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Elvis Festival
2008 Elvis Festival

Road Test

Volkswagen Transporter

(T5 - SWB TDI 6 speed manual 4Motion Van)

by Ken Walker

7th May, 2008

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Volkswagen vans are about as legendary as any vehicle anywhere in the world.

The first VW vans were manufactured in Germany in 1950. Known as the Volkswagen Transporter, those first vans (now affectionately known as T1) were quite similar to many aspects of the famous Volkswagen Beetle of the time. In fact, they shared many components including engine and gearbox. Their reliability, durability, economical purchase and running costs made them desirable. Today, both are highly prized classics. You won't see many of the T1s around, but when you do, you'll recognise the 'split' windscreen as the immediate identifier.

The Next Car team has had a 'run' in one of Volkswagen's latest model Transporter vans, now affectionately known as T5 (Transporter of the fifth generation), around Sydney and Newcastle, NSW.

The drive package, on this occasion, was a Transporter with the incredible 4MOTION system which puts the drive into all 4 wheels. The transmission fitted to the van was a 6 speed manual transmission, with the shift lever being mounted on the dash. The power was supplied by a 5 cylinder 2.5 litre diesel engine, which produced 128 kW of power and a very handy 400 Nm of torque.

On the outside, the paint and panels were finished to the usual high standard that we have come to expect from this marque. The van was fitted with an optional sliding door on the right hand side, directly opposite the left hand slider, with a top hinged tailgate door at the rear.

Inside the cabin, the two bucket seats were fitted with 2 armrests on each seat, providing excellent comfort with the usual adjustments to suit individual needs. With only the hand brake mounted on the floor close to the driver’s seat, there is more than ample space to access the cargo area. Little wonder that these versatile vans make ideal camper van platforms and have become highly respected by couriers, trades folks and just about everyone who requires a van. The test Transporter was fitted with the standard air conditioning and 125 kW TDI T5 models come standard with cruise control. The front doors have 2 handy and useful storage pockets, one of which will hold a 1.5 litre drink bottle. In fact, there is no shortage of storage areas on the dash either, which includes a slide out ashtray with power outlet and 2 cup/bottle holders. Being a non-smoker, the ashtray would be quickly converted to some other more desirable use, maybe storage for loose change to use at toll ways or parking meters. The steering column is adjustable for rake and, importantly, reach. This van was quiet and very comfortable to drive, more car-like than the design would indicate.

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As mentioned earlier, our test package included VW's 4MOTION drive system which the Next Car team drivers found hard to fault. In fact, we could not. Let me explain a little further. The 4MOTION system drives all the road wheels through a multi plate coupling which directs power to any wheel that may slip on a loose or slippery surface. It may also direct 100% of the power to the rear wheels if need be. The 4MOTION system is fitted with anti-locking brake system (ABS). Most variants of the T5 can be fitted with electronic stabilisation programme (ESP) for just $750, including the T5 with the 2.5 litre TDI engine.  An electronic diff lock for the rear axle is available as an optional extra at $1,325 for models fitted with 4MOTION. The 4MOTION system is not available with automatic transmission in the T5 Transporter. The package is fitted with disc brakes on all wheels. Two airbags are standard on all T5 vans except those with a 1.9 litre TDI engine and an optional package of side and curtain airbags is available for $650 on most Transporter vans.

Highly suited for use by couriers and trades people, alike, the options available for fitting out the cargo area are as varied as any user could imagine. With all wheel drive available, access to some localities for the trades’ person could be unrestricted. Having sliding doors on both sides of the van makes life easy for loading/unloading in any situation especially one-way streets as parking at either kerb would let the driver load or unload without the hazard of approaching vehicles. Naturally a sliding door on the offside would not be suitable for a camper conversion.

The numerous T5 Transporter vans are available in either short wheelbase or long wheelbase, a choice of two petrol or four diesel engines, and three roof heights. Other options include windows, wheels and automatic transmission. Our drive package was a short wheelbase, low roof, 5 door van with a 5 cylinder 2.5 litre turbocharged diesel engine. The performance of this unit was quite lively, to say the very least, and very impressive. We at the Next Car Team thoroughly enjoy driving any vehicle with a diesel power plant and this Volkswagen is one of the best.

The towing capacity of a VW Transporter van, with the 128 kW TDI engine and 4MOTION drivetrain, is 2,500 kilogrammes for a braked trailer (750 kilogrammes for an unbraked trailer).

The warranty period is 3 years or 100,000 kms with roadside assistance. Naturally, there are conditions with the coverage.

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Value for your money is well represented in Volkswagen’s T5 Transporter SWB TDI 4MOTION Van which retails from $43,990 plus the usual on-road costs. The T5 is available on a 'made to measure' basis, as many optional extras are available. We haven't detailed all the options as the extensive list makes it possible to have almost every T5 differ from each other.

During the drive period the team covered over 700 kms and whilst fuel consumption was not tested we found the package was quite frugal, which was what we expected of this well tried reliable unit. Volkswagen's figures indicate 9.7 litres per 100 kms is the achievement to comply with the ADR 81/10 standard.

This particular package was enjoyed by all at Next Car and we are pleased to highly recommended it to those motorists that have a need for a van of unique style, which features an immense array of variants, and one which is quite impressive to drive.

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