A bus on the 'Ring?!

Volkswagen continues the development work on the next-generation Transporter and today we bring the first spy photos showing the plug-in hybrid version of the model. We knew it was coming but now we finally have the visual material to prove it.

It’s a little strange to see the passenger version of the T7 testing on the Nurburgring but even the light commercial vehicles are being evaluated at high speeds these days. After all, the new Transporter is expected to become one of Germany’s most popular delivery vehicles, a country that still operates sections of its national highway with no speed limits.

This test prototype doesn’t seem vastly different than the previous ones we spied but the charging port on the front right fender is the giveaway that this is indeed the PHEV variant of the people-mover. In these photos, the vehicle is looking surprisingly agile on the ‘Ring with a minimal body roll but we can’t judge its actual speed.

So, what’s under the hood of the T7 PHEV? Volkswagen Group currently has just one plug-in hybrid powertrain and it’s the mill that powers the new VW Golf GTE. It’s also used in a number of Skoda and SEAT models, and is expected to also find its place in the new Audi A3 E-Tron. It uses a 1.4-liter TSI gas engine with 147 horsepower (110 kilowatts) supported by a 114-hp (85 kW) electric motor for a combined output of 241 hp (180 kW).

Gallery: VW T7 PHEV spy photos

Given the Transporter’s mainly hauling purposes, we believe the powertrain could be tweaked to deliver a bit more oomph. Even with 295 pound-feet (400 Newton-meters) of torque, the 1.4 TSI PHEV setup generates a respectable power but the T7 might need just a tad more in order to better cope with heavy-duty services.

According to preliminary information, we should see the new Transporter before the year’s end. It’ll be interesting to see if the PHEV model will be launched from day one or Volkswagen will wait a few months until its market release.