To great fanfare the new VW T6 was finally revealed to an expectant world last night in Amsterdam. Following a big build-up by VW over the last couple of years, to those eagerly awaiting big changes in the next generation of VW Transporters, last night’s launch will have come as something of an anticlimax. To those owners of T5 vans the great unveiling will have come as a relief; in appearance at least there is little new and so residuals will remain relatively high.
VW have tended to release quite different versions of its iconic van every 12 to 15 years or so since the first ‘Bulli’ rolled off the production line in 1950. Over the last 65 years we’ve seen 12 million vans sold from the Splitscreen T1 (1950-67), Bay-windowed T2 (1967-79), squarer-shaped T3 (1979-90), more compact T4 (1990-2003) and the modern T5 (2005-2015). The T5 received a facelift in 2010 which included subtle changes to its exterior (new lights and grille) and a different line-up of engines. In all of these changes VW have been at pains to emphasise the heritage of the VW van, and never more so than at last night’s launch.
You could be forgiven for thinking that the new T6 is simply another facelift of the T5; to the untrained eye there’s really very little to distinguish it apart from slightly squarer lights, a deeper grille and the shape of the number plate surround.
However, it’s under the bonnet and in the cab where the changes – albeit evolutionary rather than revolutionary – take place. First of all, the T6 will now have four diesel engines (84, 102, 150 and 204 hp) and two petrol engines (150 and 204 hp). VW claim that fuel efficiency is improved by up to 15% over the T5.
Internally, there’s a new dash which looks quite different and then a range of electrical gizmos that improve functionality and safety. These include an electrical tailgate and seat adjustment, dynamic suspension (in which the shock absorbers adjust to different road conditions), a reversing camera and a Driver Alert System that detects when you’re tired. This video shows some of the new features up close – including aspects that the presenter is unaware that are already available on the T5 such as the electric sliding door, clean external lines along external panels and its car-like driving position.
The launch event showed off a top-of-the-range Shuttle minibus, Caravelle MPV and panel van. Other variants including the California camper van are due in late 2015.
Also unveiled in Amsterdam was the special edition ‘Generation Six’ clad in two-tone ‘retro’ paintwork, with the colour-coded paintwork extending to the dashboard. While it’s currently unclear whether the special edition will make it to the UK the side-by-side comparisons with the curvy two-tone paintwork of the original Splitscreen van suggest that the new T6 will struggle to carry off this ‘retro’ look given its boxy shape.
Do I like it ? Well, on the basis that the T5 a great van and the T6 is only subtly different, then absolutely. Will I be buying one ? No, I’m not even remotely tempted. I’m quite happy to keep my T5 California for many more years to come, happy that it does everything I’d like it to do.