En­gine choice

Car Mechanics (UK) - - Project Mercedes-benz E320 Cdi -

Ini­tially, the T5 range in­cluded a choice of two dif­fer­ent diesel en­gines, pro­duc­ing a to­tal of four dif­fer­ent power out­puts. The 1.9-litre TDI of­fered ei­ther 85bhp or 105bhp, while the more torquey five­cylin­der 2.5 was avail­able in 130bhp or 174bhp guise, the lat­ter get­ting the op­tion of VW’S 4Mo­tion four-wheel drive tech­nol­ogy. There was also a 231bhp 3.2 V6 petrol of­fer­ing for the Car­avelle, but it’s rel­a­tively rare.

Given its torque, the 2.5 is ideal for long mo­tor­way jaunts, al­though the com­plex tim­ing mech­a­nism means that many spe­cial­ists wince at the prospect of work­ing on them. The 2.5 is also prone to pre­ma­ture camshaft wear – the first symp­tom of which will be a mis­fire from cylin­der num­ber 2 – plus it’s more sus­cep­ti­ble to the in­jec­tors mov­ing around in the head due to the fact that they are bolted down on just one side, which means they try to lift them­selves out of their seats when un­der load. When this hap­pens, fuel moves into the head and sub­se­quently the sump, and if the level gets too high, it can find its way into the turbo and cause the en­gine to over-fuel and run on with dire con­se­quences. In short, if you no­tice ‘miss­ing’ or ex­pe­ri­ence rough run­ning on a test-drive it’s prob­a­bly best to con­tinue your search else­where. Fur­ther­more, the wa­ter pump on the 2.5 can fail – the seal

ei­ther leaks coolant into the en­gine oil or the bear­ings fail and it pumps wa­ter out of the over­flow on the rear of the en­gine. If you find a ve­hi­cle with low coolant, this could be why. The post-2006 model with its up­rated in­jec­tion sys­tem was al­to­gether bet­ter. Oth­er­wise, the 1.9 is more bul­let­proof, and be­cause it’s used in a va­ri­ety of other VAG cars, it is far eas­ier to get hold of a re­place­ment should prob­lems arise.

From new, many T5s were ex­posed to a long-life ser­vice regime which meant that some vans had to wait up to 18 months for an oil and fil­ter change. This prac­tice has un­doubt­edly re­sulted in prob­lems, no­tably the vanes in the vari­able vane turbo fit­ted to these ve­hi­cles clog­ging af­ter pro­longed ex­tended in­ter­val regimes. If the turbo fails, you’ll no­tice flac­cid per­for­mance and a ten­dency for the ve­hi­cle to go into ‘limp-home’ mode when it over­boosts. New tur­bos cost £900 or £1200 fit­ted.

As al­ways, go through any re­ceipts to see what oil has been used (it should meet the nec­es­sary VW 505 or 506 spec­i­fi­ca­tion) and how of­ten the oil and fil­ter have been changed, to as­sess po­ten­tial wear to the camshafts and as­so­ci­ated fol­low­ers and in­jec­tors. For ref­er­ence, a top end re­build will cost you at least £1000.

Bear in mind that T5s af­ter 2006 had a diesel par­tic­u­late fil­ter (DPF) and re­quire oil that meets 507 spec­i­fi­ca­tions, so check that this has been used.

The 1.9 em­ploys a cam­belt which should be re­placed ev­ery 80,000 miles or five years. The 2.5 is gear-driven and is thus vir­tu­ally main­te­nance-free, al­though it’s nec­es­sary to change the free­wheel and elas­tic drive cou­pling at around 100,000 miles, which can be ex­pen­sive at more than £500.

The post-2009 facelift T5.1 fea­tured a to­tally new 2.0-litre tur­bod­iesel unit – it was avail­able in 83bhp, 101bhp, 138bhp and 177bhp biturbo (BITDI) guises – and this is al­to­gether smoother, more ef­fi­cient and more re­li­able.

The early 1.9 PD tur­bod­iesel is strong but a lit­tle un­der­pow­ered, es­pe­cially when fully laden. The 2.0 TDI in the post-2009 T5.1 is by far the most ef­fi­cient unit of all.

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