Originally introduced in 2003, the current fifth generation Transporter (T5) has had a makeover with minor changes to the front/rear-end styling and dashboard.
The big difference, however, is under the bonnet. Gone are the 1.9-litre four-cylinder and 2.5.litre five-cylinder direct injection engines, replaced by four versions of a new Euro 5 2.0-litre common rail four cylinder diesel unit.
Available with power outputs of 84hp, 102hp, 140hp and 180hp the new engines are capable of developing peak torque of 220Nm, 250Nm, 340Nm and 400Nm respectively. Transporter remains front-wheel drive, although 4x4 4MOTION models can be specified, with the two most powerful engines mated to a six-speed manual transmission. The remaining two come with a five-speeder. The 140hp and 180hp TDIs can also be had with a seven-speed version of VW’s excellent DSG semi-auto twin-clutch transmission.
Service intervals have increased to 25,000 miles (or two years) for all engines bar the 180hp; that remains at 18,000 miles. ABS is, of course, standard and the latest generation Transporters also benefit from full ESP which includes Traction Control and a Hill Holder function.
With gross vehicle weights of 2.6t, 2.8t, 3.0t and 3.2t, Transporter has a choice of two wheelbases and three roof heights and can be had with gross payloads ranging from 729kg to 1,333kg and load space of 5.8m3 to 9.3m3.
Load width is 1,692mm at its maximum, decreasing to 1,244mm between the wheel boxes and load length is 4,892mm for the SWB, rising to 5,292mm on the LWB. The standard roof gives a load height of 1,990mm, increasing to 2,176mm for the medium option and 2,283mm for the high roof (LWB only). A nearside sliding load door comes as standard, but an offside one can be added if required. On the LWB high roof variants these are full-height.
Either six (SWB) or eight (LWB) load lashing points are provided and the cargo area is lined to half its height. Optional lining kits are available, along with rubber flooring.
Anyone familiar with the current Transporter will notice some changes have taken place in the cab. There’s a new three-spoke steering wheel, the instrument binnacle now features new high visibility white-on-black graphics — which are really excellent, by the way — and the heater/ventilation controls have been redesigned. Updated radio/CD players have also been added to the mix, along with new factory-fitted sat nav units.
Transporter comes with high levels of passive and active safety features as standard, but a glance at the options list shows that it is possible to specify even more.
Take Side Assist, for example. A radar-based system constantly scans the van’s sides and rear and warns the driver if he indicates to change lanes and risks hitting another vehicle which might be lurking in a blind spot or approaching at high speed. It’s activated above 20mph and the warning is provided by LEDs in the appropriate door mirror.
There’s also a reversing camera, a tyre pressure monitoring system and even what VW refers to as a static turning light. Integrated into the front fog lights, this is activated by turning the steering wheel or indicating and illuminates the area into which the driver is turning.
This latest round of updates makes what was already an excellent van into an even better one. We will miss the five-cylinder thrum from under the bonnet, but the new engines are cleaner and more economical.