The T6-based Caravelle is the latest generation of a long and successful family and now, Volkswagen has announced an important upgrade to its assistance and infotainment systems. The main difference is the new Digital Cockpit instrument display but there are subtle design upgrades plus significant safety improvements that come as a result of the move to electromechanical power steering. The T 6.1 upgrade for all VW Transporter-based vehicles, including the Caravelle, was announced at the Hanover Motor Show and will be introduced from Autumn 2019 onwards.
For the 6.1 upgrade, the Caravelle’s crisp and contemporary looks are brought up to the moment with a new Volkswagen family grille flanked by slimmer H7 headlights and LED daytime running lights. Large side windows make for an airy and welcoming interior. There’s a choice of two wheelbases and both versions come with seven seats, with two individual seats in the first two rows and a three-person bench in the third row. All the rear seats can be slid backwards or even removed completely, so there’s a wide choice of possible seat configurations. You can also rotate the second-row seats to face the rear and create a conference layout, complete with an optional table.
The Caravelle offers both diesel and petrol engines in its line-up. The 2.0 TSI petrol engine comes with a choice of 150PS and 204PS, while the 2.0 TDI diesel also comes in 150PS and 199PS variants. The diesels offer more low-down torque and will return better mpg especially on longer runs, while petrol tends to warm up faster and thus be better suited to short urban journeys. All engines are Euro 6 compatible so will be able to enter London’s Ultra-Low Emissions Zone unpenalized. The 150-PS TDI can be ordered with a dual clutch gearbox (DSG) and 4MOTION all-wheel drive (manual or DSG) as optional equipment. The 199-PS flagship is equipped with DSG as standard, and 4MOTION can be specified as an option.Bit news for the near future is that VW will be offering a fully-electric T 6.1 with a choice of 38.8- or 77.6-kWh battery packages. Fitted with the latter, the zero-emissions van will do more than 249 miles between charges as per the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC).
The new T 6.1 Caravelle has been dramatically updated with an all-new dash and Digital Cockpit instrumentation, which you can configure to suit your needs. If you’ve chosen one of the satellite navigation options such as Discover Media (8.0-inch) and the Discover Pro (9.2-inch) touchscreens you can choose to have the map displayed within the instrument panel. iPhone users can automatically connect with the infotainment system of these systems via Bluetooth and the wireless Apple CarPlay™, while compatible smartphones of all brands can now also be charged wirelessly via an inductive charging station in the new dash panel. Other high-tech features include an integrated SIM card (eSIM) that is standard with the Composition Colour infotainment system and allows you to access internet and music streaming services on the move.
The new T 6.1 version of the Caravelle features electromechanical steering which means that extra safety features such as Cross Wind Assist are now standard. This feature automatically compensates for the unsettling effect of a sudden gust of side-wind on a relatively high-sided vehicle like the Caravelle. Lane Assist, Park Assist and Rear Traffic Alert are further safety aids that come with the 6.1 upgrade, while Trailer Assist technology helps to take the guesswork out of reversing with a trailer. Finally, the eSIM card that’s standard with the Composition Colour infotainment system also performs a valuable safety function in an emergency. When an accident occurs, this system automatically sends the vehicle’s location to an emergency response centre and establishes a voice connection. If no response is received from the car, emergency services are informed.
Verdict: The Caravelle has a long and impressive heritage going right back to the original Microbus, and Volkswagen’s newest version shows the company is determined to keep it at the forefront of technology. In-cockpit features like the Digital Cockpit and a wide choice of technology packages give the same levels of infotainment and entertainment as the latest Volkswagen cars. More refined than most van-based people carriers, more spacious than most MPVs, it could be the people-carrier you’re looking for.