VW’s brand new large van and cab chassis range arriving en masse, as the company prepares to joust with Mercedes-Benz, Renault, Fiat and Ford

Volkswagen Australia has begun phase two of the new Crafter van and cab-chassis truck rollout, expanding its presence in the highly profitable large-commercial-vehicle market.

This stage heralds the arrival of higher-power Crafter TDI410 front-wheel drive (FWD) derivatives with a new ZF eight-speed auto from the Amarok, joining the base manual-only Crafter Runner TDI340 that’s been on sale since late 2017.

Order books are also open for a host of other versions ahead of their physical arrival here during early 2019. These include a TDI340 grade with automatic transmission, plus a range of RWD and 4Motion AWD versions, which the company views as a huge opportunity.

This time there’ll be dozens of different Crafter variants to choose from — in medium, long and extra long van with three roof heights, plus single-cab and dual-cab chassis truck body styles with trays — before going further down the rabbit hole of customisation.

Considering the old model was RWD and manual only, it’s little wonder the company wants to quadruple sales.

The Crafter is a new-from-the-ground up offering made entirely by Volkswagen, not in a joint-venture as was once the case. It’ll rival the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter top-seller used by ambulance and postal services, plus the Renault Master, Ford Transit Heavy and Fiat Ducato.

Befitting its blank canvas approach, the Crafter is now produced in a new 3000-staff, 540-acre plant in Wrzesnia, Poland — where it’s far cheaper to produce vehicles for the substantial European van market than Germany or France. This plant is part of a 10 billion euro investment. Wowsers.

Volkswagen claims this brand-new Crafter is “far superior” to its predecessor and rivals in terms of cargo area length and capacities, despite its dimensions being ‘optimised’ to suit urban delivery drivers and the like.

REVIEW: 2018 Volkswagen Crafter driven

FWD Crafters have a cargo capacity maxing out at 18.4 cubic-metres, a loading area 2.2m high and up to 4 tonnes GVM. There’s 1380mm between the arches and a loading length of up to 4.85m.

The RWD versions can have GVMs as much as 5.5t with dual rear wheels, but clever engineering means there’s an extra 402mm of loading width than before. AWD versions can shuffle torque between the axles via a Haldex-style clutch. A mechanical rear diff lock is optional.

Front-drive versions allow a lower loading floor by ditching the propshaft, RWD models are better at carrying heavy loads as the driven wheels are underneath, while the AWD models are good for muddy worksites. Choice is the order of the day.

There are two diesel engine offerings, the TDI340 and TDI410, mounted transversely (FWD) or longitudinally (RWD). Both are EU6 compliant and come from VW’s new ‘EA288 Commercial’ family. There’s an AdBlue treatment tank ahead of the DPF.

The base unit makes 103kW at 3500rpm and 340Nm at 2000rpm, while the higher grade unit makes 130kW at 3600rpm and 410Nm at 2000rpm. Each tows up to 2.5 tonnes (braked), contingent on GCM.

The base transmission is a six-speed manual, but there’s a new eight-speed automatic with torque converter — it’s not a DSG. All have 75L fuel tanks, 303mm/300mm ventilated disc brakes front/rear, and MacPherson front/leaf rear suspension setups.

Depending on grades, the van’s lengths range between 6 and 7.4 metres, with payloads up to 1.4t. The cab chassis models can carry up to 1.57t, far more than any mass-market ute.

The overhauled cabin was subject to more focus groups and other types of buyer research than you can poke a stick at, with VW making special mention of all the little hidey-holes for your smartphone, bottles, laptops, mugs, gloves, tools and package scanner, just to name a few.

The standard seats get fore/aft and height adjust plus electric lumbar supports and moving armrests, but you can also option special ergoActive seats with more cushioning for shocks, plus a massage function. There’s storage underneath the front bench.

All versions have a window-ed partition between the cabin and loading area, which is itself accessed by rear barn doors and either single- or dual sliding side doors depending on what you option. There are 10-14 lashing rings and 2 x 12V sockets back there.

Standard equipment includes an 8.0-inch touchscreen with reversing camera display, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, cruise control/speed-limiter, rubber floors, A/C with pollen filter, LED reading lights, halogen headlights and a full-size spare.

Safety tech includes front and side curtain airbags for first-row occupants (sorry, dual-cab-chassis buyers with rear occupants), crosswind assist built into the traction control, autonomous emergency braking, front/rear parking sensors and a driver fatigue warning.

Volkswagen will sell you active cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, lane assist, rear cross-traffic alert, electric folding mirrors, auto headlights and DAB+. There are four solid paint colours (white, orange, red and blue), metallic silver and grey, and pearlescent black.

Naturally there are various tougher suspension upgrades available top boost GCM, and various cargo area configurations you can get, notably heavy duty universal loading rails and matting. You can also get a second battery with cutoff relay/alternator with 180A.

About the only vehicles with more configurations and accessory options than the vans of this type are ultra-luxury limousines from the likes of Rolls-Royce.

Interestingly, VW Australia is working with a number of local body builders to offer fully warrantied Crafters with all manner of mods. It’s also spruiking its 107-site dealer network as a key differentiator compared to the likes of Renault.


2018 Volkswagen Crafter range pricing:

Body typePrice before ORCs/ABN discount
Medium wheelbase/standard roof van
Crafter 35 TDI340 Runner FWD 6MT$48,490
Crafter 35 TDI340 FWD 8AT$52,490
Crafter 35 TDI410 FWD 6MT$52,490
Crafter 35 TDI410 FWD 8AT$55,490
Crafter 35 TDI410 4Motion 6MT$56,990
Crafter 35 TDI410 4Motion 8AT$59,990
Crafter 50 TDI410 RWD 8AT dual-tyre 4.49t$62,490
Crafter 50 TDI410 RWD 8AT dual-tyre 5.5t$65,490
Long wheelbase/high roof van
Crafter 35 TDI340 Runner FWD 6MT$51,990
Crafter 35 TDI340 FWD 8AT$55,990
Crafter 35 TDI410 FWD 6MT$55,990
Crafter 35 TDI410 FWD 8AT$58,990
Crafter 35 TDI410 4Motion 6MT$60,490
Crafter 35 TDI410 4Motion 8AT$63,490
Crafter 50 TDI410 RWD 8AT dual-tyre 4.49t$65,990
Crafter 50 TDI410 RWD 8AT dual-tyre 5.5t$68,990
LWB with more overhang/high roof van
Crafter 35 TDI340 FWD 8AT$58,490
Crafter 35 TDI410 FWD 8AT$61,490
Crafter 50 TDI410 RWD 8AT dual-tyre 4.49t$68,490
Crafter 50 TDI410 RWD 8AT dual-tyre 5.5t$71,490
Single cab chassis
Crafter 35 TDI340 FWD 8AT$48,290
Crafter 35 TDI410 FWD 8AT$51,290
Crafter 35 TDI410 4Motion 8AT$55,790
Crafter 35 TDI410 RWD 6MT single-tyre$52,790
Crafter 50 MWB TDI410 RWD 8AT dual-tyre 4.49t$56,790
Crafter 50 MWB TDI410 RWD 8AT dual-tyre 5.5t$59,790
Crafter 50 LWB TDI410 RWD 8AT dual-tyre 4.49t$58,290
Crafter 50 LWB TDI410 RWD 8AT dual-tyre 5.5t$61,290
Dual cab chassis
Crafter 35 TDI340 FWD 8AT$51,790
Crafter 35 TDI410 FWD 8AT$54,790
Crafter 35 TDI410 4Motion 8AT$59,290
Crafter 35 TDI410 RWD 6MT single-tyre$56,290
Crafter 50 MWB TDI410 RWD 8AT dual-tyre 4.49t$60,290
Crafter 50 MWB TDI410 RWD 8AT dual-tyre 5.5t$63,290
Crafter 50 LWB TDI410 RWD 8AT dual-tyre 4.49t$61,790
Crafter 50 LWB TDI410 RWD 8AT dual-tyre 5.5t$64,790

REVIEW: 2018 Crafter driven