Driving the R-Spec Transit Custom is certainly a novel experience. It’s also one that - unfortunately - wears thin after an extended period at the wheel. This is down to the fact that it’s a van - so it’s never going to be the most comfortable vehicle to drive long distance – and the rumble from that exhaust.
Don’t get us wrong, that rumble certainly sounds cool when you first start the van up. It’s brash, attention-grabbing and almost reminiscent of the noise an older Subaru Impreza WRX would’ve made. Only louder. Trundling around town is an entertaining undertaking, if only because you can really enjoy the sound this van makes under partial throttle, as well as the shocked looks cast towards the van by anyone you drive past.
Get the R-Spec up to motorway cruising speeds, though, and the sound doesn’t exactly go away. Volume-wise, it doesn’t quite sit on the edge of being deafening, but it did leave this tester with a bit of a headache after a blast down to Beachy Head and back. Luckily, there is a smartphone app you can download to alter how much noise the exhaust makes, so we’d advise getting that if you’re planning on forking out the £35,995 (excluding VAT and RFL) required to get your hands on one.
Ride-wise, the R-Spec isn’t particularly stellar, feeling a touch brittle - although not particularly nervous - over rough surfaces. Ensuring the three rear seats are occupied and the cargo area full (it has a capacity of 3.5 cubic metres) will no doubt go some way to settling things down. The cabin is decently insulated against wind noise, though, but there is a degree of road roar from those 20in alloy wheels.
The steering is decently weighty and reasonably communicative, although considering the R-Spec’s slab-sided shape and tall centre of gravity it’s never really going to be the sort of vehicle for taking on a particularly challenging stretch of British B-road. Still, if the mood takes you, you will find there’s a commendable amount of grip at the front axle, while the brakes provide plenty of stopping power.
Of course, body roll will never quite be eliminated in a vehicle shaped as such, although the Eibach lowering springs do an amicable job of keeping the van reasonably in check.
The tweaks to the 2.0-litre Ford Ecoblue diesel engine are particularly welcome. The added poke the Steinbauer tuning box provides means overtaking manoeuvres are dispatched with ease, while the six-speed automatic transmission is responsive enough when you need to call on the 208bhp and 358lb ft of torque.