Why do buyers choose four-wheel drive?
Often because they believe it’s the only way to improve grip in the kind of weather we’ve experienced recently, or it’s essential for occasional forays off road. But that’s not necessarily the case. Loss of traction in a two-wheel drive vehicle is usually caused when one driving wheel spins, which limits the amount of torque fed to the other driven wheel with good grip, because of the way a conventional differential works. If the torque split between the wheels can be changed to feed more torque to the wheel with grip, then that’s usually enough to maintain traction.
In a nutshell, this is the principal of the limited slip differential, which is what Citroën has fitted to the Berlingo XTR+. Most van users don’t need much in the way of off-road potential and in any case, a four-wheel drive system adds cost and weight. Extra bulk on a van means less payload, so a limited slip differential brings a smaller weight penalty and less cost, but it still makes the Berlingo surprisingly capable off-road. But the diff isn’t the whole story. The domestic Berlingo Multispace XTR has raised suspension and under body protection. These are carried over to the XTR+ as well as 15-inch steel wheels with Michelin Synchrone 4×4 195/65R15 tyres. The result is 30mm higher ground clearance. The XTR+ is based on a standard Berlingo LX 625 and offers a gross payload of 625kg, towing capacity of 1,125kg and 3.3m3 load capacity.
There are no exterior XTR+ badges on display, so without a standard model alongside, the raised suspension is not immediately obvious. Inside, it’s like any other Berlingo – our test van came with several options including the speed limiter and cruise control, automatic lights and wipers, air conditioning, dual passenger seat and mesh bulkhead. Apple ipod users can choose a USB connection to feed music to the audio system and keep it charged up. Like all Berlingos with a bulkhead, taller drivers have to juggle seat height and travel to find enough legroom.
On rugged off-road routes, the XTR+ kit gives the Berlingo enough traction to keep going over deep ruts and slippery mud. It will go most places that Citroën’s target utility companies, construction, agricultural and forestry users will want to go and eclipse less competent rivals in the process. It starts at £14,360 (ex-VAT), and with no direct competitors, the French firm has the market to itself.