The 2007 Volkswagen Crafter LT3 commercial van was officially presented at the 2006 Commercial Vehicle Show in Birmingham, UK. Soon to be offered in different versions (those including upscale people haulers to serve as corporate shuttles or even work on public commute lines), the vehicle has quite an impressive payload capacity, as well as offers a nice range of turbodiesel-powered engines that can be mated with an optional ‘manumatic’ gearbox.
Developed in cooperation with Mercedes-Benz and sharing its chassis with more upscale Mercedes-Benz Sprinter commercial van, the latest (and the greatest) generation of VW’s commercial vehicles sports a choice of five-cylinder engines, a six-speed manual gearbox and a payload capacity of 17 cubic meters and almost 2.7 tons.
As to the engines, they come in four flavors, producing 88, 109, 136 and 163 horsepower. While not terribly impressive on paper, the engines are in fact more powerful than those used on the Sprinter, so there is a good chance that the VW versions of the van will be more comfortable to drive. There is still no official fuel efficiency numbers for them, though.
Well, to be more precise, it should be noted that all four engines are based on the same 2.5-liter R5 TDI oil-burner with advanced Common Rail fuel system, but feature different power output (87 bhp, 107 bhp, 134 bhp, and 161 bhp) and different torque (220 Nm, 280 Nm, 320 Nm, and 350 Nm) peaking at 3500 rpm and 2000 rpm respectively.
They are all mated with a standard six-speed manual gearbox but one may also order the van with the Shiftmatic automated manual transmission.
As some drivers point out, the Shiftmatic, which can be operated as a fully automatic or a fully manual gearbox, still struggles to bring the best of two worlds together.
The automatic mode will certainly spare you some labor in a traffic jam, when you otherwise would constantly press the clutch pedal, put the car into gear, move a couple of meters, then again press the damned clutch to disengage the engine (and repeat it for five hundred more times before you get on a less busy road.)
However, the automatic is not so good when it comes to normal driving and there you will be certainly better off while operating the gearbox in a manual mode.
Of course, using the Shiftmatic requires some getting used to, but when you finally master it, the van will be quite comfortable to drive.
In its press release Volkswagen says that it plans to sell the new VW Crafter LT3 in three wheelbases, four lad compartment lengths and three roof heights.
It is still not clear whether VW actually plans to bring the Crafter to the United States, which is quite likely since the van could probably replace the soon to be discontinued badge-engineered Dodge Sprinter.
See also: Mazda BT-50 pickup truck