In the second half of the 1980s, the success of the Renault Espace gave ideas to the competition. Only, its market being still small, it decides to invest it via partnerships, in order to limit development costs. For example, Ford and Volkswagen joined forces in 1987 to produce their own.
The design is mostly the work of the Blue Oval, both exterior and interior, but the engines will be German, diesel and petrol, with one exception. To manufacture this vehicle, the two giants signed a joint venture in 1991, Autoreuropa, which led to a factory in Portugal. Their large minivans were presented as concepts at the 1994 Paris Motor Show, the Ford Galaxy on one side, the VW Sharan on the other. The marketing will take place more than a year later, a third thief arriving a few weeks later, the Seat Alhambra.
Apart from a few stylistic details, they are identical, the only notable difference being the use by each of its own 2.0 l petrol. TDI diesels and the VR6 are therefore common. Each partner has also defined the equipment of its models in its own way.
Thus, if you want the 6-cylinder, prohibited at Seat, the VW is more expensive than the Ford, because it is only offered in high-end Carat finish. Auto air conditioning, aluminum rims, cruise control, six independent seats, all electric windows, alarm, ABS, traction control, double airbag: the equipment is very comprehensive. The price of 213,900 F (current €45,200 according to INSEE) is related! That said, a Renault Espace V6 Big Screen costs 30,000 F more…
Under the hood of the VW, the 2.8 l atmo 12-valve develops 174 hp, and takes the 1,835 kg of the Sharan to 200 km/h. To hold the road well, the minivan relies on McPherson struts at the front and independent wheels at the rear, controlled by oblique arms.
Obviously, customers will favor the diesel, the VR6 remaining in the shadows, even if, quickly, it can be associated with Syncro all-wheel drive. In 1997, this block is associated at VW with the GL finish, less provided, while in 1998, the endowment is enriched. The Sharan Carat wins, for example, a sound system with CD changer and a sunroof. For its part, the GL version is renamed Comfort. In 1999, the VR6 was only offered in Syncro, and leather was now standard.
In May 2000, the Sharan benefited from a restyling affecting the front and rear faces. Above all, inside, the dashboard is completely redesigned in a VW style, no longer owing anything to Ford. The equipment is enriched (xenons, mixed leather-Alcantara upholstery), but we especially retain the technical developments. Indeed, the engine climbs to 204 hp by adorning itself with a 24-valve cylinder head, while the box goes from 5 to 6 reports.
As a result, the Sharan VR6 reaches 217 km / h at peak, while all-wheel drive returns at the end of the year. At the end of 2003, a slight redesign took place, affecting mainly the stern, and in 2006, the VR6 was withdrawn from the French import programme. This is not the end of the first generation Sharan, which will last until 2010! Ford had renewed its Galaxy a long time ago…
How much does it cost ?
The disaffection affecting minivans helping, the Sharan does not cost much, even in VR6. There are beautiful examples requiring no cost from €4,000, certainly displaying more than 250,000 km. At 150,000 km, some demand €8,000, with a certain optimism. There are no big differences between the trim levels or the transmissions.
Which version to choose?
Given the lack of price difference, you might as well take a Sharan Carat, and preferably in phase II, with the more efficient 204 hp VR6.
A Sharan VR6 Carat in perfect condition and displaying less than 80,000 km is a pure collector’s item: you can hardly find any!
What to monitor?
Very solid on the Golf and Passat, the VR6 engine is also on the Sharan, if it has been well maintained, of course. At high mileage, the timing chain will be checked, to change it if necessary. A rare operation, and fortunately because it requires removing the engine. No particular worries about the gearboxes (manual or automatic) if they have been emptied on time. Ditto for the Syncro transmission.
The non-restyled Sharans suffered from a few finishing issues, electronic bugs and steering damage. Normally, all this has been resolved but the machine being old and heavy, it will require tight control of the ground connections. Also to be monitored, the electrical functions and the proper functioning of the air conditioning.
In a 1999 Sharan, one may not be overwhelmed by the design of the dashboard. It’s bulbous Mondeo I style, and for good reason: it was designed by Ford. It lacks storage, but is well made and rather ergonomic. Behind you, it’s huge: the Sharan is the dream machine for families.
At the front, we take advantage of a properly studied driving position, even if the steering wheel is a bit too inclined. At the start, happiness: the engine diffuses its creamy melody in the cabin. Afterwards, it delights with its smoothness at all times, its suppleness and its vigor in the turns. There is no denying it, a 6-cylinder, it transfigures driving pleasure! Performances ? The Sharan VR6 advances more than worthily, but it’s not a sportsman, even if the gearbox, which is pleasant to handle, doesn’t pull too long.
This rather comfort-oriented temperament is also reflected in very safe but clumsy handling. Not serious, it encourages you to take advantage of the comfort of the seats, the suspension correctly filtering the inequalities (but without particular talent), the mechanical melody and the panoramic visibility. Especially that led thus, the Sharan VR6 will be satisfied with 11 l/100 km.
The youngtimer alternative
Chrysler Voyager I V6 (1988 – 1996)
Launched in the United States in 1983, the Dodge Caravan can be considered one of the very first minivans (even if the term did not exist then) of the modern era, before the Renault Espace. Imported into France at the end of 1988, it was then renamed Chrysler Voyager. In the luxurious LE version, it benefits from a 3.0 l V6 engine of Mitsubishi origin (141 hp), coupled to an automatic gearbox, which takes it to nearly 180 km/h!
Spacious with its two comfortable removable bench seats completing the front seats, it is also safe, very well equipped and comfortable. Restyled for 1991, it can then benefit from a 3.3 l V6 (but only 150 hp), all-wheel drive and even an elongated body. It will last until 1996. From €4,500.
Volkswagen Sharan VR6 (1996), technical specifications
- Engine: 6-cylinder staggered, 2792cc
- Power supply: electronic injection
- Suspension: McPherson struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar (AV); trailing arms, coil springs anti-roll bar (AR)
- Transmission: 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
- Power: 174 hp at 5,800 rpm
- Torque: 235 Nm at 4,200 rpm
- Weight: 1,650 kg
- Maximum speed: 199 km/h (manufacturer data)
- 0 to 100 km/h: 11.8 s (manufacturer data)
> To find Volkswagen Sharan advertisements, go to the La Centrale website.