The Mercedes V-Class and VW T6 Multivan compared: How well does the new VW bus perform?
As the T1 it provided the means of transport for the economic boom in Germany in the 60s. In 1984 the T3 Multivan defined its own vehicle category, and since then has been a dream family car. As the T6, the new model is competing with the V-Class.
Twelve million VW buses have made their mark – on race tracks around the world and in the daily lives of entire generations. Uschi Obermaier escaped from Bavaria by hitchhiking in a T1, both demonstrators and law enforcers drive the T2 to Wackersdorf, some with anti-atomic power stickers, and some with police lettering on the sides. When the Multivan arrived in 1984, the T3 perfected the concept of a car with which you can rumble along the hippie trail just as proficiently as you can roll through the new Burgdorf Wedel housing development. Since 1950, the Type 2 – this was the original name of the bus as it was VW's second ever model after the Beetle (Type 1) – has only reinvented itself once. In 1990, when the T4 brought the rear-mounted engine era to a close with the laterally mounted front engine. Almost – because traditionalist didn't really trust the infernal front-drive, the T3 continued to be produced until 1992, and even until 2003 in South Africa.
Perhaps you didn't particularly want to know all of this, but you just start to tell stories like this when the conversation turns to the VW Bus. Furthermore, all of this reminiscing is useful - ultimately, the 65-year history of the "Bulli" would suggest that we won't be looking at an all-new Multivan until 2030.
The V-Classe as a serious competitor
Thus, it is now a little difficult to talk about the T6, as the new model doesn't differ from it predecessor in terms of dimensions – with as little difference outside as in. Initially this seems like too little innovation for the years ahead, especially seeing as last year, with the V-Class, Mercedes released a competitor that could leave the Multivan foundering for the first time in its career. On the other hand, the Golf VI and Passat B7 barely differed from their predecessors in terms of form, but were considerably better cars. VW is also aware of the fact that not much has happened on the outside, but packages this in marketing diplomacy, according to which the T6 Multivan "undeniably bears the style elements of its predecessor“. Well that much is clear.
The VW T6 Multivan with an expanded assistance package
While after twelve years there isn't much to improve in terms of bodywork, when it comes to the use of space it is a different matter. 4.89 metres long, two metres wide and tall, it looks like a box on wheels, with the only sloping lines to be found at the front. Under the bonnet, the drive systems are laterally mounted. The front-wheel drive layout makes such efficient use of space that the VW T6 Multivan offers as much interior space as the Mercedes V-Class in the 5.14-metre version. In the Merc the engine sits longitudinally, and drives the rear wheels – for 3,297 Euros you can have all-wheel drive, also available in the T6 for 3,336 Euros.
Generally speaking, the range of equipment is similar in both models – especially when it comes to the furniture. In both models the area to rear can be configured either with longitudinally adjustable individual seats (four in the V-Class, up to five in the VW T6 Multivan) or with two individual seats and a three-seater sofa bed. This has been just as much a part of Multivan folklore as the folding table since the first generation. In the Mercedes both cost extra (992 and 655 Euros).
The V-Class has managed one advantage with regard to variability. Unlike in the Multivan, the individual seats do not have a bogie, but can instead by repositioned to form a vis-à-vis seating arrangement. WHowever, because they weigh around ten kilos less than in the VW T6 Multivan, repositioning is faster and lighter. However, VW has simplified the removal of the seats and the rear bench, and in addition the bench can now slide on rails without having to fold down the seat back. This was previously required – and it was annoying if you had child seats installed, which first had to be removed.
The T5 already featured integrated child seats, and VW is now expanding the safety arsenal with an extensive range of assistance systems, making up considerable ground on the Mercedes V-Class in this area. Thus, the VW now also has adaptive cruise control (up to 160 or 210 km/h, with a dual clutch transmission and stop-and-go function), an alertness assistant and a collision warner with City Emergency Braking System. Rather than xenon, VW now offers full LED headlights, which the Highline receives as standard. Adaptive lighting and a crosswind assistant, which keeps the car in lane in the event of gusts of wind by means of ESP intervention, are, however, only available in the Mercedes. Because both manufacturer's pride themselves on providing a comprehensive fleet of assistants, it does, however, seem strange that security features such as lateral window bags to the front and rear cost extra in the basic versions of the VW T6 Multivan and Mercedes V-Class.
As do the more sophisticated comfort features incidentally. Whereas in the Mercedes you can have selective dampers for 179 Euros, which should react better to the respective load, the T6 now receives adaptive dampers. As in the other VW models, they have three options: Normal, Comfort and a Sport setting that has never really been missed in a VW Bus. With an otherwise practically unchanged chassis, the new dampers alone shouldn't do anything to change the rather dreadful handling of the VW T6 Multivan – nor to change the slight advantage that the Mercedes V-Class has.
VW T6 Multivan from just under 30,000 Euros
But while Mercedes offers just three power versions of the robust 2.1-litre turbo diesel engine, better known as the OM 651, VW offers a much larger range of engines for the T6 Multivan. All six drive systems comply with the Euro 6 standard, with the TDI now receiving an SCR catalytic converter and requiring refilling with 13 litres of Adblue every 7,000 kilometres. VW promises to have reduced the consumption of all engines by one litre per 100 km. The most economical models will be the Bluemotion variants with 101 and – a new addition – 148 HP, the standard consumption values for which lie at 5.5 and 6.0 l/100 km respectively.
However, the Bulli has not only become more efficient, but – and this is really surprising – also cheaper. With the actually very basic Conceptline basic version (previously the Startline) the base price of the Multivan range falls to just under 30,000 Euros. With comparable equipment the Mercedes V-Class and the Multivan were previously on a similar level, but the T6 should now be a little cheaper, as the standard equipment from the equipment version that is second from bottom, the Trendline, is astonishingly complete. This model already contains a radio with Bluetooth and USB, which along with the more expensive sound and navigation system is in keeping with the generation of infotainment familiar from the Golf and Passat. They should at least be on a par with the equipment in the V-Class in terms of operation and functional scope. Aditional new extras: the electric closing function for the rear section, or alternatively laterally opening rear gullwing doors, four two-colour paint options, the Six model to be available from market launch, a heated front wind screen and electrically adjustable front seats.
Oh yeah, and the wing mirrors are now lower down. So that you can have a better rear view – of the tracks that the VW T6 Multivan leaves behind.The new Multivan: prices and engines
When the VW T6 Multivan hits dealerships from 26th June, there will be four versions of the two-litre diesel, with varying levels of power (83, 101, 148 and 201 HP in the biturbo). Alternatively available: a two-litre turbo-charged petrol engine with 148 and 201 HP. The dual clutch transmission costs 2,338 Euros, all-wheel drive costs 3,336 Euros. The new base model is the Multivan Conceptline with the 83 HP TDI for 29.952 Euros. Once again, the model above this is the Trendline (radio, Bluetooth, air-conditioning as standard), with the 101 HP TDI, at a price of 36,414 Euros. The most popular model is expected to be the 148 HP diesel in the Comfortline trim level (46,892 Euros). With the equally powerful petrol engine it costs 44,143 Euros. Top-of-the-range models: the 2.0 BiTDI DSG Highline for 64,665 Euros; the 2.0 TSI Highline for 62,041 Euros.
Date24 August 2015