First Drive: VW Crafter 163hp

Date: Wednesday, August 15, 2012

When VW launched the revised Crafter last year, one little anomaly is that the most powerful model was also the most efficient.

We’ve now had the chance to get behind the wheel of that 163hp version of the 2.0-litre TDI as a MWB high roof, and in Bluemotion form that makes it the only Crafter that gets below 200g/km for a 37.2mpg average on the official test cycle. The 163hp unit is also available in LWB and Maxi form, and, though not a as Bluemotion model, with the 5.0t Crafter.
The Bluemotion version of the 3.5t 163hp Bi-turbo engine costs £300 more than the regular model, but comes with cruise control – normally a £215 option – and stop-start, both features designed to reduce fuel usage. The cruise also features a speed limiter, useful for avoiding a gentle drift up to higher, less economical and less legal speeds.
The 163hp engine is priced at  £500 over the 143hp version, but there’s a noticeable performance gap that will lead those doing inter-city work, carrying heavy loads or towing trailers to think it’s well worth the investment. Plus there’s the fuel saving, with the 163hp model a full 3mpg better on the official test than its less powerful sibling.
The rest of the driving experience doesn’t let the power down either, with the Crafter capable of safe and secure progress on motorways or B-roads, though aircon being a £1000 option isn’t great for drivers making the kind of longer runs that will favour the more powerful engine. But the comfortable upright seating position is helped by a height-adjustable chair, though more adjustment on the steering wheel would be welcome. There’s also more wind noise than some rivals.
Volkswagen wants the revised Crafter range to pull its weight in sales terms this year, with the model pinpointed as a key area of growth, having previously described it as “scraping the surface of the market”.
There’s no payload loss on the Bluemotion Technology version of
the largest engine, with it offering
the same 1695kg as the 143hp alternative, although the non-Bluemotion 163hp is 11kg
worse off at 1384.
The facelift improved on the controversial looks of the pre-revision Crafter, and it’s a very competent van in a sector of increasing quality. This 163hp engine’s combination of power and efficiency is peerless at present, and makes for an enticing top-end of the range for owners requiring the additional pull over a 143hp model. The fact that it’s more efficient than smaller engines makes the business case easier to handle, gaining back some of the premium for the most powerful Crafter on sale.

 

Verdict
Most powerful Crafter makes sense on emissions and price for higher mileage operators

 

 



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