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Re-Crafting the large-van segment

Volkswagen South Africa (VWSA) has debuted the all-new Crafter, which presents a major step forward for the large-van market. GAVIN MYERS attended the launch.

Any automotive manufacturer wants its products to boast as many unique selling points and best-in-class attributes as possible. Catering to the modern van operator, the new Crafter, says VW, offers seven of the former and six of the latter. The local segment hasn’t yet seen a vehicle with such a wide spread of abilities…

While it was originally introduced to the world in 1975, this is the first Crafter to be “100-percent VW” since the 1996 LT2 joint venture with Mercedes-Benz. VW is already off to a good start with the new model, which garnered the 2017 International Van of the Year award.

It’s little wonder when one considers the amount of research and engineering undertaken by VW. “There was a long process of consultation with customers, bodybuilders and importers. Eight key customer groups, and what they needed from their commercial vehicles, were identified,” explains Mark Handly, head of VW Commercial Vehicles South Africa.

More than 700 test vehicles were run throughout the model’s development cycle.

Built on a brand-new platform, the new Crafter has been designed for maximum practicality and productivity, while sporting best-in-class aerodynamics (0,33 Cd).

Locally, six panel-van models will be offered – one of which falls into the light commercial-vehicle segment and two of which are bus-conversion ready – ranging in size from 9,9 to 17,5 m3. Two wheelbase options and three vehicle lengths are offered. Permissible gross vehicle mass is rated from 3,5 t up.

The new Crafter boasts a loading sill that is 100-mm lower and loading heights at the rear and side doors of 1 840 and 1 820 mm respectively. A variety of configurability preparations have been built into the basic vehicle.

Powering the new Crafter through a six-speed manual gearbox and either front- or rear-wheel drive is a new 2,0-litre TDi engine. It offers up 103 kW of power and 340 Nm torque. VW claims fuel consumption of between 7,3 and
7,6 l/100 km depending on the model. Underpinning the new Crafter are five different variants of a rigid rear axle with parabolic springs.

In designing the new Crafter, VW endeavoured to make the driver’s job as easy as possible. For example, comfort seats for long-distance driving can be installed in the ergonomically designed cab, which, itself, features a multitude of storage options for anything from mobile devices to working gloves.

There is also a slew of optional and standard driver-assistance systems; such as Side-Wind Compensation, Hill-Hold Assist, Automatic Post-Collision Braking and the driver-alert system.

Optional active driver assistance systems include Park Assist and Trailer Assist (which control the steering when manoeuvring the vehicle); “ACC Follow to Stop” adaptive cruise control; Front Assist emergency braking; a reversing camera; Rear Traffic Alert; and sensor-based side protection (specially developed for the Crafter).

Priced between R509 700 and R635 800, VW sells the Crafter with a two-year/unlimited kilometre manufacturer warranty, five-year/120 000 km service plan, and a 12-year anti-corrosion warranty.

My life has always revolved around anything with wheels and an engine. It doesn’t matter if its an old banger, the latest hot-hatch or a fancy 4×4 – any excuse is a good excuse to take it for a cruise, spank it at the track or go bundu-bashing (the mud-and-rocks-side-of-a-mountain type, not the exploring-Joburg’s-pavements type). Otherwise, chances are you’ll find me lying underneath one of my beloved toys or with my head buried in its engine bay, tinkering away.

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