Sunday, 3 February 2013

A half-decent explanation of the VW T5 Transporter

This post is kind of a supplemental to the vlog about Stage 2 of buying and converting our VW van. You can find that here. Confession up front - I said in the video, I'd explain about lots of different types of VW vans but I found this post was long enough just talking about T5s. I'll do the others another time...

It explains what I meant when I said T5, T28, 2.5, SWB, panel van...because understanding that lot was one of the main issues I had when we were looking to buy it.

T5: This is the model - it's basically the 5th generation of VW Transporter which started production in 2003.

T28: This refers to the maximum gross weight of the vehicle. 28 = 2800kg or 2.8tonnes. So, the vehicle itself, as it arrived from the factory weighs around 1800kg (this is the Net Weight) which means that the weight of the load it can carry is about 1000kg or 1tonne (2800 - 800. That's a metric tonne as opposed to an imperial ton before you ask...). The T5s also come in 2600kg, 3000kg and 3200kg versions. The last of these is what you'll get if you buy an ex-RAC or AA version but be careful as they're a different MOT class which means your normal garage may not be able to carry out the MOT and you'll have to find somewhere which can do industrial (or Class 7) tests.

2.5: This is the engine size - but you knew that already right? What I didn't say in the video is that ours is a 130bhp version. The T5s come in the following engine sizes and powers:

2003 - 2009 van models
1.9l 83bhp
1.9l 101bhp
2.5l 129bhp
2.5l 172bhp

Post 2009 models differ but you can check the Wiki link below for details of those

SWB: This stands for Short WheelBase and refers to the measurement between wheel centres which is 3000mm (3m). T5s also come in a long wheelbase versions which are 400mm longer (but don't look as good...)

Panel van: This means our truck is your basic, work-a-day, builders van. No windows or seats in the back, just space. Lots of space (but not as much as the LWB versions...obviously)

The T5 has a few variations on your good ol' workhorse - check the van variants over at Wikipedia (see link below). The other key flavours of T5 are actually a bit tricky to pin down with any great authority because of course any individual vehicle could have been bought with extras. Nonetheless, this will give you a good starting point:

  • Kombi: basically a van with seats and windows in the back and the base model is pretty basic and has between 4 and 7 seats. You can also get three different roof heights (standard, mid and high).
  • Shuttle: One step up from the Kombi in terms of trim and some extra options. You'll get it in both wheelbases but only a standard roof.
  • Caravelle: Tops out at 9 seats, some nice features including a proper passenger seat (as opposed to the two person bench) come as standard.
  • Multivan: Top of the range T5 people carrier. Whizzy stuff includes the back seats on rails so they can be moved plus a wide range of extras.Just to confuse things, the Multivan is sold as a higher spec Caravelle in the UK...great.
  • Sportline: Top trim, alloy wheels, more powerful (172bhp as standard although seen it quoted as 174) engine. If you can afford it, this is a sweet van.
  • California: VWs commercial vehicles in-house campervan. Great bit of kit but maybe not as individual as getting one converter yourself.

Backdoor: Another thing I didn't say in the video is that our van has barndoors rather than a tailgate. So, ours has two doors which open like, well, a barn. Left and right. The other type you'll see is a tailgate like on a hatchback car. Personally I prefer the barndoors but most people want a tailgate - they just have to pay a bit more for it.

Ok, that's about all I have to report right now. Please let me know if you think I've got anything wrong in this post - I'll check and change it if that's the case.

Useful links:

T5 Wiki Get on Wikipedia of you really want to know the detail of a T5 inside and out Use this site to find a Class 7 (or any other class to be honest) MOT centre near you.


  1. nice info...I stumbled upon your site looking for dirty weekender Worcester but I think I have it now, thanks.

    1. Good stuff - the guys at DW are great so you should be in good hands. I'd definitely recommend organising a visit to the showroom and to book yourself in for a chat with Johnny - it's well worth it.