The What Van? Road Test: Volkswagen Crafter

Date: Monday, August 14, 2017   |   Author: Steve Banner

Tired of seeing so many supermarket home-delivery fleets opting for Mercedes-Benz’s Sprinter or Iveco’s Daily, Volkswagen wants its piece of the pie.

It believes the virtues of the latest Crafter should prompt some of the big retailers to place it on their shopping lists, and the availability of a fully automatic eight-speed gearbox as an option for the first time should help VW makes its case, as the supermarkets are increasingly favouring auto ’boxes for home delivery work.

Not that there is much wrong with the new Crafter’s standard six-speed manual gearbox, and both ’boxes mesh well with the newcomer’s 2.0-litre common-rail diesel, the only engine fitted to the vehicle.

Grossing at from 3.0 to 5.5 tonnes, and produced in van, chassis cab and chassis double-cab guise, the new Crafter is on offer with either front- or rear-wheel drive. Its predecessor was produced solely with the latter.

Also listed is a 4Motion four-wheel drive model, the first time the Crafter has been made available with a factory-sourced four-wheel drive system. A prototype electric Crafter has been exhibited too, but as yet there is no firm indication as to when it will appear in the UK.
Opt for front drive and the power options are 102hp, 140hp or 177hp, while rear drive gives you the choice of 122hp, 140hp, 163hp or 177hp. The most powerful engine in both line-ups boasts twin turbochargers.

Van load cubes are 9.9m3, 11.3m3, 14.4m3, 16.1m3, 16.4m3 and 18.4m3. Three different lengths and three different heights are up for grabs.

Front-wheel drive vans grossing at either 3.0 or 3.5 tonnes are the first to appear on this side of the Channel – the rest of the range will be rolled out during the course of this year – with gross payloads ranging from 735kg to 1,301kg. Customers can pick from Startline, Trendline or top-of-the-range Highline specification levels.

While previous Crafters shared certain key components with the Mercedes Sprinter, the latest offering is Volkswagen through and through. It is assembled in a dedicated plant at Wrzesnia in Poland, which can produce up to 100,000 units annually, up to 20% of which will be badged as MANs and sold as TGEs. Some €800m have been pumped into the 540-acre site, which suggests that VW means business.

We tackled a CR35 3.5t front-wheel drive medium-wheelbase (3,640mm) high-roof van in Trendline trim with a manual gearbox and 140hp on tap. We were not disappointed.


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