Volkswagen wouldn’t write the next chapter in the story of the most iconic van of all time without first penning out a slow-building teaser campaign. It’s started that campaign by previewing the highlights of the new T7 Multivan. The Swiss Army knife-like van will get even more versatile in its fifth generation, adapting to whatever its owners are doing with an extended floor rail system, more flexible individual seating array, all-new multifunctional table design and more digitization. The changes promise to enhance not only the Multivan MPV but full camper vans based on the model, whether from VW or the legion of third-party converters around the world.
The Multivan debuted as a new T3 model in 1985, serving as a veritable multitool for family, business, sports, travel and adventure uses. It was both an everyday MPV and light camper, carrying a third-row bench that could fold down into a bed, along with a fold-out table. In the decades that followed, it evolved with floor rail systems, swivel seats, various multi-position table designs, and the latest in safety and drive technologies.
Priding itself on improving the variable interior with each successive generation, Volkswagen is preparing a few notable changes for the fifth-generation Multivan. It will rid the van of its three-seat rear bench and instead offer up to five individual rear seats to create various seating arrangements up to a full seven-seater.
The move seems clearly influenced by the fact that Volkswagen’s self-proclaimed “Swiss Army knife on wheels” has been surpassed in versatility by MPVs and light camper designs like the Citroën SpaceTourer, SpaceTourer-based Pössl Vanster and Ford Flexibus, precisely because of their extra-flexible rear seating. The overhead of the Vanster below shows how the light camper’s seats can be arranged in a multitude of configurations around the exact needs of the trip of the day. The full-width bench of the outgoing Multivan simply can’t compete, but the new individual seating will put the Multivan on equal footing … perhaps even higher footing since Citroën/Pössl vans use a mix of two-seat benches and single seats.
“You can easily take seats out to get your sports equipment, mountain bike and/or surfboard into this generously proportioned space,” explains Albert Kirzinger, design chief at VW Commercial Vehicles. “With these seats, everything is possible in the new Multivan.”
Volkswagen also says the interior benefits from a lighter second- and third-row seat design that makes removal and rearranging easier than ever. The floor rail system has been extended to support seating variability, running from the rear of the load floor through to the second-row seats. A new multi-position table will work with the extended rail system for added flexibility.
The enhancements aren’t dedicated solely to the rear cabin, as Volkswagen revealed today. The new Multivan transitions over to a shift-by-wire system that shrinks the gear shift knob down to a dashboard switch dashboard between the steering wheel and 10-in infotainment display. The switch sends the shift signal to the standard DSG gearbox without the need for a mechanical connection.
The digital shifting design frees up the center space between driver and front passenger, which VW further opens by swapping the parking brake lever out for a push-button brake. The newly cleared center provides easier transition between the front seats and rear cabin, something that can be particularly valuable when the Multivan, or a conversion thereof, is used as a camper. Volkswagen also mentions that the multifunctional rear table will be able to slide into the space, providing a usable surface for driver and front passenger. VW remains coy about additional table details, setting up another teaser — or round of teasers.
The latest teaser picture at the top of the article, combined with the pic below, provides some insight into the new Multivan’s face. The design benefits mightily from Volkswagen’s ID electric styling, gaining a sweeping full-width lighting signature and losing the huge double-stack grille of the T6.1 in favor of a smoother, cleaner look. The top picture also shows the classic two-tone paint living on.
Volkswagen plans to launch the T7 Multivan this year, so the world should get a complete look in the coming months. Before that, though, we’ll have to get through a rather slow-going teaser campaign.