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Volkswagen reveals all-new California campervan


The world premiere of the all-new Volkswagen California campervan range has taken place in Germany

There are five versions of the iconic campervan available – the California Ocean, California Coast and California Beach, California Beach Tour and California Beach Camper.

The California is arguably the world’s most famous and iconic campervan with over 280,000 units of this bestselling model having been built so far.

Now, this brand-new generation California, which is based on the long version of the VW Multivan, aims to continue the success of its predecessors.

Volkswagen has redesigned every area of the campervan, making it more spacious, smarter, more sophisticated, more versatile and more sustainable.

Volkswagen has retained key California details such as the pop-top roof and has ensured it can be used as an everyday vehicle, as well as a campervan.

As such, for the first time ever, all California campervans will be equipped with two sliding doors as standard.

Another premiere in the new California is a plug-in hybrid all-wheel drive system. This means that the campervan temporarily becomes an electric vehicle, which at the same time allows long overall ranges.

Pre-sales for the new California start in June.

Watch our review

Beach, Coast and Ocean – campervans for every situation

Volkswagen is offering the new California as the Beach, Beach Tour and Beach Camper (with a mini-kitchen in the rear) as well as Coast and Ocean versions (each with a full kitchenette).

This means that a complete family of campervans is available to cater to the most varied requirements and life situations.

This new campervan sits between VW’s smaller Caddy California and the larger Grand California.  

The new California – a campervan always with a pop-up roof, always with two sliding doors

California Beach Camper has a mini-kitchen in the rear

(Photo courtesy of VW Commercial Vehicles)

All versions of the new California share the pop-up roof with a front window and large front opening as well as two additional side windows (all with mosquito net).

Another common feature is the sliding doors on the left and right sides – in the California 6.1, this feature was only available on the front passenger side in the Coast and Ocean equipment packages.

In everyday life, the new California can therefore now be loaded and unloaded from both sides. On trips, both sides of the vehicle can also be used as an open-air terrace for the first time. An optional awning can now be ordered for the left or right side to shield against rain or too much sun.

Also new are individual seats instead of a bench seat in the rear. In other words, expensive bikes can now travel inside, and the seats can also be positioned individually according to personal preferences.

Last but not least, all new Californias, from the Beach Tour upwards, are also equipped with a brand-new campervan control unit in the C-pillar.

All campervan functions can be controlled and checked via the display. Alternatively, the functions can also be operated via a corresponding in-car app on the infotainment system and the California app on a smartphone.

One small technical detail demonstrates just how well thought out the New California is in all areas: all the LED and background lighting in the interior can be switched off at the same time with a brief double tap on one of the numerous light switches – a feature that is often not even found in luxury hotels.

New VW California campervan in detail

All California campervans come with a pop-top rising roof

(Photo courtesy of VW Commercial Vehicles)

The long-wheelbase version of VW’s Multivan is the base vehicle upon which the new California is built.

The campervan is 5,173mm long (predecessor: 4,904 mm); the width without exterior mirrors is 1,941mm (predecessor: 1,904 mm). At 1,990mm including the lowered pop-up roof, the height is identical to that of the predecessor, which means it is again suitable for multi-storey car parks.

A long wheelbase of 3,124mm spans between the axles; this ensures there is even more space on board than in the predecessor. When the roof is closed, the interior height is 1,297mm; when the pop-up roof is open, this increases to 2,108mm.

A wide range of driver assist systems are available for the new California, providing additional safety and comfort – these range from the oncoming vehicle braking when turning function to Travel Assist, which offers semi-automated driving assistance and thus increases long-distance driving comfort.

The first VW California with a plug-in hybrid drive plus 4Motion

The new campervan is powered by three different systems, which can be combined with all equipment packages and are all coupled to an automatic gearbox.

Available are a four-cylinder turbo-diesel direct injection engine (TDI) with an output of 148hp, a 201hp turbocharged petrol direct injection engine (TSI). Both the TDI and TSI drive the front wheels.

A new feature for the California is the new plug-in hybrid drive (eHybrid) with an output of 242hp. The new California is the first MQB model from the Volkswagen Group to combine a plug-in hybrid drive with the 4Motion all-wheel drive system.

The plug-in hybrid drive allows the California to be temporarily transformed into an electric vehicle for everyday use. The efficiency of an electric motor and the 1.5 TSI evo2 engine also enables very long overall ranges and a maximum trailer weight of up to 2,000kg.

Two-tone paintwork – an iconic California campervan feature

Two-tone paintwork is available on the new VW California campervan

(Photo courtesy of VW Commercial Vehicles)

Carrying on the two-tone paint finish of the previous ‘Bulli’ campervans, this new campervan is also available in an exterior dual-colour finish. As an alternative to the eleven single-tone paint finishes, the following two-tone variants will be available for the new California (top and bottom respectively): Mono Silver/Energetic Orange metallic, Deep Black Pearl/Fontana Red metallic and – exclusively for the new California – a colour combination of Candy White solid/Starlight Blue metallic.

The pop-up roof’s three-layer bellows can be configured in the three colours: Toffee Brown, Glacier Blue and Basalt Grey. In addition, seven different 16, 17, 18 and 19in alloy wheels are available for the new California.

California campervan versatility

The new models are equipped with removable individual seats in the rear

(Photo courtesy of VW Commercial Vehicles)

The five versions of the new California have been designed to cater to as many lifestyle and travel scenarios as possible. Compared with the predecessor, the new models are equipped with removable individual seats in the rear (each weighing 24kg) instead of a rear bench seat.

Practical drawers are located under all individual seats as well as in the driver and front passenger seats. A large number of 45-watt USB-C ports also ensure that mobile devices never run out of power. The five versions in detail:

VW California Beach

The California Beach with passenger car Type Approval is the entry level – this is essentially a Multivan with a manual pop-up roof. The California Beach offers six seats (2+2 individual seats in the second and third rows) and space for two people to sleep under the pop-up roof, which can be opened and closed manually with a new, easy-to-operate mechanism.

The raised roof bed measures 2,054mm by 1,137mm in all new California models and is equipped with a comfortable mattress and high-quality disc springs.

VW California Beach Tour

The second specification level is the California Beach Tour. Like the Beach Camper, Coast and Ocean, this version is equipped as standard with rotating and height-adjustable driver and front passenger seats, the two ergonomic folding chairs in the boot lid, lighting in the pop-up roof (including gooseneck lamp and 45W USB ports), sliding windows in the left and right sliding doors and the new campervan control unit (screen) in the C-pillar on the front passenger side.

The Beach Tour also has an additional camper battery on board (40Ah LiFePO4). The five-seater new California Beach Tour is equipped with three individual seats in the rear; the backrests of the two outer rear seats can be folded back completely – unlike in the Beach and Multivan. This creates the conditions needed to make two additional sleeping spaces in the living area.

For this purpose, the California Beach Tour has an additional fold-out mattress (1,980mm by 1,330mm) on board, which rests on the folded-down individual seats and can be fully folded into a luggage shelf in the boot when not in use. The Beach Tour also has Type Approval as a passenger car. From the Beach Tour equipment package and above, all new California vehicles are also equipped with a folding table (secured in the load compartment while the vehicle is moving).

VW California Beach Camper

The California Beach Camper’s Type Approval is for a classic campervan. Like the Beach Tour, it is a five-seater, but is also equipped with an extremely compact mini-kitchen and a 230V power connection. The kitchen, with single-ring gas cooker, cutlery drawer and additional storage space, is located in a permanently installed module in the load compartment.

For use, the kitchen unit is pulled out to the rear when the boot lid is open (which also provides protection against the rain).

VW California Coast

The four-seater California Coast is equipped with two individual seats in the rear, a full kitchenette and a second campervan battery (a total of two 40Ah LiFePO4). The same applies to the Ocean. The kitchenette has been completely redesigned. One of the differences from the predecessor is that the kitchenette with cabinets, sink and single-ring gas cooker offers similar space to the predecessor’s counterpart, but does not protrude as far forward thanks to the new California’s longer exterior length.

This has many advantages: there is still room for getting in and out of the sliding door on the left; larger drivers have considerably more room for optimum seat adjustment; the height-adjustable driver's seat can now also be rotated completely by 180 degrees; and space is created for the refrigerator, which opens forwards as a drawer like in the Grand California. The latter can therefore not only be used more effectively but can also be operated from outside the vehicle for loading and unloading breakfast or chilled drinks.

The fold-out bed in the living area measures 1,980mm by x 1,060mm. When folded out, it is extremely stable, resting on one of the folded-down seats on the right and on a step integrated into the kitchenette on the left. It goes without saying that the California Coast also has campervan Type Approval.

VW California Ocean

The Ocean was already the flagship model in the previous product line. This also applies unreservedly to the new California. Compared with the Coast version, the four-seater Ocean is equipped with numerous additional standard details.

These features include the exclusive Mélange Raven seat fabric made from recycled material (California lettering is embroidered onto the backrests of the front seats), seat heating for the driver and front passenger seats, auxiliary air heater, automatic air-conditioner (Climatronic), a large roof stowage box above the load compartment and background lighting in the kitchenette.

The 28-litre fresh water tank in the Coast and Ocean models is now five litres larger. Both versions also have a practical exterior folding table (which can also be used inside and as an extension to the worktop) and an additional 230V socket with power on the outside for an electric hob.

The new interior architecture in the Beach versions

Beach, Beach Tour and Beach Camper: The California Beach has the same interior concept as the Multivan; the backrests on the individual seats in the rear can be folded forwards and not backwards, as is usual in a VW bus. From the California Beach Tour and above, however, the backrests of the outer seats can also be folded all the way back so that a flat bed surface can be created above them.

The comfortable folding mattress is simply placed over the folded-down seats and a rear support in the Beach Tour and Beach Camper. The blackout system in all models from the Beach Tour up has also been enhanced: Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles has developed removable California storage pockets for the rear side windows; they are simply hung at the top of the window and cover the entire window.

A flap with a zip fastening then opens up storage compartments for clothing and all kinds of utensils. Practical roller blinds are integrated into the window frames on the sliding doors and boot lid. For the front side windows, opaque shades are again used that are fastened to the door frame by magnets; in the Coast and Ocean versions, the shades are new-design thermal shades. The windscreen is now covered with an opaque shade that is attached via integrated rods in the window cutout; in the California Coast and California Ocean, this is designed as a new insulated shade.

Beach Camper with extendable rear kitchen

The California Beach Camper is equipped with a permanent mini-kitchen at the rear. This has two drawers: the gas cooker and a small storage area are integrated in the top drawer, while the bottom drawer has a cutlery box and large stowage areas for crockery.

On the left next to the kitchen module is a technology box, which is equipped, among other things, with a 230V power socket (fed by a 300W inverter) and the electrical release for the trailer coupling.

Three-zone campervan concept

Three-zone camping from the new VW California

(Photo courtesy of VW Commercial Vehicles)

With the new California, Volkswagen is presenting a new three-zone concept for campsites thanks to the two sliding doors. The large interior and the spaces to the right and left of the sliding doors merge to create a living space surrounded by nature in the summer.

Campervan zone one

The living area: behind the height-adjustable front seats – which can rotate through 180 degrees (from Beach Tour and above) – the entire vehicle interior is an ideal passenger compartment for day-to-day driving, offering the familiar level of flexibility. Thanks to these variable seats, boards and bikes can now easily be transported on board the vehicle. When used as a campervan, the New California’s seating area can quickly be converted into a flat chill-out area or face-to-face seating for shared mealtimes or games. The predecessor’s solid rear bench seat thus makes way for variable individual seats weighing only 24kg in the new California. Thanks to the pop-up roof, the vehicle offers an impressive maximum headroom of 2,108mm.

Campervan zones two and three

The terraces: the sliding door on the right-hand side of the campervan provides a safe point of entry and exit on the pavement-side of the vehicle, just like in the predecessor. Loading and unloading the vehicle is therefore also easy and safe. On the campsite, this area enhances the feeling of life in the great outdoors, just like in the former California 6.1. The highlight, however, is that the new California also has a sliding door on the other side, which opens up to create an additional exterior space.

Since the kitchen and the fridge – which can also be accessed from the outside – are located on this side, this area will most likely be used for meals or whiling away the evening hours – almost like a terrace. In order to maximise variability, the awning can therefore be ordered for either the right or left side of the vehicle. If the kitchenette side is used for the awning, for example, a sun sail can be set up on the right to open up this area for playing or reading in the shade. There is no doubt that the option to use the vehicle as a VW bus for day-to-day driving or as a versatile campervan for leisure has now been enhanced even further thanks to the two sliding doors.

Campervan control unit, smartphone or infotainment system

A new smart control panel allows access to all the campervan's main functions

(Photo courtesy of VW Commercial Vehicles)

Digital control of campervan functions: All features relevant to camping are operated using the 5in touch display on the new campervan control unit in the C-pillar on the front passenger side. This includes information on the fresh and waste water levels, the interior lighting functions, including background lighting, power supply status, refrigerator and auxiliary heater.

In addition, the new California can be switched to Camping mode on the display in order to automatically deactivate the Coming Home and Leaving Home functions when the vehicle is opened and closed at the campsite, for example. At the same time, most of these functions can also be controlled with a smartphone using the California app and by means of the in-car app in the infotainment system. The infotainment system can also be used to access an inclination display that enables the campervan to be levelled.



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