Earlier in the year when RUST did the legendary Trefle Lozerien we needed transport. Cue VW and their latest hi-cube hauler…
Getting our bikes, accessories, riding gear and associated clutter down to the South of France required the right vehicle. Having asked them for the use of a Transporter, the good people at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles UK asked if we would like to try out the all new 2017 Crafter instead – to which we immediately said (of course) yes please!
For the first time in 20 years the Crafter is being built by Volkswagen themselves instead of alongside the Sprinter by Mercedes and the good thing about this is that all the top end VW tech which has made its way across from the T6 Transporter range, making for a very different Crafter.
First impressions inside the cabin are good. Tough looking plastics sit alongside smart black cloth seats, multiple storage options and our van has the optional large touchscreen sat-nav and audio system – it sure feels refined in here for a large panel van.
In the back the first thing that hits you is the cavernous space – when empty it feels like you could comfortably Airbnb your house out for a couple of weeks and move in here, and this is only the MWB version! Although the press vehicle we are using hasn’t been ply lined I doubt that feeling of space would be affected.
Out on the road the high level of refinement continues, at motorway speeds on the way down through France the cabin noise is exceptionally quiet for such a large vehicle using the TDI engine, gearbox and running gear from the T6 Transporter. The adaptive cruise control is particularly useful for big motorway stints and the climatic air-con keeps us cool in the early June heat. The height and lumbar adjustable seats with armrest offer ample support on a long trip.
It’s at the event itself (the Tref) however where The Crafter really comes into its own. For three days it becomes our fuel station, food and water carrier, mobile garage, and shelter from the rain (the size of the van at this point making it the right choice over a Transporter). Some of the checkpoints are in small villages with the inevitable narrow streets and tight, twisting turns but the Crafter’s light and sweetly balanced steering makes it feel like a much smaller van. Steep hills throughout the three days didn’t seem to faze the punchy 140PS TDI unit and it never felt underpowered even when fully laden with kit.
All in all The Crafter was an excellent companion throughout the seven days and a pleasure to drive. It’s a big van with small van ease of use. The fit and finish is way above that of a typical builder’s van, but that is reflected in the price. Yep, it’s the ultimate mid-size team truck.
Distance covered: 2900 miles
Price as tested: £40,135 (OTR incl. VAT)
We like: Car-like handling from such a big vehicle, huge load capacity, cabin refinement.
We didn’t like: £1650 seems a little steep for air-con.