I’ve been MM’ing over a Sprinter van since they arrived in 2002 or so. But I couldn’t justify the expense, and have become a bit queasy about their inconsistent rep on maintenance expenses, reliability and parts prices. The first few years seem to have a pretty good rep, before they had to modify the diesel engine for tighter US emission regs.
The NA gen2 version Sprinter that arrived in 2007 grew in its dimensions, got a V6 engine, and the price went up even higher. The 2014 refresh gets a new front end that is more in keeping with Mercedes current styling, and has a new base engine. It’s all of 2.1 liters, a twin-turbo four diesel that makes 161 hp and 265 ft.lbs of torque, and is matched to a seven-speed transmission. The optional 188 hp V6 diesel with 325 ft.lbs. torque is mated to the older five-speed transmission. MSRPs run some 20% higher than similar-sized ProMasters. I think the Sprinter is going to be a bit challenged, especially when the Ford Transit gears up too. How much is the star on the grille worth?
The Ford Transit is also a big seller in Europe, especially so in the UK. Over there, the Transit can be had in both RWD and FWD versions, which allows it to be configured for its optimal use.
For those needing to tow heavy loads, or for the truck/dump versions that are so popular in Europe instead of our pickups, RWD is the way to go. But for the smaller-mid sized delivery vans and such, the FWD version offers a lower floor and lighter weight, as with the ProMaster. And if the choice between FWD and RWD is too difficult, the European Transit is also available in all-wheel drive.
The 2015 Transit for NA will be RWD only, and come in two wheelbase lengths (130 and 148 inches), and three body lengths as well as three roof heights. Standard engine will be the 3.7 V6, and the Eco-Boost 3.5 V6 is optional. No word yet on whether a diesel will eventually be offered.
Presumably pricing will comparable to the ProMaster (roughly $28-37k MSRP), with fleet prices undoubtedly lower. The biggest difference between the two will of course be the RWD vs. FWD issue. The Transit will offer superior towing capacity (the ProMaster tops out at 5000lbs), and its traction will of course improve under heavy loads.
I don’t consider the traction issue to be significant, except of course when it is, like a steep hill with loose gravel or snow. I’ve taken the Chinook on some roads that would normally be considered 4WD, and its dual rear wheels and short wheelbase (129″) allowed it do get through a couple of places I would not take a ProMaster on. But I think my days of trying to push the limits like that are probably best left behind.
The Chevy is going to get short-shrift in this comparison. It just doesn’t come in the high-roof and extended body version that makes for enough space for a conversion, without an after-market fiberglass roof or such. The 4.8 L V8 is an appealing engine in terms a balance between economy and power, but the Pentastar V6 comes very close to matching it in power, and will likely yield better fuel mileage, at least as installed in the ProMaster. But the Chevy’s low price and proven technology and well-known operational costs, will undoubtedly continue to make it a popular choice for basic fleet use, especially when the Econoline bows out.
I suppose I’ve more than tipped my hand here, but I’m willing to give the Transit a bit more consideration. But if I had to pull the trigger today, it would be for a ProMaster, not unlike this Ducato conversion in New Zealand. I just need to add some big DODGE letters on the hood.
2020 Update: In 2017, I did buy a Promaster. And did my own conversion. And the Promaster has had zero issues in almost four years.
Follow-up: My 2017 Promaster Van Build: Rear Entry, Hidden Bath, and a few other unusual details
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I agree wholeheartedly with the Pentastar equipped ProMaster. I’m a big diesel fan, but like you said, it would take you forever to recoup the costs as a private operator, plus I’d be worried about resale with the weird transmission, even assuming it’s as reliable and serviceable as the Pentastar.
I’m curious for Sportsmobile to get their hands on the Promaster and Transit. I love their no nonsense approach to RV conversions. No fake wood paneling, no sofas from 1998, just functionality. Though I’ve been waiting for a decent Transit Connect RV conversion for a while. The new one has me hoping someone will, now that it will be available in the LWB version, and with more modern power trains.
I’d go with the Mercedes. I haven’t ridden in a Transit or Promaster, but this past summer I rode in a Mercedes Sprinter on an 8 hour excursion through Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Very comfortable and quiet. I can’t say the same about a Chevy Express. Plus it’s a Mercedes. Need I say more?
+1on the positive experience. I was in a Mercedes converted to shuttle use over the summer heading from Denver to Bachelor Gulch. Until that ride, I had never experienced a van that was so quiet, smooth and rattle free. It felt solid. The high roof was a great feature. Impressive.
I can assure you Brendan that the Mercedes star on the grille doesn’t mean much anymore, basically since the T1 and T2 vans and light trucks are history. (Rammstein can enlighten you)
Forget the “Fix It Again Toni” crap-jokes. Often told by people who haven’t even been near any product of the Fiat Group in the past 30 to 40 years, let alone owned one. Fiat builds damn good cars, vans, trucks, buses, farm- and construction equipment and complete powertrains. All over the world that is.
If I needed a van or light truck it would be a Fiat or Iveco with either a 2.3 liter or 3.0 liter diesel 4 cylinder diesel. (depending on the kind of job it has to do)
Saw a new 500 Abarth the other day, the temp control knob had already fallen off….
An Italian car built in Mexico. I think a very good car for anyone but me.
Which knob? The Abarth has auto temp, no knobs.
This image is from the Fiat500Abarth.us website. Auto temp is part of a $900 comfort/convenience option package.
The knobs shown above, nice try though.
In Norway Fiat has a very bad reputation. But I think todays cars are better. But I’n not agreed with Paul Niedermayer when it comes to Ducatos reputation. It might be quite good in Italy. But in Norway, with its cold climate og salt, they rust, and when the winter is coming it’s always problems with the cars, no matter what.
In my opinion the old style american vans may be out of date, but in terms of quality, quietness and ride quality I will actually say they are better. Why can’t Ford and GM build som modernized Vans with the traditional technolofy and comfort?
Because they did not invest in their vans for 50 years in favor of the pick-up trucks. By the time they were forced to react, they were unable to catch up, as they were waaay too far behind.
I bought a 2006 sprinter worst decision of my life vehicle had a turbo resonator issue which made it lose power at any time which made it very unsafe in the two years I had it over $16000 was spent trying to fix this many other owners experienced this .Mercedes never did a recall and one wonders how many people lost their lives I nearly lost my life and my business.
I had that crack on my rig as well. It was an easy fix and I then carried a spare one, which of course made it never happen again.
Neat comparison of the new vans. I had no idea Ram was going to join the party. Nissan has also entered the game with their compact NV200 which might make a neat (very) minamalist little RV. I know nothing about them but have started to see them around in the cities.
And as an interim solution, Chevrolet will enter by the side door in that market via a rebadged NV200 for the 2015 model year http://www.autoblog.com/2013/05/14/nissan-nv200-puts-on-a-bowtie-as-new-chevy-city-express/
Will the Renault Master alias Opel/Vauxhall Movano will hit the North American shores as well?
The NV200 is really more mini-van sized, not the full size jobs compared here. Paul didn’t mention the full-sized Nissan vans though, which really should be considered as well, since they compare side-by-side, have V8 power, and an available high roof. The only thing possibly lacking is an extended wheelbase version.
Nissan also has the full-sized NV, which is closer in size to the transit/promaster
I have seen a good many Nissan vans here in western Washington – some with the high roof. I suppose it will take a while to find out how they are on reliability.
Tough choice, but I would wait until I could at least test drive the Transit. I drove a Gen1 Sprinter for work a few years ago, and I liked the 5cyl diesel, but the coachwork was cheesy, and reliability spotty. And parts ARE expensive, I did front brakes on it once, and just the pads and a pair of rotors (aftermarket) was over $200, and that’s with my commercial account discount!
I have no idea what I would do in this situation. New designs always scare me, and with all the work you will put in it, it will be difficult to trade and walk away if the mechanicals turn out to be less than satisfactory. So, this is a tough time to be making such a decision with so many untried options out there.
Personally, I would think it would be a lot cheaper to find a 10-15 year old Econoline-based camper. You could gut and refit the camper part if a nice one that you can find is not to your liking. Then, you at least know what you have mechanically and there is no fear in spending some money to make it what you want inside. But this is just me who lives in RV country, so there are always nice older ones being replaced by the retired set who grew up afraid of anything over 100K miles.
I kind of like the idea of your Chinook, but the lack of cab a/c means that any trip I take would be without Mrs. JPC. 🙁
This is a tough call. For your use, I think the Dodge is likely the best way to go; from what you have discussed, in my mind the choice of brand is going to be strongly determined by end use. Delivery services in cities would be wise to use the small diesel engined models; anybody pulling a trailer of any substantial size would be best suited with the Chevrolet / GMC. As Carlo mentioned, Nissan is making some inroads with their van, although I don’t know very much about it.
From my fleet days, I want to say the Chevrolet can be equipped to pull a trailer of 7000 pounds or better. I’m curious about the ratings of the others. Again, this would be a matter of end use.
I run a delivery service in cities. NO WAY am I going to use diesels. Seen it, done it, got the t-shirt and the bills to do it, not to mention the down-time.
Out of curiosity, what kind of problems did you encounter? Mechanical, fuel related, or something different? Not thinking of purchase cost in my first statement, is there not enough difference to recoup the initial price?
The problems with diesels are almost always due to fuel quality. Any kind of contamination means the fuel pump and injectors are toast. Late model units with the soot burning thing use lots of fuel, too. Finally, on GM stuff anyway, turbos fail regularly. When a diesel fails on the road in Middle of the Road, Saskatchewan, dollars to donuts you’ll be looking at a mega-expensive tow back to Saskatoon. That and the downtime make diesel no remotely worth the extra outlay. For example, in Ft McMurray, AB, all the company trucks under one ton, and I mean ALL of them, are gas. Peter Kewit construction uses only gas light duty stuff. UPS has given up on diesel and gone back to LPG….
In Europe, I doubt this would be much of a problem, but in a place like Hana, Alberta, you may not get hospital-clean diesel pumped into your tank in January.
Over here we use nothing but diesels to run delivery services in cities.
Diesels are used for delivery services traditionally in most European markets, save few brave companies who ventured into CNG-LPG van territory.
However,with tighter emissions, and particle filter becoming compulsory for all diesels of EURO 4 standards and latter, using them in cities may not be the wisest thing. Filter clogs up rapidly and if cars is not taken for prolonged high-speed run on highway to clear it up or directly to dealer for unexpected service.
So, in Northern America, the best option for city delivery service may be petrol hybrid or some mid-size petrol engine ( smallest ones tend to be overworked, biggest ones consume too much ) .
As for camper van, they tend to be horribly overpriced (especially Hymer, Detleff, Knaus and other German brands).
If I was in Paul’s shoes, I would buy an old mid-size bus (school bus perhaps) and convert it to camper. Or get some nice low mileage, ex-fire brigade van from Europe. with usually simple petrol engine, low gearing and enough space to be converted to camper.
I did maintenance and repairs for a delivery company. They bought a bunch of Sprinters and problems early on in their service included OE brakes, including rotors that were done in 12K as were the Continental Tires. The aftermarket brake pads and rotors do last a little longer 15K or so. Fuel filter which needs to be done once a year is $200 because the upper intake manifold has to come off. A couple had alternators fail and that was a $600 part, only available from the dealer at that point and it was a 1.5 hr job. The tail light circuit boards like to fail, the aftermarket geared up for those right away. The front door check straps rip the door pillar apart under regular use. The mess of cables and plastic latches in the sliding doors fail and it usually took 2 or 3 weeks to get the parts from Germany. Oil changes aren’t cheap as the filter the only ones that come with gaskets that don’t leak are the OE $25 are Mann at $18. The 8 qts of oil aren’t cheap either since there are only a couple of synthetics that meet the Mercedes spec. For what ever reason the burn out light bulbs very fast, no matter what brand you use, for the headlights and for the tail and turn the only ones that are correct and won’t cause a light out indicator are the factory bulbs at twice the price of a regular bulb. A couple of them ate transmissions. One replaced under warranty with it down for 6 weeks, it went a few weeks later and it was down for another 4+ weeks. The other went right after the warranty expired and the fleet owner took it to the dealer and got a $13K bill.
When I left none of them had made it to 40K and they ran about $1500 more per year for regular maintanence and repairs than the Step Vans.
I would agree with Eric. Having driven one Sprinter for few month at my old workplace, I can agree that they are overrated, high-maintenance, low -reliability vans.They are not better than Fords, VW Van or Fiat/Citroen/Peugeot triplets, or Renault, yet they cost more.
Last dependable van with Mercedes star was TN / T1, especially with 3-liter diesel. I see a lot of them every day on road, with quite a few scratches and dents, but still chugging on with 250-350,000 miles already on the clock.
At least you didn’t have problems with thrown drive belts, Eric…..
I knew I was forgetting something, yeah a couple of them did that too.
Hi Eric, I know this is several years after the original post but I am looking into buying one of these vans and I am wondering if you are talking about the Mercedes sprinter or one of the others with all of these problems. I know very few people with first hand experience with any cargo vans and I would love some insight. Thanks
One article that explains the “fatal flaw” of sprinters.. good info
unbelievable comprehensive article!
also the roof a/c had a class action lawsuit about leakage. Here are the conditions for it:
According to the case documents, the effective date of the settlement was 9/30/2016 and that 5 days after the settlement date, MBUSA “will extend the warranty on the original-equipment rear air conditioning units in Subject Vehicles for water
leaks discussed in LI 83.50-N-59306 and LI 83.50-N-048689 to the first 7 years or 125,000 miles
of the vehicle’s in-service date, whichever occurs earlier. The Extended Warranty will also cover
original-equipment parts damaged by Extended-Warranty-covered water leaks (e.g., vehicle
headliner, upholstery, etc.). To receive a repair under the Extended Warranty, Participating Class
Members must present their vehicles to an Authorized Sprinter Service Center.
Our company bought two in 2013 to replace some very old Econolines and did not have good luck. Maintenance costs like oil changes and fuel filter changes were more expensive and the dealers were further away. One had a fuel delivery problem that was very expensive to fix. Medical equipment doesn’t really stack very well so the extra cargo capacity was not used all that often. The fuel mileage was very good and the power was appreciated by driver’s. The truck is great if the extra room allows you to make fewer trips or allows you to bring more tools to the job site. If not, the higher maintenance costs and fewer mechanics more than offset the fuel savings and increased power. The Sprinters were sold off and our company acquired an Iveco box truck from another division. The Iveco is used for very large jobs when we had been renting box trucks and not used every day.
Vans are a brave new world. I’ve seen a couple of the fwd ones. It was right after reading the Dykes review and I couldn’t get close enough to see which ones they were. It’s all changing. Hard to beat a high cube van for conversion IMO but not hard at all to beat their mileage. Since you are planning to use it for work (retiring the ford?) the economy sounds pretty important. Sounds like a dilemma I would enjoy having but I wouldn’t have the money to solve it.
Nitpicking: there are no Iveco diesel engines (anymore).
The current name is FPT engines, that’s Fiat Powertrain Technologies. Iveco is part of the Fiat Group and builds vans, buses and light and heavy trucks. With FPT engines of course. The Iveco Daily vans are bigger and more heavy-duty than the Fiat/Ram. That means body-on-frame and RWD or AWD, and diesel engines with more power.
Website FPT: http://www.fptindustrial.com/en-UK/Pages/HomePage.aspx
And this is an Iveco Daily van, the “huge-edition”:
Practical or not, I just can’t seem to get past the looks of those Euro-style vans. I’ve sometimes wondered what I’ll be choosing in another decade or so, when the early Sprinters and such become status quo in the used market. (Probably more Expresses/Savanas as long as they keep making them… for my purposes, they just work 🙂 )
Someone else mentioned the Nissan NV1500/2500/3500 vans. I have no particular love for Nissans, but the vans have started to make their appearance locally and do look interesting. A few years ago when rumors began to circulate about the demise of GM and Ford’s van lines, I began to think that – in the semi-distant future – I may end up biting the bullet and owning one.
The Nissan doesn’t come in the really big versions that make a suitable camper. But it does seem to be a viable Econoline van alternative.
Lots of joint-ventures in van-land these days.
Fiat Ducato=Peugeot Boxer=Citroën Jumper=Ram ProMaster
Renault Trafic=Opel Vivaro=Vauxhall Vivaro=Nissan Primastar
Mercedes Sprinter=Volkswagen Crafter.
That’s a hard choice for sure. The boss at my company has finally come to the realization that hauling expensive woodwork in the back of a short box crew cab pick up is not going to cut it anymore ( especially when the average table is 10 feet in length). So he has been looking for a van to augment the fleet. My pick is the Mercedes sprinter due to the diesel option as we put a lot of miles on the truck. He is a ford guy so when I heard the transit was coming I suspect this will be the one he will go with, although the dodge with the low floor does sound good for loading and the fact that with a mini van engine and transmission should make maintenance and repairs readily available and less expensive. Our driver has a bit of a lead foot so the 4 clylinder merc would probably be the best bet to avoid speeding tickets…
About the “lead foot”. Diesel vans can do 90 to 100 mph, and not only when empty. Lots of speed-limiter discussions going on here for several years.
Often (very) young inexperienced drivers plus the load in the back of the van and on the trailer (The so called “white-van-man”). Not always the perfect combination for safe road manners and low speeds….
You don’t want the Sprinter because it only comes with a very expensive to maintain diesel and the premium you pay for diesel eats up most of the better MPG. Factor in the way they eat through expensive brakes and their apetite for tires and it cost more to run a Sprinter than any other van, even a gas powered Step Van. Plus the star on the front means there is higher up front costs as well. When they first sole them they sales pitch there were supposed to give was yes it costs 10K more but you’ll save $1500 per year in fuel costs, which must have been calculated with gas and diesel being the same price. The problem is they cost $1500 per year more to maintain.
The best choice at this point it to get one of the last Econolines.
Speaking from a fleet-operator’s mantra, let us review:
1. Less than five ton, gas.
2. More than five ton, diesel.
On light duty vehicles, the upfront and maintenance costs don’t make any diesel worthwhile. Sure, weekend “truckers” love to hypothesize about how much their diesel pick-up trucks can theoretically haul, but most haul around their butts and a 5 foot box of air. Anybody who needs real pulling-hauling capacity is going to step up to a true commercial vehicle. In these parts anyway, UPS has given up on light duty diesel and switched back to LPG. There is a reason for this and it isn’t lower operating costs for the diesel.
I wouldn’t touch the Sprinter with a ten foot Albanian. They are complete money pits. Brakes are awful and major parts like fuel pumps routinely fail. When they came out, I saw a lot of early adopters try them. Now I don’t see so many.
Paul, do the smart thing: wait for somebody else to do the conversion on the Ducato. When he can’t make the payments, save yourself a whole lot time, money and aggravation by snapping it up. Shouldn’t take more than a year or two.
I would guess that in addition to the reliability issues, losing Dodge dealers as a sales channel is part of the reason for the lack of Sprinter sales of late. Most of the Sprinters I see on the road are Dodge-badged, not Mercedes or Freightliners, and I would guess your average plumber isn’t going to walk into a Freightliner dealer for a new van when his Ram finally gives up the ghost.
It also could be due to the fact the Sprinter is a service, maintenance and reliability nightmare, yet another German money pit.
Second that. I’m going to be very sorry to see the good old Econoline go away. I keep hearing rumours that Ford is going to continue to produce commercial versions for awhile yet. Hope it’s true.
From what I’ve heard it is only the cutaway that they are planning on keeping around for a little while longer.
Yeah, the reason the sales went down was the fact that they proved themselves as money pits. I’ve heard that since they went to the Mercedes dealership the price went up making them an even worse value.
Is there some unknown to me Italian law specifying that the nose of a commercial vehicle must receive an exceedingly ugly design job? Is it to protect pedestrians of compact European cities – they couldn’t help but see and avoid the approach on a cobblestoned commercial street of such a gross snout?
I know that in a commercial van style is not a big selling point but that Ram/Fiat is so very ugly that the feature might kill some potential deals. I would not want one.
As to interior finish: when the first generation Sprinter arrived at Dodge, Freightliner and Mercedes dealers many “expeditor” type interior packages became available. Paul if you search for “expeditor” conversions you will see some very efficient but spartan schemes which adapt this type vehicle to a very specific living purpose for an owner/operator. The concepts used may be helpful or one might be adaptable to your purposes. I liked the designs for use with living area mid body and motorcycle and/or bicycle storage & service area in the rear.
“And don’t even think of questioning the Ducato’s proven toughness and reliability because of its French-Italo heritage. They have a great rep in Europe”
Sounds like famous last words, doesn’t that ALWAYS seem to be a trend?
Didn’t the Sprinter have a “great rep in Europe” and now is regarded as a money pit over here?
Postmortem statements later always seem to follow that line
“I don’t understand why XXXX was so bad here in the US, it was great in Europe…..”
“An Iveco 3.0 L diesel four (180 hp) with a “robotized manual” transmission will join it later, along with a $4000 extra cost.”
Yeah, all that sounds like its totally reliable….a robotic manual, like a Smart? Hmmmmm…we know that’s one of the most loved features of the failed Smart car.
You can buy a nice used Chevy/GMC based C-class camper for not much money, tried and true mechanicals, I wouldn’t want to be in the middle of nowhere going into po-dunk auto parts looking for something and hear “what’s a Fheeeeat Doooocaytow?”
And if its FWD you’re looking for…well…..
A lot of it has to do with experience. My European friends, especially Germans, are simply used to doing more wrenching on cars. What we would see as a major repair, for example a head gasket, they would see as a regular maintenance issue. Whenever I talk to my Germans friends about their German (of course) cars, they tell me how great they are. When I delve a little deeper, I find they spend a lot to keep them running. Everybody does. It’s normal.
Nationalism always plays a role. As a Canadian, we have no car industry of our own, so brand loyalty is practically nil for most people. Not the case in Europe. Go to Italy and you see Italian cars, France, French cars, etc. Mind you, the same goes in many places in the USA, too, and even parts of Canada. Buying a Japanese car in Germany is a form of heresy, and only for weird, penny-pinching old men.
The fact is, what works in Europe doesn’t necessarily work here. I don’t want to stuck in northern Saskatchewan in the winter with my Fiat van, which is toast due to water in the fuel, a common issue in prairie winters. There won’t be any dealers for hundreds of km, so I need something a farm boy can fix in the local garage. In Germany, you’ll never be far away from a qualified repair shop.
And what do those farm boys drive ?
I can tell you. State-of-the-art high-tech John Deere (or another brand) tractors. LOADED with electronics. Computer controlled common rail diesel injection. Computer controlled automatic gearboxes, steering by GPS, the whole charade. A guy with a van and a laptop comes to diagnose it.
And all these machines have really tough jobs, working in dust and mud, on hot days and on rainy days.
You see, North American manufacturers of farm- and construction equipment kept on developing and innovating their products like nobody else. That’s why John Deere, Caterpillar, the Agco-Group and CNH are still King of the Hill, worldwide. They were and will always be front-runners.
I know several Canadian farmers (of Dutch origin that is) and they don’t want the DIY Farmall back. Only as a sunday hobby-tractor.
Oh, I forgot. CNH=Fiat Group.
Farm boys almost exclusively drive pick up trucks. Modern farm machinery is now usually repaired by mobile techs, as most farmers can no longer fix them by themselves.
Nice summary, that’s exactly what I meant. Thank you.
Cheap, tried and true mechanicals, FWD
If you think Mercedes has reliability and parts availability problems, wait until you drive a Fiat. My father almost bought one that was only a year old, but walked away because it was already rusting out. Fiat has consistently ranked on the bottom on European quality ratings as well. As for the looks of the front end, lets just say it is an acquired taste. I would go with the Transit, or the Chevy. The Transit Connect looks really nice, but is probably too small for your needs
2009 JD Power rankings in UK places Fiat in last place.
FWIW, The Ducato is marketed as a Fiat, but its actually a product of Sevel, a JV between Fiat and PSA.
Paul those Ducato conversions are available here used, quite popular as rentals and according to one owner Ive talked to have good road performance.
Automated transmissions are commonplace amongst the truck fleet nowdays manuals are virtually unknown Eaton Fuller make a nice one as do many others.
One word of caution Paul I looked at becoming a courier which requires a van my BIL worked for FORD he would not recommend me a Transit, so I wont to you.
While it sounds like you are leaning towards a euro-style van, you can still buy a new E series cut-away from Ford at least for 2014. That would be a cool way to build your own RV and can start with a brand new full frame and drivetrain that way. Can also do the same thing with a pickup front from any manufacturer.
The wife and I actually just brought a new F150 recently. And I have been thinking about buying an old RV trailer and remodelling it to satisfy my own desire to have an RV.
Ford’s online configurator says the North American Transit will be available with a five-cylinder Duratorq diesel. Not that it would necessarily make sense for you, but it will be an option. In photos the Transit looks like it would have more ground clearance than the Promaster, and given your camping habits, you may want those few extra inches.
I will say this in defense of the GM vans. The 4.8L V8 is matched up to the 6L90 transmission. That’s the same gearbox that is put into the Camaro ZL1 and the Duramax vans. So I don’t think you’ll ever be having transmission woes when it’s hooked up to the 4.8L. That said the 4.8L in a 1-ton LWB van would have me wishing I went for the 6.0L.
I don’t know much about the Transit, but the Ford employees over at TTAC have alluded that getting it ready for launch has been a nightmare, and Ford’s recent products launches have all had some teething issues.
The Ducato seems neat but the robot transmission for the diesel sounds like hell. If this is the first application of the 3.6L in a Ducato I would wait at least two years just to make sure that everything shakes out okay.
I drive automatic trucks, I doubt most people could get in start it and make it moove Friday it was a Scania 12 sp tonite, a International Workstar C15 Eaton Fuller 18sp autoshift, both operate similarly but the Inter has more gears than it needs anyway even grossing 50 tonnes it pulls fine it also has a clutch pedal
Or what about a beautifull, yankee style cut away used ambulance as a basis? On a Ford chassis for example. Serious grunt, serious performance and a good old American lack of technical progress to top it all off. Cheaper, easier to come by and easier to maintain too, as US repair outlets seem to have missed out on the latest trends in van building.
Stone age engineering, but built for the US:
No 6.0. Way to many service procedures are cab off affairs, and they have a lot of common issues V10 is the only way to go.
Second that. The 6.0 is second only to the old GM 6.5 for crappiness. The
V-10 is surprisingly cheap on fuel for that it can do it is really strong like bull.
But generally, do camper conversions exist based on old ambulances? Wide, spacious, a bit short maybe, but what are the used ambulances used for in the US / Canada?
I’ve seen old ambulances used as promotional business vehicles, delivery vehicles, etc, but never a camper. Using an ambulance isn’t a bad idea, it’s just that actual E350 based used RV’s are so, so cheap, why would you bother retrofitting an ambulance you couldn’t even stand up in?
Carolus, much of the time the patient care box is transferred to the new chassis and they will end up on a number of chassis before the box is retired. Not all that far from here is an ambulance upfitter and they always have 2 or 3 used cutaway van chassis for sale sitting out front and only occasionally a complete unit.
What an ugly new world.
Paul, for true inspiration for our camper, look no further than EarthRoamer. They are located a few miles from me and the products boggle the mind. So do the price tags, but as they say: If you have to ask, you can’t afford it…
In that case I won’t ask.
Since I’m also in the early stages of making a decision about buying a large van to convert to a camper, I read this article with keen interest. I would have picked the ProMaster but with two reservations:
1. Lack of AWD, that somewhat limits winter activities.
2. The PenStar V6. I had a 2012 Chrysler Town & Country that came with it. one year and 18k miles later, the check engine light came on. NEW cylinder head was the end result.
The Ford Transit is plain ugly.
I’ll be watching this series with interest. If I was choosing one these vehicles right now with the given parameters, I’d have to go with the Sprinter (V6 version) as it’s already proven. I’d be a little wary of the Dodge-Fiat mashup until I could actually spend some time with one. #2 would probably be the Ford Transit. Looks like there will be a lot of ordereing flexibility with them, as there was on the Econoline. Poor Chevy, left out in the cold……..
The Sprinter is proven to be a money pit, there is a reason that there sales peaked years ago and companies like Fed-Ex scrap them rather than repair them and keep throwing good money after bad. A transmission is $6K wholesale. Take it to the dealer and it is $12K installed before tax.
My prediction is the GM will come out on top and they will take over the Econoline’s 50% plus market share. My bet sales numbers will shake out to be Chevy, Ford, GMC, Nissan, with the Ram and Sprinter battling it out for last place.
I vote for the Citroen H van. Now that’s classy, love the corrugated siding.
Personally I kind of like our minivan/pop up trailer setup, but true RV people lump us in with the criminals using tents. Also might not be the greatest for bouncing around state forest roads or WalMart parking lots.
Reread Dyke’s review I’m pretty sure that 17 MPG was with the automated manual trans diesel version. It was a euro spec van, likely with a euro spec (dirty) diesel, so it would probably return 15 mpg or so in similar use with a US spec (clean) diesel.
There certainly is a reason to question the reliability of the FIAT. The power train is not the same as used in Europe. The Pentastar has not proven itself to be able to haul around that kind of weight constantly. Ditto for the “beefed up” minivan transmission, axles, and wheel bearings. If you must have a euro van the Transit is far and away the safest bet.
However I’d suggest a used V10 6sp equipped Econoline as a proven commodity. I’m sure you can find a lightly used, already converted, barely broken in one for not much more than the price of a new van that needs to be built out. The prices of RV specific furnishings are quite high, usually more than nicer full size home versions.
Then re-read it again; or watch it, actually. In the video portion he makes it VERY CLEAR that he was averaging 17 mpg in the 3.6 Pentastar van he was driving.
Is it not clear that I have no interest in an Econoline van, because it’s way to small? The long wheelbase high roof euro vans have vastly more interior room. I want to be able to walk in it, not crawl around.
Then have a look at this, pricy, Euro but beautifully built and maybe an inspiration nonetheless:
Oops that was not the review I was thinking about.
I know you don’t want a low roof, clearly I was suggesting one with a high roof conversion. My 82’s high roof allows me to stand up at 6′ 2″.
Carolus, the ones with the exposed wood sides are quite interesting. They look pretty cool but for how long when exposed to the weather on a daily basis?
Hi Eric, these were clearly not meant to be used on a daily basis. Euro style camping: a couple of times a year in spring and summer. Although the wood panelling and the paint job seem to yacht class quality. Hard, UV proof and flexible. The Field sleeper international does seem more practical in that respect. The perfect Niedermeyer mobile: http://www.tonkecampers.nl/en/travel/collection/truck-cabins/Desert-Yacht
I wasn’t suggesting that they would be used daily but that most people store their RVs outside.
Storing them outside would indeed be an issue, but looking at the prices (they’re all hand built), starting from € 74k, approx .$ 100k, potential customers have a solution for that. Most camper vans in the Netherlands, where these things are built, are stored inside anyway. But what a contrast with the Tupperware holyday appliances offered elsewhere 🙂 Love the looks of these.
I recommend the Transit – based on the 2005 and 2013 models I’ve driven. The 2005 is at my late Grandad’s retirement home. It’s RWD, 5-speed manual, 2.4L diesel, 9-seater plus wheelchair lift and wheelchair space. Boy was the engine noisy, but it went well and was surprisingly comfy. Overall it felt very solid and bulletproof.
In May I spent two weeks in the UK driving a new 2013 Transit-based Rimor Katamarano motorhome. It was a cab-chassis with an Italian-built motorhome body on the back. FWD, 6-speed manual, 2.2L direct-injection turbo-diesel. I was initially dubious about a FWD Transit, but was quickly won over due to its very practical and comfy cab, quietness, power and economy. It was mush quieter than the 2.4L back in NZ, and was quick – seriously so for something that size, and the cruise control easily held it at 130km/h (where legal) on the motorways. Overtaking was easily and safely accomplished. The icing on the cake was the excellent fuel economy – over the 3112km we travelled in it, it averaged 12l/100km for the first 2,000, and then 13l/100km for the next 1,100.
The best thing was the cabin – I’ve driven a number vans over the years, and I think the 2013 Transit had easily the best cabin layout in its class. Everything was convenient and worked well. Highly-specced compared with NZ Transits, with a/c, p/w, cruise, trip computer, steering wheel audio controls, adjustable armrests. Best feature is the cupholder adjacent to the steering wheel. The 2015 Transit dashboard isn’t quite as practical, but retains that awesomely-located cupholder and the excellent bottle holders below.
I found LT13DXG so good to drive and to live in, I’d have no hesitation hiring another FWD Transit. One day, when they’re affordable I’d love to buy one. Here’s the one we hired, in a camp-ground in Brighton, England:
Here the missing pic of the Tonke thing:
Looks like the Pipo-wagen (you know what I mean) as pictured above, mounted on a truck….But I like it, Pipo in the year 2013 !
Truly nostalgic, yeah! But check their website and see what efford is put just in the quality of the materials used. A completely different class, a better one. No more Tupperware trucks.
I checked the website, I had never heard of them, nor seen one on the road.
It all looks original, very durable and all-weather resistant. (As there are wooden boats too….)
I would say you could practically run an Econoline forever, but that will eventually change now that they’re being put out to pasture. Sure, they were dinosaurs with ’60s & 70s technology, but they were workhorses. The courier service I worked for in 2005 had a couple of ’99 E250s that had over a million miles on their bodies and chassis when I left. They’re both still on the road today. They’re not pretty, and I’m sure that everything’s been replaced two or three times, but, knowing the quality and knowledge (or lack thereof) of the in-company mechanics they employed, I am impressed. Also considering the vans are run hard at least 16-20 hours a day M-F and 8-12 hours a day on Saturdays, and have survived 13 Wisconsin winters without breaking in two (company policy was the vans were washed when it rained).
The Ford E-350 lab will continue on indefinitely as well as the 450 chassis cab, that being said buy a fleet maintained shorty daycare van or airport shuttle, Ford 5.4 6.8 or 7.3 diesel and drive it for another 200k
*lwb =long wheel base
I’m so disappointed to hear that the 2015 Ford Transit won’t have AWD. I currently have a Subaru Outback that I use for car camping and modest off road. The AWD is fantastic and has many times gotten me out of situations where I would have been stuck otherwise. It takes a lot of the worry out of back roads and winter driving. Having all four wheels driven is excellent…and at good mileage. I really want an AWD euro style van that I can turn into a small comfortable versatile RV at a reasonable cost….are you listening Ford?
The current and latest Transit model, known here as the Ford Transit Custom, is available in a 4×4 configuration. At least, that’s what I read here:
Very interesting discussion from various points of view. I test drove a ProMaster 2500 today and think Paul is on the right track for building out his unit. It will be interesting to see what happens when more conversion companies get their projects on the road.
I just read over this with interest, since we are considering using one of these eurovans in a similar way– as a camping and gigmobile. I’d love an update to know what the original poster decided upon or if there have been some lessons learned in the meantime. Thanks! Woody
One thing to remember is that the new Transit will not be built in Southampton, UK but in Turkey so there may be teething problems. If it is as good, watch for Dual Mass Flywheels on the clutch (diesels) but generally they are robust.
PSA/Fiat vans, while common – the Peugeot version has been used by the Scottish Ambulance Service since 2011 but they are a bit narrow compared to Transits. Which makes high speed (60mph+) cornering in the Hi-Top interesting… Reliability – mechanically they are quite solid but the electrics are shockingly bad. Almost as bad as a Renault…
Mercs rot badly but are popular in the UK because of the badge. As are VW vans. The Transporter/Crafter range is quite robust and the Transporter is proper quick.
If I were to buy any van though, it would be a good old Tranny… It’s the van that built Britain after all…
VW !! Are you getting the hint ??? I’m a delivery driver, and our company has 3 of the later Sprinter vans with diesels, which I find comfortable to drive, now that they have tilt steering. We also have a new Dodge Promaster with the powerful 6 , that really has a lot of get up and go. The only thing I don’t like about it is the lack of tilt adjustment for steering. It’s up, like driving a bus. Quality isn’t as good as the Sprinters.. The sliding door doesn’t shut right. The dealer looked at it and didn’t fix it. Gas filler door doesn’t stay shut
. It has a trip computer, and the best gas mileage I got was 20 mpg, not too bad. We also have a couple new full size Nissan vans , that have a pickup truck front. They’re pretty nice, but I don’t think they get very good mpg. I like the new smaller Nissans, which we don’t have. Sure wish VW would market a delivery van.
i am thinking about getting at promaster 3500 extended van and wonder if anyone knows if ifs too tall or too long for parking garages or parking in a metered spot on the street
also i was wondering if anyone knew how and where one could mount a generator on the promaster for heat and a/c and power for camping–i understand there is an attachment on the gas tank for connecting to the generator so you don’t have to fill it up manually
also is there a way to have a dividing wall with a door set farther back from the drivers seat because I like to recline my seat when I drive but don’t want stuff flying up on me in an accident
thank you jay c
I bought a Promaster 118 in 2015, it was the van I waited on after having owned a 2005 Sprinter. In the five years and 90k of use, I have built it out with an aluminum panel bed platform, ceiling fan, sunroof, secondary battery system, lighting, fridge, jump seat/center console, and propane heat. It is a diesel, FWD, highest MPG 28.6, worst MPG 20, highly economical and really nice alternative to paying $$ for AWD/4WD.