Volkswagen has released  a new and significantly upgraded version of its popular Transport T6, which it has dubbed the ‘6.1’ generation, with an array of updated equipment and new variants, including the return of a factory built camper model.

The company says it is the most significant upgrade for the Transporter range since the launch of the Transporter T5  back in the early 2000s with features such as an performance and steering advances, an entirely new dash and a plethora of safety upgrades.

The Transporter ‘6.1’ receives an array of added standard safety and convenience technology as standard, includingFront Assist with City Emergency Brake (CEB), Crosswind Assist, Side Assist including blind spot monitoring and Rear Traffic Alert, Multi-collision brake and, in some models,  a fantastic new digital cockpit akin to what the aviation industry calls a ‘glass cockpit’.

The new range also gets an interface with both Apple Carplay and Android Auto which adds a higher degree of convenience and puts it on a par with other new passenger and commercials.

Truck and Bus News had a brief drive at the national media launch in Sydney recently, slipping behind the wheel of the latest Crewvan with a load strapped down behind a single row of rear passenger seats, as well as getting the chance to drive the new Multivan Cruise limited edition passenger van, and also the cab chassis dual cab tray back, again carrying a significant load strapped into the tray.

We didn’t get the chance to sample the new California Beach ‘adventure van’ , the modern day take on the Kombi camper, but we look forward to sampling that near a beach somewhere on a camping trip at some point in the future.

All three  of the T6.1s we sampled on the day performed extremely well on a route around Sydney’s inner west in and out of heavy traffic situations impressing with their drivability, manoeuvrability, quietness, responsiveness and overall ease of operation.

Volkswagen virtually invented this sector of the market, at the very least it made it  successful and created a whole culture around  its van range, starting with the T1 Kombi back in the early 1950s, and while other vehicle makers have tried to emulate the concept none have been as good or successful as Volkswagen has.

The new range has a total of 49 different variants, available in a choice of short or long wheel base variants, high or low roof, dual cab or single cab light trucks. There is a choice of three 2.0 litre turbo diesel engine options, ranging from 81kW to 146 kW depending on model, and either a five or six-speed manual and VW’s own seven-speed DSG auto, again depending on model and engine choice. Drive is either by standard front drive or 4Motion all-wheel drive on various models.

The variations and range of specs are too numerous to detail in a news story like this, but are extensive and infinitely variable depending on your application, budget and desires.

The T6.1 range spans a vast price spectrum from a recommended retail of $38,990 for the entry level Transporter TDI240 with a 90kW version of the 2.0litre TDI and a five speed manual, up to a $92,990 rrp, for the headlining new age camper model, the California Beach, with the twin turbo TDI450 146kW 2.0litre turbo diesel, mated to the seven-speed DSG and 4Motion all-wheel drive.

VW’s quoted average fuel average consumption figures run from as low as 6.1litres/100km for the entry level TDI250 up to around 8.4litre/100km  for the more powerful and heavier variants, which are pretty impressive fuel numbers, if they can be matched in real world conditions.

As well as the all-new dash the other significant changes from the previous gen 6 models is the introduction of electromechanical power steering, replacing the older hydraulic power steering in previous models, meaning better steering feel and effort with less drain on engine power and gains in fuel consumption and efficiency.

The revised dash panel features open stowage compartments, drink holders and a lockable glove box with either the new 6.5 inch ‘composition colour’ touch screen infotainment display or a fantastic 8.0 inch ‘Discovery Media’ touch screen display, again depending on model choice.

The work horses  of the range, the ‘panel’ van Transporters  feature painted steel floors and interior side linings, with tie down points and a standard left hand sliding door and rear lift up door. A right hand sliding door is optional  as is rear barn or wing doors. The other ‘workers’ in the range are the cab-chassis models  that are  now favoured with many tradies for the added capacity and flexibility they offer over traditional dual cab utes, such as VW’s own Amarok.

The vans offer a payload ranging from 951kg in the entry level TDI250 manual  up to 1220kg for the TDI340 SWB six speed manual van, but generally they are around the one-tonne mark across the van range depending on spec, give or take a few kilograms here or there. With the cab chassis trayback variants, the payload ranges from 853kg for the single cab TDI450 up to 1056kg for the dual cab TDI450, and again with small variations around those weights depending on exact spec. All models have a towing capacity of 2.5tonnes for braked trailers and 750kg for unbraked trailers.

It is clear that the Transporter  no matter which form it comes in is far more than a ‘white box on wheels’, and delivers ‘versatility, practicality and customisation’ as Volkswagen boasts in its press kit. More importantly, after our all too brief drive, we can report that the Transporter is still the best handling, most impressive performer in the van market and despite being a premium offering these days, still delivers a very attractive package whether your moving freight, tools, your family and friends or paying passengers.

We look forward to bringing you a full rundown and test on a variety of new Transporter 6.1 models in coming issues.