Tuesday 17th July 2012


PH FLEET: VW TRANSPORTER KOMBI SPORTLINE

Less than 24 hours into 'ownership' and the Transporter is loaded up and headed for France


It's a bit of an express PH Fleet tenure for 'our' Transporter, in every sense and we've got it on fleet for just a month. No time to waste then and, mere hours after arrival, I was straight out of PH Towers, destination Caterham to pick up ... well, you probably figured it out. And the reason a van like this could fit into the life of any PHer with a more creative outlook on life and a broader remit than just one flash set of wheels.

All aboard! No time to waste...
All aboard! No time to waste...
Money where mouth is time though. Well, sort of. I've loudly been tellinganyone interested (and a few who probably weren't) the combination of van, trailer and Caterham Seven is the equivalent of a new Porsche 911, basic list price of 71,449. Without actually doing the maths.

So, somewhat belatedly, here goes. The van, as established, and commented on vigorously in the first report, is a sturdy 39,066 including VAT. And the Caterham Roadsport you see, an honest 125hp 1.6 Sigma-engined car with six-speed gearbox, carbon wings, leather seats (the decadence!), Ballistic Orange paint and a few other extras an additional 28,305. Chuck in 5,220 for the PRGMinisporter trailer and you get ... 72,591. Point proven, I like to think!

Best place for a Seven on the motorway
Best place for a Seven on the motorway
Back her up...
So much for the dream, now for the reality. Never having towed anything before I was somewhat nervous arriving at Caterham with my shiny new van. Naturally I feigned expertise, hooked up the trailer and set off, nervously watching the Minisporter weaving gently behind in the mirrors up Caterham High Street.

Chatting with van-driving pals, both business and private 'lifestyle' (sorry, that word again...) users, it's clear the Transporter has a very strong reputation, not least for speed. To be fair the Transporter wasn't exactly troubled by half a tonne or so of Caterham and the trailer, as the 180hp twin-turbo diesel of 'our' van is the most powerful engine you can currently buy.

Transporter makes light work of Alpine passes
Transporter makes light work of Alpine passes
OK, it's not quite the 235hp V6 3.2 FSI petrol you could once get in the T5 but it outguns even the famously grunty 2.5 TDI version, if just by a smidge, while being commendably smooth and even - shock - quite revvy.

If towing the Caterham didn't impact too much on the numbers on the speedo it did have a more significant effect on the fuel gauge, the trip computer recording low 20s on a 'trailer, what trailer?' pace, mid to high 20s when self-discipline kept the speed down to 60mph or so for a range of around 500 miles to a tank. Flying solo, the Transporter will comfortably record mid to high 30s but whichever way you look at it it's preferable to spending eight hours droning down the French peage in a Seven with space for little more than a change of pants and a can of deodorant.

Corners ahead - time to disembark!
Corners ahead - time to disembark!
Live the dream
After several hundred dull miles of motorway and an enticing squiggle on the map to the final destination of Morzine I appealed to my co-driver's generosity, unloaded the Seven and led the charge through the ski resort of Les Gets in typically noisy fashion. And here the dream of doing the boring bit in the van and the fun bit in the Caterham made total sense, with the proviso I had someone with me to follow with the Transporter and trailer!

I love riding my mountain bike in Wales but I'd never pedal it there along the M4 and it's the same logic with this set-up. And, frankly, about the same level of faff to get the Caterham on and off the trailer as it is to load a bike onto a rack.

All Alpine thrills catered for with the Transporter
All Alpine thrills catered for with the Transporter
You could do the same with any SUV but the beauty of the Transporter is being able to chuck in all the kit you'd need to cover any number of Alpine/beachside (delete according to taste) entertainments. There's something rather liberating about it all and, of course, you could always go the whole hog and sleep in the thing too, be that with a 'proper' California version or self-built conversion.

Vantastic (sorry...)
2,000 miles, and a slight (if embarrassing) interaction between trailer and Transporter bumper later, I returned to home soil and a more typical use of van and trailer with a diversion from the run back from Dover via Brands Hatch GP circuit. In the paddock the combination of van and four-wheeled plaything towed behind stood out less than it had on French campsites and demonstrated plenty of others living the dream.

Very much at home in the Brands paddock
Very much at home in the Brands paddock
There was little doubt the Transporter was going to excel at this part of the deal. And so if proved. But what about more day-to-day living? The next few weeks should answer that...



With thanks to the guys at Caterham, Club MSV and P&O Ferries.


Car: 2012 VW Transporter Kombi Sportline T32 SWB 2.0-litre BiTDI 180 PS
Run by: Dan Trent
On fleet since: July
Mileage: 10,624
List price new: 39,066 (List price of 30,340 plus VAT and delivery, plus Candy White paint/Gloss Black roof - 450, 'cab comfort pack' inc. additional carpets and noise suppression - 210, removable tow bar - 470, 'seat pack C' featuring heated front seats - 225, 'side door pack B' - 440, parking sensors - 150, mud flaps - 95, cruise control - 175; all options prices plus VAT)
Last couple of weeks at a glance: Transporter racks up 2,000 continental miles in just two weeks, hurried rookie towing adventures ensue with mixed results

Previous reports:
White vans are the fastest thing on the road, right? This one looks like itought to be...

Author: Dan Trent
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