Following the recent cold snap — it’s what used to be called winter in the old days — it’s hardly surprising that the thought of having a four-wheel drive light commercial has come to the fore in some operator’s minds. With immaculate timing Volkswagen has introduced 4MOTION versions of its just updated Transporter.
As on the previous 4MOTION range the four-wheel drive system is permanent, requires no input from the driver, does not feature a selectable low range and the ride height remains unchanged.
At the heart of the system is a new electronically controlled Haldex4 viscous coupling differential — it replaces the mechanical version fitted to previous generation Transporters — that sits in between the front and rear axles and automatically distributes torque to the wheels with the most grip. In normal driving conditions 90 per cent goes to the front and 10 per cent to the rear. In tricky conditions it can direct 100 per cent to the rear if necessary.
The move to an electronically controlled centre diff not only means there’s a quicker response to changing road conditions it also helps to reduce fuel consumption, claims VW. A mechanical locking rear diff can be found on the options list if required.
In the UK 4MOTION is available with two engine options; a 2-litre common rail turbodiesel producing either 140hp or 180hp. Capable of developing peak torque of 340Nm and 400Nm respectively, the former comes with a six-speed manual transmission while the latter — and it’s a first for 4MOTION — sports the stunning new seven-speed DSG semi-auto twin clutch transmission.
Available as both short- and long-wheelbase panel vans the new 4x4 Transporters can also be had as a Window Van (SWB and LWB) and as a long-wheelbase chassis cab and chassis crew cab. The 4x4 system adds around 100kg to the weight of the vehicle which results in a gross payload of 986kg for the SWB 140hp van, dropping to 925kg for the LWB 140hp.
VW decided to hold the launch of these new 4MOTION Transporters in the foot hills to the south of Munich, presumably in the hope of letting us loose on some snow- and ice-covered roads; a perfect test scenario.
Unfortunately the roads were all clear, although it was fairly obvious there had been heaps of snow recently, as it was all piled up at the sides of the roads and the outer limits of the airport had ‘mountains’ of the stuff.
There was, however, a short section at the end of the test route in a forest section that had retained its low friction covering and it was here that the Transporter could demonstrate its 4x4 prowess.
It tackled the icy track with such nonchalance that it was unimpressive. That was until on exiting the cab to take some snaps a rather aged grey-haired journalist slid about five metres and fell on his arse. Obviously the tyres helped — in this case Dunlop SP LT60-6 215/65x16 ‘C’s — but this relatively simple 4x4 system is surprisingly accomplished.
In normal driving conditions the Transporter 4MOTION feels just like it’s front-wheel drive brothers to drive, although the additional transmission components do sap some of the engine’s power, but show it some adverse conditions and it comes into its own. And all without the driver having to do anything.
4MOTION adds around £2,200 to the cost of a Transporter, which isn’t cheap, but as this winter ably demonstrated it could pay for itself very quickly. Roll on next year’s white-out.
Transporter 4MOTION is not designed to be a go-anywhere off-roader. What it does do, however, is provide additional traction automatically in adverse conditions and will take muddy tracks and building sites in its stride.