Always had a sneaking admiration for the A team? Need to carry loads of clutter? Then you need Volkswagen’s latest Transporter, dolled up with the mean ‘n’ broody Sportline specification and one of the most powerful diesel engines in all vandom. The result is a quick and versatile jack of all trades – it’ll lug the kitchen sink by day and give the Mondeos and Vectras hogging the outside lane a fright by night.
VW takes the regular Transporter and adds body-coloured bumpers and door handles, newly chromed grille, bling side rails and a cheeky rear spoiler. In Hannibal Black, it all looks strangely similar to BA Baracus’s company wheels. The Sportliner runs on 18-inch six-spoke alloys, sitting 30mm closer to the ground thanks to lowered Eibach springs. Faintly ridiculous on a van, or the acceptable face of builders’ wheels? You decide.
How quick is it?
That 2.5-litre five-pot has oodles of strong pull. You’ll easily keep up with traffic even when fully laden, thanks to a hefty 295lb ft of twist. It’s quiet at a sixth-gear cruise, but there’s plenty of turbo whoosh when you prod the throttle. It’s so flexible, there’s little need to change gear, but when you do you’ll appreciate the high-up gearlever and easy, slick action.
Those 235/50 R18 boots provide plenty of grip, and the Sportliner rides as well as any other van we’ve driven. You won’t hurtle it around like a Golf, but neither should you if you care for your cargo.
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Is the Transporter comfy?
Parts-bin fans will enjoy spotting the provenance of the familiar VW group dials and switches that litter the dashboard. It’s all easy to use, and there’s decent seat adjustment (so often lacking on vans) on the three-abreast front pew. Because the engine is refined at a cruise, you can even hear the stereo without making your ears bleed.
There’s generous stowage for phones and wallets and the like, although we kept pinching our hands when we used the handbrake lurking down low too near the front seats. Our press demonstrator was loaded up to the gunwales with leather trim, reversing sensors and other toys, but there’s no escaping its workaday roots. The Transporter is still built for lugging, not outright luxury.
Guess it’s sensible, too?
VW has great pedigree in commercial vehicles, so it should come as no surprise that the Transporter is as practical as old boots. Take your pick between the regular and long-wheelbase versions, the latter adding an echoing 400mm between the axles. Both have a generously wide loadbay and a large, sliding side door that makes loading a doddle. The split rear doors are huge, too.
With a payload of just over a tonne and a load area approaching 3000 litres, you can move house in one (we did) and there are lashing points galore to keep everything tied down. The only glitch we came across was the painted floor that scratches all too easily when lugging heavy furniture around. Nothing a loadbay floor cover wouldn’t fix, mind.
The Transporter range has something for everyone. We drove the top-spec sporty one, but you can pick it as a panel van, window van, people carrier and single- or double-cab bodystyles, in two lengths and three roof heights. There’s even a 4motion available. The 2.5 TDI we drove was by turns rapid and relaxing, depending on mood. Who said vans were boring?