The changes Volkswagen has made are surprisingly effective. Climb up and into the Caravelle’s high-set cabin and automatically you expect to be surrounded by a decidedly commercial-looking environment, but instead you’re greeted by a luxurious leather multifunction steering wheel (borrowed from the new Mk8 Golf), a plethora of solid feeling materials and a huge 9.2in touchscreen (a smaller 8.0in system is also available).
The latter not only helps to give the cabin a slicker look, but the way it works seamlessly with Volkswagen's fantastic digital dials (optional on SE trim and standard on Executive) is impressive.
Sitting up front isn’t necessarily the best seat in the house, however. As standard, the middle row is made up of two captain's chairs that can pivot around to face the three-seat third-row bench (perfect for on-the-go business meetings), while there’s a multifunction table between the two middle seats that can move in multiple orientations. And of course, because the Caravelle is based on a van, all the seats can be removed, leaving you with a load bay that makes the BMW X7’s boot look pokey.
You can also rest assured that whatever you decide to throw in the back, be that some camping equipment or a motorcycle, it isn’t going to blunt the Caravelle’s straight-line performance. In T6.1 specification, buyers get the choice of either a 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine or a twin-turbocharged version of the same unit that puts out a whopping 196bhp.
We tested the latter in front-wheel-drive configuration (four-wheel drive is available for those who need it), and while the Caravelle’s performance isn’t exactly scintillating, it’s surprising just how easily it hauls up to motorway speeds even when fully loaded. The engine also remains relatively hushed when revving hard, and at no point does it make significantly more fuss than an equivalent four-cylinder diesel SUV.
Even the dual-clutch automatic gearbox is impressively snappy, although we do wish it would engage with a bit more delicacy from a standstill; it can be all too easy to spin the fronts, even on half-throttle.
Handling is better than you would expect from a high-sided vehicle, with the new electromechanical steering allowing you to place the front end accurately on the road, while there's plenty of grip and a manageable amount of body roll.
However, it’s disappointing that Volkswagen hasn’t taken more time to tune the ride, with sharp abrasions sending significant shudders through the cabin. It's a surprising oversight, as ride quality is one area where seven-seat SUVs have truly moved the game on in the last few years, with models like the X7 providing passengers with luxury-limousine levels of pliancy.