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Vanning was a big lifestyle thing in the Sixties and Seventies. The very idea of having a van embodied the free spiritedness of the generation—the ability to park anywhere and have a place to sleep along with your significant other, your most valued earthly possessions, and that groovy orange shag carpet on the floor.
But what happened? Fuel economy and inflation killed the craze, people moved to smaller cars, and driving a big, clumsy truck-based full-size van went from far out to just plain uncool.
Beginning with the original Microbus, VW was a segment pioneer, offering an economical alternative to gas-guzzling full-size vans with nearly as much interior space, unique packaging, and even more flexibility. The simple VW camper van lives on as a variation of the modern front-engined, liquid-cooled EuroVan lineup, and after a price reduction last year it’s now surprisingly affordable, versatile, powerful, and economical.
The EuroVan MV Weekender we tested proved a most amiable partner for a weekend camping trip—and sort of stylish, too, in its own boxy offbeat way.Better VR6 gives EuroVan spirit
When the EuroVan was introduced in the U.S. for 1993, it was criticized as severely underpowered. Its coarse 109-hp five-cylinder engine could barely propel the 4000-pound-plus EuroVan safely (especially the even heavier camper versions), and passing was simply out of the question.
After the ’93 model year, VW stopped importing the EuroVan, and it was absent from the U.S. market until the ’99 model year, when VW brought it back with a version of the 2.8-liter VR6, tuned for extra torque at low rpm but offering only 140 hp. The VR6 was worlds ahead of the old engine and offered good grunt at stoplights and for towing, but it still lacked the high-rev horsepower for passing.
2002 Volkswagen EurovanEnlarge Photo