Volkswagen Crafter Van Review
Facts At A Glance
ENGINES:5-cylinder 2.5-litre TDI diesel 109PS
GROSS VEHICLEWEIGHTS: 3.5t
VolkswagenCrafter 2.5 TDI 109 MWB Van - WHICHCRAFTER?
Volkswagens don’t get much bigger than the Crafter and it’s as big on technology as it is in size.
You only need to spend a few minutes leafing through the glossy brochure for Volkswagen’s Crafter in order to appreciate how far panel vans haveprogressed. Within those pages, the vehicle’s technological arsenal is showcased and there are options there that would have graced a luxurysaloon spec-sheet just a few years back. Presenting the average vandriver with this document is much like handing him the lunch menu fromthe Dorchester. First, his eyes light up as the wonderful possibilities reveal themselves and everything looks so good until his gaze driftsacross to the right-hand column.
Asharp palpitation in the wallet region follows and before you know it,he’s ordered a small glass of tap water and asked if they do egg andchips.
TheCrafter options list offers buyers the potential to specify a panel vanthat’s positively crammed with technology and clever features but inthe real world of cold, hard financial reality - as lived in by thevast majority of van customers - the options list is where most ofthese desirable titbits will stay. The Crafters that we see on thestreet will be of far more modest persuasion but does that mean thattheir drivers should feel short-changed? We checked out a standardspecification Volkswagen Crafter 2.5 TDI 109 to find out.
OK,so our van wasn’t exactly a standard spec model: there was a plywoodload floor cover in the back that would have set us back £275, if wewere paying. What the van definitely didn’t have were the front andrear parking sensors with visual proximity displays in the wingmirrors, the parking brake with automatic hill hold control, thesatellite navigation system with CD autochanger or the visibility packwith its rain-sensing wipers and automatic headlamps with washers. Italso didn’t have cruise control, an electric sunroof, alloy wheels,‘Climatic’ air-conditioning or leatherette upholstery and the reasonwhy most working Crafters won’t feature many of these items either isthat when you tot them all up, they add around £4,000 to the price.This is a comparatively small hit if you’re a wealthy private buyerafter a top-end luxobarge but van buying businesses work to tighterbudgets.
"Refinementin the cabin proved to be first class"
Ourtest vehicle was in poverty spec form because that’s exactly how mostCrafters will roll off the production line from the word go.Nevertheless, it didn’t give the impression that we were missing out.Anyone familiar with Mercedes-Benz products will smell a rat as soon asthey climb into the Crafter’s cab as the switchgear the stereo with itschrome ringed dials and even the font on the instrument dials provokepangs of déjà vu. This is because the Crafter is part of acollaboration between VW and Mercedes that has also yielded the latestSprinter panel van. The two vehicles are almost identical bar thebadges and the interior design has a flavour that’s definitely moreMercedes than Volkswagen.
Evenin standard form, you get a CD stereo and height, reach and rakeadjustment on the driver’s seat. The build quality and design sets thestandard in the panel van sector with the simple controls offering aclassy look and a robust feel. Storage has been well thought out withpockets along the top of the dash to stop items sliding around, a clipon the centre console for paperwork, big door pockets and plenty of cupholders. The vast banks of blacked-out buttons hint at the gadgetrythat’s been left on the options list but it isn’t unduly missed.
Onearea where the Crafter does differ from its Sprinter sister vehicle isin the engine bay. Volkswagen have plumbed their own TDI common-railinjection units into the Crafter and the 109PS version we tried waswell up to the job. There are versions of the engine with 136PS and164PS power outputs to call upon but just as most operators will leavethe extensive options list alone, most will go for this more modestengine. The 109PS translates to 108bhp in old money and while thismight sound like a piffling amount to shift a medium wheelbase, highroof Crafter about, the engine proved very flexible and punchy on ourtest. This is largely thanks to the hefty 280lb/ft torque output that’sbeing generated at 2,000rpm. It ensures that the van acceleratesbriskly up to speed and has the muscle to keep up with trafficadequately on motorway trips. We were running without a payload on theback and operators who intend to carry big weights regularly would bewell advised to consider one of the more powerful engines.
Refinementin the cabin proved to be first class, the engine emitting a breathyrumble when pressed but otherwise settling into an unobtrusive thrum.Wind and road noise are very well suppressed and the comfortabledriving experience is also aided by what has to be the smoothest ridein any large panel van. The front suspension irons out the worst thatthe road surface throws up extremely well. The rear was less composedin out test vehicle but this will improve with some cargo to weigh downthe heavy duty springs. The steering is well resolved, giving anaccurate turn in while remaining light enough for manoeuvring at lowspeeds. You soon lose track of the Crafter’s size while you’re drivingas the controls and the van’s responses do much to inspire confidence.
Evenon the basic model, equipment levels are generous, particularly withregard to safety. Remote central locking is standard as are electricwindows and a driver’s airbag. Then you’ve got an active safetyprovision that runs to ABS, electronic brakeforce distribution and ahighly advanced version of the ESP Electronic Stability Control system.Storage is fairly well catered for with door pockets, an overhead shelfand a glovebox that can be air-conditioned to keep drinks cool. TheCrafter’s doors automatically lock once you hit 10mph to preventundesirables stealing your lunch while you’re stopped at the lights.
Isthere a better quality large panel van out there than the VolkswagenCrafter? On the evidence of this test drive in the kind of model thatUK operators typically order, you’d have to say not. The frontalstyling will jar with some but panel vans aren’t supposed to be prettyanyway. The only serious drawback is that cost tends to be the toppriority amongst cash-strapped van buyers and the Crafter is priced ata premium compared to rivals. You can see and feel where the extramoney goes with this van but in many cases it won’t be the driver who’ssigning the cheque. Residual values will be strong, however, andVolkswagen should find more than enough willing customers, especiallyfrom the user-chooser sector.