Volkswagen Caravelle is a people mover based on the VW Kombi, which is officially called the VW Typ 2 (aka the Transporter) in the same token that the Beetle is the VW Typ 1. The name Kombi is the shortened form of Kombinationskraftwagen, which means combined-use vehicle in German. Thus, was the Kombi in the first generation, it was a combined people mover and commercial-purpose vehicle.
However, in the ensuing generations, the name Transporter became the umbrella name for all the Kombi derivatives. It spans several generations, which had been retroactively designated by the letter T and a number. Thus, T1 refers to the first generation of the Transporter/Kombi, T2 for the second, and the current generation designated as T6.
The Transformer range includes panel vans without side windows, high-roof panel vans, flatbed or pickup trucks, crew cab pickups, cab chassis, and people movers.
- The Kombi is the Typ 1 entry-level people mover, which had been around since the T1 generation. Please note that back then (1950s) when there was only the Kombi, it was not referred to as the T1 - only Typ 1 or Transporter.
- The Caravelle is the next-level people mover, which is a T3 generation appearing for the first time in the 1980s.
- The Multivan is the range-topping people mover, which came around as a T5 in 2003.
All these Typ 2 models have all been in the Australian milieu. The Caravelle, Multivan, and Kombi are passenger-type vans, distinct from each other in passenger capacity, dimensions, and other features. Many times, they share the same powertrain and mechanicals. The Typ 2 wearing the Transporter nameplate, on the other hand, arrived in Australia as utes back in the ‘70s. Now they are mostly commercial-purpose panel vans.
While the Kombi had been around since the early ‘60s in Australia, the Caravelle appeared in 1982 within the T3 era.
The First Generation: T3 (1979-1992)
The first-generation Caravelle was produced from 1979 until 1992 as a light commercial vehicle in a van body style with a rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive layout. While the first models used air-cooled engines, the later ones had water-cooled engines.
From 1979 to 1985, its exterior featured round headlights and basic steel or chrome-plated steel bumpers with plastic end-caps.
It touched Australian soil in 1982 as a 3-door, 8-seat people mover, equipped with a comfortable interior reminiscent of passenger cars. In the first year, only a single model was in the market. It was powered by a 2.0L petrol engine (51 kW, 140 Nm) coupled to a 4-speed manual gearbox.
Just for comparison, at that time in the country, the Kombi was sold as a 2-door 9-seat commercial vehicle, equipped with the same 51-kW petrol engine. The Kombi and Caravelle had almost the same dimensions, except that the Kombi was slightly taller from the ground to the roofline than its sibling. The 2-door 2-seat Transporter, on the other hand, was longer, narrower, and heavier than either of the two.
In the following releases, the Caravelle had the following trims on offer and the corresponding powertrain:
- (1982-1986): CL and GL – 3-door, 7-seat people movers; 1.9L petrol engine (63 kW, 143 Nm) paired with a 3- or 4-speed automatic transmission or a 5-speed manual gearbox
- (1987-1990): C, CL, GL, GL Synchro 4x4, and Carat – 3-door, 7- or 8-seat people mover; 2.1L petrol engine (70 kW, 160 Nm) paired with a 3-speed automatic transmission or a 5-speed manual gearbox
The Caravelle featured air conditioning, alloy wheels, central locking, electrically-controlled and heated mirrors, power steering, power locks, and radio cassette.
In 1984, the new model Caravelle was introduced at the Brussels Commercial Vehicle Show with a 1.9L petrol engine producing 57kW paired with a 4-manual gearbox featuring a low gear for offroad use.
In 1986, it was revised featuring a rev counter, new air conditioning, enlarged water-cooled engine, plastic bumpers, and redesigned transmissions. Furthermore, it included rectangular headlights as well as different colour options.
The Second Generation: T4 (1990–2003)
The second-generation Caravelle was the first van equipped with a front-mounted, water-cooled engine. It was produced in a 3- or 4-door van body style with a transversely-mounted front-engine. Unlike the other vans, the Caravelle had windows all around and three rows of seats.
In 1993, it was released in Australia in the following trim models and powertrain:
- (1993-1996) – 3-door, 8-seat base trim; 2.5L petrol engine (81 kW, 191 Nm), 4-speed automatic transmission or a 5-speed manual gearbox
- (1997-2003) – 4-door, 8-seat GLS/new base trim; 2.5L petrol engine (85 kW, 200 Nm), 4-speed automatic transmission or a 5-speed manual gearbox
- (2000-2003) – 4-door, 8-seat TDi trim; 2.5L diesel engine (75 kW, 250 Nm), 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic
- (2003) – 4-door, 8-seat V6 trim; 2.8L petrol engine (150 kW, 270 Nm), 4-speed automatic transmission
The standard equipment across all trim levels included cruise control, central locking, cloth trim, power mirrors, power steering, power front windows, and radio cassette with six speakers.
The GLS added a driver’s airbag, ABS, automatic AC/climate control, alloy wheels, and independent rear suspension.
The V6 added dual front airbags, 16-inch alloy wheels, DVD player, EBD, power sunroof, radio CD with eight speakers, sports suspension, a trip computer, and television.
The Third Generation: T5 (2003–2016)
The third-generation Caravelle was introduced in 2002 as a medium-size people mover available in standard and long-wheelbase variants with either eight or nine seats.
It was available as LWB, SWB, SWB 4Motion, Trendline, TDI 340 LWB, and TDI 340 trims, featuring the following powertrain options:
- LWB, SWB – 2.5L diesel engine (96 kW, 340 Nm), 6-speed automatic transmission or 6-speed manual gearbox
- SWB, SWB 4Motion - 2.5L diesel engine (128 kW, 400 Nm), 6-speed automatic transmission or 6-speed manual gearbox
- Trendline, TDI 340 LWB, TDI 340 – 2.0L diesel engine (103 kW, 340 Nm), 7-speed automatic transmission
The LWB came with similar features as the last generation’s base GLS model but introduced AC/multi-zone climate control, 16-inch alloy wheels, brake assist, central locking remote control, EBD, electronic differential lock, ESP, engine immobiliser, radio CD with eight speakers, seatbelts pretensioners (front), trip computer, and traction control system.
The Trendline added head airbags, side airbags and hill holder.
The TDI 340 added body-coloured bumpers and exterior door handles, carpet floor covering, ISOFIX anchorage system, driver awareness alert, dust and pollen filter, rear fog lights, leather gear knob and steering wheel, multi-function control screen, and many more.
In 2009, the Kombi entrusted its people-moving duties to the Multivan and Caravelle, the two VW Typ 2 passenger vans that remained in the scene.
The Fourth Generation: T6 (2016-present)
Even though it is built on the T5’s 7H/7J platform, the new Caravelle has an entirely revised dashboard in standard and comfort versions. It also dons a new tailgate and rear lights.
It was released in Comfortline TDI 340 and Trendline TDI 340 LWB models, powered by a 2.0L diesel engine (103 kW, 340 Nm) linked to a 7-speed automatic transmission.
The Comfortline TDI 340 features the usual equipment but now has a tilt-and-telescopic adjustable steering wheel, Bluetooth connectivity, child-proof rear door locks, daytime running lights, heated exterior mirrors, halogen headlights, low fuel warning, protective glazing, speed-sensing auto door lock, split-fold rear seat, and sliding side door.
The TDI 340 LWB (Trendline) adds automatic stop/start, brake energy regeneration, driver fatigue detection, lumbar support (front seats), leather steering wheel, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, and wheel covers set.
- Andrijana Pavlovic