The 2023 Ford Transit Trail starts at $65,975, plus $1,795 in delivery fees.
It adds off-road capability to the standard Transit and easy customization thanks to pre-drillable areas for common upgrades.
Vanlife is living full- or part-time in a van, traveling the country, and enjoying the sights. It’s a choice more Americans are making, and it centers around, well, vans. But the companies that build vans haven’t done much to serve the vanlife crowd.
is out to change that. For the 2023 model year, the automaker will produce an off-road-oriented version of its Transit cargo van, with interior modifications to simplify customization. Meet the 2023 Ford Transit Trail.
The new 2023 Transit Trail van comes in three roof height configurations.
Vanlifers are a growing market
According to a U.S. Census Bureau report from 2019, about 140,000 Americans live full-time in vans, recreational vehicles, or boats. The figure was up 38% in just three years.
Vanlifers don’t tend to drive stock vans with conventional seating. Instead, they buy cargo vans, modify the vehicles themselves, or pay aftermarket shops to do it for them. Common modifications to the interior include beds, tiny kitchens, and storage cubbies in every nook and cranny. Common mechanical modifications include lift kits and all-terrain tires to help them get a van meant for cruising urban delivery routes to conquering rural roads and trails.
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Ford offers the 2023 Transit Trail in three configurations — medium-roof, high-roof, and extended-length high-roof.
All use a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 engine putting out 310 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission, a powertrain already available on the 2023 Transit.
What changes with the Transit Trail? Standard all-wheel drive (AWD) with five selectable drive modes, including Normal, Eco, Mud/Ruts, Tow/Haul, and Slippery. The Transit Trail also rides on new rubber — 30.5-inch Goodyear
Wrangler Workhorse all-terrain tires. It sits 3.5 inches higher than the standard Transit for significantly improved ground clearance.
Those modifications should make the Transit Trail a far more capable off-roader than the unimproved Transit cargo van. A 25-gallon fuel tank comes standard, but buyers can upgrade to a 31-gallon model for longer trips into the bush.
A black grille includes standard marker lamps and black plastic body cladding around the wheel arches, which should hide scratches from the brush. The Transit Trail doesn’t have skid plates to protect the undercarriage — don’t take those trails too recklessly — but does have a “skid plate-style front bumper,” Ford says.
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Ready to remodel
Inside, Ford limited the upgrades on the theory that vanlifers want flexibility.
The Transit Trail does come with overhead storage and driver and passenger seats that can swivel to face the rear.
Otherwise, customizing the cabin to feel more like home is up to you. To make customization easier, Ford has positioned drillable panels where cabinets, shelving, beds, and other modifications are likely to go.
An optional Upfitter Package adds more auxiliary power outlets and an exterior light bar. It also includes high-capacity upfitter switches, a larger center console, an auxiliary fuse panel with a high-spec interface connector, dual AGM batteries, and a modified vehicle wiring system.
An optional roof vent fan provides cooling in the… uh… living room?
The interior can be customized through Ford’s network.
Ford starts a network of upfitters
If you don’t plan to customize your van on your own, Ford has assembled its own Ford Pro network of upfitters and installers certified to do the work. You can find a shop near you at fordupfits.com.
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The Transit Trail is something we don’t often encounter — an entirely new type of vehicle from a major manufacturer. We’d love to tell you what to compare it to, but vans like the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter or Ram ProMaster don’t offer pre-fit vanlife packages. Vanlifers routinely make do with them, anyway. But Ford may be onto something by offering them a platform for creativity.
This story originally ran on KBB.com.