LONG TERM INTRO: VW Caravelle 2.0 BiTDI AT
Johannesburg - Moving stinks. Packing up cupboards full of junk you forgot you had and definitely don’t need. Endlessly searching for the lost end of the sticky tape on an impossibly smooth and shiny roll. Trying to cram teacups, dinner plates and pressure cookers efficiently into cardboard cubes like some cruel game of 3D Tetris. It all stinks, from start to finish.
Well, all but one part. The numerous drives between old house and new were actually quite enjoyable on a recent personal relocation program, and I viewed each of them as little breaks between loading and offloading cargo. Not to mention the relatively luxurious moving van I just so happened to be driving at the time. Volkswagen had just delivered a spanking-new Caravelle for a long-term test, and before its first tank of fuel had burned up I put it straight to work as a four-wheeled pack mule.
Notice I said Caravelle, and not Kombi. Or Crew Cab. Or Panel Van. Yes, this model slots right in near the top of VW’s van range and comes complete with three rows of leather-wrapped seats – the back folds into a flat(ish) bed, the two middle seats swivel around into mobile conference room spec, and the fronts are heated and come with captain’s chair armrests. It’s like a big box-shaped limo.
And all of this was wasted on me, because before backsides had even graced the five available thrones at the back, I pulled them out to make space for all those cardboard cubes. It’s a time consuming process truth be told, and 45 minutes and three bloodied knuckles later I came to the conclusion that VW never intended for an easy conversion between people mover and box van.
The rear bench and two swivel chairs slide on rails, and with the removal of 12 little detachable clips and plastic trim covers it’s possible to extract them like giant leather molars from the jaws of a carpeted cargo hold. But be warned, they’re bloody heavy. The bench in particular I estimate at around 50kg, and it’s so awkwardly shaped that at least two strong people are required to lift it in and out. Not exactly practical.
But once the conversion’s complete, there’s enough space to hold a dodgeball tournament back there.
Or 5.8 cubic metres to be exact. I also love the walkthrough design, and the driver can just slip through the two front seats to access the rear like an airplane pilot leaving the cockpit to go to the loo. Makes tight parking spots simpler as well, because it’s possible to disembark through the sliding side doors. These side doors also work nicely with the massive upward-swinging tailgate for easy loadability, and the unfortunate guy carrying a sofa backwards and pulling it up into the loading bay can jump out once it’s in place.
But back to those enjoyable drives between houses...
While my future family members (in-laws are great for lifting heavy items) followed in a smoky old bakkie with a web of tie-downs and straps (hopefully) keeping my goods on board, there I was chilling in the comfort of my captain’s chair with dual-zone climate control and Classic FM wafting away, without a worry in the world. Five star moving at its finest.
The Caravelle comes with the same 2-litre bi-turbodiesel as the Amarok with 132kW and 400Nm, and our test unit’s fitted with VW’s superb DSG seven-speed auto transmission – an R18 500 must-have option on top of a R625 600 base price. This engine and gearbox combo is a perfect pairing that makes for an effortless drive even when stuffed with a maximum 819kg payload. The two turbos dish up substantial servings of torque from just over 1 000rpm, and short, sharp gear changes keep momentum heading in one direction, without any forward and back weight transfer as often suffered by commercial vehicles with manual gearboxes and longer shift hesitations.
The DSG’s tendency to short shift is also partly responsible for a respectable 10.1l/100km diesel consumption. Not a shabby figure considering the heavy-duty hauling we’ve put it up to.
The Caravelle’s an immensely versatile vehicle, so expect all sorts of long-term updates including family getaways and perhaps even a mobile poker tournament (if colleague Bhagaloo gets his way) in months to come. But consider this the full-on pack mule test – one that VW’s upper class limovan passed with flying colours... except for those ridiculously heavy seats and bloody knuckles. Moving is never fun, but the right vehicle can make it better. -Star Motoring
VW Caravelle 2.0 BiTDI AT
Engine: 2-litre, four-cylinder turbodiesel
Gearbox: Seven-speed DSG
Power: 132kW @ 4000rpm
Torque: 400Nm @ 1500-2000rpm
0-100km/h (claimed): 11.3 seconds
Top speed (claimed): 191km/h
Consumption (claimed): 8.1 litres per 100km
Price: R644 100
Warranty: Three-year/120 000km
Maintenance plan: Five-year/60 000km