If your work carries you over the rugged ground of desert, forest or tundra, a rolling office like the Brabus Business Lounge is likely to break down before getting to the job site. What you need is a mobile office built into something more rugged; something like the Volkswagen Tristar concept. In place of the luxury van typical in roadtrip-ready office spaces, the Tristar is underpinned by a specially built 4Motion pickup truck.
Interestingly enough, while the Tristar parts ways with the van shell so typical in mobile office designs, the concept is planted on Volkswagen's T-Series platform, which serves as the base of VW van models like the Transporter and Multivan. Volkswagen believes the added storage versatility of a pickup bed helps this "Transporter of the future" meet multi-use standards that make it a high-functioning workshop, office or "surf mobile."
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The Tristar concept, which makes its debut this week at the IAA Commercial Vehicles show in Hannover, Germany, was developed in part as a 30th anniversary celebration of the Transporter's 4WD past. The journey to an all-wheel-drive Transporter began as an unofficial one back in the 1970s when VW engineer (and head of Transporter development until 1975) Gustav Mayer yearned for a more off-road-savvy bus for his travels through the Sahara. Working with existing parts and help from fellow engineer Henning Duckstein, he cobbled together a rough 4WD Transporter and began testing it in the desert.
It took several years for the 4WD Transporter idea to gain steam in Volkswagen's corporate offices and around a decade for it to start rolling off the lines. VW equipped the rear-engined third-generation Transporter (T3) with some modifications aimed at accommodating 4WD when it started building the T3 in 1979. However, it wasn't until 1985 that the Syncro permanent all-wheel drive was made available as an option. Built by Austrian manufacturer Steyr-Daimler-Puch, the system used a viscous clutch to engage the front wheels when a significant RPM differential between front and rear wheels was detected.
The Syncro option offered Transporter buyers a more rugged, off-road-capable van. It was built between 1985 and 1992, primarily as a van, but also in other body styles, including single and double cab pickup trucks. The "TriStar" was a special edition variant of the double cab pickup that Volkswagen advertised as being built for combining work and leisure.
This week's Tristar concept brings the name, gritty pickup build and work-leisure inspiration of the original TriStar back to the forefront of VW design. The beefy concept puts an extended cab and bed on a shortened wheelbase. To assist in the unpredictable conditions of off-road driving, it has 30 mm of added ground clearance and a 4Motion permanent all-wheel drive system with mechanical rear-axle differential lock. A 2.0-liter TDI engine develops 201 hp (150 kW) and 332 lb-ft (450 Nm) of torque for the 4Motion system to distribute to the "Rocadura" 245/70 R17 alloy wheels.
While the concept's name and form give it historical relevance, it's the dramatic interior that fulfills the "future" aspect. The cab is built to serve as a rolling conference room and includes swiveling front seats, a 20-in tablet table, video conferencing equipment and an audio system. There's even a built-in espresso machine for serving up the obligatory caffeine refresher.
A pickup truck may not be the most useful vehicle type for the average urban executive, but it could provide support capabilities for jobs that get done far beyond central city streets. We're thinking folks working in geological field work, on location film shooting and forestry might find such a rugged mobile office useful.
You'd have a heck of a time loading freshly chopped timber or dirty mountain bikes into the leather-covered cabin of a Brabus-style luxo-van, but the Transporter's bed is ready to haul anything that's too big, awkward or dirty to put inside the cabin. Below the bed's surface, a hidden storage drawer adds extra space and includes a spare deep-tread tire.
After sending out an initial Tristar press release Monday morning, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles sent out a separate press release just after midnight, offering a bit more context as to what it meant when referring to the "future of the Transporter." The Tristar is the harbinger of the T6 Transporter, which Volkswagen plans to introduce next year.
"The IAA is the starting point for Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles to embark on an intensive period," says Dr. Eckhard Scholz, CEO of Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles. "In 2015, we are renewing our most important model – the T-series."
"[The T6] will incorporate the excellent characteristics of the T5 and it will also feature a whole load of new technology innovations," Scholz continues. "The result will again be an outstanding, reliable, technically refined, mobile companion for our customers to pursue their trade and leisure time activities."
Source: Volkswagen Commercial VehiclesView gallery - 17 images