Review: 2003 VW Eurovan

THE AUTO PAGE By JOHN HEILIG

SPECIFICATIONS

MODEL: Volkswagen EuroVan MV ENGINE: 2.8-liter V6 HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 201 hp @ 6200 rpm/181 lb-ft @ 2500-5500 rpm TRANSMISSION: 4-speed automatic WHEELBASE: 115.0 in. LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 188.5 x 72.4 x 76.4 in. STICKER PRICE: $31,650

There's no denying that Volkswagen (and brother Audi) create some of the more interesting vehicles on the road today. They are often innovative (the narrow-V six and the W8 are two engines that come to mind; quattro and all-wheel drive are another; the New Beetle is a third) and frequently stylish. But the EuroVan is the exception to the rule. While VW has redesigned and re-engineered the rest of its fleet, the EuroVan still clings to the Hippie mindset that made it so popular in the 1960s. True, the engine is now in the front and it's front-wheel drive and you can even get an automatic transmission, but the EuroVan could use a redesign. Not that there aren't some redeeming social values with what may seriously be considered the first minivan in the world. For example, we drove the MV, or Weekender, version of the van. This has a pop-up roof, just like the camper version, that offers a bed for two people, window screens for two sliding windows, extra electric power, and creative seating. The MV is a seven-passenger van, just like the "base" GLS. It has two bucket seats up front and a three-person bench about midway back. Behind the two front seats are two rear-facing seats, so the passengers in back can socialize. It also provides a lot of legroom for the people sitting back there. Legroom often isn't a problem in a minivan, but it can be sometimes. That rear bench also folds flat and converts to a bed, making sleeping room for four in an emergency. We used a camper version of the EuroVan a couple of years ago for a true camping trip and found the beds to be comfortable. The EuroVan is powered by a 2.8-liter V6 that's rated at 201 horsepower. Even though the van weighs 4,478 pounds, there's adequate power. The engine drives the front wheels through a four-speed automatic transmission. The combination worked, primarily because a minivan isn't designed for performance anyway, and all you really need is enough power and a gearbox to go with it to get going and stay out of everyone else's way. When our "family car" was a full-size van (minis hadn't been invented yet), we developed a different attitude with regard to our driving, especially when it was loaded to the gills for a camping trip. One of my complaints with the EuroVan was the shifter. The seating position in the van is relatively high, but the shift lever is short. So you have to bend over to make shifts. It's also difficult to read the gear you're shifting into because of the way it's marked, and you have to check on the dash to make sure you shifted correctly. Yes, I know you should read it on the dash anyway, but when you drive a host of different cars it's often easier to simply look at the lever when you make your shifts. I'm also not a big fan of Volkswagen instrument panels. Constant readers will remember that I like white on black. Well, the VW i.p. has blue lights, orange lights, and a couple of green indicators. The entire package looks messy. However, I'm willing to grant that I may be too conservative and the colors may make sense to some people and drivers. Just not to me. We had one almost major problem with the VW. We entered a parking garage and the van was too tall, hitting the warning bars hanging at the entrance. We had to finagle our way around and get out before the roof caved in (literally!). Oddly, we never had this problem with our full-size van, but then we didn't have a pop-up roof either. My wife said she thought the van looked like a big white refrigerator sitting in the driveway. And while it didn't retain the driving position over the front wheels of the old Hippie Van, I still felt the driving position was high. I know VW can do a better job, and I'm one who is anxiously awaiting the redesign.

© 2003 The Auto Page Syndicate

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