The new Volkswagen Crafter will go on sale from April 2017, and come from VW’s new manufacturer plant in Wrzesnia, Poland. Commercial Fleet have tested the brand new VW Crafter which has been completely revamped.
The Crafter had been built by Mercedes Benz at their Dusseldorf factory in Germany, however this was a reciprocal of the Sprinter van, with a different engine and front end. The arrangement with Mercedes has been discontinued and the new VW Crafter will maintain VW heritage.
The new Crafter is similar to the VW Transporter in looks, and is a smart move for VW as the Transporter is globally recognised as being one of the best vans on the market.
For Volkswagen, the Crafter has always fell behind in comparison to the Sprinter van, although the Caddy and the Transporter do relatively well.
VW is currently second in their market position, just behind Ford, and after a new Crafter revamp VW believes it can seriously challenge the dominator in the market. Commercial Fleet managed to test drive the new Crafter in Almeria, Spain.
So, what has the Crafter done differently? Well, there will be a large diversity of formats from the van, with many new technological aspects added which have advanced rapidly over 3-5 years
The full range, when available, will boast panel vans, single and double cabs, dropsides and tippers – gross vehicle weights will range from 3.5 tonnes to 5.5 tonnes. There will be options of three lengths and three roof heights, drivetrains will be front wheel drive, rear wheel drive and 4motion.
Lets take a look under the bonnet…
The engine is an augmented version of VW’s current EU6 2.0 litre turbo-diesel powerplant which will supply on average a 15% better fuel economy that the current EU 6 version. Three power grades will be available with 102ps, 140ps and a bi turbo 177ps. All of these versions are mated to 6 speed gear boxes and feature stop/start as standard specification.
The engine has been slightly tilted at an angle of 8% allowing slightly more room for those in the cab.
What about safety?
ESP and ABS are now mandatory, but VW will be adding lane assist, park assist which will park the vehicle automatically, trailer assist to aid those when reversing a trailer, adaptive cruise control which applies the brakes automatically if a shunt is imminent, light assist, side wind assist and auto post collision braking. They will all have four airbags fitted.
The steering system has been redesigned and is now the best in its class with an electro-mechanical set-up. VW boasts that this is the safest, easiest and most comfortable vehicle in its class to drive.
The Crafter also claims better fuel economy with a class leading drag co-efficiency factor or 0.33Cd, which adds to better fuel economy with the new Crafter.
Meanwhile the steering system has been redesigned and is now best in class with a electro-mechanical set-up which, Volkswagen claims, makes it the safest, easiest and most comfortable vehicle in its class to drive.
The Crafter also claims a class-leading drag co-efficiency factor of 0.33Cd, another reason for the better fuel economy.
VW are are also planning an eCrafter which will be tested further with certain European outlets this year. The batteries for this are under the floor so this will not be affecting the load volume and the eCrafter will have a gross vehicular weight of 4.4 tonnes. In any case, VW bosses have explained there are no current plans for a right hand drive version.
The first front wheel drive versions will arrive in the UK in April, followed by a rear wheel drive towards the end of 2017. Chassis cab versions will arrive too at the end of 2017, followed by passenger and minibuses in 2018.
Staff have already met with major fleet buyers and dealers to discuss which equipment should be standard and which could be added to the options list. Our brief is to make sure that we offer the best number of flexible options for fleet buyers and for them the most important thing was for us to offer a base vehicle, at the lowest possible cost, so they could tailor the vans to mee their exact specifications – Kelly Brown, Volkswagen Crafter Product Manager
Side wind assist and post collision assist will be standard as they will come ready-fitted from the factory but most of the other hi-tech safety systems are likely to be extras.
With VW now making the Crafter themselves, Brown has pointed out the benefits of this by explaining, “We now have the flexibility to cover just about all fleet options whereas before we relied on our partner, who may not have been able to provide some of the more unusual requests. Now we have our own factory, we can now offer things we couldn’t provide before.”
The front-wheel drive models are expected to account for 70% of sales.
Although production of the old Crafter was stopped at the end of the year, Brown is confident that it will not produce a sales gap between this and the new vehicle, despite the fact that fleets wont get their first deliveries until April. “The run-out has been planned with great care so there is no gap. I am confident there won’t be a dip in sales.”
The new Crafter has been given a front face lift keeping with the ‘family face’ which means that all three vans, the Caddy, Crafter and Transporter all look much more similar than previously.
The test drive
The doors feel heavy and well made, shutting with a satisfying and upmarket thunk. The seats are similar to those in the Transporter models, firm and figure hugging and offering great support for longer journeys.
The cab has a large overhead storage space, coffee cup holders on top of the dash and both USB and 12 volt socket take offs which mean SAT NAVS and other devices can be plugged in without having loose wires.
A disappointment was the style of the dashboard, which is a case of function over form. However, all knobs and switches are easy to reach.
The first van was the 95ps version with a medium wheel base. It didn’t appear underpowered apart from the odd steep incline on one Andalusian mountain – this is ideal for round town work and medium journeys.
Second up was the 140ps version still with the medium wheelbase format. The power was strong right up to motorway speeds.
The only version that is likely to need the top bi-turbo 177ps version at 5.5 tonnes and with heavy loads being transported over long distances. The 3.5 tonne van resulted in a sporty performance, even on steep incline hills.
Our minor gripes apart, the Crafter is every bit the quality van to take on the host of superb rivals it faces, such as the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and Ford Transit. We’ll be watching the sales charts with interest in the coming months. – Commercial Fleet
If you’re interested in buying a VW Crafter, call us today!