Volkswagen Transporter T6 Review

The new-generation Volkswagen Transporter has arrived with more efficiency and more technology.

The all-new Volkswagen Transporter commercial van range will bring more of the same when it arrives in Australia in November 2015.

Why more of the same? Because that’s essentially what Volkswagen Australia has told us to expect – a very similar model range to that which is currently on offer for the Transporter, which competes against vans such as the Toyota HiAce, Hyundai iLoad, Ford Transit Custom and Renault Trafic.

That means there’ll be plenty of options for buyers after the following: a mid-sized van with a standard, mid or high roof in short- or long-wheelbase guise; or if not that then maybe a crew van with a row of seats in the cargo area; or if not that then a single-cab-chassis ute; or a dual-cab-chassis ute… you get the picture. This is a comprehensive model line.

As is the case with the current T5 model range, all T6 Transporters will be offered with 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engines only. According to the German brand, there won’t be a petrol version “simply because it doesn’t sell”.

There are no exact specification details available from Volkswagen Australia at this point in time, but it seems likely that the mainstay of the engine line-up will probably be known as the TDI350. That powertrain produces 110kW of power and – you guessed it – 350Nm of torque. It has the same peak power output but 10Nm more torque than the current top-selling TDI340 model.

It will be available with a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, and possibly in front-wheel drive only – although the current model has 4Motion all-wheel drive variants available.

Fuel use is expected to drop notably, too – again there are no confirmed details for Australia, but in Europe the TDI350 uses between 5.8 litres and 6.4 litres per 100 kilometres, where the current T5 TDI340 uses between 7.7L and 8.2L/100km.

The gruntier bi-turbo option that will be offered – which should be called the TDI450 – pumps out 150kW of power and (yep!) 450Nm of torque, again with a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch (strangely not the eight-speed seen in the Amarok ute), and 4Motion all-wheel drive as an option.

It replaces the 132kW/400Nm TDI400 model currently available, and again, fuel use should drop markedly. The T5 version uses between 7.8L and 8.8L/100km, where the new T6 claims between 6.1L and 6.8L/100km in Europe.

Unfortunately we didn’t get to sample either of those engines in a Transporter commercial van, but we did drive the TDI450 engine in the Multivan and found it to be a strong thing, if let down a little by the DSG transmission’s low-speed hesitation.

At the launch we managed to get in to the model that could prove to be the price-leader in Australia, the T6 TDI250.

If sold locally it will likely take the spot of the entry-level TDI250 Runner, which is currently kicking off proceedings in the Transporter range from $32,990 plus on-road costs.

It, again, is a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing an identical 75kW of power and 250Nm of torque to the model that is currently on sale.

However, this engine too has been tweaked for some efficiency gains. With stop-start as standard, a new engine design that is optimised for a more efficient combustion cycle, and Euro 6 emissions regulations stipulating an exhaust gas treatment (such as AdBlue) to reduce the level of nitrous oxide emissions, there are consumption drops for this powerplant. It now uses an average of between 5.9L and 6.3L/100km; the current TDI250 uses a claimed 7.5L/100km.

This model comes only with a five-speed manual transmission, which undoubtedly limits its appeal to inner-city drivers.

But if you don’t mind shifting gears yourself, it could be something you’d get used to, because the shift action is light and smooth, and so is the clutch pedal push.

The engine in this model is best left to those who won’t load their vehicle to the hilt. We had a ‘half-load’ of ballast on board (about 500 kilograms) and the engine didn’t haul quite as effortlessly as expected.

It wasn’t struggling too hard and nor was it sluggish, but with two occupants and half a tonne in the cargo area we found that on higher-speed roads it was best to push the accelerator pedal flat up hills and manhandle the gearshifter with a bit more rigour rather than riding on a torque wave as we might have in a model with a higher-output engine.

Still, in more of a stop-start environment this engine impressed. It pulled away from the lights without much fuss and dealt with traffic much more convincingly than it handled highway hustle.

Volkswagen has always been one of the best in the game at making a van that’s comfortable on the road, and the new-generation Transporter is no different.

It rode over differing surfaces beautifully, with the revised suspension helping to level out a bit of body roll (though the low-mounted ballast placed squarely above the rear axle no doubt helped in that regard, too). Bumps such as potholes were also dispatched with ease.

The Transporter’s steering, however, wasn’t quite how we remembered it. The existing model is equipped with a hydraulic rack and pinion steering system that offers direct connection to the front wheels, where the new model has electric steering which removes some of that resistance and feel through the steering wheel.

It makes for a drive experience that requires a little more effort when initially turning from the straight-ahead position, and while it does respond well when you push it into a roundabout or a quick corner, it’s at lower speeds that a bit more of a connection would be welcome.

A little less road noise would be good, too.

The cockpit has seen some big changes, with an entirely new dashboard that has been rethought with workers in mind.

There are new storage bins littered throughout the cabin, including a sunglasses holder in the roof-lining, a big dash-top folder holder, a stowage slot in front of the passenger, and two-tier door pockets, and the lower section can swallow big water bottles.

There are two bottle holders on top of the dash, too, and a pair of cup holders that flip down from the gear selector surround, which are a little inconvenient if you have three aboard – and if you do, the two passengers will be a bit squished, particularly the outboard occupant because they already sit quite flush against the door. And for elbow-resters, the hard plastic door trims aren’t overly comfortable, and nor is the flipdown armrest which is covered in hard plastic but also has a pair of cup holders.

Our test vehicle had a 1+2 layout, with a fixed bench offering no sliding function, and the driver’s seat was also limited in the amount of travel available because of the bulkhead fitted. That could be a problem for taller drivers, but at the very least the large glass viewing pane in the bulkhead offers decent rearward vision, as does the kerbside sliding door’s windowpane.

The new steering wheel is an improvement – not just because it looks better, but it also felt better in the hand, as did the leather-lined gearknob.

Above that shifter is one of the big talking points of the interior, a new 6.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration and a reverse-view camera display.

We tested the Apple side of the equation by connecting an iPhone via USB, and found the system to be simple, intuitive and also pretty to look at. The standard menus on the Volkswagen interface have also been improved, and the response times are much better than in the past.

What about the business end?

Well our short-wheelbase, standard roof model was the most compact Transporter on the fleet, with a total of 5.8 cubic metres of cargo space – which is relatively competitive in the class.

The SWB model offers 2324mm of load floor length up to the bulkhead, 1700mm of width (and 1244mm between the wheel arches) and in this specification there’s 1410mm of load height. Payloads are yet to be confirmed for Australia.

Access to the cargo hold can be gained through rear barn doors or a conventional tailgate, while side access is driver’s side as standard. There’s a good number of tie-down points, and the lining on the internal walls of the cargo bay should stop any pimples from appearing on the outside.

And given that the new model is built off the same architecture as the previous one, VW Australia claims T5 owners will be able to shift their existing fittings to the new model with ease.

We look forward to getting you all the vital information on the new-generation Volkswagen T6 Transporter range, and also getting the van through the garage to test it against its competitors.