VW T6 Transporter 2015 - Test Drive Review
If there is one van on the road today that epitomises superb build quality, excellent driveability, low running costs and sky-high residual values, it must be the Volkswagen Transporter.This iconic van dates back to the 1950s when it trundled about the highways of Europe with a rear-mounted air-cooled engine and a split windscreen. It secured its place in Hollywood history in 1985 with a memorable, if small, part in Back To The Future, piloted by a dreaded gang of Libyan terrorists.Such is its legendary status that there are still thousands of ‘Splitties’ plying our roads today – and that's something you can't say about any other van.Since then, of course, a lot has changed and we are now preparing to welcome the sixth generation Transporter, bristling with technology that was unthinkable even a few years ago. We've been to Stockholm, Sweden, to drive the T6 prior to its UK launch in September and came back mightily impressed.As with the new Caddy that we drove a month or two back, VW hasn't exactly gone overboard on the design front, sticking instead to its tried-and-tested formula with a few nips and tucks to show that it is in fact different from the T5. We wouldn't mark the van down on this point, mind you, as we think it looks fine as it is; most buyers are more interested in running costs, reliability and drivability than cosmetics. And here the Transporter has it covered.The T6 may not look a lot different from the T5, but there are a huge number of improvements to just about every aspect; apart from the load area, which remains unchanged. Prices at launch go from £17,746 to £31,275 (excl VAT). Click here for panel van prices, including options, and here for Kombi. DrivetrainsAs of September 2016 all new vans will have to conform to Euro 6 emissions standards and the various manufacturers are rolling out cleaner engines in their ranges already. Hence VW is offering a single 2.0-litre Euro 6 diesel unit with 102hp on tap, which in full fuel-saving BlueMotion spec is claimed to return an admirable 47.9mpg on the combined cycle. Don't forget though that any savings in fuel have to be balanced against the fact that you'll have to fill an AdBlue tank every so often.Meanwhile, there are Euro 5 diesel engines too. All are 2.0-litre and there’s a choice of four power outputs; 84hp, 102hp, 140hp and 180hp. All the engines have been tweaked for better fuel economy, while promising no sacrifices in driving dynamics. As the Euro 6 deadline approaches, a wider selection of the cleaner engines will be rolled out.But, hang on to your hats. The big news is that two petrol-powered variants will be joining the line-up from early 2016, with 150hp and 204hp on tap. Apparently several fleets, mainly local authorities, have been asking about petrol after the recent fears over NOX and particulates from diesel engines and VW has decided to take the plunge and be the only manufacturer to offer a petrol engine in this market sector. This means that LPG conversions will be possible. We've been hearing a lot about a resurgence in interest in LPG and will be keeping a close watch on developments.Diesel versions all get BlueMotion Technology as standard, which brings with it Stop/Start, regenerative braking and low rolling resistance tyres. VW's super-slick DSG auto ’box will be available on all apart from the lowest-powered models.Load AreaInternally the business end of the van hasn't changed at all and there is a good reason for that. Lots of specialist companies build bespoke equipment such as racking and so on and any slight change in dimensions means they have to go right back to the drawing board and start again.The Transporter's cargo area is fine as it is anyway and most needs will be catered for adequately. There is a huge array of models on offer, including short- and long-wheelbases, low, medium and high roofs, kombis, single and double chassis cabs, and 4MOTION four-wheel drive options. Load volumes go from 5.8m³ to 9.3m³, with payloads up to 1,331kg.In-Cab ComfortHere we have something completely different. The cab and dash are all new, as are the seats. The dash has a pleasing look, while maintaining that typical Teutonic functionality, and we were also pleased to note that an extra 12-volt power socket has appeared on top of the dash, which means that drivers can plug in their own sat-nav units without having wires trailing all over the place.The seats are a little softer too and after a journey of 150 miles or so round the city streets of Stockholm and out into the twisty country lanes, we gave these new items a big thumbs up. They manage to be firm enough to support the back while not too hard to cause twinges. There are two cup holders on top of the dash just where they should be (certain other manufacturers take note) and extra cubby holes for van man's usual detritus. Meanwhile all the plastics feel tough and durable, ready to cope with a hard business life.Three spec levels will be available — Startline, Trendline and Highline — and all get Bluetooth connectivity, a DAB radio with a 5in touchscreen, a CD player and USB port.SafetyVarious new safety features are on offer, some fitted as standard and some paid-for extras. Every T6 gets automatic post-collision braking, which helps prevent secondary collisions, a driver alert system which gives a visual and audio signal if it thinks the driver needs a break, brake assist which adds extra brake pressure if needed in an emergency and hill-hold assist.Paid-for extras include adaptive cruise control which automatically adjusts the speed of the van if it senses a vehicle ahead being too close (Euro 6 engine only), a side scanner to help prevent side swipes and high beam assist.Sadly the automatic parking system on new Caddy won't be available for Transporter. We queried this omission as we thought it was a marvellous safety feature. Apparently it's all down to the wiring loom, which currently isn’t able to accommodate it.Behind the WheelWe expected sheer driving pleasure from our test runs and that's exactly what we got. We tried the 102hp version which is expected to be the big seller and the 140hp. Fleets are likely to choose the lower-powered model while owner-drivers may wish to treat themselves to a little more oomph. Whichever one is chosen, there is plenty of torque to row this van along nicely. A slick gearchange, crisp turn-in from the well weighted steering and pin-sharp handling simply pile on the positives for this superb vehicle.Refinement levels are impressive with wind noise the only real intrusion to an otherwise pretty noise-free environment. Rev the 102hp to its limit and it becomes a bit raucous, but there really should be no need to find this out in the real world. Ride quality is excellent, even unladen, but Swedish roads are in a much superior state to those in the UK so we will reserve final judgement until we’ve driven the new T6 on our highways and byways.VerdictAs can be gathered from the eulogy above we are pretty impressed with the T6. It's about as perfect as a light commercial vehicle can be and we can’t wait to get our hands on the UK spec versions.
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