There are some vehicles to which one cannot help but feel an emotional attachment; some of them are automotive icons that are fondly remembered by many around the world. One such vehicle is the Kombi – it’s a keeper of precious memories of a simpler time.
Volkswagen had arranged a mint-condition T2 (second edition) Kombi to be our post-dinner shuttle and when I climbed aboard it uncorked memories of a family holiday in Europe when I was a boy. An even when a T3 was trailing our bus through the middle of Stockholm I was reminded of David Kramer’s unmistakable voice and his characteristic red veldskoen shoes.
The new T6 has a lot to live up to.
According to a Volkswagen spokesperson, this sixth edition is 70% new, but looking at it you wouldn’t say so. Its familiar appearance disguises the fact that most of the changes are inside and under the skin. The exterior treatment looks more like a facelift of the T5’s… There is a new grille and front bumper, chrome inserts, as well as LED-adorned head- and taillamps.
The vehicle’s overall dimensions (and platform) remain the same but, as a whole, the new Kombi appears altogether more upmarket than before. As a nod to their ancestors, some of the launch vehicles had striking, sixth-edition two-tone paint schemes and retro wheels, but unfortunately those adornments unlikely to be available when the T6 arrives on local shores.
Inside the newcomer, you’re greeted by a revised facia design, a touchscreen infotainment system (with proximity sensing to recognise inputs when your hand approaches the display) and an updated instrument cluster. The rake-and-reach adjustment on the steering wheel made finding a comfortable (and commanding) driving position easy and, subjectively, the sturdier cup-holder structure marked a much-needed improvement!
The T6 I drove was powered by a Euro 6 emissions-compliant 150 kW 2,0-litre TDI (turbodiesel) powerplant driving the front wheels through a seven-speed DSG, but we will only get the (current) Euro 4-spec engine in South Africa. The new engine pulled smoothly and the quick-shifting transmission kept the engine speed in the meaty part of the rev range, resulting in more than enough urgency when negotiating everyday traffic conditions.
What impressed me most was the refinement of the Kombi’s cabin, as well as the overall pliancy of its suspension. Road and wind noises are well suppressed and even when traversing less-than-perfect road sections, occupant comfort is satisfactory. As was the case with the T5, the T6 utilises an independent, multi-link suspension at the rear. This arrangement best controls the vertical travel of the wheels, but owing to its complexity adds to the vehicle’s cost. The only competitor with a similar setup is the Mercedes-Benz V-Class.
As I had no choice but to pilot the Caravelle in the most courteous manner (Swedish traffic officials are said to hand out massive traffic fines for the tiniest of misdemeanours), an on-the-limit handling evaluation was out of the question. Granted, dynamism has never been the Kombi’s forte and instead the T6 did what it is supposed to do very well… and that’s to transport its occupants in comfort. In other words, as a family vehicle it remains ideal.
Less local spec
To keep the list price competitive we will, not get the full array of electronic aids available in Europe (this includes adaptive cruise control, dynamic damping control and emergency city brake function). We will get the option of an electrically-operated tailgate, however.
The Caravelle demonstrates that the T6 is definitely a step up from the T5 in styling, refinement and technology. According to Volkswagen South Africa, official prices have not been finalised, but expect a small per-model increase over the outgoing range. This might be biggest obstacle facing the new Caravelle as it’s likely to again be out of reach for the general household. These days, sadly, the VW Kombi creates new fond memories for a select few.
Engine:2,0-litre, inline four, turbodiesel
Power:150 kW at 4 000 r/min**
Torque:450 N.m between 1 400 and 2 400 r/min**
0-100 km/h:9,9 secs
Top Speed:203 km/h
Fuel Consumption: 6,3 L/100 km *
Notes:Locally we will get a 132 kW/400 N.m Euro 4 turbodiesel engine with accompanying performance figures