BUYERS GUIDE - HEAVY DUTY
The all-Volkswagen Crafter is no longer a rebadged and repowered Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. The post-2018 Crafter is designed and made by VW and 4Motion models are available.
The Crafter 4Motion models come with east-west engine mounting, six-speed manual and eight speed automatic transmissions and are all-single-tyred models with 3.5-4.0-tonnes GVM ratings.
Unlike Mercedes-Benz Sprinter models that start life as 4x2s and are converter by specialist second-manufacturer, Oberaigner, the new Crafter 4Motion models are VW-factory-built. MAN-badged models come from the same plant.
Because the Crafter was conceived as a range of vans and cab/chassis with front wheel drive and rear wheel drive variants, producing a 4WD variant was simply a matter of combining both drivelines.
The front wheel drive 4×2 Crafter has east-west engine and transmission mounting, with six-speed manual and eight-speed automatic choices that drive front wheel half-shafts.
Dual tyred, rear wheel drive models have a longitudinally-positioned engine and propshaft drive to the rear axle.
In the case of 4Motion Crafters, the engine is positioned east-west and both drivelines are fitted, with a right-angle bevel drive to the propshaft and live rear axle.
The amount of drive going to the rear axle is controlled by a generation-five Haldex wet-clutch coupling.
The Haldex unit assess front axle traction and distributes torque up to 60-percent to the rear axle if required. There’s also an electronically controlled centre differential system, with locking function, to prevent ‘spin out’ at either end of the vehicle.
As with the VW Amarok 4WD ute that’s fitted with an eight-speed automatic transmission there’s no two-speed transfer case in case fitted to 4Motion Crafters.
All Crafter 4Motion models are single-tyred vehicles with 3.5-4.0-tonnes GVM ratings. There are medium wheelbase vans ($56,990 RRP manual and $59,990 auto); long wheelbase vans ($60,490 RRP manual and $$63,490 auto); single cab/chassis ($$55,790 RRP auto only) and dual-cab/chassis ($59,290 RRP auto only).
Interestingly, VW charges only $4500 extra for the 4Motion versions over the price of two-wheel-drive Crafters, unlike Mercedes-Benz, which asks a whopping 20 grand extra for its 4×4 Sprinter models.
Despite larger external dimensions, the Crafter’s east-west engine position allows it to retain or increase former-model load lengths. A further key effect of the new exterior design is a drag coefficient of 0.33, the best in its class, VW claims.
Available driver assistance systems include sensor-controlled side protection, park assist, rear traffic alert, adaptive cruise control (ACC), front assist with city emergency braking system, multi-collision brake system and crosswind assist.
A rear view camera is standard on all van models.
For 4Motion Crafter vans, hill descent control and a mechanically lockable rear differential are available as a packaged $1190 option.
On vehicles with tow-bars, electronic trailer stabilisation uses the ESP system to help control trailer sway. Towing capacity is 2500kg, with a maximum 150kg towball weight.
The post-2018 Crafter achieves
a cargo capacity of up to 18.4 cubic metres. Load width between the wheel arches is 1380mm and cargo space length is up to 4855mm.
In the medium-length variant it is possible to load six Euro pallets (each 1.20m x 0.80m) or four Euro 3 pallets (each 1.00m x 1.20m).
A left-side sliding door is standard and a right-side one is optional.
Of particular interest to fleet managers is the fact that the new Crafter is for the first time offering the integrated FMS fleet management interface as a pre-prepared gateway for telematics functions.
The van cabin we evaluated allowed very easy entry and exit, with three-point-of-contact safety and wide internal step.
The van cabin had three seats as standard, with the centre one foldable, revealing a work table and cup holders integrated into its back rest.
The driver’s seat had longitudinal and height adjustment, electric four-way adjustable lumbar support and two adjustable armrests. Luxury driver’s and passenger’s seats were optional.
Powered main mirrors and manual-adjustment spotters were standard.
Adding significantly to driving ease was a wide-view reversing camera, supplemented by a parking aid that mapped the vehicle’s swept path on the screen.
There were ample storage areas for mobile phones, laptop and tablet, water bottles and coffee mugs, as well as document cubby holes above the windscreen and slots for two-way and CB radio inserts.
There was one USB outlet and two 12-volt plug sockets – three with the Trendline package that also includes a chrome radiator grille, chromed trim on switches and controls and front fog lights and cornering lights.
There is a choice of two radios and navigation systems for the new Crafter. All have a 200mm touch-screen with colour display that can be controlled using swipe and zoom hand movements.
Bluetooth hands-free functionality and voice control are included and customers can also add DAB+ digital radio reception.
The ventilation system plumbing is integrated into the floor, preventing damage by body builders when fitting out interiors. Also, the vent integrated in the floor ensures an even distribution of air from the middle of the vehicle.
Central locking and wireless remote control are standard and the cargo doors can also be locked by a dashboard button.
An optional universal cargo floor is made of five-ply beech and hardwood composition and sealed with UV-resistant resin-film coating. Mesh texturing is said to make this surface coating anti-slip.
There is also an option for ply panels to cover the cargo-area walls.
Nuts ‘n’ bolts
The 2.0-litre TDI diesel ‘EA 288 Commercial’ engine, which has been further developed for the new Crafter, is available with single and twin turbos, but for 4Motion models the more powerful biturbo is standard. Figures are 130kW and 410Nm.
VW claims Euro 6 emissions compliance for the latest engines, thanks to a common-rail injection system with 2000 bar pressure; a high-pressure exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system and a water-cooled Mahle charge air cooler. An oxidising catalytic converter, with a downstream combination of diesel particulate filter (DPF) and SCR catalytic converter, after-treat the exhaust gases.
The newly developed AQ450 automatic gearbox has a heavy-duty casing and bearings, a reinforced lock-up clutch, large parking pawl and drives a four-pinion front differential.
The VW Crafter has McPherson strut front suspension, a live rear axle with parabolic leaf springs and anti-sway bars on both axles.
Electro-mechanical steering is used for the first time on a Crafter, permitting easy fitment of safety functions that include driver fatigue detection, lane keep assist and park assist.
ventilated disc brakes are fitted up front and single-piston, ventilated, combination-calliper disc brakes with parking brake are fitted at the rear.
The Crafter can be fitted with second (AGM) deep cycle battery, with a capacity of 92Ah (AGM) and second-battery monitoring.
Standard ride height leaves only 199mm ground clearance, but there’s a Seikel lift kit available that raises that by 30mm. In conjunction with 245/70R16 tyres in place of the standard 235/65R16s the overall ground clearance lift is 50mm.
On and off road
Our three-seat Crafter 4Motion was a medium (3640mm) wheelbase, standard-height (2355mm) van model that measured just under six metres overall – around ute size. It had 3200mm of floor length and 1.3 tonnes payload capacity – more than equivalent-length utes. The roof load rating was an impressive
A very tight turning circle, great forward vision and superb all-around-view and rear vision camera made it as easy to manoeuvre as the best utes.
Ride quality empty was as good as the very best utes we’ve driven and it got better with a load on board. A load floor height of 670mm made freight handling a doddle.
Performance was excellent and the auto box shifted imperceptibly. The only downside of the small-capacity diesel was poor engine braking power.
Handling was car-like, even with a load on board and the electric steering gave good tyre-contact feedback.
Economy on-highway and around town varied between 6.7L/100km and 12.1L/100km, depending on load and traffic conditions.
We checked out the Crafter 4Motion on some muddy building sites and rough fire trails and it handled all with ease. Traction and lift off on a slimy building site was most impressive with the load out of the vehicle – a situation that sees many tradie vehicles in need of a tow.
The Crafter 4Motion is a well priced alternative to a ute for tradies, we reckon. It has no compromises in terms of driveability or site tractive ability and is more manoeuvrable than many utes.
It can be fitted out as a mobile workshop more easily than a ute and has central locking security for its contents.
Many tradies use their utes for recreational pursuits and the Crafter could be converted inventively from workday truck to weekend and holiday camper.
Well done, VW.
Check out our video test: