Review: the 4x4 VW vans we don't get in the UK

  • Three all-wheel drive vans enjoyed by European buyers
  • Caddy, Transporter and Multivan go mud-plugging
  • 4Motion tech keeps the wheels moving in tricky terrain

If you want to go off-road in a Volkswagen commercial vehicle in the UK you’ll currently be ushered towards an Amarok pickup.

European operators, however, benefit from a far greater choice, with both the Caddy and the Transporter available not only equiped with 4Motion four-wheel drive but fully prepared to do some serious mud-plugging.

We’ve driven examples of these more extreme 4x4 models in the interest of science, so let's find out what British buyers are missing...

VW Caddy Alltrack review

VW Caddy Alltrack review

Worldwide demand for the 4Motion Caddy is 10%, but in strong four-wheel drive markets like Norway that figure is as high as 60%. Replacing the Cross Caddy (not an angry golfing assistant), this new Alltrack variant comes with optional all-wheel drive and lots of off-road styling.

Power is distributed between the front and rear axles depending on how much grip is available, and under normal running conditions the Caddy Alltrack is front-wheel drive to save fuel.

Never-the-less, when taxed with trickier terrain it works well, too, refusing to get stuck in the boggy mud we ploughed it through. In fact the main thing holding the Caddy back in comparison with some of the more extreme vehicles here was its understandably less-lofty ground clearance.

Avaialble as a panel van or passenger version, the Alltrack comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, chrome grille, black trim for the wheel arches and sills and underbody protection.

The passenger version adds special 7Summits seat covers and folding tables for rear seat passengers.

Read a full UK review of the VW Caddy Black Edition

VW Transporter Rockton review

VW Transporter T6 Rockton review

There’s even more interest in all-wheel drive at this level with 23% of all Transporter, Caravelle, Multivan and California vehicles ordered with 4Motion. Norway again leads the field with 83%, while in Switzerland and Austria it’s fitted to almost every other van.

The Rockton 4Motion tested here is a special version of the Transporter Kombi. It comes with all-wheel drive as standard, and boasts a 30mm increase in ride height to help traverse tougher trails.

More importantly there’s also a mechanical rear differential lock to help get the power down in very slippery conditions, plus heavy-duty underbody protection for the engine, gearbox, rear differential, exhaust, sills and fuel tank.

We took it on some punishing off-road routes, including through a deep water splash that the Rockton forded with ease. At first off-roading in a van is an odd sensation, and it’s testament to the VW’s ability that this awkwardness quickly disappeared.

Read a full UK review of the VW Transporter Sportline

VW Transporter Mutlivan PanAmericana review

It might sound like something you order from Pizza Hut but the PanAmericana is actually an off-road version of the Transporter Multivan – Mutlivan being the German name for the passenger-orientated model we know as the Caravelle.

As such you get seating for seven people and the ability to take them cross-country thanks to the 20mm increase in ride height and optional 4Motion all-wheel drive.

Styling-wise the off-road cues include textured front and rear bumpers, underfloor protection, side sill attachments and stone guard liner.

Protection for the interior includes an optional chequer plate rear floor and rubber mats, while luxury items like climate control and leather trim for the steering wheel and gearknob are fitted standard.

For times when the pony club gets really ambitious.

Also consider:

VW Caddy (2015 onwards) full review on Parkers Vans

VW Transporter T6 (2015 onwards) full review on Parkers Vans

VW Caravelle (2015 onwards) full review on Parkers Vans

Also see:

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