Volkswagen has began rolling out automatic, rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive 4Motion versions of its new Crafter van to join the front-wheel drive model it launched in May this year.

The CR35 (3.5-tonne) eight-speed automatic FWD Crafter went on sale with the 177hp derivative of the 2.0-litre diesel engine that powers the whole range in September in both panel van and chassis cab modes. The 140hp auto will join the line-up in both body shapes in the first quarter of 2018.

The 4Motion van and chassis cab CR35 Crafters also went on sale in September with manual transmission but customers after the auto will have to wait until the third or fourth quarter of next year.

The RWD CR35, meanwhile, will be available from the second quarter of 2018 with the 177hp engine and manual transmission but will not be offered as an automatic. The automatic ‘box will only be installed in RWD on the 5.0-tonne CR50 Crafter with dual rear wheels, which will come to the UK late next year.

VW said the battery-powered Crafter, which it unveiled at the Hanover Commercial Vehicle Show in 2016, would be available as a MWB, high-roof panel van only from the last quarter of 2018.

Excluding VAT, prices for the automatic Crafter start from £29,500, rise to £29,700 for RWD models and go on to an entry price of £33,150 for the 4Motion.

Mark Leonhardt, product marketing manager for the Crafter, said the automatic FWD Crafter would appeal to frequent-drop delivery operators, such as supermarkets, due to its ease of driving, allowing the driver “to focus on the traffic”, and the fact that at 570mm, its load floor is 100mm lower than that of the RWD model, thus making it easier for drivers to get goods in and out of the cargo area.

“20cm is saved every time [the delivery driver] gets in and out,” said Leonhardt.

He predicted RWD Crafters would be favoured by customers needing to tow heavier loads (the RWD CR35 can haul 3.5-tonnes compared to the 4Motion and FWD’s 3.0-tonnes) but said there was a 100kg payload deficit on RWD compared to FWD vans due to the additional weight of the drive system.