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Can VW successfully transpose the GTI treatment onto a Transporter van?

The increasing prevalence of bolder sport styling on new commercial vehicles might simply be evidence that vans, lorries and pick-up trucks inevitably follow where market trends for passenger cars lead.

This week’s road test subject, however, suggests that something more interesting could be afoot. Some buyers of these super-functional, hard-working utility vehicles might be ready for more serious pseudo-performance van derivatives, right out of the showroom, than they have hitherto been offered. They might even be ready to pay surprisingly high prices for them.

Front bumper design looks aggressive from a distance, but up close it’s pretty obvious how little of it provides necessary airflow. Would something subtler have been better? Perhaps.

The Transporter Sportline is the new range-topping version of Volkswagen’s mid-sized van. Having been added to the Transporter range in 2021 shortly after a mid-life facelift for the T6-generation vehicle dubbed the T6.1, the Sportline adds more than a few tokenistic performance-aping exterior styling touches. Its specification includes 18in alloy wheels with performance tyres, lowered sports suspension and part-leather sports seats, as well as the dinky roof spoiler and eye-catching front bumper pictured on these pages.

So what are we to make of the idea of a 2.1-tonne utility monocab that wears hot hatch garb at least semi-seriously? Is this a real attempt at a cargo carrier with a little added driver appeal? Or is it simply a dose of visual razzle-dazzle for the entrepreneur who wants the world to know his bathroom-fitting business is doing well? And whichever it is, does that have implications for how functional or useful this vehicle is in its primary purpose?

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The Volkswagen Transporter line-up at a glance

The Transporter range is sprawling. We’ve listed only Kombi crew vans like our test car above, but regular panel vans are cheaper, and there are Shuttle nine-seaters too, plus the related Volkswagen Volkswagen Caravelle and California.

What Car? New car buyer marketplace - Volkswagen Transporter