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Volkswagen, Van and Volume go together very well, and have for the half-century since the first VW Transporter was made. The VW van may not have had the capacity of a full-size American van, but there was a lot of room on the inside compared to the space it took up on the road.
The V-word that has never been associated with Volkswagen vans is Velocity. After years of building a van with what German engineers think drivers need, they finally built one with what American drivers want: power, 201 horsepower, to be exact.
While they were at it, they lowered the price more than $5000, which brings in another V-word: Value. The price-performance ratio that had kept American buyers away in droves has been flipped, and if all is right with the world, customers should be beating down dealers' doors for this better mousetrap. Perfect it's not, but this Van has Volume, Velocity and Value, and yes, it's a Volkswagen.
We used a Volkswagen EuroVan GLS to take a daughter-and most of her worldly possessions-to grad school. It was a 4821-mile round trip, half with the EuroVan fully loaded and the return trip virtually empty.
The EuroVan's interior room was greatly appreciated. Only two months before, we had moved the same items home after college graduation in-and on-a Ford Windstar, which not only required that her desk be strapped to the roof, but six boxes of books were mailed home. The EuroVan swallowed the same load completely, including the desk and books and added luggage with room to spare. Goodbye Windstar, hello Eurovan!
Our route included an Interstate dash from northeast Pennsylvania to New Mexico with detours to visit family, and a return trip over two-lane highways in Colorado, Kansas and Missouri, all this during an August heatwave with temperatures, according to the EuroVan, as high as 109 degrees, and thunderstorms with downpours of Biblical proportions. The EuroVan shone in these conditions.
Loaded nearly to the rafters, the EuroVan was able to handle even western speed limits with ease and was eager to go faster had we dared. No more excuses are necessary for the EuroVan's performance. The cruise control works very well, maintaining a constant velocity even over western mountain passes, even with a full load. With the added power, passing on two-lane highways was as much a joy as a chore, if only for the juvenile thrill of showing the passee what this big flying brick can do.
"Tomb-like" would not describe the EuroVan on the Interstate. Wind, road and engine noise all raise the interior sound level, though not objectionably so.
Despite is big flat sides, the EuroVan tracked like a bullet on the Interstates, even with a 30 mph crosswind across the Texas panhandle that was strong enough that my daughter, following in her car, complained that it must need to be realigned. The EuroVan responds to the steering wheel with immediacy and precision. The natural expectation for this tall vehicle is for oodles of lean in hard cornering, but not so for the EuroVan. There is little tilt and no sway. It's no gazelle-a rhino is a more apt metaphor-the steady dose of understeer and feedback is remarkably confidence building. Volkswagen has reinforced the Eurovan's body and the increased rigidity not only allows the fully independent suspension to do its job well, but the van was creak and rattle free whether loaded or unloaded. The 43.3-foot turning radius was useful for U-turns on the rare occasion we went the wrong way. Suspension is fully independent, with double wishbones and torsion bars up front and semi-trailing arms and coil springs at the rear. VW replaced the 2000 model year 15-inch alloy wheels with nifty 5-spoke 16-inch alloys for 2001.
The EuroVan performed so well that we'd gladly forgo the style of cushier minivans for the comfort and utility of the Volkswagen.
Ground clearance is a generous 7 inches, but the overall height of 6 foot, 4 inches will make some parking garages a tight fit overhead.
The V6 is the same engine used in some of Volkswagen's performance sedans. New cylinder heads for the 2001 model year bumped horsepower from 140 at 4500 rpm to an impressive 200 horsepower at 6200 rpm. The power increase came from improved breathing, four-valve-per-cylinder heads replacing the three-valve heads on the 2000 model.
The engine also has more grunt across the board, producing 191 foot-pounds of torque from 2500 to 5500 rpm (versus last year's 177 pounds-feet from 3000-4300 rpm). Increased torque allows the EuroVan to tow a 4,400-pound trailer (if equipped with electric brakes). The tradeoff is an appetite for premium fuel, which it burns at an EPA-estimated city/highway 15/20 miles per gallon. Open the hood, by the way, and there's nothing to see but an engine cover with cutouts for the oil dipstick and filler cap. You apparently aren't expected to need more access than that.
Despite being big, the EuroVan hasn't been one of Volkswagen's biggest selling models. However, we'll forecast an increase in popularity for this unique minivan. It offers substantially more power at a substantially lower price, combined with its traditional characteristics that begin with an interior the size of a junior high gymnasium. More than one curious owner of a different minivan planned to visit a VW dealership after being shown the EuroVan.
Our GLS totaled $28,490, placing it in competition with some luxurious domestic minivans that offer a more car-like feel. And personally, we'd exchange the $1,000 sunroof for a CD changer and keep the change. The EuroVan will appeal, however, to the practical individual who can appreciate comfort over style and has a willingness to drive something the neighbors aren't. Others may follow, however. With the decreased price and increased power, the new EuroVan adds yet another V-word: Vrrrrrooom!