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First drive: Volkswagen Multivan takes off

Twice as nice: The cool two-tone paint scheme on the new Generation Six VW Multivan comes in four colour combos.

VW’s sixth series T6 commercial van to launch with heritage-marking limited edition

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Volkswagen logo6 Jul 2015

By TIM ROBSON in STOCKHOLM

EVOLUTION is the byword for Volkswagen’s latest iteration of its iconic 65-year-old van range, with a wide array of mechanical and electronic updates applied to a current-generation chassis.

The three-model T series range – comprising the Transporter workvan, Caravelle crew carrier and Multivan people-mover – was launched in Germany last week, with stock arriving in Australia towards the end of 2015.

Volkswagen AG board member Jorn Hasenfuss underlined the importance of the trio to the brand as a whole, pointing out that more than 12 million T series vans had been sold over six generations of vehicle, with two million T5s moved over the last 13 years in more than 500 forms.

“No other model has the variety of versions that our T series has,” he said at the T6 series launch in Stockholm, Sweden. “It is at the very heart of the Volkswagen brand.”

Mr Hasenfuss acknowledged that the T6’s design and ethos has not moved far from the T5, but what changes had been wrought were done to suit a new generation of customers.

“We only modified where we deemed necessary,” said Mr Hasenfuss, “and only what our customers wanted.”

One of the big changes is more about what European Union officials want, as the deadline for Euro 6 emissions compliance draws ever closer for commercial vehicles.

The T6 marks the debut of a new Euro 6-compliant turbocharged diesel four-cylinder engine known internally as the EA288 Nutz, while other mechanical changes have resulted in a claimed 15 per cent reduction in fuel consumption across the entire line.

“Our competitors have higher fuel consumption figures in the change to Euro 6, but not us,” he said. “The T6 is not just the most powerful, but the most frugal.”

The EA288 will be offered in four states of tune 62kW, 75kW, 110kW and 150kW, with a maximum torque rating of 450Nm. Engines up to 110kW are blown by a single variable-vane turbocharger, while the top-spec 150kW unit runs two turbos.

Built for endurance work, Volkswagen says it is designed to do 300,000km without an issue. The 75kW engine is good for a consumption figure of 5.5 litres per 100 kilometres, while the 150kW unit will see the T6 achieve speeds of 200km/h for the first time ever.

The range is set to launch in Australia in November this year, and Volkswagen Australia public relations manager Kurt McGuiness said that the line-up would largely mirror the T5’s variant list, with a couple of notable exceptions.

“The new (EA288) engine is on the table for the Multivan,” he said, “and we’re also looking at the top-end Multivan Business model, as well as the new (limited-edition) Generation Six.”

Mr McGuiness also said the Multivan and Caravelle ranges would no longer be offered with a manual option, while all three models would be a diesel-only proposition.

“We haven’t offered a T5 petrol for a while, because it just doesn’t sell,” he said. “The current line-up is all diesel, and we expect it to stay that way.”

While Australian specs and prices will be released closer to launch in November, the T6 brings to the commercial sector some of the better elements of Volkswagen Group’s passenger car electronic chassis technology.

Post-collision autonomous braking, where the vehicle clamps on the brakes after a crash is detected to minimise the risk of a second impact, is standard on the T6 right from the base Transporter.

Other technologies that are found in Golfs, Passats and Touaregs – such as adaptive radar cruise control, city-stop autonomous braking and adaptive dampers – can also be specced on various grades of T6.

Revised seating in the passenger-capable Caravelle and Multivan, meanwhile, complement a revised interior that features a 6.3-inch infotainment system that can be optioned up to include Apple Car Play and satellite navigation.

The limited-edition Generation Six is a nod to the popular Bulli (the original name for the Kombi) concept from the 2011 Geneva motor show, with its distinctive two-tone paint scheme and retro-spec alloy rims.

The effect can be carried over to the interior, where the Generation Six’s dash panels can be colour-coded to match the exterior’s darker colour.

Volkswagen Commercial design manager Pavol Sajtak told GoAuto that it is important not to confuse the notions of retro styling and heritage when it comes to looking at the Gen Six.

“We look at (the Gen Six) more as celebrating the heritage of the Bulli,” he said. “The important thing is that we don’t want to play retro. It’s more about the heritage. If we’re thinking retro, it may just look like the T1 in a new shape. It might be interesting, but it’s too easy, actually.

“It’s better keep the values that the customer appreciates. Keep the flexibility of the exterior and interior and offering this heritage look as a connection to the past.”

The Gen Six is based on the Multivan Comfortline and scores a few upgrades to boot, including new LED headlights and tail-lamps, tinted windows, fog-lights with cornering lights and a chrome trim package.

Front and rear parking sensors, Side Assist with electric folding mirrors, cruise control and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) are included, along with Alcantara seats, leather-bound multifunction steering wheel and gear lever, heated seats and multi-zone climate system are also standard fare.

A rearview camera is available as an option on the T series. Mr McGuiness said it was too early to say whether it would be standard fare on Australian-spec vans.

“If the market requires it, we will look at what the market needs,” he told GoAuto.

The two-tone paintwork is optional, and is available in four colour combos, including red/white, blue/white, grey/white and a two-tone blue finish.

In the flesh, the Gen Six is handsome and unusual, without appearing to overly kowtow to a retro beat. The 18-inch stylised alloys are a matter of individual taste, but the LED light structure and neatly resolved front end tells you that this isn’t just a retro dog and pony show.

With a 150kW/450Nm version of the new BlueMotion-equipped 2.0-litre diesel under the nose – and not, as per the original, under the tail – and adaptive dampers fitted as an option, the Gen Six people-mover is impressively quiet and refined in either the front or the back.

The new twin-turbo diesel, in particular, is a ripper. Leave the seven-speed dual-clutch DSG transmission in D, and the combo strives for low revs and quiet running, with enough in reserve to pile on overtaking speed when required.

Don’t be surprised to see the Nutz pop up in other large diesel applications going forward for VW with a vehicle capacity of up to 5.7 tonnes, this 2.0-litre workhorse would make perfect sense under the bonnet of an Amarok or a Touareg.

Work on reducing noise intrusion into the cabin has been effective, too, with minimal wind noise and little in the way of tyre roar.

The Multivan’s hydraulic steering feel is amazingly light, and requires a good bite of lock to initiate a turn before quickly gearing up.

Reversing manoeuvres were rendered easy with a rearview camera – while we’d love to see a camera offered as standard, VW’s multi-zone ParkAssist visual sensors are at least a step above beep-only units.

A centre-console module that sits proud of the dash at knee height intrudes upon the front passenger’s space somewhat, but with plenty of nooks and crannies to stash phones, bottles and the like, the Multivan is a very effective seven-seat people mover.

A pair of 12V points, along with two USB chargers, are complemented by rubberised nooks that are large enough to swallow the largest of modern smartphones.

There’s a great deal of flexibility in the rear two rows of seats, with fore and aft movement, lie-flat capability and more. No luggage? Slide the rear row back for more legroom.

Sliding side doors on both sides makes for easy access, while an optional electrically operated tailgate will help drivers and occupants of, erm, lesser stature operate the door, which can be as high as two metres off the ground in its open position.

While the safety tech is most welcome, specifying adaptive dampers on a Multivan is a bit like adding bacon to steak – it’s nice, but entirely unnecessary. Instead of Comfort and Sport modes, surely a Laden and Unladen setting would make more sense? In Sport mode, the Gen Six’s ride is way too fussy and brittle to be comfortable, even over medium-quality tarmac. Comfort mode provides a modicum of cush, but this tester found standard mode to provide the best combination of ride, feel and handling prowess.

The Generation Six may well be a limited-edition launch special, but it’s a good insight into the new T6 Multivan people-mover. With excellent internal flexibility and a great new engine, it’s a viable alternative for large and/or active families whose need for space outstrips the capabilities of a three-row large SUV.

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