Volkswagen adds all-wheel-drive to the Caddy line-up for those heading for the ski slopes
I’ve never understood the attraction of the Victorian high country in winter, when snow and ice cover the district and driving becomes distinctly more dangerous. It’s not only that when you get out of the car there’s every possibility of falling flat on your face, it’s that many of the motorists who do go there, have not a clue about how to drive in the conditions that face them.
Volkswagen chose the area around Mount Beauty as the venue for illustrating the excellent handling properties of its 4Motion all-wheel-drive system, and, in particular, how the little Caddy van and its people mover variant, the Caddy Life, can handle almost all that nature throws its way. What was also provided, somewhat unintentionally, was an insight into how snow and a cold climate somehow freezes reaction time and attitudes of some drivers, as we faced, not one, but three other vehicles, on separate occasions, each heading towards us on the wrong side of the road midway through a corner, oblivious to any oncoming traffic.
Fortunately, with speeds being very low, we were able to simply steer out of their way each time, but it does leave you wondering if looking at the scenery takes precedence over looking where you are going for some of our fellow motorists.
Notwithstanding the dangers of ice, snow, slippery roads and, as mentioned, unpredictable drivers, the Caddy 4Motion actually provides a viable solution to anyone who has to contend with taking bread, milk or any other type of daily delivery to places that are difficult to access by virtue of slippery conditions. And, with the seven-seat Caddy Life, the options increase to shift six passengers without having to resort to large four-wheel-drives or multi-purpose SUVs.
The beauty of the Volkswagen 4Motion all-wheel-drive system is its simplicity of operation. The driver plays no part in either selecting all-wheel-drive or two-wheel-drive as the system does it all automatically. It also combines all the expected safety systems of electronic stability programme, twin airbags, anti-lock brakes, anti-slip reduction, electronic brake distribution and daytime running lamps – this last feature now being a requirement on all vehicles in Europe.
The engine for the Caddy 4Motion, in either the van format or as a people mover, is a one-size-fits-all solution, offering a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged diesel mounted transversely in the front, and basically driving the front wheels. As the onboard computer control system detects movement of the vehicle, either as it accelerates, decelerates or experiences different friction levels from each wheel, it adjusts its power delivery to whichever wheel or wheels have the most traction. This means you don’t get wheel spin, and hopefully you maintain traction and the ability to decide where the vehicle is pointing at all times.
It’s certainly no different to drive than its 2WD cousin, but, for those with a keen eye, you will find the rear of the 4Motion version is a little higher off the ground, by some 15 mm, to provide sufficient space for the additional drive system to the rear axle.
With 103 kW produced at 4,200 rpm, and peak torque of 320 Nm rated at 1,500-2,500 rpm, the 2.0-litre, Euro 5 emissions level engine is no slouch, and even with a full payload of 700 kg it’s well able to keep up with any traffic demand. The emissions levels are as low as 177 g/km.
The drive system comes through a six-speed DSG automated transmission, which in this latest form is much improved over the earlier versions. A change, or upgrade, in the computer control logic now means it no longer tries to engage and disengage its clutch while stationary in a traffic queue, and, consequently, it no longer has the tendency to squat repeatedly. This was a concern in the earlier versions of the DSG transmission, especially when using the handbrake in traffic rather than relying on the footbrake. A Hill Hold system is standard on both models, and this also seems to prevent the earlier squat problem from appearing.
The DSG transmission remains an interesting gearbox, as the shifts under full power are very rapid and performed with almost Germanic precision. Just watch the needle on the rev counter to see what we mean by this, as it moves instantly as each shift takes place, flicking precisely between positions on the gauge. Also improved is the time delay between selecting forward and reverse when parking, and no longer is there a pregnant pause while the transmission waits to make up its mind about whether to join your intent to reverse or manoeuvre into a parking slot.
As we mentioned, performance is remarkably swift, and, with 4.2 cubic metres of load space, the interior is also remarkably quiet for what is, basically, a delivery van. Both the 4Motion van and the Caddy Life are based on the longer wheelbase, Caddy Maxi. There’s sound insulation above the driver and passenger seat in the van cabin, but in the Caddy Life this extends throughout the entire passenger compartment. A full width parcel shelf above the windscreen provides a huge amount of usable space for maps, and with large door pockets and the inevitable cup or bottle holders between the seats, your daily Starbucks has a safe home.
Volkswagen has improved its warranty support to provide three years, unlimited distance warranty, and with this you also get roadside assistance for the same period – a valuable support system, especially to provide peace of mind for those working regularly in, what I would call, horrid weather conditions. But a word of warning on application, this all-wheel-drive delivery van, or people mover, is not intended to go off-road to follow the big off-roaders. This is an all-wheel-drive system designed to keep you on the road safely, and not to head off adventuring to wherever the fancy takes you.
With its single turbocharger and common-rail diesel injection system, this is one little delivery van that looks after your running costs, offering a combined fuel consumption figure of 6.7 l/100 km, dropping that to 5.9 l/100 km on a freeway cruise. With MacPherson strut front suspension with coil springs and gas dampers, and a rigid rear axle on leaf springs, the ride is relatively compliant, and certainly won‘t shake up your hamburger, even on relatively poor road surfaces.
Tyres on the van version are 205/55R16 94H on steel rims, and these upgrade to alloy rims of the same size on the Caddy Life. There is a 17-inch alloy rim option with 205/50 aspect ratio tyres available, if you wish. It’s an identical mechanical spec between the two versions, but with an additional 141 kg of weight coming from the Life’s added interior trim, the fuel economy is just behind that of the van by 0.1 l/100 km.
Though, on the Caddy Life, you do get a higher specification that includes: a cornering light function from the front fog lamps; dusk sensing headlights; rain sensing wipers; dual sliding side doors with opening windows; three rows of seats, with two in the front (including driver), three in the centre and two in the rear; dark tinted rear windows; and optional integral satellite navigation. A climate control air-conditioning system, cruise control and trip computer are common to both the van and the people mover, but rear seat passengers are not that well provided for in terms of individual air-conditioning vents, having to rely on what filters back from the front part of the cabin.
What the Caddy Life does offer you is versatility, as the seats are easily removed when you need the additional luggage capacity. That said, even with all three rows locked in, there is ample luggage space at the rear, which is easily accessed through large barn-type doors.
Finally, we come to pricing, and this is where buyers will literally be voting with their wallets. The Caddy van 4Motion retails for $36,490, and the seven-seat Caddy Life 4Motion ups this to $45,490. This is getting up into the broader SUV range, so it will be interesting to see just how many buyers will be attracted by the Volkswagen reputation plus the versatility of interior layout and added safety, in transit, that these new versions provide.