Volkswagen Crafter Trendline CR35 MWB 2.0 TDI 140 PS 6 speed
In the battle of the motorway cruisers, The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter has led the way for some time. Despite the Mk1 Volkswagen Crafter being almost identical to it’s Mercedes sibling, it has never enjoyed the same level of popularity, selling just over 8,000 units to UK customers in 2015. Whilst the smaller Volkswagen’s, the Transporter, Caddy plus the Amarok pick-up, have sold well, the Crafter, launched in 2006, just got by, limited in some instances by the lack of model choice & carrying volume compared to it’s rivals
The launch of the Mk2 Crafter in 2017, was an important one for Volkswagen, who are hoping that it will contribute a greater percentage of sales within it’s CV range worldwide. And, choice wise it’s off to a good start. The latest Crafter is offered in front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive & 4Motion all-wheel-drive with a range of three versions of the same 2.0-litre TDI engine, offering power outputs of 100bhp, 138bhp & 175bhp. The 100bhp unit delivers torque of 300Nm between 1,400 & 2,250rpm, the 138bhp option has 340Nm from 1,600rpm to 2,250rpm, with the range-topping BiTurbo unit offering 410Nm between 1,500 & 2,000rpm. It’s also available as single or double cab with varying lengths, with or without conversions solutions, including dropsides & tippers (ex-factory). It also has a maximum gross vehicle weight (GVW) of 5.5 tonnes.
The mid-range Trendline MWB, driven by the 140PS engine & coupled to the 6-speed manual gear box was the model that was delivered to CC&V for us to review.
First things first. The Crafter looks fantastic & is much more in keeping with the Volkswagen passenger car look, which is not a bad thing ! There’s a new front design, with large wrap-around headlights & a Volkswagen-branded slimline chrome-trimmed grille. The sides have two neat fold’s in them giving the van an aero-dynamic look & at the back, the large VW logo coupled with large rear light clusters, really finish s the look off. Inside is the nicest van interior I have this far experienced, coming as it does with a car-like ambience to it. The driving position is excellent. Both the switchgear & steering wheel are borrowed from Volkswagen’s car range & the quality of the plastics & finishes rival its cars as well. The instruments are also very much along the line found in the VW passenger car range, with the highlight being the 8” touchscreen that site in the centre of the dash.
In cabin storage is generous. There are two door pockets in each door, an array of dash-top cubbies with a USB connection plus two 12-volt power supply’s. There are a number of cup holders, a decent-sized glovebox & on our test model the addition of overhead storage above all three front seats, adds even more useful space.
The central passenger seat can be folded down to create a desk, with both front passenger seats turning over to offer even more storage space underneath them. The full steel bulkhead keeps the cabin warm as well as quiet. All three front passenger get great head & legroom, with the drivers seat offer more configurations than Pep Guardiola’s tactics book. I kid you not. The Crafter was also the first van in its class to be available with a driver’s seat that has approval from ARG, which is the German campaign for healthy backs. This optional ergoComfort seat has no fewer that 14 different position settings & a shock cushioning system that can be adjusted for the driver’s weight.
Equipment levels are excellent. Standard safety kit on all models includes four airbags, ESP stability control, Automatic Post-Collision Braking System & side-wind assist, while Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Assist & Front-Assist emergency braking are options, with all fitted to our Trendline test model.
All of the Volkswagen Crafter’s engines are 2.0-litre units from VW’s EA 288 family of commercial vehicle units, develop dot offer low down pulling power as well as fuel efficiency. All are Euro6 compliant, & feature common-rail injection engines fitted with an advanced SCR catalytic convertor system to clean the exhaust gases. A stop-start system is also fitted as standard, with VW claiming a 15% improvement in fuel economy over the previous Crafter, whilst Volkswagen claims class-leading aerodynamics of 0.33 Cd.
The 6-speed manual model we tested, with the 138bhp engine returns a claimed 38.2mpg on the combined cycle with CO2 emissions of 193g/km. Neither are to be fair, earth shattering. Volkswagen has also reduced running costs through extended service intervals compared to the old Crafter. There’s one less oil-change needed in the first 200,000km than before along with other measures to make the services that are required more affordable.
Although the MWB Crafter is a large van, it never feels big on the road. It drives & handles like a saloon car & is, alongside stablemate the MAN TGE & Mercedes-Benz’s latest Sprinter, comfortably ahead of all other vans in drivability in it’s class. This is partly due to the fitting of the electromechanical steering system in the Crafter, which was a first for the large panel van class. This basically adjusts the steerings weight, according to the van’s speed. The easy to reach six-speed gear stick is neat & slick to work & the overall feeling driving the new Crafter is incredibly relaxing, far more so than n other vans of this size.
The infotainment system shames many £30,000 cars for ease of use & quality. The SatNav is excellent, the DAB radio easy to navigate & the Bluetooth system connects quickly with the steering wheel controls enabling hands-free calls to be made safely.
Large vans need to offer decent storage. The Crafter has been designed to maximise carrying capacity & the new expanded range gives it a wider variety of body sizes than before. There are three vehicle lengths, starting with our 5,986mm ‘mid-length’ model, then the long wheelbase version at 6,836mm, plus there’s the ‘long-wheelbase plus overhang’ version, with an extended rear overhang, taking total length to 7,391mm. On top of that are a trio of roof heights, with the maximum cargo capacity on offer now being 18.4m3. Front-wheel drive variants have gross vehicle weights of between 3 & 4 tonnes. The rear-wheel drive models offer gross vehicle weights between 3.5 and 5.5 tonnes & the 4Motion 4×4 Crafters offer the carrying of weights up to 4 tonnes.
Our test model offers a payload of 3.5t, a capacity of 14.4 cubic metres & measures 5,986mm long by 2,427mm wide by 2,590 mm high. The rear doors open up to 270 degrees & the side door has a 1,311mm opening. Our MWB test model offers space for six Euro pallets, whilst the load bay itself is lined with rigging tracks giving a host of different options for securing cargo. Taking advantage of a large van for a week, I used the Crafter to transport a second-hand wardrobe measuring 2m high x 1.5 m wide & it fitted in the back very, very easily. A wide range of options is also available, designed to tailor the panel van loadbay for different needs. A wooden floor with integrated shelving mounts that allow the installation of existing racking systems is offered, along with an interior roof rack & storage boxes over the wheel arches.
Out on the road, the Crafter really is a joy to drive. Somehow VW have managed to make a large van feel like driving an everyday car, even on smaller winding roads. The high level of equipment adds to the enjoyment making long motorway journeys far more comfortable than they should be.
I cannot praise the Crafter, without pointing out what if anything it lacks & it isn’t much. Parking sensors are only offered on the top of the range Highline model, which will make anyone who’s regularly driving a 6m long van groan & with our test model costing £37,133 OTR including vat, ( £30,995 ) OTR excluding vat it’s not cheap.
Given the choice of a long day delivering parcels in a Sprinter, TGE, Transit, Ducato, Boxer, Movano, Master or Relay, the Crafter definitely get’s my vote. It drives just as well as the Sprinter & TGE & barring the lack of rear parking sensor’s, it’s also the best equipped & best finished large van as well. Mercedes-Benz Sprinter watch out !
Top of the Form 4.5/5