T7 Multivan brings plug-in power and more autonomy to VW van life
After a gradual teaser campaign, Volkswagen pulled the sheets clean off the all-new T7 Multivan this week, charting a new path for its multifunctional passenger van. No longer a member of the Transporter family, the Multivan now stands on its own. It celebrates the newfound freedom with a boatload of tech, ranging from semi-autonomy to plug-in hybrid power. The future of Volkswagen MPVs and camper vans looks quite bright.
In separating it from the Transporter, Volkswagen Commercial switches the Multivan over to the MQB platform that underpins a wide variety of passenger vehicles from the Polo to the Atlas. The move kicks off a three-headed Volkswagen Bulli strategy that will see the T7 Multivan, Transporter T6.1 and upcoming ID. Buzz all sold alongside each other. The ID. Buzz electric range will include both cargo and MPV models.
Styling-wise, the Multivan finds a natural fit between the boxier T6.1's dimensions and the ID. Buzz concept's retro-future curves. Its hood gets shortened and rounded from the previous generation, and its raked windshield further lightens the two-box divide while improving visibility.
Volkswagen does away with the oversized grille of the T6.1, replacing it with a smoother body-color front-end with several levels of grille perforations. It looks much subtler than the T6.1 grille from an angle but still reads as a little too much grille from head-on — in our opinion, anyway. The new grille design pays homage to the smooth-faced rear-engined Bullis of the past and successfully finds a middle ground between the ID. Buzz and Transporter T6.1. Full-width front lighting and classic two-color body paint further accentuate the look of the new Multivan.
VW leaves full electrification to next year's ID. Buzz and instead assigns a plug-in hybrid option to the Multivan for the first time. The "eHybrid" powertrain pairs a 148-hp 1.4-liter engine with a 114-hp electric motor for up to 215 hp of combined output to the front axle. The Multivan eHybrid can commute through the city on zero-emissions electric power before going the distance with its gas-supported range. The 13-KWh lithium battery comes integrated below the floor, and the charging hatch is on the front fender.
Volkswagen will also offer 134-hp 1.5-liter and 201-hp 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder front-wheel drives initially, adding a 148-hp turbodiesel to the options list in 2022. The plug-in powertrain runs its dual-source power through a bespoke six-speed DSG gearbox, while the other engines rely on a seven-speed DSG.
The Multivan comes loaded with some of the latest tech, offering more than 34 standard and available driver-assistance systems. A highlight of the suite, all-new IQ. Drive Travel Assist combines adaptive cruise control and lane assist into a semi-autonomous ride that lightens the driver's load between 0 and 130 mph (0 and 210 km/h). The standard tech features package includes lane assist, frontal area monitoring with city emergency braking, and dynamic road sign display.
The tech continues inside the doors, where a 10.3-in digital cockpit sits to the left of a 10-in infotainment touchscreen, the new DSG shift-by-wire controls between them. A head-up display is available optionally, as is wireless inductive smartphone charging and a glass roof.
Volkswagen already detailed how it's axed the three-seat rear bench of the outgoing Multivan in favor of three individual seats. The new seats add flexibility in removing and rearranging seats into configurations from two-seat cargo van to seven-seat passenger van. The seats are up to 25 percent lighter for easier handling, and the two second-row seats can swivel 180 degrees into a vis-a-vis setup. With all the second- and third-row seats removed, the Multivan offers 3,672 liters of cargo space in its standard 196-in (497-cm)-long iteration and up to 4,053 liters in 204-in (517-cm) version. The 196-in van has 469 liters of space behind the third row and up to 1,850 liters behind the second row.
One downside of the switch from third-row bench to individual seats is that the Multivan loses the light-camping capability it had with the folding bench that dropped down into a bed. We confirmed this loss with Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, which told us that engineers are working on a "good night" package to return comfortable overnighting capabilities to the Multivan's bag of tricks.
The lack of bed is a shame because a multipurpose van with everyday driving capabilities, plug-in hybrid efficiency and semi-autonomous cruising sounds like the perfect vehicle for the hordes of stir-crazy neo road nomads currently gobbling campers of every style and size faster than manufacturers can build them. But full Multivan camper packages with kitchens and additional equipment should start showing up not long after the van's launch, letting road-trip and camping enthusiasts enjoy everything the new Multivan has to offer, including the longer floor rail system and new multifunctional table.
Volkswagen plans to launch the new Multivan later this year. In the UK, it will replace the Caravelle. Sadly, no, there's no grand new plan to get the Multivan back into American driveways; Americans will have to wait for the ID. Buzz to bring back VW van life.