First Drive: VW Transporter Sportline

Date: Thursday, September 29, 2011

The king of Volkswagen’s van range has returned for a second reign. The VW Transporter Sportline is the only serious rival to Ford’s Transit Sportvan models, offering a dash of style and sportiness unknown to commercial vehicle drivers of years gone by.

The pre-facelift Sportline has proved popular enough for VW to repeat the process of adding a pile of standard equipment to make the Sportline both look and feel like a cut above other vans. It comes in both long- and the short-wheelbase form driven here.
Standard equipment includes front and rear spoilers, polished stainless steel side runners, unique Sportline-branded 18-inch alloys, smoked rear light units and matt black door mirrors, while the interior is adorned with two-tone leather seats, rear parking sensors and a Kenwood satellite navigation system complete with Bluetooth hands-free mobile phone capability. The Deep Black pearlescent paint is one of two standard choices, along with Reflex Silver metallic, or there is the optional Candy White with gloss black roof for those that find the standard Sportline just a little too subtle.
Power, and plenty of it, comes from the excellent and refined 180hp diesel engine, mated to a standard and slick-shifting six-speed gearbox, though the seven-speed DSG automatic well-loved in other applications is a £1400 option. Those bigger wheels don’t significantly harm the ride quality, and the steering is pleasantly direct, giving about as sporty drive as is possible in a medium-sized van.
The big leather seats both look and feel the part, even if their chunkiness means the driver’s seat won’t slide back as far as is ideal for taller drivers. The only problem is the Kenwood audio and satnav system that’s clunky to use on the stereo functions, and just feels a little old-tech compared to the rest of the cutting-edge-styled Sportline. And the Sportline isn’t a catch-all, no options required sort of vehicle, with extras fitted to our test vehicle including cruise control, a £125 rubber floor cover and the handy £210 comfort pack that includes a carpeted cap, additional noise suppression, extra storage and vanity mirrors.
The load space is unsurprisingly the same as a standard short- or long-wheelbase Transporter with a standard height roof at 5.8 and 6.7m3 respectively, and payload sits at 1225kg for the SWB and 1168kg for the LWB, 20kg less for those optioned with the heavier DSG auto gearbox. The 36.2mpg official fuel consumption figure appears quite achievable, and more than acceptable for a commercial vehicle capable of accelerating from 0-62mph in under ten seconds.
The biggest stumbling block for the Sportline is the price. Kicking off at £28,220 excluding VAT for the short-wheelbase manual, it rises to £31,990 for the LWB Kombi version with DSG. That’s a big wad of cash for a medium-sized panel van, even one quite as appealing as this. But if you can stump up the asking price, it’s individual, classy, powerful and good to drive van.


A welcome return for the Transporter Sportline in post-facelift trim. Expensive, but if you can foot the purchase price then it looks and feels like plenty of van for the money.


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