Engine options, top speed, acceleration and refinement

As we’ve mentioned, the particular specification and tuning of the Transporter Sportline’s 2.0-litre BiTDI diesel engine and its seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox aren’t anything special. There isn’t even a sports exhaust or a Sport driving mode here, which the vehicle could certainly do with.

It’s fairly brisk and flexible on the road; not assertively fast, but probably about as quick as you would want a load carrier of this type to be. Our test car managed 100mph from rest within a standing kilometre, and hit the same speed within a standing mile when locked in fifth and sixth gears, so it clearly wouldn’t make you late for opening time at the builders’ merchant. Even so, it needed a little over nine seconds to hit 60mph from rest, which would leave its driver with plenty to do to keep pace with a fast supermini in 2022 (not that many van drivers typically seem to struggle with such challenges).

Transporter Sportline offers van drivers a more urgent if not especially engaging option and families a spacious but less refined alternative to modern passenger cars.

The Transporter’s gearbox feels like a more heavy-duty unit than the kind you get in Volkswagen’s modern passenger cars. It has a pretty gentle initial step-off, and what feels like a subsequent second stage of full engagement with the driveline once you are up beyond walking pace. That’s just what you would want when ushering a heavy load steadily into motion, or towing a heavy trailer, but faster starts take lots of revs and come with a slightly snatchy delivery of torque to the front wheels.

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Unless, that is, you knock the gearbox into manual mode, keep your left foot on the brake pedal, plant the accelerator and – as we were as surprised to find as you probably are to read – activate the electronic launch control mode. Using it better regulates the delivery of torque to those front wheels, and could make the difference between a 0-60mph dash in the high nines, and one that could even be in the high eights on a dry day.

The DSG gearbox feels short-legged on the road, as you would expect of a van. It won’t do 40mph in second gear, and you will find fourth and fifth are your most useful driving gears as you speed up out of town. But torque comes stoutly at low revs, and so pulling higher gears even with a load on board wouldn’t be a problem.

Braking performance on test was very respectable, the Transporter stopping from 70mph in less than 50 metres even in slightly damp conditions. But the brake is a little grabby at the top of the pedal and can be irksome in stop-and-start traffic, which is evidence that vans like this still aren’t quite finished to the same dynamic standard as equivalently priced passenger cars in some respects.