From browsing Pagani Zondas to hitting the VW Commercial Vehicles online search engine for a used T6 Transporter – such are the joys of following your whims into the classifieds! But why am I looking at vans?
JAN 03rd 2017
Dan Trent: Redefining 'SUV'... with the VW Camper
Call it my rebellious side. I realise I put myself in a very small minority in this day and age but I still have a fundamental problem with 4x4s being sold to us as 'Sports Utility Vehicles'. This whole lifestyle dream these things are sold on is, as someone who lives it, pure marketing BS. There are exceptions – the outgoing Land Rover Discovery I wrote about not so long ago among them. But if you ever want to see how wafer thin this 'Sports Utility' facade really is, just go somewhere you'll find people actually doing it. As opposed to your local Waitrose car park, where people like to think wearing the branded clobber and driving the 'right' vehicle amounts to the same thing.
Head to the nation's beaches, forests or mountains where folk surf, cycle, climb, paddle, ramble or whatever and you'll find car parks packed with true 'lifestyle' vehicles. And not many of them will be Cayennes, X5s, XC90s or Mercedes GLEs. They'll be vans. Posh and expensive vans, reflective of the fact serious participation in many of these activities demands considerable disposable income. But vans chosen because they are fit for purpose and demonstrate where your priorities lie.
Because the big lie about the 4x4s is that they're practical. Most of them aren't. Trendy big wheels and (mainly redundant) off-road hardware means interior space is hugely compromised. And luxurious interiors are all very well, until such time as you need to chuck in a weekend's worth of muddy kit.
Mercedes does a decent line in posh vans but the real daddy is the VW Transporter, variants of which crowd shorelines and trailheads across the UK. They'll range from battered, rusty ones bought after a hard life with the local builder to fully tricked out new ones costing just as much as blingy suburban SUVs.
VW has some heritage here, of course, riding the wave of the original Transporter's adoption by Californian surfers. Credit due, over six generations it's mastered the art of combining the functionality demanded by commercial users with the creature comforts to win over 'civilian' buyers too. So you can buy a Transporter with leather seats, the same DSG gearbox, and nav system as a Golf or a Passat and all the trimmings but still feel happy chucking bikes in the back after a day on the hills and hosing it out after. They drive well, feeling fast, refined and easy to operate and the on-road (or parking) footprint is actually about the same as a Discovery 4. A perfect family car then.
I think I've made the case, right? And here's the one I'd buy. The fact it's up for £31,000 (plus VAT) with nearly 15,000 miles racked up in less than a year goes to show how much these things cost. And get used. But it looks smart in Sportline trim and has the right combination of the punchy 180hp twin-turbo diesel, smooth shifting DSG gearbox, five seats (so two proper chairs up front), a tailgate to shelter under while getting changed and no bulkhead so as to permit maximum flexibility. Job definitely jobbed.
Photography courtesy of PistonHeads.
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