer, though. Nothing felt "medium" about this roof. With a maximum interior height of six feet, the average guy can stand up inside. If you happen to play for an NBA team, the high-roof version can accommodate a dude standing about 6-foot-9. (Rounding out the stats, the cargo height maximum of the regular roof model is 56.9 inches.)
Room for everything
Behind the two front seats, this Ford cargo van boasts over 357 cubic feet of space. When a neighbor of mine who had recently moved from New York saw the inside empty, he remarked that it looked bigger than his former apartment. For the task at hand, the space proved excellent for swallowing the largest items we had to haul: Couch, bed, bookshelves, kitchen table, not to mention my freakishly large collection of vintage CorningWare.
Everything fit in easily, and there were plenty of hooks and anchors available for extra strapping. Loading all this stuff was made easier with rear doors that swing out wide and lock in place. The standard sliding door on the passenger side, meanwhile, made it easier to load and unload boxes from the front. (Dual sliding doors are available for access from either side.)
Driving and using it
A vehicle that's big enough to hold half a house can be intimidating to drive, but once on the road, the Ford Transit was surprisingly manageable. I've already mentioned its better-than-expected turning radius, and power was more than plentiful thanks to this Transit's optional engine: Ford's 3.5-liter EcoBoost turbocharged V6 that puts out 310 horsepower and a stout 400 lb-ft of torque. Even fully saddled with stuff, the 2017 Transit 350 barely felt like it was breathing hard -- unlike myself, whose Fitbit recorded successive 10-mile days of walking thanks to all the hauling.
The Transit's high seating position and massive windshield provide a good view out, and the wide side windows kept me confident when changing lanes. I should also thank the sheer sight and sound of this thing for keeping others at bay. If this Transit's red surface that seemed as big as a planet didn't give my presence away, its sound did, at least when backing up. This model was equipped with the backup alarm, making its presence known in reverse, blaring an alarmingly loud "BEEP BEEP BEEP." Every time I backed up, I craned my neck to see where the utility truck was, only to realize it was me.
For as big as the rear cargo hull was, the center dash of the Transit was surprisingly stingy. The few storage compartments under the van's Sync3 infotainment/navigation display were on the small side, barely enough to cradle an iPhone. And while the seating position was fine, the tilt and telescoping steering wheel felt a bit low even at its highest setting.
Those quibbles aside, this Ford Transit was an impressive machine, and impressively easy to drive given its size. After driving this behemoth version of Ford's Transit cargo van, it makes recommending the standard versions prominently rented out by self-moving companies that much easier.