| Week at the Wheel | 2010 VW Caravelle Executive |
Inside & Out:
At first glance the VW Caravelle's van-based roots are plain to see. It's a large, functional piece of kit that follows the function-over-form mantra almost to the letter. The nose bears all the design cues of the cars in VW's range but from there back the Caravelle is a straightforward one-box design. The payback for the simplistic design is an interior of epic proportions - there are very few cars or MPVs that you can physically walk around in.
Access to the front seats is via two conventional doors, while rear passengers enjoy the use of two huge sliding doors, actuated electrically (and remotely), with a massive rear hatch giving free and easy access to the load space. The seats in the second row can be swivelled on their bases to be rear facing and VW has engineered rails into the floor of this latest model, which means that the seats in the rear cabin can be slid around, along with the multi-function table, to offer a hugely flexible space in which to transport people or luggage. The rear bench seat can actually be folded flat to form a double bed too.
Most owners will add tints to the windows and the VW owners' tendencies to modify and add individual touches to their vans will no doubt prevail. Just because the design is very simple doesn't mean it can't be very cool. To cater for such individual needs, the options catalogue contains all you need to build your Caravelle to your ideal specification including exterior addenda like spoilers and wheels, as well as additional interior functionality such as a bed pack, back up power supplies and such like.
Engine & Transmission:
One of the recent changes made is the replacement of the charismatic five-cylinder 2.5-litre diesel with a new twin-turbo, two-litre four. In line with recent trends the downsize isn't at the expense of performance, with the range topper tested here offering 178bhp and 295lb.ft, both figures that eclipse those of the previous 2.5. The smaller engine also brings economy and emissions benefits. Our test car was fitted with the slick shifting seven-speed DSG gearbox, which works well as a conventional automatic, as well as having manual functionality. The driveline does a fine job in this application with relaxed performance and good manners, though engine noise can be more intrusive than one might expect at times.
Ride & Handling:
As ever, the main appeal of a vehicle like this is the relaxed, loping drive enhanced by an elevated driving position, excellent visibility and sound ergonomics. These things combine with the DSG 'box and light steering to make the Caravelle an easy car to drive. It's not about rushing down a meandering B-road; it's about transporting occupants and loads with the minimum of fuss and not insignificant amounts of comfort. Therefore, the focus is on a good ride quality. The long wheelbase and wide track make it a stable platform, though it does mean that undulations can take the suspension two attempts to damp out, but in most circumstances it remains comfortable and composed.
Equipment, Economy & Value for Money:
The spec sheet for the Caravelle executive is comprehensive. It contains the majority of features you'd expect in a large family car such as a full complement of electrics and safety features plus the added functionality of three rows of seats that can be configured to suit. All of the seats in this Executive model are trimmed with leather and Alcantara and the climate control system allows for different temperatures to be set in each passenger space. It's quite easy to see a Caravelle such as this being used as a big family wagon, executive transport, a camper van or a load lugger. It's a fantastically functional vehicle.
The Caravelle family is a firm favourite with the Car Enthusiast
team; many of us would have one in our fantasy fleet, and every time we drive one we're reminded exactly why. The word 'utility' is almost overused in modern car terms but here is a vehicle that genuinely is a utility vehicle in the purest sense. VW's Caravelle isn't so much a car you drive as one you use. It excels as a people carrier, camper van, load transporter and even a mobile office. We love it.