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A descendant of the hippy bus, the sixth-gen Volkswagen Transporter has big shoes to fill

Volkswagen has introduced the new 2015 Transporter, a direct descendant of the iconic rear-engined Bus that was a common sight on American roads for decades.

Representing the van’s sixth generation in 65 years, the new mid-size Transporter gets minor visual modifications such as bigger headlights with LED daytime running lights, a slightly taller three-slat radiator grille and a redesigned lower bumper with a wide air dam and a thin strip of chrome trim. The back end gets smaller square tail lamps, while new paint colors and wheel designs round out the updates.

Buyers after a retro-styled look can order the van with a two-tone paint job and vintage-looking 18-inch alloys called Disc that are similar to the ones offered on the Beetle. At the other end of the spectrum, the base-model Transporter with welded-in rear windows gets by with black plastic bumpers and steel wheels.

More significant changes are found in the engine bay, where the Transporter gains a new 2.0-liter TDI turbodiesel four-cylinder engine that can be ordered with either 83, 100, 147 or 201 horsepower. Buyers who prefer gasoline-burning engines can ask for a 2.0-liter four that makes either 147 or 201 ponies. Every engine comes standard with a start/stop system that makes the new Transporter noticeably more efficient than the outgoing model.

Most models can be ordered with a six-speed manual transmission or a dual-clutch DSG unit. Front-wheel drive comes standard, and Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system is available at an extra cost.

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Buyers in Europe will be able to order the 2015 Transporter in the next few days. Although pure speculation, it’s not too far-fetched to say that the van stands a good chance of joining Volkswagen’s North American lineup in the coming years. The Wolfsburg-based automaker recently hinted that it could launch a van in the United States before the end of the decade, and rival Mercedes-Benz introduced the similarly-sized 2016 Metris a few weeks ago.