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Volkswagen Transporter 2009 Review

Volkswagen's great twin-clutch DSG transmission will be available on some models.

You don't expect light commercial vehicles to drive like cars. But it's nice when they make the effort.

And Volkswagen has worked to improve their range of cargo and people-hauling vans, with the new Transporter, Multivan and Caravelle offering better and more economical engines, additional and improved equipment and more driving safety features.

For small businesses as well as private buyers, the engines and their fuel economy will be a key point of interest. But the other good news for them is that for the first time, ESP and ABS will be standard across the range.

And Volkswagen's great twin-clutch DSG transmission will be available on some models with 4Motion all-wheel drive system with a Haldex coupling.

There has been a cosmetic facelift, but nothing in the way of structural changes, and the T5 is expected to still sit at four stars in crash tests, although head of the T5 development program, Dr Holger Westendorf, says it will be 'borderline' with five stars, with extra points coming from the addition of side curtain airbags.


Europe will a range of four 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbodiesels when the vans land in showrooms early in 2010, but Australia will be taking only two of these: the 103kW with 340 Nm at 1750rpm, and 132kW with 400Nm from a low 1500rpm. Transmissions are a six-speed dash-mounted manual or the seven DSG.

The lower-energy of the two four-cylinder turbodiesels develops 103k/w of power at 3500rpm and 340Nm of torque between 1750-2500rpm, giving it a 0-100km/h time of 13.1 seconds in the least slipstreaming model - the high-roof long-wheelbase Transporter — and a top speed of around 170km/h.

That variant's 10.7l/100km and 250g/km of CO2 are pretty good, considering its size, but in other versions of the T5, Volkswagen claims they get as low as 7.4l/100km and 195gm/km with the six-speed manual transmission.

But the high-roof Transporter body with the biturbo 2.0-litre posts just 7.9l/100km and 205g/km, and offers better outputs, developing 132kW of power at 4000rpm and a hefty 400Nm of torque between1500-200rpm, which in the high-roof front-wheel drive Transporter gets it to 100km/h in 10.3 seconds and a top speed of around 190km/h.

We tested both engines and transmissions in a version each of Transporter, Multivan and Caravelle, and - unsurprisingly - found the best performance from the higher-tuned engine mated to the DSG. We sampled this drivetrain in an up-specced Caravelle, with lounge seats and centre console in the rear.

But even though the DSG is acknowledged as one of the best gearboxes in the world, it still has its niggles in this application. Under the standard automatic drive mode, it was just a touch on the lazy side, while in the sport mode it was a bit hardcore - kicking down too early and holding the slots too long for comfort.

In the end we put it into the 'manu-matic' mode and rowed the shifter back and forth to suit.

However this was in a large, empty van, and there's little doubt that if we'd filled the rest of the seats and tossed in some luggage, we might have been very happy to have the extra urge offered by the DSG.

Similarly, the 103kW engine's somewhat notchy manual transmission tested in an empty Multivan had the same Goldilocks syndrome. Since it's logically calibrated for load, third gear was too low for an empty van, while fourth was too tall above it.

It was occasionally running out of puff in the higher gears, but might have been happier carrying a load so that the lower gears could come onto the field more smoothly for slopes and curves.

The same misfit lower gearing problem applied with the 103kW manual drivetrain in the empty Transporter, however there was no straining on steep slopes in the taller ones, and this could be due to the empty cargo van being about 200kg lighter than the passenger one.

On the road, the passenger vans' soft suspensions tended to keep bobbing after hitting bumps, but they're likely to settle down with a load of bodies strapped into the seats.

All body types offered easy entry into the rear, with sliding doors opening smoothly on huge access points and very workable load floor heights.

Equipment and fit-out

A host of equipment from the Volkswagen passenger stable has made its way into the LCVs. Joining the DSG are features like three-spoke steering wheels, touchscreen satnav, quality audio, and a long list of safety tech including rear parking camera, hill-start assist, blind-spot alert and tyre pressure monitoring.

It still doesn't turn them into passenger vehicles, but they're a far cry from the spartan vans that have been the stereotype for the light commercial segment.


Pricing guides

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Range and Specs

Crewvan (SWB) 2.5L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $9,900 – 14,850 2009 Volkswagen Transporter 2009 Crewvan (SWB) Pricing and Specs
Crewvan (LWB) 2.5L, Diesel, 6 SP $11,200 – 16,390 2009 Volkswagen Transporter 2009 Crewvan (LWB) Pricing and Specs
(LWB) 2.5L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $9,700 – 14,630 2009 Volkswagen Transporter 2009 (LWB) Pricing and Specs
LWB 4 MOTION 2.5L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $16,610 – 21,340 2009 Volkswagen Transporter 2009 LWB 4 MOTION Pricing and Specs
Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.