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VW's go-anywhere Kombi is back

2010-12-17 07:36

SON OF A SYNCRO: VW’s built a proper off-road capable Kombi again, nearly two decades after the legendary T3 Syncro wowed 4x4 enthusiasts with its off-road prowess.

Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer VW
Engine 2.0 TDI
Power 103- @ 3 500r/min, 132kW @ 4 000r/min
Torque 340Nm @ 1 750-, 400Nm @ 1 500r/min
Transmission Six-speed manual
Don’t you miss the old T3 Syncro, VW’s very unassuming yet massively capable (and capacious) off-road graded Kombi?

Although the contemporary T5 Kombi is available with VW’s all-wheel drive system it doesn't have the same ruggedness (and most importantly, ground clearance) as the T3 Syncro.

Well, the good news is that VW’s just released a proper expedition-standard people-mover again. Called the Rockton, it's based on the facelifted T5 commercial vehicle series.


Although styling is essentially unchanged (no silly running-boards added, thank you!), the Rockton’s posture is notably more off-road biased thanks to tougher coil-springs at all four wheels, raising ride height by 30mm.

Equipped with the optional Expedition pack, the Rockton gains 16" wheels with the requisite off-road patterned tyres, a more secure floor-rail system for its three rows of seats (preventing them sliding out of their lock position over severe broken terrain) and comprehensive underbody mechanical protection plating, safeguarding the differentials and transmission.

Powering the Rockton is a choice of VW’s two-litre TDI engines, familiar to local buyers thanks to their presence in the T5 and Amarok.


The Rockton’s two-litre TDI engines produce 103kW/340Nm or 132kW/400Nm but both drive through a six-speed manual transmission featuring shorter gearing than its T5 Syncro siblings - all the better for low-speed driveability off-road.

Unfortunately, no low-range transfer case is available, although you do get VW’s latest fourth-generation Haldex centre-differential coupling and a proper lockable rear differential to secure traction over really challenging terrain.

VW’s Amarok (or Touareg) low-range all-wheel drive would have been first prize but the Rockton should still enable a family of seven to get to some really out-of-the-way places.

The rest of the Rockton’s specification is neatly tailored for those wishing to explore.

The cabin is upholstered with a hard-wearing cloth. Its climate control is managed by a high-grade filter system, ensuring the Rockton keeps occupants comfortable even in sandy environments and, perhaps most important, it has proper expedition-sensible 16" steel wheels - easy to replace in remote locations and with plenty of sidewall clearance for traction-aiding deflation when the terrain demands it.

The Rockton is a special-order vehicle from VW’s commercial vehicle division. Prices start at around R385 800 (untaxed) in Europe.

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