Glamour. Excitement. Travel. All part of the day-to-day life for a CarAdvice team member. Well, maybe Alborz…
For our legendary office manager Marcus, one-out-of-three would have to do, having drawn the short straw (it was the only straw) that found him hauling a load of stuff from our Sydney office to its Melbourne counterpart.
The good news? He'd be making the trip in a brand-new Aston Martin… Sorry, that should read 2016 Ford Transit Custom. Typo.
“I was tasked with setting up an apartment near the CarAdvice Melbourne office, so I filled the Transit with various bits and pieces of furniture from Sydney and drove down the Hume Highway, stopping at Gundagai for the night.”
According to Google Maps, the distance between the two CarAdvice premises is an elegant (and potentially lucky) 888km.
It’s a well-worn route, the major transport artery between Australia’s two largest cities, and the perfect environment for Marcus to simulate being a ‘man with a van’ in real life.
With upwards of nine-hours spent behind the wheel, how was the Ford for comfort?
“The Transit was really comfortable," said Marcus. “I am a big fan of the driving position in a van and the seats were great.”
Where the Transit Custom differs from many of its loading-zone chums, is the standard bulkhead that separates the cab from the load bay.
“Panel vans can be very noisy and tiring to drive, due to the big space in the back and only minimal or no sound deadening. Fortunately, the Transit has the bulkhead separating the driver from the cargo, so noise from the back was minimum.”
It wasn’t quite silent running though. Marcus notes, “whenever I hit a pothole or large bump, all the gear in the back would rattle around.”
Part of the romance of a long-distance road trip is stopping at picturesque service stations and fast-food outlets along the way. How was the slab-sided Ford in these situations?
“Parking is a pretty average experience, given that it's a panel van," said Marcus. “There is little-to-no visibility out the back, but the reverse sensors were a big help.”
There is a reverse camera in the rear view mirror that takes a bit of getting used to also.
“The Transit also has great big mirrors with convex bottom sections, which gave good vision down the sides of the van.”
But the drive isn’t all hot chips and cold milkshakes. There are plenty of kilometres to cover and, while the road may be a high-quality dual-carriageway for the entire interstate run, there are still plenty of undulations along the Hume.
Marcus says, “the Transit was very easy to drive. The diesel engine feels big and powerful compared to other vans I’ve driven.”
As well it should. With a 92kW/350Nm 2.2-litre turbo diesel, the Transit 'outvans' the 66kW/260Nm Renault Trafic, 84kW/270Nm Mercedes-Benz Vito and 75kW/250Nm Volkswagen Transporter. It is still down on the 100kW/343Nm Hyundai iLoad and 100kW/300Nm Toyota HiAce diesel models, though.
“For the total trip, the van was able to cruise easily at 110km/h and had no problems in stop-start city traffic at each end.”
While vans can be more susceptible to the environment than a lower and less fridge-like car, Marcus noted “the weather on the drive was fine other than a brief rain shower between Sydney and Goulburn, so I didn’t really experience any heavy cross winds.”
A key feature of any van is the ability to operate as a mobile office while on the move.
“The infotainment system is very basic, but easy to use”, said Marcus. “The keypad layout makes it look like an old Nokia or Motorola phone, and there's no integrated navigation system.”
“Connecting a phone via Bluetooth is simple, so I was able to catch up on all the calls I'd been avoiding with my parents.”
Sounds like fun…
With clean underwear and general wellbeing questions out of the way with mum and dad, it was time for some tunes – almost.
“Sadly there is no auxiliary line-in port to plug my vintage iPod into”, complained Marcus. Ever the hipster, he has now been sent to pick up some TDK mix tapes from his local Brash's to rectify the situation.
Turns out too, that there is a line-in port under the storage cubby that sits on top of the instrument cluster, behind the steering wheel. So thats +1 for kit and -1 for logical placement.
You tend to get to know a car well after spending the best part of a day stuck behind the wheel, so how did the Transit stack up as far as ergonomics are concerned?
“The wipers and lights are simple enough to find, with the lights on the right side of the dash near the door and the wipers on the stalk.”
“Being of average height, I had no problems with anything around the cabin. Everything was within reach and I had good vision out the front and through the mirrors.”
Marcus had no tall tales of extracurricular adventures to tell about the drive down. Sure, on his way back (in a different car), the McDonald's in Gundagai mysteriously caught fire… but talking about that would only detract from this story.
So how was his big-country big-adventure?
“I’m a big fan of vans so I really enjoy sitting up high with a good view,” Marcus said.
“The Transit Custom is a lot more truck-like than some other vans I have driven, which was fun for a drive like this. It’s big, comfortable and generally not a bad place to spend time looking for a good country music station.”
Marcus, the Transit, and all the odds and ends arrived safely in Melbourne.
He averaged 5.9L/100km on the run down the Hume (better than the claimed 6.4L/100km) and just under 8L/100km around town (up on the 7.1L/100km claim).
Have you driven the Hume Highway in a van? Let us know about your experiences in the comments below.
Click on the Photos tab for more images by Christian Barbeitos.