Automotive

VW's Tristar concept puts a mobile office inside a rugged Transporter pickup truck

VW's Tristar concept puts a mo...
Volkswagen presents the Transporter-based TRISTAR pickup truck
Volkswagen presents the Transporter-based TRISTAR pickup truck
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This 1988 Volkswagen T3 Double Cab TriStar has a 110-hp rear-mounted, water-cooled boxer engine
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This 1988 Volkswagen T3 Double Cab TriStar has a 110-hp rear-mounted, water-cooled boxer engine
The TRISTAR concept is powered by a 200-hp TDI engine
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The TRISTAR concept is powered by a 200-hp TDI engine
The front seats swivel and slide to adjust the mobile work space
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The front seats swivel and slide to adjust the mobile work space
Early 4WD Transporter
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Early 4WD Transporter
The 1988 Vollkswagen T3 Double Cab TriStar was restored for the 2010 IAA Commercial Vehicles show
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The 1988 Vollkswagen T3 Double Cab TriStar was restored for the 2010 IAA Commercial Vehicles show
The Austrian Syncro system added impressive new capabilities to the T3
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The Austrian Syncro system added impressive new capabilities to the T3
Early 4WD Transporter
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Early 4WD Transporter
The special edition Doppelkabine (Doka/Double Cab) TriStar
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The special edition Doppelkabine (Doka/Double Cab) TriStar
The VW TRISTAR debuts at the IAA Commercial Vehicles show
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The VW TRISTAR debuts at the IAA Commercial Vehicles show
The TRISTAR is equipped with a 4Motion AWD system and rear differential lock
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The TRISTAR is equipped with a 4Motion AWD system and rear differential lock
The Volkswagen TRISTAR brings back a name from the T3 Transporter era
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The Volkswagen TRISTAR brings back a name from the T3 Transporter era
Volkswagen throws in the added "perk" of an espresso machine
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Volkswagen throws in the added "perk" of an espresso machine
Inside the TRISTAR concept
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Inside the TRISTAR concept
Besides being a unique concept car, the TRISTAR marks the start of the sixth-generation Transporter
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Besides being a unique concept car, the TRISTAR marks the start of the sixth-generation Transporter
Volkswagen presents the Transporter-based TRISTAR pickup truck
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Volkswagen presents the Transporter-based TRISTAR pickup truck
The T5 will soon give way to the T6
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The T5 will soon give way to the T6
TriStar photo from VW archives
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TriStar photo from VW archives
View gallery - 17 images

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."

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.

Early 4WD Transporter
Early 4WD Transporter

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 special edition Doppelkabine (Doka/Double Cab) TriStar
The special edition Doppelkabine (Doka/Double Cab) TriStar

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.

The front seats swivel and slide to adjust the mobile work space
The front seats swivel and slide to adjust the mobile work space

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.

The T5 will soon give way to the T6
The T5 will soon give way to the T6

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 Vehicles

View gallery - 17 images
7 comments
7 comments
BigGoofyGuy
I think that is really cool. I hope they make that. IMO, I think it would do well. I think it will boost VW's image.
Jay Finke
More junk from VW. hope it don't catch fire from there inferior wire insulation they used on earlier passat &.. models, It crumbles and falls right off, leaving you with bare copper wires ! Anyone out there had there VW start afire ?
mookins
'Companion', now there's a word for a sophisticated buying public And he's right- it's styled smart and fun, with a bit of 'rrruffff!'
Hope they've made it so the engine and powertrain can be switched out for batteries when those are 2X stronger in five years.
VoiceofReason
I'll believe it when I see it at a dealership. VW is great at concepts that never reach anyone's front door.
Bruce H. Anderson
Midway between a small pickup and the Honda Ridgeline. The pickup shown in the gallery (the T5?) looks like the typical small pickup I've seen in Central and South America. The Tristar may find a niche for someone who has to go off road (construction sites for instance) but doesn't need a big rig like a 4x4 powerstroke duallie. The espresso machine is a bit much.
Bill Bennett
@ Jay MBZ was famous for that issue in the German cars we in the repair business, called them "beanie" harnesses as the insulation was made from castor beans to make recycling easier at the cars EOL. Unfortunately, they recycled themselves while the car was still in service.
Jay Finke
@ Bill Bennett Ah yes now I remember the bean thing. the only thing is that this MINOR flaw is a big safety issue, in my book. And 40 yrs ago I used to use 22 bullets as fuses in the one bug I owned, (for about 2 months), that was it I had enough. I did like the gas heaters they had though. oh and the motor blocks made for swell camp fires !