Laid up like the rest of us on the hard shoulder of life during lockdown, the commercial vehicles market is showing some welcome signs of a turbo charged drive to the 2020 finishing line.
The unavoidable cancellation of the Commercial Vehicle Show in April effectively curtailed what was, until then, a bullish van and pick up market, and deprived key manufacturers of a traditional shop window for new models and technological innovation. Yet, with so many of these new vehicles conceived and designed several years previously, and delivered to precise launch dates, it was a case of pressing on regardless, although, as a result, a large number of significant updates have inevitably passed under the radar.
Fortunately, in the past few weeks, there has been a lifting of restrictions on gatherings, and an increasing number of opportunities have presented themselves to talk to people at the sharp end of the commercial motor industry, and actually get behind the wheel for a proper on-the-road driving experience.
Ford Ranger Thunder
The Ford Ranger Thunder looks set to cause a storm with the limited-edition release of 1,400 units to the UK market. Powered by the Detroit motor giant’s bi-turbo 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel engine, providing 213PS and 500Nm of torque, the vehicle benefits from the manufacturer’s 10-speed automatic gearbox as standard. 18in. black alloy wheels and Ebony Black executions for the front grille, rear bumper, skid plates, fog light surrounds, load bay sports hoop and door handles, are amongst a host of enhanced exterior styling features.
Elsewhere in the pick-up sector, based on the high specification Barbarian version, the Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian+ offers a GST PLUS II Hardtop with pop-out side windows and sliding bulkhead window. Other load area upgrades include tailgate central locking integrated with vehicle central locking/alarm, load-bay lighting, hardtop roof rails and a protective under-rail load bay liner.
The Nissan Navara already had a reputation as a hard case amongst commercial vehicle 4x4s, and that’s a status that will be reinforced with the arrival of the OFF-ROADER AT32. Created through an ongoing partnership between the Japanese manufacturer and world-famous off-road experts Arctic Trucks, there’s full underbody shielding, and new 31.6” Nokian Rotiiva AT Plus tyres. Dual valves allow fast and accurate adjustment of tyre pressures when moving between different terrains, whilst the advanced Arctic Trucks Bilstein performance suspension system has been added.
Professional Builder will be road testing a number of options from the Isuzu D-Max in the coming issues but, in the meantime, here’s a sneak preview of the new tipper. Based on the Utility Extended Cab, the load bed is 1,977mm long by 1,800mm wide. The rugged ‘Tippadeck’ bed is constructed using 18mm thick interlocking alloy floor panels and loads are kept secure thanks to 300mm high sideboards and tailboard, also made from lightweight alloy, and heavy-duty underfloor tie points.
Other additions to the D-Max range include a dramatic new look for the flagship model in the ‘Adventure’ range. The XTR Colour Edition has a distinctly premium appearance, with front bumper guard, bonnet protector and headlight frames all colour-coded with the body.
No matter how rough the road gets the Ford Transit will continue to be a builder’s faithful companion. The new Transit Trail and Transit Custom Trail models have been designed specifically to operate in tougher working environments, with the enhanced traction of a new mechanical limited-slip differential (mLSD) on front-wheel drive Transit and Transit Custom variants, and Intelligent All-Wheel Drive on Transit. There’s some fittingly rugged looks for these champions of challenging terrain, together with an mLSD system that automatically transfers engine torque in low grip conditions to the wheel with the most traction.
Radical sports styling on the Ford Transit is now firmly within reach with the news that the MS-RT Transit Custom and Transit Connect will be available direct from Ford Transit Centres. The authentic motorsport design and – for Transit Custom – the option to personalise with a huge range of colours, means these vehicles are like no other vans on the road.
The Mercedes Benz Vito is already one of the slicker commercial vehicle presences on our roads and the van has further evolved in 2020. There’s already a choice of two van models, three lengths, four engine derivatives, two transmissions and three trims – Progressive, Premium, and Sport. The latest updates include a choice of five solid and six metallic paint colours and a range of alloy wheel options.
At the more exclusive end of the LCV market only 100 examples of the Fiat Ducato Shadow Edition will be made available to UK van users. The long wheelbase model features an exclusive exterior look 7-in. DAB radio with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and full air conditioning. Rear parking sensors are also fitted as standard.
Designed to group together some of the ranges most popular options, standard equipment on the new IVECO Daily Business trimline will include manual air conditioning, cruise control, front fog lights as well as electrically heated and adjustable door mirrors. The Daily range spans 3.5 tonnes GVW to a range exclusive 7.2t, offering a payload almost a tonne greater than its competitors in the medium-sized truck market.