The $US65,975 2023 Transit Trail is Ford’s answer the #VanLife movement. It’s a mostly empty Transit van upgraded to meet the demands of a growing market of customers ranging from experienced vanning aficionados to the merely van-curious. The Transit Trail makes several small improvements to smooth out the journey (and destination) of turning an empty cargo van into a DIY RV, or even a full-time home.
To be clear, Ford isn’t selling you a ready-to-roll camper with the Transit Trail; you’ll still need to get yours upfitted with sleeping space, storage, toilets or even a kitchenette, either by yourself or via an aftermarket installer. Lucky for you, Ford has built a network of manufacturer-approved upfitters who specialise in turning your Transit Trail into anything you need it to be.
The upgrades over the standard Transit cargo van may seem minimal to those who aren’t steeped in the adventurous van lifestyle, but when your mode of transportation is also your workspace and bedroom, little changes can make a big difference. The Transit Trail has an additional 3.5 inches of ground clearance thanks to a 2.5-inch suspension lift and beefy 30.5-inch Goodyear Wrangler Workhorse tires, which should help make the Trail more capable in woodsy terrain. The vanlife van sits on new 16-inch alloy wheels that stick out further than your standard Transit van, widening the track by 2.75 inches for a more sure-footed stance, surrounded by black plastic splash guards and fender flares. Slider steps offer some rocker-panel protection and a place to hoist yourself inside.
The pre-production van Ford showed off to media had a pretty flimsy skid plate hung off the front bumper, but the automaker promised the production Transit Trail will come with tougher underside protection as well. Marker lamps and a black grille also grace the Trail, and set it apart from its workhorse sibling. All those extra tidbits, which would normally come from an aftermarket shop or the sweat of your own wrenching, come standard, approved to meet Ford’s durability and safety standards and covered by Ford’s three-year/36,000-mile warranty.
The interior is yours to imagine. The example Ford showed to journalists was outfitted by a company called VanDoIt near Ford’s assembly plant in Kansas City, Missouri. While you can’t buy a ready-to-sleep-in-it van directly from Ford, the Transit Trail will meet you halfway with the optional Upfitters Package, which provides easy electric power for interior and exterior accessories and includes high-capacity switches, an auxiliary fuse panel with interface connector, dual 12-volt AGM batteries, a 400-watt AC inverter, and a modification-friendly wiring harness. Optional dual alternators keep those batteries charged up, and standard built-in 4G/LTE WiFi can connect up to 10 devices. Drillable surfaces in the interior offer easy mounting points for things like cabinets, shelves or beds.
The entire point of the Trail is to make building a Class B motorhome accessible to newbies. For example, sawing into the roof of your brand-new, nearly $US70,000 ($97,174) van (and let’s be real, the dealer markups on this limited-market vehicle will likely be nuts) can be more than a little off-putting to a first-timer, so Ford is happy to cut you an opening for an air vent or roof-mount A/C unit straight from the factory. The rest of the van is a blank canvas: Ford put in two swivelling captain’s chairs up front, but other than those, the space is completely customisable — and empty.
Under the hood, you’ll find the familiar 310-horsepower, 3.5-litre EcoBoost V6 and 10-speed automatic transmission already powering Transits today. The Trail comes standard with all-wheel drive, and can tow up to 6,500 pounds worth of toys behind it, and will be available in medium-roof, high-roof, and high-roof extended-body configurations, the latter providing 467 cubic feet of space behind the seats.
Ford is already a powerhouse in the motorhome world: the automaker says 60 per cent of big-beast Class A motorhomes sold in the U.S. sit on Ford’s Pro F-53 chassis. But it’s the smaller, more versatile Class B rigs, based on vehicles like the Transit Trail, that are selling like hotcakes right now. A Transit van that takes a little of the intimidating guesswork out of serious overlanding or vanlife conversions should sell even hotter. Transit Trail orders should open this week, with deliveries planned for sometime in spring of 2023.
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