Last Word First
Undeniably van-like from first visual, the Transporter-based Caravelle provides seven-seat space and finery in a very civilised and serene manner. My test car was powered by VW’s 204bhp TDi and driven through their 8-speed DSG transmission, and was a joy to endure, whether it was the urban or open road. All the while my passengers rotated their seats and conversed in comfort, the levels of space and flexibility offering huge appeal and functionality.
VW have achieved a great balance with the Caravelle, its focus pointed at the executive Hotel and Golf Club segments, with the private buyer probably baulking at the initial asking price of circa 75k, my option-laden test car requiring a donation of €86,212 to share its company.
Large multi-function vehicles can be a compromise, very often failing to leave their commercial origins from dominating the passenger demand. The Caravelle, being van based, is very user-friendly, a great place to be and for a driver offers an easy to live with persona, and particularly with the DSG transmission that adds serenity to every drive. The Caravelle sits on the premium level of multi-passenger transport, those passengers will relish every turn of its wheels. All you have to do as a driver is remember you are driving a circa 2.5 tonne vehicle, that will act differently empty than it does when full of your favourite people. Play it smooth and the Caravelle leaves large SUV’s and other ‘normal’ seven-seater’s gasping in its wake.
Format: 7-seat premium Multi Purpose Vehicle
Engine; 2.0 bi-turbo diesel
Transmission: 7-speed DSG
Drive: Front wheel drive
Road Tax Band:
Annual Road Tax: €570
Length: 4,904mm – Passat, 4,866mm
Width: 2,297mm including mirrors – Passat, 2,083mm
Height: 1,950mm – Passat, 1,456mm
Boot Space: Passat, 586litres
Introductory Price: Comfort line 102bhp, manual 5-speed, €56,720
Test Car Price: Highline 204bhp, bi-turbo, €86,212
Some of the Competition
Ford Galaxy, VW Sharan, SEAT Alhambra, Ford Tourneo, Citroen Grand C4 Picasso, Peugeot 5008, BMW 2-Series Grand Tourer, Mercedes-Benz Viano. Ford S-MAX
Dressed in Deep Black Pearlescent paintwork, with privacy glass, the Caravelle impresses from first glance, my test car standing on edible 18” alloys. There’s no getting away from its rectangular van-derived design, albeit VW have rounded and mellowed it into a more enticing place to want to spend time.
While the price of my test car was on the south side of 86k, I was delighted to sample the range of accessories fitted, and would doubt that few would spec their Caravelle to such a level. The showcase value of my test car was a delight on many levels, from the bi-turbo diesel engine, the double-clutch transmission, the Adaptive Chassis Control DCC with Dynamic Suspension, to the LED lights front and rear, only some of the safety and comfort additions taken from the option menu. So, it is important not to judge the Caravelle on the total cost as it applies to my test car – the car you buy can be tailored to suit your pocket.
Walking to the Caravelle with my five friends, the two sliding doors slid open some fifteen paces away, the smiles immediate. I had arranged the seating so as they faced each other, the small table adding to the homeliness within. Whereas large SUV’s and other seater’s can carry see, the lineage benefits of the T6 Transporter put the Caravelle into a different league. Flexible seating, load of cubbies, to the extent that you’d need the Garda forensic team to help you find that elusive toy.
Up front, the driver sits in a great driving position, with no bulk to the fore, the view is excellent and should not intimidate those moving from the passenger car world. My Caravelle came with 12-way electrically adjustable front seats and the addition of the Discover media plus navigation system, occupants wanting for nothing.
The rear seat is a three-seater bench that slides for and aft, while the centre seats swivel and also slide. All the seats can be removed giving you massive carrying capability, the tri-zone air-conditioning keeping the collective cool throughout.
On the Road
Treating the Caravelle like a Golf R should be resisted. Asking it to provide you with tenacious driving dynamics is akin to entering a fine Chinese restaurant and ordering steak – you are missing the point – big time. Running on independent suspension the Caravelle drives very well, is assured through all you might ask of it, and only objects when you forget its tonnage, the fact that it is either empty or fully occupied – in other words drive it within its design and function and it literally delivers.
Road and wind noise is not as intrusive as you might anticipate, the 204bhp and 450Nm of torque from the twin-turbo diesel a charmer and when matched, as it was to the DSG 7-speed transmission of my test car, can subtly, (or not); bring the horizon into your face with serious enthusiasm.
Adopting a slow in, fast out technique, allied to smooth steering, gets the best results from the Caravelle, the optionally fitted Adaptive Chassis Control DCC with Dynamic Suspension giving me three drive modes - Normal, Sport and Comfort. With these you can firm up or soften the ride and change the characteristics of the power steering.
With this system electronic voodoo happens via the Caravelle’s electrically regulated dampers and steering. The shock absorber of each wheel is connected to sensors and control systems that apply the best setting for each wheel, accumulating data from the moving cars assist systems, steering and brakes, allowing the Caravelle to react in milliseconds to changing road surfaces and the dynamics of lane changing, corners and bends.
I left it in Comfort Mode for most of my drive, the selection of Sport stiffening up the suspension and sharpening the steering response, which was rewarding to an extent, the fact that my five passengers and 2.3 tonne Caravelle generates its own physics, keeping me in check. With those five adults on board, the seats rotated, the table in place, a day safari from Dublin to Fota Island, then onto beautiful Cobh, before returning to Dublin that same evening, proved no problem within or without the Caravelle. Without question the benefit of cruise control was proven also, the ease at which the untethered bi-turbo left tarmac in the mirrors, requiring electronic restraint against my less restrained right foot.
All through my week with the Caravelle, it proved easy to live with, excelling on the long journey to Cork return, where it also proved it could kill more flies than Vapona, our Irish summer heatwave donating a massive variety of bugs to the cause.
For those with the means and the need, the Caravelle is excellent, is finished impecibly and provides a level of comfort for seven that also ensures sanity prevails within. Who could want for more.
Caravelle standard equipment
- Climatronic 3 zone air conditioning
- Multi-function display premium
- Decorative inserts ‘Structural Black – Glossy’
- Comfort interior lighting
- Alcantara upholstery
- Leather multi-functional steering wheel
- Heated front seats
- Front and rear parking sensors
- Electric sliding doors in passenger compartment
- 17” ‘Devonport” alloy wheels
- Automatic lights and wipers with rain sensors
- Radiator grille with 3 chrome strips
- Privacy glass
- Composition media radio
- Front Floor mats
- Heated Front windscreen
Caravelle Test car fitted Options and Accessories
- Metallic Paint (€1,216)
- Exterior mirrors, power adjustable, heated and folding. (€225)
- Front and rear park distance control with rear view camera (€390)
- High beam control light assist (€210)
- Adaptive Chassis Control DCC with Dynamic Suspension (€1,540)
- LED headlamps and LED rear combination lamps (€2248)
- 18” Springfield alloy wheels (€610)
- Discover media plus navigation system (€2198)
- Front seats with 12-way power adjustment, driver seat with memory feature (€1,929)
- Tailgate with window aperture, and power opening and closing with power latching (€875)
Options Price Total €11,437