The 2023 Ford Transit Trail elevates van life to a whole new level

Chris Teague

Chris Teague

van life

When the pandemic shut everything down in early 2020, some people took the opportunity to take their lives onto the open road. Vans (you have have heard the term “van life”), RVs, pickup trucks, and even wagons became impromptu mobile homes for people with newly remote jobs. Overlanding, which is traveling to a remote place in a vehicle to camp and explore, became especially popular, as people found that being far away from others was an excellent way to relieve stress and have fun. Automakers have scrambled to capitalize on the trend with adventure-ready models that offer light off-roading abilities and more muscular styling.

The Ford Transit, one of the best-selling cargo vans in America, is a popular option with the #vanlife crowd because it’s available with all-wheel drive and is one of the more comfortable full-size vans on sale today. Not one to miss out on an opportunity, Ford cooked up the 2023 Transit Trail van, a rugged family hauler with a lift kit, stout towing capabilities, all-wheel drive, and a powerful V6 engine.

van life

The Transit Trail comes with a turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 that makes 310 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. It sends power to all four wheels through a ten-speed automatic transmission. Five selectable drive modes are available: Normal, Eco, Mud/Ruts, Tow/haul, and Slippery. The van can also tow up to 6,500 pounds and comes standard with a heavy-duty trailer tow package. A 3.5-inch lift kit provides better ground clearance and enables steeper approach/departure angles. The van rides on 16-inch wheels with 30.5-inch Goodyear Wrangler Workhorse all-terrain tires, and Ford widened the Transit’s track by 2.75 inches for the Trail model.

Unique exterior styling elements help distinguish the Trail from regular Transit models. The Transit Trail gets a black grille, black HID headlights, a “skid plate-style” front bumper, splash guards, and slider-style side steps. Inside, the van offers up to 487 cubic feet of cargo space. High-roof models can accommodate people as tall as six feet, five inches, and Ford notes a cargo floor length of 14 feet. The Trail has drillable areas and can be upfitted with several different storage options. Ford offers an Upfitter Package with auxiliary power functions and modified vehicle wiring to handle additional power equipment.

van life

Ford’s excellent Sync 4 infotainment system comes standard and brings Amazon Alexa, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a Wi-Fi hotspot. If you’re camping and have the hotspot connected, Ford says you can move up to 50 feet away from the van and still have service. The van is available with several advanced safety features, including blind spot monitoring and a 360-degree camera system.

What this means for you

If you’re considering pursuing life on the road or just want a capable family camping vehicle, it’s hard to go wrong with the Ford Transit. The Trail model’s rugged upgrades and styling make the van even more appealing and should give it enough capability to get the family well off the beaten path. Ford does an excellent job at offering the right options and upgrades for the Transit to make it usable as a (large) everyday family hauler. The number of possibilities and upfits make it possible to completely remove the van from its cargo-carrying workhorse roots.

van life

That said, we don’t know how much the Transit Trail will cost. The standard Transit starts at more than $50,000, and that’s before any options, such as all-wheel drive, get tacked on. That’s a lot of money for a camping toy, so the van will likely be an everyday driver for most buyers. Ford offers the right safety equipment, tech and comfort features to make it more appealing as a daily driver, so other than having to park the thing, Transit Trail owners won’t give up much to live with a full-size adventure-ready van.

Frequently Asked Questions

Learn more about the Ford Transit and van life here.

When will the 2023 Ford Transit Trail be available?

Ford says the Transit Trail will go on sale in fall 2022. Even so, supply chain issues and parts shortages may make it hard to find the van at first.

Which vans compete with the Ford Transit?

The Ford Transit competes against the Ram ProMaster, Chevrolet Express, GMC Savana, Nissan NV, and Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.

Does the Ford Transit come with four-wheel drive?

The Ford Transit is available with all-wheel drive, making it an excellent year-round vehicle for people living where the air hurts their faces.

Is the Ford Transit safe?

Since the Ford Transit is considered a commercial vehicle, it doesn’t get the same crash test scores as average passenger vehicles. That said, the Transit is available with several advanced driver assistance systems, making it one of the safer full-size vans on sale.

What is an upfit?

Upfits are accessories and upgrades that are tailored to a specific purpose. For example, the standard Ford Transit is available with upfits for plumbers and electricians, each of which comes with storage and other options specifically designed to help with those trades. Some Ford dealers offer upfits when the van is purchased, and several companies specialize in upfits for commercial vans.

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