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Ford, Nissan Win 2015 Canadian Truck King Van Challenge

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Ford, Nissan Win 2015 Canadian Truck King Van Challenge

Posted by Mark Williams | February 28, 2015

1 2015 Truck King Vans II


By Howard J. Elmer

We've been conducting the Canadian Truck King Challenge since 2006. We love doing down-and-dirty comparison tests of all kinds, and during the past few years the commercial van segment has undergone a metamorphosis that we believed had to be investigated more closely.

During this metamorphosis the traditional low-roof commercial box van (think Ford E-Series) has been replaced by Euro-van-looking offerings. Several years ago the rear-wheel-drive Mercedes-Benz Sprinter arrived on the scene with its distinctive narrow nose, high roof and diesel engine. That was followed by Ford's downsized, rear-wheel-drive Transit Connect and then the full-size Transit 150/250/350. Right on the wheels of these two new vans came a van from Ram Commercial. Badged as the Ram ProMaster, it started life as a Fiat. The ProMaster brought a diesel powertrain to the segment, as well as a gas engine, and a unique front-wheel-drive design. Ram is entering the midsize van segment this year with the ProMaster City.

Nissan designed and built the full-size NV 1500/2500/3500 vans in North America. Gas powered and with various roof heights, the NV also has a unique look but offers a more traditional boxy body. On the small-van stage Nissan now offers a front-wheel-drive van — the NV200.

For the 2015 Canadian Truck King Van Challenge, six judges evaluated these vans during a two-day period last fall. The judges were automotive journalists who spend a substantial portion of their working year evaluating pickups, vans and vehicles that do hard work for a living. Both full-size and small vans were driven empty and fully loaded over the same route (payload was 3,070 pounds for full-size vans and 1,040 pounds for small vans), and driven through congested urban areas to the replicate the downtown deliveries are required to do. In total, we racked up 994 miles during testing.

During the second day of testing we also ran a short route of parking lots, delivery lanes and back alleys to see how well the mirrors were set up, which van had the best visibility and how each maneuvered through tight quarters. Judges scored each van based on personal observations.

Finally, we used an objective third party to conduct our fuel-economy calculations during and after our drive routes. These results are as "real world" as it gets. The data collectors run constantly (meaning when the engine is running), and the results are a blend of the driving styles of all six judges, who rotated through each van We did this for the empty, loaded and low-speed delivery test segments.

In the end, the 2015 Ford Transit 250 won the full-size category, while the Nissan NV200 took the smaller segment by a hair's breadth. Of course, as with most exhaustive comparison tests like this, the real story is in the details.

3 2015 Truck King Vans group II

Note: For various reasons, we did not get all the vehicles we wanted for this comparison test. Missing were the full-size Nissan NV, a Ram EcoDiesel ProMaster, the all-new ProMaster City, and the old-school Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana.

Without further ado, the following are the commercial vans we tested.

Full-Size Competitors

2015 Ford Transit 250

The Transit was born and raised in Europe and Asia, but is now also being built in Kansas City, Mo. It's a typical front-engine, rear-wheel-drive configuration. Ford says the Transit will average 25 percent better fuel economy than the current E-Series, which has now ceased production. Variations include three body lengths, two wheelbases, three roof heights and body styles that include van, wagon, chassis cab and cutaway variations. All engines are paired with an automatic six-speed transmission.

2015 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 2500

This year Sprinter has an updated body that features a higher nose, larger grille louvers and new options like bi-xenon headlamps. Along with the body update the V-6 BlueTec diesel gets a new base engine partner — the turbo-diesel 2.1-liter four-cylinder. This engine is said to get a combined city/highway fuel rating of 26 mpg. We tested two 2500s so that we could sample both engines. Mercedes has also added five new assistance systems to the Sprinter to help drivers avoid accidents, and a four-wheel-drive option is now available on these vans.

2015 Ram ProMaster 2500

The new ProMaster covers consumers' needs with a variety of body styles and weight categories (1500, 2500, and 3500) in cargo van, chassis cab, cutaway and window versions. However, unlike the Mercedes and Ford this front-wheel-drive powertrain provides a lower, flat cargo floor. Our 2500 had the Pentastar 3.6-liter V-6 gas engine; the optional EcoDiesel 3.0-liter four-cylinder was not available at the time of our testing. We would have liked to see how the Ram diesel stacked up against the Ford and Mercedes diesels.

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