Volkswagen chooses Amsterdam and an aging rock star to preview its next Transporter
As VW proudly proclaims, the T series has been the number one in Germany for decades. Just why it decided to present its latest and presumably greatest product in Amsterdam, Holland, rather than at home base Hannover in Germany, is not exactly clear. Also unclear is why the event centred on guitarist Mark Knopfler, unless it was to suggest an affinity for the rock star who celebrated his own achievement of reaching 65 years, the length of time the Transporter has been on European roads. Certainly one would presume the relationship with “Dire Straits” has nothing to do with VW’s current performance, which is currently breaking all previous records.
In its 65-year existence, Transporter has notched up global sales of some 12 million vehicles, suitable recognition indeed of its worldwide approval rating.
Australia will have to wait in line for the launch of the T6 Transporter Down Under, with the local head office suggesting a suitable moment could be just prior to Christmas this year.
The European market will be offering the Transporter in all its guises – those of panel van, double cab and Kombi, plus the passenger-carrying versions of Multivan and Caravelle and the recreational California. All these models are selected from two wheelbases and three roof heights. The Australian market traditionally has avoided offering the full range of models, and it remains to be seen which products will be slated for sale Down Under.
First impressions suggest that the designers have played the safe and responsible staid card, as the overall appearance, at least from a distance, doesn’t actually leap out of the crowd suggesting that here is a groundbreaking new look. One obvious difference is the incorporation of LED lighting for headlights, rego plate lights and rear lights. But, the devil is all in the detail, and with new engines and uprated safety systems there’s no doubt the buyer will be the ultimate winner.
Under the various T6 bonnets lies a complete new generation of TDI engines being launched for the Euro 6 markets. Hopefully VW Australia will simply move straight in to this emissions level for the benefit of our population and to contribute to a greener environment. For Euro 6 markets the emissions from the diesel engines are reduced by using AdBlue (Diesel Exhaust Fluid), stored in a 13-litre tank and providing around 7,000 km of treatment before top-up.
The engine installation remains transverse, angled forwards by eight degrees and driving the front wheels. The diesel engine capacities stay at 1,968 cc, but for the global markets are available in a selection of power and torque outputs that cover the range of 62 kW, 75 kW, 110 kW and 150 kW. The petrol option is likewise a four-cylinder engine with a displacement of 2.0 litres, and it delivers either 110 kW or 150 kW.
Engines up to 110 kW feature a single turbocharger with variable vane technology. The higher output, with the 150 kW version, runs with a two-stage turbo to produce 450 Nm of torque, available between 1,400 and 2,400 rpm. An all-new cylinder head features a repositioning of the inlet and exhaust valves from beside each other to behind each other. VW claims this provides better maximum flow rates and improved combustion. It also means that each of the two camshafts controls both inlet and exhaust valves.
Fuel economy in European vehicles has certainly been the major focus in recent years because of the high price of either distillate or petrol. The new engines are claimed by VW to each save a litre of fuel per 100 km, compared to the previous generation.
All Euro-5 and Euro-6 engines have a stop/start system as standard, and this system alone can contribute to a further gain of 15% on average. But, as with all stop/start systems, the outcome depends on the level of traffic congestion.
Dynamic Cruise Control (DCC) enables the T6 to be adapted to three driving modes: comfort, normal and sport. In each case, the electrically adjustable shock absorbers adapt to the chosen style via a preselected programme.
The experience of opening and closing the tailgate has now been augmented by the addition of automatic interventions. Aside from purely manual operation, the first level up from the basic version provides an automatic closing aid to reduce effort. Move up the spec chart and there’s a new, completely electrically operated version. It opens automatically via the tailgate handle, and it closes by pulling a loop or by pushbutton. Alternatively, it can be opened by pressing a button on the driver door or on the remote control integrated within the vehicle key.
Frontal protection safety now enlists the aid of radar-oriented systems with the inclusion of a ‘Front Assist’ area monitoring system (optional for the Transporter, Multivan and Caravelle, but standard on the Multivan Business). The system recognises critical distances to the vehicle in front and helps to shorten the stopping distance.
In dangerous situations the system warns the driver visually and audibly, as well as with a slight jolt of the brake. With adaptive cruise control (ACC), a sensor measures the distance to the vehicle in front and the relative speed. In combination with the DSG, the ACC system can also slow the vehicle down, for example in queues or traffic jam situations, to a complete stop. Depending on the situation, ACC then starts up again automatically after a predefined period.
An integral component of Front Assist and ACC is the City Emergency Braking function, which provides assistance at low speeds of under 30 km/h and thereby offers significantly improved safety, especially in dense city traffic.
If the driver fails to see an obstacle, the system automatically applies the brakes and ensures that the collision speed is reduced. In order to minimise the risk related to this scenario, the Automatic Post-Collision Braking System is provided as standard in the Transporter. Another option is Light Assist that performs automatic, camera-controlled switching on and off of the main beam.
The Driver Alert System, which is standard in vehicles with a multifunction display, recognises any deviations from normal driving behaviour and recommends the driver takes a break. Those towing trailers also benefit from an electronic trailer stabilisation assistance system that works off the EBS/EBS system.
During the journey, the optionally available electronic voice enhancement automatically amplifies the driver’s voice, playing it back to the passengers over the radio system’s speakers. This is not so much an aid to those keen on karaoke, rather it reduces the subconscious movements of the driver taking their eyes off the road to look at the passengers while talking.
Dependent on the model selected, 4MOTION all-wheel-drive together with Hill Descent Assist is available as an option. Those operating in the snow regions, even in Australia, will also appreciate the new heated windscreen that ensures a clear view.
With Bluetooth hands-free system standard for all electronic applications, the 6.33-inch display screen works by means of proximity sensors. As soon as the driver or front-seat passenger moves their hand close to the touchscreen, the system automatically switches from display mode to input mode. The displays also have a function that lets users use swiping motions to scroll through lists or browse CD covers of their own media library that could be stored on an SD card, for example.
Depending on the range of features, there is also the Comfort mobile phone interface. It provides an inductive link to the vehicle’s mobile phone antenna, an auxiliary USB port and an ergonomic storage compartment for the mobile phone.
Saving the best news until last, and VW in Europe is marketing the new model on the strength of not raising pricing. In fact, the company is actively spruiking that prices will be on a par with the previous model or even considerably below those for the comparable prior versions.
The price list for the Transporter in the European market, for instance, starts at $31,916 (AUD), while the Multivan begins at $41,504 (AUD). The previous Startline entry-level model is replaced by the upgraded Trendline trim level at a price of $47,530 (AUD) (gross).