The Transporter 6.1 is the latest in a very long line of vans of that name in which generations of tradespeople have placed their trust. Professional Builder’s Lee Jones gets behind the wheel.
In the world of four wheels there are certain brands that have achieved the status of industry institution, and the Transporter is certainly a case in point. Almost as ubiquitous as the tarmac on which successive models have clocked incalculable miles, at 70 years young, VW’s flagship LCV has been in production for longer than any of its rivals. Indeed, take into account its variants in panel, minibus and campervan and it’s comfortably the biggest selling van of all time – with more than 12 million units sold and counting. The Transporter 6.1 is the latest instalment in this success story, and it is a tale of advances in design and technology on every front.
For builders, the business end of any commercial vehicle is the loadspace, and the Transporter is available with a full range of body styles. Each of the trades will, of course, have subtly different requirements, and with payloads from 772 – 1,309kg – and load volumes starting at 5.8 and extending to a cavernous 9.3m3 – this is a vehicle with the muscle to manfully cope with whatever a builder can throw in it, with even the short wheelbase option accommodating two Euro pallets. Indeed, four gross vehicle weights, three wheelbase lengths, and a high roof version, should allow for a vehicle configured to the exact needs of your business.
Enter into that space via a choice of rear tailgate or rear wing doors, and the trades who opt for the long wheelbase model will welcome the convenience of a low loading height of just 566mm. If you need to approach from the side then there’s the option of two sliding doors, each of which will grant access to load lengths stretching from 2,572 – 2,975mm.
Sufficient brawn there may well be but this is equally a vehicle with brains. In the modern world, we demand to be digitally connected at all times, and that’s just what the Transporter provides. It’s online connectivity unit (OCU), now available as standard on all infotainment systems, opens up a brave new world of internet-based services. The ‘We Connect’, ‘We Connect Plus’ or the fleet management system ‘We Connect Fleet’, introduces smartphone integration and a host of additional functions. A 6.5in. colour touchscreen is your in-cab gateway to an information highway, whilst the app will allow you to access the vehicle’s systems remotely.
Effectively a remote control unit when outside your vehicle, We Connect offers the convenience of emergency and breakdown call, and a vehicle health report, and much more besides. Ever experienced the exasperation of walking along endless rows of vehicles in a car park looking for yours? Of course you have, but with Park Position you’ll never need to again, because the exact location is on your smartphone. With the additional functionality of We Connect Plus you can even lock and unlock the doors, and access an online anti-theft alarm.
We live in a digital world and the advances that have been made in the field of the internet of things are prodigious, a trend equally matched in the onward march of driver assistance and safety. Thanks to the introduction of electro-mechanical power steering, a whole host of systems can now quite literally take the wheel. Cross Wind Assist, for example, makes use of the vehicle’s Electronic Stability Control programme to mitigate the potentially dangerous consequences of a sudden and unexpected blast, and is automatically activated at speeds over 50mph. Lane Assist keeps the Transporter on the straight and narrow by counter steering if it crosses the line, whilst a simple push of a button will engage Trailer Assist, and help you safely reverse when towing plant and equipment.
If rear view cameras are not enough – and there are three different options to choose from – Park Assist will map the Transporter 6.1’s entire surroundings. Park Assist 3.0 takes the technology a stage further still by identifying suitable spaces, and automatically parking the vehicle, or manoeuvring out of tight spots – and these are far from the only safety innovations that will intervene on your behalf. Both the Manoeuvre Braking Function, and Rear Traffic Alert will apply the brakes if they anticipate a collision with a static or moving object. Traffic Sign Recognition identifies a host of road signs and flashes them on the instrument display, and Front Assist with City Emergency Braking will maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front, and will stop the Transporter in order to prevent a crash.
The internal combustion engine has been on an emissions-busting journey of its own in recent years, and its latest destination is Euro6. If you want to access the ultra-low emission zones that will in the future be as much a feature of our town and city centres as pound shops and coffee houses then it represents the minimum requirement, and could well be reason enough alone to make the not inconsiderable investment in a new van. It has introduced technologies like Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) and Diesel Particulate Filters (DPFs) to our commercial vehicle vocabulary, with drivetrains now on a mission to reduce thirst whilst increasing output.
The Transporter is on that self-same path and is powered by a choice of four different engines, two of which have been reconfigured on that basis. The entry level 2.0-litre TDI 90 PS replaces a previous 84 PS unit, for instance, and the 2.0-litre TDI 110 comes in for the former 102 PS motor.
A vehicle like the Transporter doesn’t so much blur the boundaries between car and van as break them down completely, and each new incarnation brings over more of the equipment that we are accustomed in our saloons, estates and SUVs. Now into its seventh decade, it is a van that has quite literally stood the test of time.