5.11.2017

Haulin' (literally): The 2017 Ford Transit 350 HR Cargo Van

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Ford Transit 350 HR Cargo Van
The 2017 Ford Transit 350 HR Cargo Van.
If you've been reading the "30 Minutes With" series of reviews (including the BMW 540i, Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 and Jaguar XE 35t AWD, among others), then you have some knowledge of the Western Automotive Journalists Media Days, an annual event in Monterey each spring in which members of one of the largest groups of automotive journalists in the country spend a couple of days driving exciting new cars through beautiful country on day one and on the track at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on day two.

It's a wonderful event full of fellowship and fun.  The only downside to it is that, for that week, press fleet vehicles become scarce.  Many of them are going to be driven at Media Days, and need to be serviced, cleaned and if necessary (stuff happens) repaired beforehand.  Last year, there wasn't one available for me.  I drove Mrs. TireKicker's 2013 Nissan Versa (a fine car that doesn't deserve the bad rap it gets from automotive journalists) the 207 miles from Folsom to Monterey.

This year, there was one.  And just one.  A 2017 Ford Transit 350 HR (stands for "high roof") Cargo Van.  There are car scribes who would have said "thanks, but no thanks", and rented something flashy to show up in, or who would have driven their wife's car or their beater.  But I had a "honey do" list item that the Transit 350 HR was tailor-made for.



2017 Ford Transit 350 HR Cargo Van
Custom interior of 2017 Ford Transit 350 HR Cargo Van.
The photo above shows just how roomy the interior of the Transit 350HR is.  You can put a kitchen back there.

Mom's china cabinet and the back of the 2017 Ford Transit 350HR Cargo Van
Mom's china cabinet and the back of the 2017 Ford Transit 350 HR Cargo Van.
Our cargo was comparatively more simple.  Mrs. TireKicker's mom recently went into assisted living on short notice and wanted us to have her china cabinet.  But when we went to get it, U-Haul had only local vans available.  So we stashed it in the RV garage of a friend up in Ukiah until we could get our hands on a suitable vehicle.  And, a few weeks later, the Transit 350 HR Cargo Van ends up on the schedule.  Magic.

Monterey-Ukiah-Folsom map
Monterey-Ukiah-Folsom map (courtesy Google Maps).
The hard part was (or could have been, anyway) getting there and back.  The day job would only allow so much time off, so I skipped track day at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and Mrs. TireKicker and I set off from Monterey to Ukiah via U.S. 101, which meant driving through San Francisco.

Good news was we traveled during midday and other than a couple of slow spots south and north of the City, traffic was light.  We made Ukiah in five hours, with a stop for lunch in Marin, took mother-in-law and 95-year-old aunt out for dinner, drove to friend's house, loaded the china cabinet just before it got dark and hit the road for Folsom...the final 175 of what would be 422 miles that day.

Interior view of 2017 Ford Transit 350 HR Cargo Van
2017 Ford Transit 350 HR Cargo Van interior.
More good news:  The Ford Transit 350 HR Cargo Van is very carlike...so much so that I had to remind myself that it was nine feet, two inches tall (especially when I pulled up to the parking area at the Monterey Tides Hotel, host hotel for WAJ Media Days and (thankfully) noticed the sign on the portico between me and self-parking that said "CLEARANCE 8 FEET".   Frankly, from the wheel, it felt about the same as the Transit 150 XLT Wagon we drove a year and a half ago.

Controls are instantly familiar to anyone who's been in a Fiesta or Focus, visibility is tremendous due not only to the high driving position, but also to the wise choice of a window in the right-hand side sliding door and the audio system (apart from a slight reverb caused by the largely empty unfinished metal box behind the two front and only seats) was more than capable of producing good sound.  Another plus:  Fuel economy was quite good, with an average of 18 mpg on our trip.

The Transit 350 HR Cargo Van has a base price of $37,990, but the Ford press fleet people loaded this one with options:  $150 for the dark paint, which they've named "Magnetic"; $1,865 for the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 engine; $325 for the 3:31 limited slip axle; $295 for wheel well liners; $250 for the aforementioned passenger side window in the sliding door; $195 for automatic headlamps and rain-sensing windshield wipers; $125 for a backup alarm; $295 for a reverse park aid; $95 for a keyless entry pad; $485 for the trailer towing package; $220 for long, heated exterior mirrors; $1,270 for the upgraded SYNC audio system with navigation; $230 for a trailer brake controller; $940 for a power running board; $400 for privacy glass and $1,495 for an interior upgrade which includes a complete vinyl floor covering and cruise control.

Got all that?  Never mind.  The bottom line, with $1,195 destination and delivery was $47,820.  Yes, that's a lot of money for a cargo van, and no, not a lot of fleet managers will want to pamper their drivers with all those extras.  But...I'm glad this one was built the way it was.  There are passenger cars that I wouldn't have felt as fresh getting out of at the end of a nine-hour, 422-mile drive as I did the Ford Transit 350HR Cargo Van.

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