Smoothly does it: new six-speed auto and rear air suspension for Ford Transit Custom at IAA 2016

  • New 2.0-litre EcoBlue engine dominates Ford stand at IAA 2016
  • Six-speed automatic gearbox now offered on Transit and Custom
  • New rear air suspension, all-wheel drive and SYNC 3 options, too

Every single vehicle on the Ford stand in Hanover for the 2016 IAA Commercial Vehicles Show is powered by the new 2.0-litre EcoBlue engine.

And while that has limited Ford’s display to the Transit and Transit Custom, you can hardly blame it for making a fuss when the new engine is 13 percent more efficient and offers 20 percent more torque than the old 2.2-litre motor it replaces.

And besides, it’s not as if the Blue Oval has failed to build enough variety into those two models, as alongside a number of vehicle conversions, it’s also got a new automatic gearbox option for both Transit and Transit Custom, a new rear air suspension system for the Transit Custom (and Tourneo Custom people-carrier) , and an “enhanced" all-wheel drive system for the Transit as well.

Plus there’s the newly available SYNC 3 infotainment system for Transit, too. It’s almost no wonder that the UK’s most popular LCV maker is celebrating an 18 percent increase in sales August year-to-date in Europe.

New six-speed automatic for Transit and Transit Custom

We’ve covered the new six-speed auto in some detail already (although we’re yet to actually try it on the road), but this SelectShift transmission has been specially re-engineered for Ford’s vans to deliver a smooth, relaxing driving experience, and is based on a long-serving American-market gearbox.

Ford Transit automatic

It can detect when the van is on a hill or carrying a heavy load, allowing it to adjust when it changes gear to maximise efficiency, and is available on 130hp and 170hp versions of the new 2.0-litre EcoBlue engine. It also has a stop-start function to save further fuel whenever the van is sat at a standstill.

The only question we might ask at this stage is whether six gears in an automatic is really enough in 2016; the auto gearbox available right across the engine range in the new VW Crafter features no less than eight ratios – though we’re still waiting to try that as well.

New air suspension option for passenger-carrying Transit Custom models

If you’re looking at a Transit Custom for people transport – whether that be in Kombi or Tourneo guise – Ford is now offering its own in-house rear air suspension option for a smoother ride.

New rear air suspension for Ford Transit Custom

The system automatically adjusts for load changes using a built-in compressor and built-in height sensors. It’s designed to improve passenger comfort in vehicles that can have a load variance of up to one tonne, depending on how many people and how much luggage is on board.

Fourth-generation Transit all-wheel drive

Another change for the new EcoBlue engine is the introduction a new AWD system for the Transit.

Now into its fourth generation, the updated design combines the front differential and the AWD coupling (which transfers power on to the rear axle) into a single unit, saving 10kg and improving packaging with the new 2.0-litre engine.

Add in the additional low-end torque of the EcoBlue motor, plus recalibrated electronic stability control systems, and all-wheel drive Transits are said to “enable drivers to achieve smoother, more confident progress on challenging surfaces.”

Updated all-wheel drive for Ford Transit

With its electronically controlled AWD coupling, the system is also able to vary torque front:rear between 0:100 and 50:50. There’s an AWD Auto mode for regular driving and an AWD Lock mode for really sticky stuff (such as deep snow or sand).

Again available on 130hp and 170hp versions of the EcoBlue engine, and on a variety of different Transit models, it’s also 11 percent more efficient than the system it replaces, with claimed fuel economy as high as 32.8mpg – which isn’t bad at all for a large van driving all four of its wheels.

The new “intelligent” Transit AWD is available to order now, with first deliveries in early 2017.

SYNC 3 infotainment: larger screen, easier to use

Finally, Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment system is just about as close to cutting edge as you can get in a van.

It features smartphone-style operation, including “pinch-to-zoom” and a “conversational” voice control function that allows you to say “I need fuel” and the sat-nav will find you a nearby fuel station; that some vehicles now automatically prompt you with fuel station directions when they detect the tank is nearing empty is perhaps beside the point. Or perhaps not.

Anyway, SYNC 3 also includes a larger touchscreen, bigger buttons (thank goodness), faster responses and you can even talk to the climate control system (where fitted). Plus there’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto full smartphone integration.

It’s available to order in Transit, Transit Connect and Ranger now.

Click here to read a review of the new Ford EcoBlue engine in the Transit Custom

Everything you need to know about the 2016 IAA van show