When I booked in the Volkswagen Caravelle to test, I had a big European road trip planned in my head. My thinking was what vehicle could be more perfect to eat up motorway miles on the continent with loads of friends in the back. A whole Summer in America and a week road tripping in California soon sank this plan due to a lack of funds. However, I was determined to use the bus properly so, I gathered the lads and headed to Lahinch, Co. Clare - Ireland’s California. Although, what makes this trip ironic is the fact that I had €70 to my name going down to Clare in a Caravelle with a price tag of almost €81,000. Eighty one thousand euro…
I don’t have too much experience driving van-based vehicles like the Caravelle so I was surprised at how quickly I adjusted to it. The steering wheel is small, like a Volkswagen Golf’s, so once you remind yourself that you are in something larger you adjust to the driving style quickly. I can confirm that it was great craic negotiating the narrow roads of the West of Ireland. In the city, it is not as much of a chore to drive as I would have thought. I just had to be careful when passing cars on narrow streets. I just had to be generally aware of the size of the big aul bus. There is something about driving a vehicle that has a high seating position. It is great being able to see over other cars at the traffic lights but when you are parking, you rely a lot on the reversing camera and the huge mirrors on the Caravelle.
On the motorway, the Volkswagen Caravelle is very comfortable especially with the optional dynamic suspension set to Comfort. The 2.0TDI 204hp diesel engine hums away in the distance at higher speeds and wind and road noise is at a minimum. I was able to have a conversation with someone sitting on the rear-most bench as I drove without having to raise my voice too loud. The DSG automatic gearbox eats through the 7-speeds efficiently helping to return a rather respectable 8.4l/100km. I clocked over 950km in the Caravelle using just a tank and a half of diesel.
No road trip would be complete without endless playlists on Spotify. Volkswagen’s €2,247 optional Dynaudio sound system was put to good use. Pricey, yes but worth it? Most definitely. The sound was very pure, no matter where in the vehicle you sat. Bassy songs did not lack in depth. Even with the music turned up full blast, it had quality sound. The interior didn’t rattle or creak nor did the speakers hiss like on some cheaper systems. Although the infotainment system is still the old VW one, it still features sat nav, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
The rear passengers won’t be complaining in your ear either. The half leather alcantara seating is perfectly comfortable for long journeys. The rear bench can move back and forth on the rails and the back rest can fold so it is rather flexible. As too are the pilot seats behind the driver. They can swivel to face either the front or the rear of the vehicle. Perfect for meetings on the go. At the centre of attention in the rear is a table that can collapse down. It has plenty of storage and is big enough to put your laptop on. No luxury bus would be complete without electronically operated side doors, the VW Caravelle is no exception.
The Caravelle costs €570 per year to tax and returns a fuel economy of 8.6l/100km. I loved my time with the Caravelle. It’s comfortable, keeps you entertained with equipment and is interesting to drive. However, I can’t see the value in €80,764, including extras. Get a highly specced Volkswagen Shuttle and save yourself some cash to road trip.