Someone has to be last in the sales race. When it comes to minivans, Volkswagens German-built EuroVan holds that title by a wide margin. Sales dipped to a mere 2,714 units during 2000, from a less-than-stunning 3,395 the year before. Availability is part of the reason. The EuroVan was on sale sporadically during the 1990s, and the current edition was delayed until well after the start of the 2001 model year.
More power is the big news for the 2001 version of Volkswagens minivan. Courtesy of a new multivalve cylinder head and other modifications, the 2.8-liter V-6 engine jumps from 140 horsepower to a whopping 201 hp.
New this year is an electronic stability system called ESP that automatically applies the brakes and reduces engine power when needed to minimize skidding in turns. The EuroVan has a new premium audio system, and integrated fog lights are now standard.
Three EuroVan versions are available: the GLS passenger van, a recreation-oriented MultiVan (MV) and a Winnebago Camper van. To help spark sales when the 2001 models debut in March, Volkswagen is slashing the EuroVans price by 16 percent.
Wheelbase of the EuroVan is 115 inches, and the vehicle measures 188.5 inches overall. Theres a single sliding door on the right side, and a pop-top roof is standard on the Camper and optional for the MV.
Both GLS and MV models seat seven. The GLS gained second-row buckets as standard equipment this year, and the MV has rear-facing second-row buckets. A folding third-row seat is included in both, but the one in the MV converts into a removable bed. Other standard equipment includes one-touch power windows, central remote locking, cupholders, tinted glass, cruise control and a pollen/dust filter.
Befitting its name, the Camper comes with a refrigerator, LP gas stove, sink and other living-outdoors gear. It can be fitted with a removable two-person center bench seat instead of the full-swiveling captains seats. As an alternative to the all-out Camper, an optional Weekender package has the pop-up roof with two-person bed, screens for two sliding windows, a rear-facing seat with refrigerator below and a second battery.
Under the Hood
A four-valve, dual overhead cam version of Volkswagens 2.8-liter VR6 engine makes 201 horsepower, driving a four-speed-automatic transmission. Premium fuel is required.
All-disc antilock brakes are standard, and side-impact airbags are not available.
A single change in a vehicle sometimes can make an enormous improvement in its overall appeal. That is the case with the EuroVan, which behaves like a different vehicle after a more powerful engine that yields 61 additional hp is installed. Even its ride and handling qualities are more appealing, as the strengthened engine manages to inject the EuroVan with a fresh personality.
A descendant in theme if not in details from the old VW Microbuses and later Vanagons, the EuroVan is definitely not for everyone. Volkswagen doesnt consider it a minivan at all, but instead places the EuroVan in a class by itself. For starters, climbing aboard is a bit of a challenge, though the wide integral step helps in that quest.
The EuroVan, in short, is defiantly different from the pack, which is part of its appeal for some and reason for possible disdain by those who fail to appreciate its subtly concealed attractions. This larger van still feels more ponderous on the road than most minivans less inviting when curves or corners lie ahead but its a lot more satisfying while on the move than its less-powerful predecessor. Still, slow steering can be disconcerting in curvy areas. Though its not genteel, the ride is surprisingly good even on rough rural pavement.
Acceleration is rather vigorous from a standstill, and the EuroVan is capable for passing and merging situations though the otherwise-quiet engine growls a bit when stepping hard on the gas. The automatic transmission reacts crisply enough to get the job done effectively, but the floor-mounted gearshift works a bit differently than most when moving into lower ratios. The driver sits higher than in a minivan, for a commanding view (helped by big mirrors), though seat bottoms are quite short. A glove box is absent, but the EuroVan has a locked compartment in the drivers door and storage space is carefully thought out.
Quirky behavior and appearance aside, no other minivan offers anything like the outdoor-living accessories of a fully equipped EuroVan, which is more appropriately challenged by some of the camper-converted full-size models. Even when equipped with little more than a foldout table, the EuroVan MV becomes a special sort of vehicle.
Volkswagen expects to sell only 5,000 EuroVans during 2001, in view of their delayed debut in April 2001, and sales are expected to reach 10,000 for 2002. If VW goes ahead with production of a modern-day Microbus, which appears increasingly likely, the EuroVans fate is uncertain.