VW Multivan reinvented as a more car-like adventure machine

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Volkswagen has brought its long-running Multivan people-mover into the 2020s by giving it a sharper-looking design, a more versatile interior, and major changes underneath. Called T7 internally, the van will go on sale later in 2021.

In the past, the Multivan (known as the Caravelle in some markets) was closely related to the Transporter, a commercial van more often seen on construction sites than campsites. The decades-long relationship between the two models ends here; Volkswagen built the Multivan on its modular MQB platform rather than on an evolution of the Transporter's architecture. That means the boxy sheetmetal hides the same basic bones that underpin the Audi TT, the Europe-only Polo, and the Tennessee-built Atlas. The switch is expected to deliver a more car-like ride.

With a new structure comes a completely overhauled exterior design that falls in line with recent additions to the firm's lineup, like the eighth-generation Golf. Up front, the angular lights are connected by two stripes of LEDs positioned on either side of the Volkswagen emblem, and the outgoing model's grille has been pushed down into the bumper. Out back, the Multivan wears thin LED lights and a roof-mounted spoiler. It measures 195.7 inches long, 76.4 inches wide, and up to 74.9 inches tall, though a longer, 203.6-inch model will be offered as well.

The driver faces a three-spoke steering wheel, a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, and a 10-inch touchscreen for the infotainment system. Here again, not using the Transporter as a template allowed Volkswagen to make the Multivan more car-like, both in terms of cabin layout and materials used. It offers space for up to seven passengers, though the five rear seats can be removed to clear up a generously-sized cargo area. Alternatively, the second-row seats can swivel by 180 degrees for an on-the-go apéritif or game of Monopoly.

Buyers will have three four-cylinder engines to choose from: a 136-horsepower 1.5-liter, a 2.0-liter tuned to 204 horsepower, and a turbodiesel (whose displacement hasn't been revealed) rated at 150 horsepower. They'll all spin the front wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Building the Multivan on the MQB platform let Volkswagen make a plug-in hybrid option available for the first time. It consists of a 1.4-liter four-cylinder, a six-speed automatic transmission, an electric motor, and a 13-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. The hybrid system's output is pegged at 218 horsepower, and it can power the van on electricity alone for short distances.

Transporter buyers are a loyal bunch, so it will be interesting to watch how they react to this more car-like Multivan. Sales in select markets are scheduled to start later in 2021, but pricing information hasn't been announced yet. When it lands, it will compete in the same segment as the spaceship-like Hyundai Staria introduced in 2021.

Volkswagen hasn't made the Transporter and its numerous derivatives available in the United States since the fourth-generation model (which was called EuroVan on our shores) left in 2003. Nothing suggests the Multivan will be an unexpected exception to this rule, so we'll need to admire it from across the pond. Motorists seeking a modern version of the emblematic, Beetle-based Bus will need to wait until the production version of the electric ID.Buzz concept makes its debut. It's scheduled to arrive in America about halfway through 2023 as a 2024 model.

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