EVOLUTION MORE THAN REVOLUTION

Stuart Martin checks out the first arrivals in the Transporter T6 line-up

The new Volkswagen T6 range of commercial vans looks sharper, but it’s underneath the familiar skin where the changes are happening.

Passenger-car styling cues have been transposed to the Transporter and it works – VW said the design (65 years of production during which the vehicle has sold over 12 million vehicles worldwide) has been “modernised cautiously.”

Pricing – despite the improved cabin and features list – has come down by between $500 and $2000.

New Volkswagen Australia managing director, Michael Bartsch, said the brand is aiming to renew the trust in the brand after its emissions problems as well as perceptions of poor value.

“I think we’re well-priced, inexpensive in terms of what the vehicle is offering, in my opinion there is no question that one of the real issues we have is in the back end of the business,” he said.VW-Transporter_08_M

“There’s still a perception that Volkswagens are expensive to service so we have to work on that, capped price is one way, we’re looking at building it into lease packages,” he said.

The updated range starts with the TDI340 short-wheelbase, six-speed manual, priced from $36,990 – an extra $3000 buys the seven-speed DSG, a price applicable range wide where available.

A manual-only TDI250 Runner model is expected early next year to slot in as the entry-level model closer to $30K.

Stepping up to TDI400 pushes the price to $40,590 for the manual, and all-wheel-drive option asks for $44,090; add length to the wheelbase and the price rises another $2000.

The Crewman model comes in short and long-wheelbase guise but only with the DSG, starting at $43,490 and rising the same amount for the stretched model.

Entry-level cab/chassis Transporter is the DSG-only single-cab TDI340 priced from $44,690, with the TDI400 LWB dual-cab manual slotting in at $45,290; all-wheel-drive is on offer in this variant for an extra $3500, or there’s a DSG model for $48,290.

A medium roof height costs $1190, a high roof (on LWB only) is $2390, a driver’s-side sliding door adds $1190, a reversing camera alone adds $590, and 250-deg rear doors (again, LWB only) is an extra $690.

The T6 range is now powered by the new Euro-5-compliant EA288 two-litre turbodiesel with BlueMotion fuel savers like stop-start, offering 103 kW and 340 Nm in the entry-level and 132 kW and 400 Nm for the mid-spec, with both manuals and autos available.

Sadly the 150 kW/450 Nm bi-turbo power plant, which gets a clever top end and AdBlue NOX system, is reserved for the passenger-carting auto-only Multivan and Caravelle models.

VW-Transporter_10_MClaimed fuel use ranges from 7.2 litres per 100 km for the manual TDI340 on the combined cycle to 8.3 for the all-wheel-drive DSG TDI400, numbers which were reflected in the short drive on the day of the Australian product release in Sydney.

The Transporter sits on 16-inch steel wheels as standard and the TDI400 rides on 17s, with equivalent alloys available on the options list for $1290.

The five-inch touchscreen sound system is standard across the Transporter range, an AM/FM/CD/AUX/SD/USB four-speaker unit with Bluetooth phone and audio link.

The mid-spec has a 6.33-inch screen that adds $1190 and brings proximity sensors from the passenger-car range – a first for a VW commercial.

The top-spec option for the infotainment is the $2190 ‘Discover Media’ unit with app-based sat/nav utilising a USB-connected smartphone.

Standard, range-wide, is a four-way adjustable three-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel, manual air conditioning, height and lumbar support adjustment for the driver, cruise control and rubber floor. The van, crewvan, single-cab and dual-cab commercial vehicles are available in long-wheelbase guise and there are still three roof heights offered for the Van and Crewvan.

Among the options are a “Driver Assistance Package” for $1080, which adds front fog lights with static cornering function, auto-dimming centre rear-vision mirror, automatic headlights, daytime running lights and rain-sensing wipers.

Short-wheelbase Van and Crewvan buyers can opt for a $2560 Driver Assistance Package that further adds lane-change warning and power folding mirrors.

The optional Interior Comfort Package ($1550 or $1170 for bench-seat models) adds the auto-dimming centre rear-vision mirror, automatic headlights, daytime running lights, rain-sensing wipers, front passenger seat height and lumbar adjustment, front seat armrests, mirrors for both sun visors and a 12-volt socket atop the dashboard.

Cab/chassis buyers can fork out an extra $2490 for the Load Platform Package, which includes a rear tray with aluminium sides, load restraints, a rear step and rear mud guards.

Payload claims range from 1090 kg to 1236 kg and gross combined mass ratings run between 5200 kg for the manual and 5300 kg for the DSG. Turning circles measure 11.9 for the SWB and 13.2 metres for the stretched version.

VW-Transporter_11_MThe safety features list for Transporter has dual front and side airbags, stability, traction (and trailer sway where applicable) control, ABS brakes, multi-collision brake and the electronic diff lock standard across the range, as well as driver fatigue alert, rear parking sensors (on van models, with front sensors offered on passenger models) and the option of a reversing camera for $590 (available as standard on Multivan and Caravelle).

Halogen headlights remain the only illumination on the workhorses and the high-end active safety systems – City Emergency Braking among them – are only available on the passenger vehicle range.

The van models’ cargo space is accessible both from the back (with the option of rear barn doors with wide-opening hinges up to 270 degrees) and from the passenger side (with a second side door on the options list) to access a 5.8 m3 cargo area that is 1700 mm wide (1244 mm between the wheel arches) and has a maximum payload up to 1236 kg.

Long-wheelbase models grow by 400 mm in length and roof heights can be increased to an overall height of 2177 mm or (in conjunction with LWB) there’s a 2477 mm high-roof model.

As a result, load capacity can vary from 6.7 m3 to 9.3 m3.

Short driving loops through the Sydney CBD and inner north and west in the base TDI340 manual demonstrated a crisp gearshift and flexible powerplant.

Noise from the cargo bay wasn’t overbearing and a comfortable driving position was achievable by way of steering and seat adjustment, the latter also being a comfortable spot in which to sit.

Manual drivers with feet larger than a prima ballerina will want to place their boots carefully, as mild wheel arch intrusion and close-set pedals require driver focus.

Fuel use on the short loop was high single digits (7-8 l/100 km) despite the best efforts of Sydney traffic and the absence of much assistance from the stop-start system, which wasn’t called on often.VW-Transporter_02_M

Light steering through the standard leather-wrapped steering wheel was nice to use but the ride comfort remains an issue, as the firm and abrupt ride (unaided by the tyres) isn’t quite up to the competition from Ford and Renault.

Switching to the AWD DSG model with half a tonne in the back put the fuel use into the 8-9 l/100 km region.

The inclusion of a standard USB port is a long-awaited addition to the features list but the appearance of a 12-volt socket in options packages was a surprise.

The glovebox is on the small side but the pair of pockets in the doors will carry plenty.

Sharper pricetags might not elevate the Volkswagen to the second spot on the sales podium, but the new Transporter has a driveline and features list to keep it well-entrenched on shopping lists.

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