Californian ‘Glamping’ – VW Style

Volkswagen’s camper vans have earned status as an icon, thanks to 6 decades of production. Based on the brand new T6 Transporter (the 2016 International Van of The Year), the new California camper van sets new standards for campers & glampers the world over.

If you’re familiar with the T5 California (or indeed the Transporter), you will notice a striking familiarity about all this. That’s because the T6 Transporter van was developed along an “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” policy, so Volkswagen kept all the fixed points of the chassis, most of the body panels and the external dimensions exactly the same.

There have been tweaks to the front and rear exterior styling, but the real work went into improving overall refinement, ride quality and cabin flair, and adding more of the technology that makes Volkswagen’s passenger cars so alluring. There’s an all-new dashboard, too, that’s exclusive to the California.

Volkswagen counts 6,000 changes from the T5 Transporter to the T6, all of which carry over to the California. They just happen to be mostly suspension, engine and technology improvements, most of which you can feel rather than see.

I found my VW California test vehicle – an ‘Ocean’ model with 4-wheel-drive, DSG (Automatic) 7-speed gearbox and 204bhp – really easy to use: the roof can be popped up and the rear bench turned into a double bed in no time at all, which is especially appealing in a wet, dark field in the middle of the night. The elevating roof is in lightweight aluminium and goes up and down electrically. It also keeps the Ocean’s on-the-road height to 1.99m. The roof and the diesel-fuelled heating system (as well as the fridge) share an overhead control unit for easy operation and monitoring, with the bonus of programming for the heater.

Standard specification in my test vehicle included 2 front swivel seats, 2 deck chairs and camping table, gas cooker & sink, body coloured bumpers, electronic stability control, alarm, cruise control, Bluetooth, multi-function steering wheel, light & vision pack, electric folding mirrors, LED tail lamps and a ‘Composition Media’ sound system while optional extras included parking sensors front and rear, double glazing in rear with privacy glass, 18” alloys, shower connection, LED headlamps, satellite navigation, a silver awning to the passenger side of the vehicle and two-tone metallic paint (Candy White & Cherry Red).

The 2-burner hob with piezo ignition is on the left, next to the stainless steel sink with removable washing-up bowl. Both feature a glass cover. There is plenty of space under the combined cooker/sink unit for kitchen utensils and crockery. Both sliding doors can also be opened when the seat/sleeping surface is pulled forward.

An exterior connection from the existing fresh water tank is provided at the rear of the vehicle. The separately stowed shower attachment can, for example, be used to clean leisure equipment. With a 4-berth sleeping capacity and 4 comfortable seats (3 + driver), this 5 metre long vehicle really does impress.

Two LED lights on the inside of the tailgate provide more light in the living compartment when it’s dark outside. When the tailgate is open, the luggage area and the area behind the tailgate is illuminated to facilitate loading and unloading. The LED lights in the elevating roof and tailgate provide excellent illumination and are operated by easy‑to‑reach switches.

There are two variants of the California currently available in Ireland, the Coast and the Ocean. The California’s 2.0-litre TDI engine offers particularly low fuel consumption and complies with the Euro 6 emission standard. This results in a low average fuel consumption of 6.9l/100km on a combined driving cycle.

The cost of my test vehicle (including extras) is €83,850, but annual road tax of just €102 really sweetens the deal. However, the new California range starts at €51,935. Fun-loving couples and families who want a well-designed, flexible and multi-purpose camper van which can be used on a daily basis will certainly be attracted to VW’s latest icon.