Volkswagen Crafter VS LDV T60
- Great safety standard
- Designed for work
- Easy to operate
- Rubber floor can be slippery
- Some options could be standard
- Pedal position a little high
- Improved suspension
- Packed with features
- Sharp pricing
- Flat seats
- Can be noisy
The person who delivers your new golf shoes or stretch denim jeggings isn’t just a nameless delivery driver – they’ve got families and friends to go home to, as well.
Their offices are often exposed to more danger than most, though, so Volkswagen decided to build its all-new Crafter commercial range to offer the same level of safety – and similar levels of comfort – as its passenger car range.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
The LDV T60 was rather a pleasant surprise at its Australian launch in 2017. It was a Chinese-built dual-cab ute that actually looked pretty good, seemed well-built, drove nicely, was adequately capable off-road and it was sharply priced and well-equipped.
Now, a few years down the track, the big news is that all new LDV T60s on-sale now should come equipped with Australian-tuned suspension, which was only available previously in the limited edition Trailrider version of the LDV T60. Better still, the suspension tune-up was devised by Walkinshaw Automotive Group, the company responsible for long-time HSV production.
Has this change – aimed at improving the ute’s ride and handling and thus bolster its appeal to a ute-loving public – actually been successful?
We drove an LDV T60 Luxe, the top-spec of the two-variant T60 range, to find out.
|Engine Type||2.8L turbo|
The medium commercial space is set to heat up in the next few years, and Volkswagen’s uncompromising approach to the Crafter should stand it in good stead. It’s a bit hard to get a read on the car after such a brief test, so we’ll add to our knowledge base in the coming months.
There’s a Crafter option for every application, though, and VW claims its service network will stand behind the product right across the country… which it will need to do if it’s to take the fight to arch-rival Mercedes-Benz.
Which Crafter grade would you pick for your business? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
For what it is – a Chinese-built ute – the LDV T60 has been a sharply priced, well-equipped and rather decent work-and-play vehicle since its 2017 launch.
Now, a few years later, it’s still quietly impressive and with Walkinshaw-tuned suspension, I’m happy to say, it’s even a little bit better than it was.
It still lags behind the class-leading light commercial utes in some areas, but it's a sign of the times that a Chinese product is so well built and feature-packed. The new suspension has only served to boost the package.
The LDV T60 makes a very strong case as a feature-packed budget buy.
VW will also sell the Crafter with an optional Trendline styling package, but it won’t include a body kit, rear spoiler, side skirts or front spoiler. Instead it offers chrome garnishes for the interior, an additional 12-volt socket and hub caps.
Interior dimensions are vast even in the medium-wheelbase version, with familiar controls across the dash and steering wheel plucked from VW’s passenger car range. The van can be ordered with a regular or high roof, as well as with a so-called super high roof version.
The rear barn doors can also be upgraded to versions that open to 270 degrees on the medium- and long-wheelbase versions. They come standard on the biggest version.
Not really, but not every vehicle has to be a stylistic champion – sometimes it’s nice for a ute just to be a ute with few pretensions.
The T60 manages to strike a reasonable balance between being a bit retro, a little bit stylish and being mostly like a work-truck.
The Crafter comes in two styles, three lengths and three powertrains, and will eventually expand to a range of 59 variants by the time all models come on stream by early 2019.
The van comes in a three-seat single cab chassis style, while the dual cab is only offered in a seven-seat dual cab version.
A variety of roof heights is also offered, and it’s worth noting the higher roofs lower the roof rack load limit of 300kg on the standard height van.
VW is making a lot of the fact that it has worked the Crafter over from the ground up with feedback from real tradies, right down to making sure that there’s enough light in the cargo area for parcel couriers to read labels in the dark.
The interior, too, is festooned with storage compartments small and large right across the dash and through the cabin.
The new FWD version offers a 100mm lower loading area than the AWD and RWD models, too.
Load capacity, of course, varies from model to model. In the medium wheelbase van line, it’s the more powerful TDI410-powered rear-drive model with dual rear wheels that can carry the most across all vans at 2024kg, while the entry level Runner can carry 1384kg.
In the cab-chassis line, single-cab dual-wheel TDI410 takes the overall crown with 2392kg of payload ability.
If you want to add a towbar, the Crafter can tow up to 2500kg.
Overall, the ergonomics are quite good. It goes without saying there is a load of headroom, and there are small storage containers above the driver and passenger area.
The windscreen is massive, though the sealed off driver compartment does restrict visibility through the rear vision mirror. The Crafter also features aids like hill-start assist as well as hill-descent assist.
Crafters also feature a bench seat arrangement in the single row versions that can seat three people. The centre seat back can be folded down to form a tray table with two cupholders as standard. There's also an additional pair of cupholders on the dash, and huge door pockets on either side that can accept large bottles or Thermos flasks.
Other hidey holes for day-to-day gear are scattered through the cabin, including small trays in the doors and on the dash itself.
The steering wheel is polycarbonate, as is the gear shift knob. Don't forget these vehicles are built for hard work, not necessarily for luxury. A higher brake and accelerator pedal placement is quite a common feature of vans, and it places the foot at a slightly unusual angle if you're used to driving a regular car.
It's a more upright seating position, and does take a little bit of finessing to get the best fit. The sealed driver's compartment in our medium van tester allowed the seat to be ratcheted back to suit this 187cm driver, although we wonder if an XL-sized owner would be able to comfortably fit behind the wheel given the restriction of the rear bulkhead.
An 8.0-inch multimedia system has Apple CarPlay or Android Auto as standard, and it can be controlled from the steering wheel. You can also have two phones connected at the same time via Bluetooth. If you’re hanging onto the 1990s, unfortunately there’s no CD player any more, nor is there a DVD player… but the DAB radio is pretty good.
VW claims the Crafter’s 'App Connect' is a first for the category. Volkswagen also fits a 'Customer-Specific Functional Control Unit' (CFCU) to each Crafter. For example, the lights and siren on an ambulance can be controlled through the on-board CFCU, or if you have a digger unit on the back, the car can be programmed not to move while the digger arm is in motion.
The T60, one of the biggest dual-cab utes, is 5365mm long, 2145mm wide and 1887mm high. And it feels roomy inside to match those exterior dimensions. It also feels kind of classy inside, at least it does until you notice expanses of plastic and hard-wearing trim and it all strikes you as a bit cheap-looking.
The interior is all sweeping lines and big surfaces, made for real-world life. And you know what? You get what you paid for and the T60’s price-tag is pretty reasonable, remember?
The massive dash-top and the ute’s 10.0-inch touchscreen entertainment unit dominate the cabin.
The touchscreen is clear and bright but it’s fiddly to operate, proven to glare and the camera views represented on it are often dark and muddy-looking.
The cabin itself is tidy with storage space for driver and front-seat passenger; a flip-top centre-console bin, big door pockets, a dash-height cupholder for driver and front passenger and a bits-and-pieces tray, replete with two USB ports and a 12V socket.
Rear-seat passengers get ISOFIX and top-tether points, door pockets, a centre armrest with two cupholders and a 12V socket.
The front seats are comfortable enough but lack support, especially at the sides; the rear seats are flat and workmanlike. There’s plenty of room though, which is a big plus.
Interior fit and finish is good for the price and these build-quality positives, as before, may build on the ute’s appeal.
Price and features
Sitting above the Transporter in size, the Crafter will actually become the single most complex range in VW’s local line-up, with up to 59 variants set to go on sale by January 2019… so there’s a lot to look at.
In basic terms, it’ll come in three main chassis types, comprising medium, long, and long-with-rear-overhang (basically, there’s more van behind the rear axle). That’s then divided into unibody vans and cab-chassis variants, while the latter is divided further into single- and dual-cab models.
The price list starts at $48,490 for a six-speed manual-equipped medium wheelbase van, and covers 36 price points all the way through to a long-with-overhang high roof van with dual rear wheels, a twin-turbo 2.0-litre diesel and eight-speed ZF auto, as well as range-topping 5.5-tonne GVM (gross vehicle mass, or maximum weight of Crafter and cargo) limit, at $71,490.
Of those 36 price points, seven are offered with a single-turbo EA288 Nutz (VW’s designation for commercial engines) 2.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel, while the rest feature a twin-turbo version of the same engine. Seven are also offered in six-speed manual guise.
All models are equipped with single-zone climate control, tilt- and reach-adjustable steering column, daytime running lights, an 8.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system with digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, voice control, a four-speaker sound system and Bluetooth.
There is also lots of USB and auxiliary connectivity, rubber floor mats, cruise control, heated and powered external mirrors, power lumbar support for the driver seat, and front power windows.
There are also a host of options for the driver’s compartment, including upgraded multimedia, automatic wipers, better seats and more driver aids, while LED headlights, GPS sat nav, wooden floor coverings and plywood panelling for vans are also on the long options list.
If you’re looking for accessories like a nudge bar, bullbar, awning or a light bar, you’ll need to source them yourself, and the same goes for leather seats.
When it comes to colours, there’s a surprisingly wide variety on offer, including black, blue, white, orange, silver, red and grey.
The LDV T60 Luxe automatic costs $37,331 (driveaway). Our test vehicle had metallic paint (premium paint an option, $500) and a tow bar/harness kit (list price $769.45 excluding GST, fitting and labour varies per dealer.) The base-spec is the Pro, which also comes in manual or automatic.
All T60s now have the new suspension tune fitted as standard.
The top-spec Luxe gets a whole bunch of stuff for such a sharp price including 10.0-inch colour touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, leather seats and a leather-bound steering wheel, electrically six-way adjustable and heated front seats, automatic climate control, ’Smart Key' system with Start/Stop button, 4WD with high and low range, 17-inch alloys with a full-sized spare, side steps, and roof rails, 360° view camera, adaptive headlights, as well as an automatic locking rear differential as standard.
Engine & trans
Two specs of the same engine size are offered in the Crafter. The (EA288 Nutz) 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel comes in both single and twin-turbo configurations; the single spinner is known as the TDI340, puts out 103kW/340Nm, and the TDI410 twin huffer grunts out 130kW/410Nm.
It’s best to check your manual for oil type and capacity, while injector problems haven’t been noted as an issue in the Nutz (commercial) version of the EA288. It uses a timing chain rather than a timing belt for longevity. VW has fitted the driveline with an AdBlue system, along with a diesel particulate filter.
No petrol version of the Crafter is available. There are no reports of injector problems.
The AWD version uses a Haldex system, a mechanical diff lock and hill descent assist, and offers a 4000kg GVM as well. It’ll cost $4500 more than the FWD system, which VW claims is a quarter of the cost of similar systems from its key competitors.
A six-speed manual gearbox has been the only option up to this point, but VW believes the market for vehicles like the Crafter will swing from 90 per cent manual to 80 per cent automatic within a couple of years.
The ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission is a key upgrade to the Crafter, and it dates back to 2008. A derivative of the unit used in the Amarok (and the Bentley Continental GT, as it happens), it’s available on all three drivelines. Automatic gearbox problems aren’t an issue with the ZF.
A second battery and/or alternator is also available from the factory, to help power any and all devices you might want to mount.
Our drive program was far too brief to comment meaningfully on fuel economy figures, but we noted a figure of 10.2 litres per 100km after a 65km test period around the streets of Auckland aboard an auto TDI410-equipped van.
Volkswagen doesn’t supply fuel consumption figures because of the sheer variance in size and spec across the range. None of its competitors do, either.
All Crafters have a fuel tank capacity which measures 75 litres in size.
LDV T60s have a 75-litre fuel tank. The LDV T60 Luxe auto has a claimed fuel consumption of 9.6L/100km for the auto; an average of 9.5L/100km was registering on the dash display.
We recorded an actual fuel consumption on test of 9.9L/100km after more than 400km of driving and that included about 30km of off-roading, with about 5km of that in low-range.
There is nothing aboard that makes it difficult for the average operator to jump in and use it. It's really just like a regular car to drive, except for its sheer size.
Ease of use is vital for a van that's often used on the road for 12 hours a day, or more. And the Crafter has been designed from the ground up to make life as easy for its driver as possible.
Climbing abroad, the ability to adjust the steering wheel for reach, and height instantly gives you the impression the Crafter is going to be a very user-friendly device.
Volkswagen has worked hard to make the standard seats as comfortable as possible, and there is the ability to option them to an even higher level.
The medium wheelbase automatic we tested also featured automatic parking, which, for a large van in an urban environment, is an absolute bonus. And it works amazingly well. There's nothing like a five metre-plus van reverse-parking itself as the driver holds his hands in the air to make passers-by gawk in amazement.
Throttle response is linear and easy to manage, as is the electrically assisted steering, though you have to wind on a bit of lock to get around a corner. Disc brakes all round give the Crafter a good middle pedal feel, too. A brief drive in a manual reveals a light clutch and shift action.
The ride is well controlled even when it’s unladen, if verging on a little stiff – but it’s possible to uprate the suspension to suit loads of up to 2.4 tonnes, depending on variant, so a spin around Auckland’s CBD aboard a Crafter with 500kg of low-slung weight isn’t going to tell us too much.
We can tell you that if you’re looking for a 4x4 with air suspension and off road-ready all-terrain tyres that’s begging for a lift kit, this is not the place. The Crafter only comes with steel wheels, and its 0-100km/h acceleration speed isn’t especially important.
The 2060kg T60 gets around pretty well, though there are a few things you have to get used to. We did more than 400km in it, most of that on bitumen with about 50km of off-roading, and about 10km of that in low-range.
It’s never been the most lively of dual-cab utes to drive and often feels underpowered, but it still ticks along evenly enough, relaxed and under-stressed.
The engine is slow to respond and it can be noisy when pushed particularly hard, but generally the T60 is on the right side of quiet – inside the cabin, anyway.
The six-speed auto is mostly a smooth-working unit and produces no abrupt shifts up or down.
The suspension set-up is still double wishbone at the front and leaf springs at the rear, but Walkinshaw has worked its magic to improve ride and comfort. The Pro suspension was previously very firm (to cope with heavy loads), and the Luxe’s tended to wallow, due to its Comfort setting.
I can’t speak of the Pro’s* changes as a result of the tune because I haven’t been in one yet but the Luxe certainly feels more controlled, more comfortable than it did before, although it still feels like it errs slightly on the firmer side of the suspension equation. Damping control has been tweaked to improve general unladen ride quality – the result is not quite coil-sprung-like but it’s getting close. (Pro variants have heavy-duty rear springs for work duties.)
Steering is generally on-point, although there is pronounced understeer on tighter corners, but otherwise the ute holds well through tight corners and longer, sweeping bends.
The T60’s all-terrain tyres – Dunlop Grandtrek AT20 (245/65R17) – are on the mild side of aggressive and do a solid job.
The T60 has disc brakes all-round, which yielded plenty of bite during our “Watch out for that roo!” emergency-braking tests, one on bitumen, one on dirt.
Nit-picking: it’s annoying to adjust the rear-view mirror, as there’s a ceiling bulge that gets in the way; as mentioned, the parking camera and 360-degree view offer up quite a muddy on-screen view of the world outside; and, most worrying, there was a massive thump in the transmission while I was driving about 30km/h down a slight decline at the time, as if there’d been a violent shift between 2WD and 4WD. That happened on different days on different roads.
VW has taken standard safety for a commercial vehicle to a new high. Front, side and curtain airbags for front-row passengers, 'Front Assist' with AEB, post-crash multi-collision braking, crosswind assist, front and rear parking sensors and reversing camera are all standard. It would be great to be able to turn on the rear view camera just to check what is behind the Crafter without reverse engaged, but that's a minor quibble.
Optional systems include park assist, adaptive cruise control, rear traffic alert, active lane keep assist and sensor-based side assist. You’ll have to leave the youngest tradies at home, though – there are no ISOFIX points in the Crafter.
The LDV T60 range has a five-star ANCAP rating, as a result of testing in 2017.
As standard, the Luxe has six airbags, two ISOFIX and top-tether points in the back seat, blind-spot monitor, EBA, 360°-view camera, rear parking sensors, hill-hold, a tyre-pressure monitoring system and more.
Service intervals of 20,000km or 12 months are recommended, and Volkswagen’s fixed service program applies. The first five services to 100,000km will cost $3279 in total; just keep the owner’s manual up to date.
A three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty is offered, along with three year’s free roadside service.