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Retro first drive review: 2001 Volkswagen EuroVan [Video]

by Drew Johnson

I finally get to take my EuroVan for a spin.

A few weeks ago, I introduced you to the 2001 Volkswagen EuroVan I bought for no particular reason. In that post I showed you some of the interesting features the EuroVan has to offer, but wasn't able to give it a proper road test due to a couple of mechanical issues.

My EuroVan has spent the last week at the automotive spa and is completely rejuvenated. The check engine light has been remedied with a couple of new sensors, the A/C is once again blowing cold and the tires are no longer old enough to vote. So, with all of that sorted, it's time to get it out on the road.

The first thing you'll notice about the EuroVan is that it's not the kind of vehicle you just hop in. The front has a raised floor and the seats sit on fairly tall mounts, so you have to climb the equivalent of two flights of stairs to get in. Unfortunately, there is no elevator option.

Once you make it up to the driver's seat, you're greeted by a steering wheel that is a full arm's length away, but that's nothing compared to the gauges that sit just a few feet from the horizon line.

The actual seats in the EuroVan are quite comfortable, but the seating position is a little odd. That's because the front wheel well takes up the space that should be occupied by your left foot and the second-row rear-facing captain's chair prevent you from adjusting the seat. At all.

Before setting off you'll need to disengage the parking braking and put the van into gear, which can be a bit of an issue if you're not a gymnast. For some reason, Volkswagen decided to pair the EuroVan's bird's eye seating position with floor mounted controls, so you basically have to fall out of your seat to reach the parking brake and gear lever.

Once you manage to get back to an upright position, you'll discover that the EuroVan is actually quite nice to drive. It's planted on the road with a suspension that feels much tighter and responsive than any U.S. van from the period. And, even though the EuroVan is only marginally shorter than the Eiffel Tower, it doesn't feel like it's going to tip over through corners.

The EuroVan uses the same basic 2.8L V6 that VW shoved between the front fenders of the high-performance Golf GTI VR6, but acceleration isn't exactly up to hot hatch standards. Or even warm hatch standards, for that matter. There's no other way to say it: the EuroVan is slow. But, in its defense, the 201-horsepower engine is handicapped by a 1990s-era four-speed automatic transmission that shifts on a geological timescale. Outward visibility is excellent, so at least you'll be able to see the accident coming if you misjudge a gap in traffic.

Now that my EuroVan is finally road-worthy, I have some interesting adventures planned for it in the coming weeks. If you'd like to keep up with my new #vanlife, stay tuned for more updates.

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