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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I stopped by four different dealers this weekend to spend some time checking them out (I didn’t ask to get inside any, because I wanted to remain unmolested by salesmen). Each dealer had about four to six on hand, so I probably looked at over twenty of them. It was worthwhile going to several dealers, because the configurations each dealer had were different. Here are a few impressions:

I liked the overall proportions of the van, and see it as a big improvement over my Econoline, but (to no surprise) confirmed the kinda ugly/awkward appearance of the nose. It is not helped by the huge amount of plain black plastic at the front and rear. I assume the argument is that it’s a work van, so who cares, but they ought to make it an option to have some of that plastic painted body-color. It’s probably exacerbated by the white body color of most of the stock vans I saw. I looked at one in a dark charcoal, and the issue was somewhat softened. I’m eager to see the 2015 facelift of which we’ve seen the spy shots; hopefully some or all of my criticisms are addressed. I already like the impressions I get from the spy shots (through the camouflage).

I’m in love with the low floor, and feel it’s a huge improvement over the traditional American rear-drive van. Unfortunately, some of the benefit of it is offset by the vans’ sitting high in the rear. To maximize the benefit of the low floor, it would be neat to see a self-leveling air suspension (including a “squat” feature for loading and unloading). It’s already been discussed that an aftermarket system is available for the Ducato, so I’m hoping that somehow that system make it over to our side of the Pond; or better yet, Ram makes such a system available as an option.

Another thought on the exterior: I was a surprised by the construction of the vehicle out a large number of smaller sheet-metal panels, both the sides and the roof, and all of the associated seams. I say surprised because I’m used to the Ford E-series (and I believe the Chevy/GMC is similar) where each side is a single stamping, wrapping around and including the rear corners, and the roof is also one big stamping. The method of joining the panels is also disappointing, in that they turn a flange to make the panels meet, and a heavy bead of sealant is placed between the flanges. It is also more pronounced than it needs to be, because the seam-sealing bead stands proud of the joint. On one (just one) van there was a pretty noticeable offset between the two panels (not flush), so maybe they have some QC issues to get ironed out, too. On the roof there are a number of lap joints with visible spot-weld dimples, which were also unsightly. Perhaps this construction is part of the European design we have to get used to, but it was definitely a turn-off.

I also saw what a number of people mentioned about how the cargo partition limits the rearward travel of the seats. It was obvious because the partition-equipped and non-partition models were parked right next to each other. In all cases, the seats on the non-partition model were positioned much more rearward than was allowed of the seats in the partition-equipped models. I assume that they were adjusted there by the transport drivers, big ol’ Americans of course. I’m convinced there is gonna be a demand for an aftermarket “deep dish” (greater offset than the factory one) partition. It will of course intrude more into the cargo area that the factory one, but won’t be anything we have already seen for years for the Ford/GM/Dodge vans. I’m about 6 foot, and it looked like there would be plenty of room for me to adjust the seat where I wanted it in a non-partition vehicle. I don’t want the partition for myself, but suggest that anyone who wants one should satisfy themselves that they are able to adjust the seat to a comfortable position before paying for the factory partition. Otherwise just wait for an aftermarket one to become available.

I saw a few with the two-man passenger seat, and its required leg space obviously conflicts with the center lower cup-holder. The middle man is not gonna like that cup-holder for sure. They should make a delete option for the cup-holder, to either substitute the storage compartment of the Ducato, or better yet, put as minimal of a trim panel there as possible to maximize leg room. I’m only interested in a van with a single passenger seat, because I need the walk-through ability to the cargo area, but I’m even concerned about the ability to easily swing my legs into the aisle because of that cup-holder.

A final nit I have to pick is that for the vehicles equipped with the rear-view camera, the camera is housed in a HUGE (and ugly) black plastic pod above the rear doors. Why does it need to be so big I wonder. I’ve installed a few aftermarket camera systems on vehicles and the cameras are tiny. Or just consider the tiny camera found in almost every cell phone. I think the entire camera could be placed in a housing roughly the size of one of the rear clearance lamps, and just put it in place of the center clearance lamp (losing its function as a clearance lamp shouldn’t matter since there are four others). I’ve noticed that on certain pick-up trucks, they are able house the camera in the tailgate handle such that it is barely noticeable, and that on various luxury cars they do a great job of HIDING the camera, so I’m certain something better could be done here.

Hopefully I haven’t come across as too negative; and no, I don’t work for Ford or Mercedes. I definitely like the van, and love its front-drive architecture and associated low floor. Until Ford decides to bring the front-drive version of their new Transit to America (I’m pretty sure they won’t because I assume they believe that we Americans have a prejudice against front-wheel drive), I’m still planning to get one when my Econoline is ready for retirement. And of course, all of this is just my two cents; go check ‘em out for yourself and tell me I’m full of BS if you need to.

Regards,
Chris
 

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BS (Just kidding)
The front has an optional silver grill to break it up as far as appearance.
I agree the middle passenger is going to hate it.

For the camera, is it because it was designed to stick out for a better view?
(I think you can even see the rear bumper on the screen).

Fiat Ducato has an option for air suspension and am sure that it will be here in the
future. You can do after market air suspension but most likely requires welding a 4
link in the back with a panhard bar. It might mess up the factory warranty.There are
products here that squat ,5 presets and so on, even use your phone to lower and
raise the vehicle. You can do anything if you have money(do not cheap out with
this).
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Several of the vans I checked out had the "appearance package" (silver grill and fog lights), and the silver grill didn't help. In my humble opinion, the only way to improve upon this condition is to do it in body color. (I'm not an automotive designer, but I play one on TV.)

Since, as they say, beauty is in in the eye of the beholder, I may be in the minority in being bothered by this.
 

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thanks for the insight chris.

the low floor height is probably one of the big selling points.

Its such a big difference compared to what you are use to seeing.
 

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In Europe, the flat black bumper panels are replaced on upfitted vans with body colored ones. So, it can be done. Hopefully that too will make it over here.
 

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I can speak about the Sprinter body panels a bit here. The roof on the longer wheelbase ones is several separate pieces. Short ones are one piece.
The side panels are 3 separate pieces, and this is because of the sliding door options and different wheelbases/body lengths.
And you want to talk about sheet metal fits? You ought to have seen the atrocious fits on our 2013 long & tall Sprinter. Back doors, right passenger door and hood are or were all badly misaligned until I went at it one weekend. (Used to do this at work) Now it looks much better with less wind noise too.
Incidentally, our 2008 wasn't much better
 

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Winnebago must be painting the grille to match body color. This shows how the van would look with paint.

wow, glad to see this, it's what i always wanted to see since the very start. It improves the front end but the poor design is still killing it. They should do a mid cycle refresh and revive that front end.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the ProMaster gets the 2015 Ducato facelift of which we've seen spy photos. It looks promising thorough the camouflage, but I'll reserve final opinion for the unveiling. Common sense says it’s gotta be an improvement, because it would take a deliberate effort to make that mug MORE ugly.
 

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I don't know how much they can really do with the front end... I mean realistically with such a short hood and FWD there are alot of components stacked under there which i believe is the reason for the straight up snout face... I mean where else are they going to put the head lamps, down on the bumper?
 

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In Europe, the flat black bumper panels are replaced on upfitted vans with body colored ones. So, it can be done. Hopefully that too will make it over here.
I'd just paint it myself it it really bothered me.

Shouldn't cost too much

But personally.. After witnessesing how many times my bumper has been hit in the city by people trying to park.

I think I'll enjoy the fact that its just a black plastic bumper.
 

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