Take a close look at these photos. The van pictured here may become a familiar sight on American roads in the not-too-distant future. Ford is unveiling the front-wheel-drive Transit Custom at the Birmingham Commercial Vehicle Show on April 24, and decided to give us an early look at the styling of the new model. Although its profile and overall shape is unequivocally utilitarian, the application of Ford's new global Kinetic design language gives it a much sleeker look than that of its predecessor.

To be totally accurate, this is not exactly the model we will be getting in North America within the next 18 or so months, but if the current Transit is any indication, the exterior styling between the front-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive models will be essentially identical.

As with its predecessor, the Transit Custom will be offered in a variety of different configurations for both cargo and in the form of the recently-unveiled Tourneo Custom, for passenger duty. It will be offered in two overall lengths, 195.7 inches and 210.2 inches. It will offer a maximum load volume of 211.8 cubic feet, and easily accommodate the proverbial (at least in the U.S.) 4x8-foot sheet of plywood between its rear wheel wells. Its payload rating ranges from 1322 to 3086 pounds, depending on configuration.

To further optimize its practicality, the new Transit Custom features a "load through" hatch in the bulkhead partition separating the front passenger compartment from the cargo area, allowing for the carrying of pipes or ladders, best-in-class side door height and width openings, and a deployable roof rack system with foldable cross-bars for reduced drag and fuel consumption. The floor tie-down hooks have been repositioned for easier cleaning and cargo loading. Finally, the Transit Custom gets a new load floor liner for easier cleaning and enhanced durability.

Powering this new popular beast of burden is an updated version of Ford's Duratorq 2.2-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel, with output between 100 and 155 hp. Auto stop-start is standard on Stage V models, and Ford is claiming an 8 percent overall improvement in fuel consumption. Torque figures were not announced in the initial release, but the current 2.2 Duratorq diesel produces between 184 and 229 lb-ft of torque. Seeing as the horsepower figures have increased between 15 to 25 with the revised engine lineup, expect to see a proportional bump in torque as well. Considering the Duratorq 2.2 liter diesel in the new T6 Ranger produces 148 hp and 277 lb-ft, expect the top offering to match or exceed that level of twist.

To prove the toughness of the new Transit, it went through the equivalent 3 million miles of testing and 250,000 real-world miles with customers. The doors went through a "slam cycle" of 250,000 slams, which is triple the number required of the brand's passenger cars. The Transit Custom will be built at Ford's plant in Kocaeli, Turkey, which incidentally, is the same plant that produces the Transit Connect, which is sold in the U.S. market.

The heavier-duty, rear-wheel drive Transits will be shown later in 2012, and those will be nearly identical to the forthcoming T-series vans we will see in the U.S. Ford has already announced the 3.5-liter EcoBoost will be one of the engine offerings, as well as a diesel engine of some sort. Although we don't know for sure, the leading candidate is a version of the 3.2-liter five-cylinder that currently serves in the Euro-market heavy-duty Transit and the top engine in the overseas Ranger. That engine puts out nearly 200 hp and 347 lb-ft of torque, so expect the enhanced 3.2 to meet or beat those figures. Either way, our T-series should have plenty of power for commercial duty.

Source: Ford