The Invisible Van | VAN REVIEW

Since the split of the joint manufacturing relationships with Mercedes-Benz that enabled the Sprinter and Crafter to be built at the same Mercedes-Benz production facilities in Ludwigsfelde and Dusseldorf in Germany, Volkswagen has introduced a totally new Crafter model designed by VW and built in a new greenfield factory at Poznan in Poland.

It’s an all new design and one that will also surface under a badge-engineering agreement with MAN Trucks as the MAN TGE, a direct follow on from the formation of the VW Truck & Bus Division which encompasses VW, MAN and Scania.

The reluctance of Volkswagen Australia to so far publicise any details of its new Crafter range is certainly unusual, given that it pursues editorial opportunities with the plethora of amateur commentators on websites whenever it announces a new wheel trim on its car range.

Perhaps the decision to adopt a low profile is related to a concern by the company to adopt a low profile prior to the start of the Stage 1 Trial proceedings in Sydney on March 5th against the company under a class action initiated by Maurice Blackburn Lawyers on behalf of the VW buyers affected by the Dieselgate scandal.

Whatever the reason, new models of the Crafter have been quietly arriving by ship and are on sale and available in the Australian market, starting with the Crafter Runner.

Available in two variants, the front-wheel-drive Crafter Runner is available with a medium wheelbase and standard roof height, or a long wheelbase and high roof. The medium wheelbase (3450 mm) has a total vehicle length of 5986 mm with an external height of 2355 mm. The long-wheelbase variant (4490 mm) has a total vehicle length of 6836 mm with an extended external height of 2590 mm.

Interior dimensions for the load space show as a load compartment height of up to 1726 mm (MWB) and 1961 mm (LWB) accessed through sliding side doors with a width of 1311 mm, enabling the MWB version to load four Euro pallets and the LWB to increase that figure to six.

Cargo area volumes come in at 9.9 cu.m for the MWB with a payload of 1465 kg, whereas the LWB takes this up to 14.4 cu.m with a payload figure of 1322 kg. The cargo floor load height is 570 mm, the maximum braked trailer towing limit is 2500 kg and the turning circle for the MWB is 13.6 m, increasing to 16.2 m for the LWB.

Power comes from a new 1968 cc four-cylinder, turbocharged and intercooled diesel that offers maximum power of 103 kW at 3500 rpm with peak torque of 340 Nm rated at 2000 rpm. The driveline for this front-wheel-drive installation on both variants is completed by a six-speed manual gearbox, without the availability of an automatic transmission. As the range expands to include rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive models using the 4MOTION drivetrain, the transmission options will include an eight-speed torque converter automatic. This is a first for Crafter, which suffered sales rejection through not having an automatic available in the previous model.

Both the MWB and LWB versions are shod with 205/75R16 tyres on steel rims and the suspension uses a MacPherson strut with double wishbones and anti-roll bar at the front with a rigid beam axle on leaf springs at the rear. Disc brakes are standard front and rear and the steering system is by an electro-mechanical power assisted rack and pinion design.

Safety inclusions are certainly upgraded over the previous Crafter, with the new model coming complete with front assist collision distance warning and City Emergency Braking that triggers an emergency brake procedure when it detects a critical distance from another vehicle.

The safety package for the Crafter Runner includes front SRS airbags for the driver and front passenger, with side and curtain airbags, adaptive electronic stability programme, ABS braking, brake assist, traction control, electronic differential lock, hill-start assist and crosswind assist.  

Also included for driver assistance technology is the front assist with emergency brake, driver fatigue detection and front and rear park distance control with rear-vision camera. Twin halogen headlamps link with daytime running lamps, a high mount rear stoplight and a rear fog light. Cruise control and a speed limiter are standard.

The infotainment system is controlled through an eight-inch colour touchscreen for the radio, CD player with two SD card slots, USB inputs and the option to connect to Apple Car Play, Android Auto and MirrorLink. Amidst all these options is Bluetooth phone connectivity controlled through buttons mounted on the steering wheel.

Warranty provisions are of interest to all fleet operators, and for the new Crafter VW is offering a three-year, unlimited distance cover backed by 24/7 breakdown assistance for the same time period. The full Crafter range is expected to go on sale in the Australian market from August 1st this year.

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