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First drive: Big strides for VW load luggers

Shooting high: The VW Transporter gets Volkswagen's DSG dual-clutch auto as an option with DSI diesels.

Improvements in efficiency, safety and choice spearhead VW’s T5 commercial upgrades

23 Mar 2010

VOLKSWAGEN is striving to steal sales from the Toyota HiAce, Hyundai iLoad and Mercedes-Benz Vito with its comprehensively revamped, TDI diesel-only T5 GP-series Transporter commercial vehicle range.

This is despite the cessation of the previous entry-level van – the $30,490 MY09 Transporter 2.0-litre petrol – for a new diesel-powered model costing $6000 more.

No problem, Volkswagen says, since the latest T5s introduce a segment-first TDI/DSG dual-clutch ‘automatic’ combination option (that is $2000 cheaper than the previous diesel auto), improved payload capacities (by up to 19 per cent), standard stability control and available head and thorax airbags, among a host of new features and/or options.

More power for the money, leaner fuel consumption, cleaner engines, improved safety and better driveability are further aspects of the new Transporter deal.

But Volkswagen’s 2010 T5 manifesto is multifaceted since it also involves a renewed assault on the people-mover market against the likes of Toyota’s HiAce Bus and Tarago and the Chrysler Grand Voyager.

So the $49,990 T5 Caravelle newcomer includes nine seats, TDI, DSG and the LWB (long-wheelbase) body to tempt airport/hotel/patient transfer buyers, while the more luxuriously equipped seven-seater Multivan TDI DSG – also from a tenner under $50,000 – has families as well as private hire vehicle operators in its crosshairs. Both models are thousands of dollars beneath their respective equivalent predecessors.

3 center image From Top: Transporter van, Transporter Dual Cab, Multivan and Caravelle.

In total all there are around 48 T5 variants available right now – down from about 60, with the Caravelle being cut to just the one model while the old Crewvan variants have been discontinued.

The Transporter van is the volume seller, offered in two wheelbase lengths (3000mm and 3400mm), three roof heights, front-wheel or 4MOTION all-wheel drive, five engine/gearbox combos, bucket or bench seating configurations, single or twin sliding side doors, and lift-up or barn-style tailgates, among other permutations.

Along with the T5 people movers, it is made in Hanover, Germany – in contrast to the Transporter Dual Cab Chassis range – priced from $44,990 to $48,490 – that is manufactured at the same Polish site as the smaller Caddy series.

On all models, every body panel forward of the B-pillar has been redesigned, giving the T5 GP a Golf/Polo-like face. This means that the front fenders, headlights, bonnet, grille, bumper and exterior mirrors (with an integrated radio antenna) are new. Restyled tail-lights are also included.

A redesigned dash, steering wheel, climate controls, audio panel, fabrics, trim and colours give the interior of six-year-old T5 series a more up-to-date appearance.

Depending on the model, a host of new or updated options give a more car-like experience, including an ‘infotainment’ screen, satellite navigation, fog lights with a cornering action, cruise control, alloy wheels, metallic paint, body-coloured bumpers, parking radar with rear-view camera availability and a side blind-spot warning system.

In the Multivan – which can easily exceed $80,000 in Highline DSG 4MOTION guise plus options – buyers also enjoy a sunroof, a rear table, power sliding doors and electrically folding exterior mirrors.

On the active safety front, stability control is now standard across the range, complete with hill-start assist, Active Rollover Protection, a brake preparation technology, ‘fading’ brake support, hydraulic brake assist and a brake disc wiper for optimum performance. It works in conjunction with the anti-lock brakes, Anti Slip Regulation, Electronic Differential Lock, and engine drag torque control – all of which are standard T5 fare.

Passive safety-wise, the dual front airbags can be complemented with head and thorax airbags.

Volkswagen is investigating introducing T5s with TSI petrol engines at a later stage, but for now just the single 2.0-litre twin-cam 16-valve common-rail direct-injection four-cylinder forced-induction diesel engine is available – albeit in varying states of tune for different performance requirements: 75 TDI, 103 TDI and 132 TDI.

They replace a trio of long-serving engines: the 85kW/170Nm 2.0-litre single-cam four-cylinder petrol 77kW/250Nm 1.9-litre single-cam four-cylinder PD Pumpe Dusse turbo-diesel and 128kW/400Nm 2.5-litre in-line five-cylinder PD turbo-diesel. No V6 powered T5s have been offered in Australia since the demise of the unpopular 173kW/315Nm 3.2-litre V6 petrol in 2008.

A diesel particulate filter helps make each 2.0 TDI CR DI unit Euro-5 emissions compliant, as does the abolition of a conventional torque-converter automatic gearbox such as the old six-speed sequential shift transmission for the highly efficient DSG – a new-generation wet-clutch multi plate seven-speed item that makes its world debut in the T5 GP. VW says this DSG is rated to about 600Nm of torque.

Only the entry-level Transporter Van gets the smallest-output (75 TDI) engine, using a Variable Turbine Geometry single turbocharger to achieve 75kW of power at 3500rpm and 250Nm from 1500 to 2500rpm.

Driving only the front wheels via a five-speed manual gearbox (no DSG is available on this model), the 75 TDI returns 7.5 litres per 100km and emits 198 grams per kilometre of carbon dioxide waste.

Next up is the 103 TDI that also employs a single turbocharger for its 103kW at 3500rpm and 370Nm from 1750 to 2500rpm outputs.

This time T5 Van buyers can choose either a six-speed manual (7.7L/100km, 203g/km) or the DSG (8.2L/100km, 216g/km).

The 103 TDI DSG is expected to account for the largest slice of Transporter sales, followed by the 75 TDI van.

More money buys the 132 TDI, pumping out 132kW at 4000rpm and 400Nm from 1500 to 2000rpm – thanks to a new twin turbocharger induction system.

The six-speed manual 132 TDI delivers 7.8L/100km (DSG: 8.1) and 205g/km (DSG: 214g/km). There is also a 4MOTION van version returning 8.4L/100km and 221g/km respectively.

The 103 TDI and 132 TDI Multivan – as well as the 132 TDI-only Dual Cab Chassis’ – figures are slightly higher.

Either way, compared to their respective predecessors, fuel consumption falls vary between seven per cent and 16 per cent, while CO2 levels fall even more.

Not much has changed fundamentally beneath the T5 GP, meaning that it retains a MacPherson strut front suspension and semi-trailing independent rear axle with coil springs and an anti-roll bar, while the steering system is a hydraulically powered rack and pinion device. The SWB van’s turning circle is 11.9m (SWB: 13.2m).

Brakes are 308mm discs up front (132 TDI: 340mm) and 294mm in the rear.

All models boast a 2000kg braked towing capacity/750kg unbraked.

The payload for the 75 TDI Van is 1318kg (SWB) and 1267 (LWB) 103 TDI: 1283/1232kg 132 TDI: 1236/1185kg. The Dual Cab Chassis’ payload ranges from 1078kg to 1213kg.

Volkswagen says it expects to sell between 2000 and 2500 T5 GPs per year (roughly the same as last year), but privately the company believes the additional lower-end diesel automatic models, combined with the significant CO2 and economy improvements, could drive in substantially more buyers.

This year is the 60th anniversary of the Volkswagen Van. The T2 made its global debut in 1967, followed by the T3 in 1979, while the T4 of 1990s was a radical departure in that it abandoned the rear-engine/rear-drive format for front-wheel drive.

Since the T5’s 2003 unveiling (Australia: 2004) over one million have been sold worldwide.

2010 Volkswagen Transporter range pricing:
Transporter Van SWB:
75kW TDI $36,490
103kW TDI $37,990
103kW TDI (DSG) $40,990
132kW TDI $41,990
132kW TDI 4MOTION $45,490
132kW TDI (DSG) $44,990
132kW TDI (DSG) 4MOTION $48,490
Transporter Van LWB:
75kW TDI $38,490
103kW TDI $39,990
103kW TDI (DSG) $42,990
132kW TDI $43,990
132kW TDI 4MOTION $47,490
132kW TDI (DSG) $46,990
132kW TDI (DSG) 4MOTION $50,490
Transporter Dual Cab:
132kW $44,990
132kW 4MOTION $48,490
132kW (DSG) $47,990
103kW (DSG) $49,990
Comfortline 103kW (DSG) $49,990
Comfortline 132kW (DSG) $56,990
Comfortline 132kW (DSG) 4MOTION $60,990
Highline 132kW (DSG) $73,990
Highline 132kW (DSG) 4MOTION $77,990

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