Ever since I first saw Wiking’s all-new Multivan model on February
2 at the Nuremberg Toy Fair, I wanted to write a review. Now that the
promotional versions have been sitting on my desk for a couple of weeks
and I finally found the time to write these lines, I face the same
problem as Jeff Webster recently did with his Athearn
Ford “C” fire
truck – to expand the review from “Awesome.” Forgive
me for starting with the conclusion, but this is one impressive scale
Beginning with the introduction of the 1996 Passat, Volkswagen went
upmarket; aiming at Mercedes-Benz rather than their “natural” mass-market
competitors, Opel and Ford. Premium was the word of the decade. (With
a similar idea in mind, Ford grouped their upscale brands in the London-based
Premier Automotive Group, PAG.) Meant to help Volkswagen’s new
approach was the visibly and emphatically enhanced quality, which showed
in the reduced gaps between the sheet metal, the expensive-looking
interior plastics, and neat touches such as BMW-style air vents. The
Passat was a whole class above its predecessor, even more so in the
enhanced 2000 version, and not just in VW’s perception. The 1997
Golf IV wore the same aura, as did, to a lesser degree, the 2001 Polo.
All these cars were necessary to prepare the public for the 2002 Phaeton
luxury car and the 2002 Touareg SUV. The Phaeton even got its dedicated
assembly site in the heart of Dresden, the so-called “Transparent
Manufactory,” where buyers can follow the final assembly of their
car in a building that looks more like a luxury hotel than a mere production
site. Without the previous models’ upgrades, it would have been
almost impossible to sell a € 100,000 car with the Volkswagen
logo, which means “car for the people,” after all.
With this approach, it was only natural for Volkswagen to position
the passenger versions of their fifth-generation Transporter next to
the Phaeton and Touareg. Consequently, they do not refer to the new
people-carrier as the T5, but only as the Multivan, clearly separating
it from the worldlier commercial versions bearing the Transporter name.
Perhaps Volkswagen’s marketing is better than Mercedes’,
where customers quickly recognized a truck when they saw one – the
current V-Classes are nothing but upgraded Vito vans, and they show
in every detail.
To underline the Multivan’s position, it is available with the
narrow-angled 230hp 3.2-liter V6 known from Golf RS, Phaeton and Touareg
as well as with a new 2.5-liter inline-five diesel producing 174hp.
Both engines are linked to manual or automatic six-speed transmissions.
The diesel is reported to be the Touaregs’s 313hp V10 TDI cut
in half. On the lower end of the range, there are 104hp (inline-four)
and 130 hp (inline-five) TDIs and the well-known 115hp 2.0-liter gasoline
The comparison to the previous T4 – sorry: Multivan (Eurovan
in the U.S.) – does not reveal too many differences. Dimensions
grew modestly, measuring now 192.5 by 75.0 by 77.1 inches (length/width
without mirrors/height) on a wheelbase of 118.1 inches. The exterior
lines differ only marginally, but they are more in line with Volkswagen’s
upscale approach now: reduced gaps, clear-glass headlamps, solid door-handles,
hidden sliding-door carriages and all the other nifty details Volkswagen
learned to apply.
The Scale Model
As debatable as putting the Multivan side to side with Phaetons and
Touaregs may be in the world of prototypes, as evident this comparison
is when the Wiking models come into focus. Earlier VW promotionals
such as the New Beetle and the Polo were nice models, but the Phaeton
marked the departure to a whole new level. Individually fitted rear-view
mirrors were a first for Wiking, and about as striking was the amount
of detail printing and chrome stripes (painted in silver, to be honest).
These were hardly new features, as Busch and especially Herpa had offered
them earlier, but in combination with Wiking’s excellent paint
job, they truly made for a first-class model. The Touareg went slightly
further with its finely printed model name and engine markings on the
rear hatch, mirrors that would stand taking the model out of a display
case (or out of its box, as it were), and the side windows’ improved
fit, just to name a few. The overall impression was just stunning – as
perfect as a 1/87th scale model currently gets.
The new Multivan is all that, and more. The 28 parts fit together
without gluing, quite a rarity for a Wiking model and something for
which modelers will be thankful. (Not too thankful, perhaps as disassembling
the model means a good chance to break one of the finest plastic vehicles
on the market. It is strongly recommended to start with the taillights
and the front side air intakes – note the plural! Afterwards,
the model will more or less fall apart.) The front and rear bumpers
are molded as one piece and they allow for being colored different
from the body, which will come in handy for the Transporter. The interior
is as cleverly designed and will also fit the commercial versions later:
The rows of seats remove easily and show the perfect cargo bed. Speaking
of the seats, the second-row passengers may also face the third-row
occupants after the center-row is turned. The next step probably is
a vertically and horizontally adjustable steering column. The dashboard
already features all the details that make sense in such a small scale,
among these the joystick-like gearlever on the center-console. The
dimensions appear to be perfect to scale. Only the wheels, which represent
the Comfortline version’s 16” alloys, measure a scale inch
too large. However, larger wheels usually benefit a model’s overall
appearance, which is certainly true in this case.
After the promotional models mentioned above, the “Multivan
TDI” printing on the model’s rear is not a surprise anymore.
Striking, though, are the two front side air intakes which bear a (silver,
again) chrome stripe and additional body-colored detail prints to match
the prototype’s parts. The paint job is very well done, and as
before, each and every color will be painted, be it metallic or standard
finish, the former with additional clear coating.
Downsides? There are a few, but they are of the rivet-counting kind
and may be cured by an unskilled modeler. The windshield wipers will
need to be painted flat black and the rearview mirrors won’t
mind a bit of silver paint. After the Touran MPV delighted us with
the silver-painted indicator section within the taillights, this feature
is omitted from the Multivan. More of a concern, in this context, is
the lack of a freestanding interior mirror – but it is a concern
only because Herpa and Busch demonstrated that this is feasible. Is
it necessary? Probably not. The only true deficit appears to be the
lack of headrests on the third-row seats. With gray interiors, even
this – admittedly very small – fault is almost invisible.
What shall I say? If you have read the above, you will know how lovely
Wiking’s T5 is. In comparison to Herpa, it must be noted the
special features such as silver-painted wheels and all the detail printing
will survive once the model goes into regular distribution. However,
the price was subject to spirited discussions among collectors as it
is more than 50% above the Phaeton’s at Volkswagen. It may be
assumed, though, that Wiking’s suggested retail price remains
the same as for previous VWs at 9.50 € or US $14.00.
One question remains: At this time, there are eight colors reserved
by Volkswagen. Are there enough customers to buy a regular version
after Volkswagen offered such a huge number of models? I hope there
will be because the model is worth it!
Important note: Currently neither the 1:1 or 1:87 scale
Multivans are available in the U.S. It is anticipated that the
real Multivan will make it to the U.S. in 2004 or 2005. We'd expect
the Wiking Multivan model to be in distribution by then. For now,
you need a friend in Germany!