No, it’s not the aged Mitsubishi, its all about the impressive performance of VW’s Transporter
Volkswagen has managed a quite exceptional run out of its current Transporter model, and it shows no signs of slowing down in terms of sales performance globally. Launched back in October 2002, the Transporter T5 version went into full production in April 2003 and remains current today.
The all-new replacement Transporter T6 is not due for release to the Australian market until the end of 2015, but, in recent years, the T5 has benefited from an improved engine range, with better power, performance and improved fuel economy.
In Europe, VW has recently announced a Euro 6 engine package that reduces the already good fuel consumption figures to 5.8 l/100 km in the Transporter BlueMotion. It achieves this impressive fuel economy through using a range of systems such as a stop/start system, brake energy recovery, tyres with especially low roll resistance and modified engine management and transmission.
In the quest for better economy and lower emissions levels, the European vehicle makers are seriously downsizing their engines. The BlueMotion models have a 2.0-litre TDI engine that delivers 84 kW, with torque ratings of 250 Nm rated from 1,500 to 2,750 rpm. Exhaust emissions levels are 153 g/km.
Before Australian buyers get all enthusiastic about these new efficiencies, it should be understood that these Euro 6 engines will not be making an appearance in our market until 2017 or even later. The latest emissions technology comes at a price, and, with Australia probably not now moving to Euro 6 until 2019, we will be running with Euro 5 engines, probably even with the introduction of the Transporter T6.
Delivery has been revisiting the current T5 model, and, with the latest long wheelbase TDI340 version, it’s been quite a revelation when it comes to power and performance.
There are three engine power and performance options in the transporter van range, and the TD1340 sits in the middle, between the TDI250 and the TDI400. Each engine has a cubic capacity of 2.0 litres, uses common-rail direct-injection, and is a four-cylinder, diesel, front-wheel-drive that conforms to Euro 5 emissions levels.
The badging of TDI25, TDI340 and TDI400 relates to the torque output of each individual engine, 250 Nm at 1,500-2,500 rpm, 340 Nm at 1,750-2,500 rpm and 400 Nm at 1,500-2,000 rpm. Maximum power outputs come in at 75 kW, 103 kW and 132 kW respectively.
With the lower level TDI250 the standard transmission is a five-speed manual only. This is upgraded to a six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG automated manual for the TDI340 and TDI400. The performance differences result from changes to the engine management system and the addition of bi-turbochargers for the TDI1400 in place of the single turbines fitted to the other two models.
In the past, Delivery has been critical of the DSG transmission for its tendency to engage and disengage repeatedly when stationary in heavy urban traffic, such as in peak hour, which caused the rear end to squat as the drive engaged. The latest engine and transmission management systems have removed this tendency and the DSG transmission now works seamlessly, giving very fast gearshifts and really complementing the torque output of the engine.
Around town the TDI1340 was particularly impressive for its nimbleness away from traffic lights, and with seven gears it was surprisingly quiet when cruising at maximum speed on the freeway. It’s also pretty impressive on fuel. Even at Euro 5 levels, the combined fuel consumption figure of 8.2 l/100 km is reasonable, and the on-highway figure of 6.9 for a panel van weighing in at 1,808 kg is actually very good.
Moving to the long-wheelbase version of the TDI340 drops the payload from 1,248 kg to 1,192 kg, but you benefit from increasing the interior cargo length from 2,353 mm out to 2,753mm. All the other dimensions of the standard height vans remain the same, with interior height of 1,410 mm and a width between the wheel arches of 1,244 mm.
At 6.7 cubic metres of cargo volume, the load area of the LWB TDI340, for what is essentially a one-tonner, is comparable with other market alternatives. VW does however offer a medium height and high roof height alternative for the TDI340 and TDI400, which raises cargo volumes to 7.8 cu.m and 9.3 cu.m, which comes with an internal height increase of 1,626 mm and 1,940 mm.
With an overall length dimension of 5,292 mm, the long wheelbase is actually 400 mm over that of the shortie, and this increases the turning circle from 11.9 m to 13.2 m. Considering that front-wheel-drive always compromises the turning circle, this figure, even for the long body, is quite good, beating some of the shorter rear-wheel-drive utes on the market.
For a vehicle that is now celebrating its 12th birthday, it holds its head competently high in the market. With its MacPherson strut and coil sprung independent front suspension and independent rear trailing arm design, it handles well, aided also by positive steering response through the rack and pinion system.
The dashboard is sold and chunky and the controls and gauges are well placed and easy to use. The audio system is a bit low rent these days and could do with an upgrade, and the implementation and control of Bluetooth functionalism for pairing a mobile phone is annoyingly fiddly. The South Koreans such as Hyundai have sorted this little problem, and so too have the high-end suppliers of audio systems such as Pioneer. With a new model coming within two years we wouldn’t expect this to be fixed during the intervening period.
Volkswagen’s Director of Light Commercial Vehicles, Carlos Santos, told Delivery Magazine that the company was actively looking to expand its activities in the fleet market by implementing fully maintained repair and maintenance (R&M) operating leases.
“There are some genuine benefits from being able to implement R&M operating leases, and this also enables fleet operators to expect a guaranteed future value on their vehicles. We can focus on fully-maintained packaging for smaller fleets as well as the larger major fleets,” he added.
Certainly there are some very strong points in favour of the current Transporter, extending from the three-year/unlimited distance warranty through to extended service intervals, dependent on the type of vehicle application.
Vehicle suitability to a business task comes down to choosing the specification of your Transporter carefully. There are a lot of options to consider, and if you don’t take the time to go through them you can’t criticise the vehicle for not having something that subsequently proves to be a benefit.
You can upgrade the audio unit from a single Din basic unit to a double Din higher-grade system incorporating Sat/Nav. You can add a rear-view camera; side assist blind spot warning; left and right-hand sliding doors, with power operation if required; barn doors versus a tailgate; tyre and rim upgrades from 16-inch steel to 17-inch alloys and 55 aspect ratio tyres; side windows in the sliding doors; a sliding and tilting sunroof; additional comfort packages; suspension upgrades; and 4MOTION all-wheel-drive (TDI400).
All these options obviously come at a price premium, but even without these, the standard safety package is exceptional. You or your employees are protected by driver and front passenger SRS airbags, daytime running lamps for extra visibility, ESP (electronic stability), ABS, brake assist, traction control, and hill holder. Optional extras include more airbags, dusk sensing headlamps, parking sensors front and rear and a back-up alarm to warn pedestrians.
Even at 12 years in the market, the Transporter offers some very high standards of roadholding, safety and ability. One thing’s for sure, the T6 is going to build on those strengths, possible including the option of the eight-speed ZF fluid automatic transmission into the product mix. Either way, it’s looking good for the future of Volkswagen.