I spent a week testing a van that costs 85 thousand euros! Yes an 8 and a 5 together for an ‘off the peg’ VW van with a few optional extras. The Caravelle people carrier is built on Volkswagen’s new T6 Transporter platform but €85K is still a huge chunk of cash for a vehicle that looks like a van.
Inside you won’t find gold fittings or diamonds in the dashboard that would meet with approval by Donald J. Trump, but even the US President Elect would be happy enough in this alternative to a regular stretched limousine. A sharp metallic black paint job and some nice brightwork made our Caravelle ‘Highline’ shine. Handsome day time running lights and tasy 18 inch ‘Springfield’ alloys looked smart. 17 inch alloys are standard but in a vehicle this size you’d really need aftermarket 22s to really impress. A simple press of the keyfob allows the theatre to begin as the electric power side doors open up to reaveal luxury alcantara seating for seven. Sitting on a 3000mm wheelbase there is ample room for people carrying and there is lots of headroom. T6 is just under 2 metres tall so you can fit into most carparks and the footprint can also fit in most parking spaces, which is a real world plus.
The rear seats feature two captain chairs with adjustable armrests. This can be turned 180 degrees to face the rear bench seat if desired. Integrated seatbelts in the chairs allow this to happen. The rear bench seats three and is on rails too, so you can prioritise cabin or luggage space with relative ease. In the centre is a rail where a foldable table can be slid and positioned to allow the cabin turn in to an office or dining room. The key to Caravelle’s brilliance is the ability to seat four adults in the back facing each other. I have travelled in more than my fair share of long wheelbase limos and while they are lovely, it is very hard to have a chat with more than the person beside you. Even then, you have to twist in your seat to make eye contact. The Caravelle is a far more social machine. I put some highly critical people, including my teenage kids, in the back of the machine on a number of occasions to see how well the vehicle worked in the real world. I took my daughter and three of her teammates to a rugby trial on a 100 kilometre round trip. It was smiles all round as I picked up the future Ireland rugby stars. The power side sliding doors and seating set up wowed the girls. The powerful Dynaudio sound system option delivered a loud sing-a-long Spotify playlist via the Apple CarPlay connection to my phone. While my passengers in the back were having a ball I was sitting in my driver’s chair pretty much stress free. Sitting tall with a commanding view of the road ahead – sure what more could a chauffeur ask for. Cruise control allowed me place my feet flat on the floor under my knees – something you cannot do in most cars. The miles simply flew by effortlessly in the big machine. Another rugby trip to Kilkenny this time with my youngest son allowed me hook up with fellow parents and at the grounds. We sat in the back drinking hot coffee and chatting before hitting the sidelines on a very cold morning. The standard heated seats up front and standard 3 zone climatronic air conditioning were very welcome when the full time whistle blew.
Under the stubby bonnet sits a 204hp turbo diesel that is matched to a smooth DSG automated-manual gearbox. Caravelle’s driving position is better than in a full fat Range Rover in terms of forward vision. With side windows, unlike a regular panal van, all round visibility is very good – especially from the front seats. The tinted rear windows feature pull up blinds should you desire more privacy. Its no surprise that Caravelle’s and their like are muched loved by bands and celebrities. The dash and controls are all familiar VW bits and pieces and well positioned. The quality and ambience up front is more Passat than 7 Series but I felt content behind the wheel.
My test vehicle featured the optional ‘Adaptive chassis control with dynamic suspension’. At the press of a button the Caravelle could deliver a softer ride, a normal setting and a sport setting that helped reduce body roll when cornering but made the ride harsh rather than sporty. I used the comfort setting predominantly.
Caravelle is a working vehicle and you can safely assume that the person behind the wheel is making their living unlike say a 7 Series driver – even if the 730Ld is favoured by private chauffeurs in Ireland.
By the end of the week I was sad to see our top of the range Caravelle go. I could nearly justify the €84,849 spend if I was a driver for hire too. Extras fitted to our test vehicle like the adaptive suspension, 18s, power tailgate, dynaudio system, Media plus nav, electric front seats (driver’s memory), heated windscreen, folding mirrors, high beam assist, rear camera, LED head and rear lights and that classy metallic paint all added to the executive transport experience.
Its worth noting €32K of the asking price was VAT (€12K) and VRT (€20K).
On the road Caravelle prices start from €52K (102hp). Long wheelbase versions cost from €4,775 ex. VAT – depending on model specification etc.
Check out volkwagenvans.ie for more information.