Skip advert
Advertisement

New high-tech Volkswagen California camper van arrives just in time for summer

VW’s revered home from home is back, and it’s packed with more clever features than ever before

The new Volkswagen CaliforniaVW’s hotly anticipated next-generation camper – has been revealed, carrying over myriad exciting features from the innovative concept shown last year. Over 200,000 VW Californias have been built to date and the new version will go on sale imminently, priced from around £65,000.

Based on the maker’s extended T7 Multivan rather than the forthcoming Transporter van, the California is 269mm longer than its predecessor. It gets a familiar look and a choice of two-tone paint options, but is available in more trims and layouts than ever before, with the top-spec Coast and Ocean models featuring a small kitchenette with a single-ring gas hob.

Advertisement - Article continues below

All versions of the California get the same dual-screen dashboard layout as the VW Multivan MPV, with the central display flanked on one side by a selection of buttons used to operate the pop-up roof. On the other, you’ll find the dash-mounted gear lever, positioned to free-up space and allow for a walk-through cabin. There are only two seats up front, but they can swivel 180 degrees when the California is stationary. 

The entry-level Beach variant comes with a new six-seat layout, but doesn’t offer a bed in the lower cabin. VW itself refers to this as “a Multivan with a manual pop-up roof” – presumably for day trips or big families who enjoy the outdoors. The new Beach Tour model has five seats, and the rear row can be folded to create a bed downstairs. All versions get a raised bed in the roof that measures 2,054mm x 1,137mm.

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

And because the second row comprises three individual chairs, they can slide and fold independently; once folded, they can also be used as a table, with recesses to stop things like cups or food rolling around. The seats can also be lifted out, to free up room for longer items such as bikes.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Above this sits the Beach Camper. This version remains a spacious five seater, but adds a mini kitchen and a 230-volt power connection for hooking up to the mains at campsites. However, unlike its more expensive siblings, the Beach Camper’s facilities are limited to a single-ring hob, cutlery drawer and storage spot. The unit pulls out from the rear of the van and can only be used with the tailgate open.

The California Coast and top-spec Ocean get just four seats, though head of design Albert Kirzinger admitted that due to the base Multivan’s flexibility, there’s nothing stopping owners fitting a pair of extra chairs in the boot to make these versions part-time six seaters.

But where you’ll find a fifth seat in the Beach, Coast and Ocean vans swap in a built-in kitchen with a single-ring gas hob, a fridge, plus drawers and cupboards. There’s a toughened-glass worktop and a sink operated via the fresh water supply, which can be topped up at home or on campsites. The inlet is now housed in the back of the van rather than alongside the external power socket – possibly, joked a VW spokesperson, to stop owners filling their water tank with diesel, or vice versa.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

For the first time, all Californias come with twin sliding doors – one on each side. On Coast and Ocean versions, with their built-in kitchen, this allows owners to better ventilate the cabin when cooking, while also providing an additional entry point – particularly useful in the UK when parking on the street, for example. That second sliding door also hides a fold-out table, for use outside the van. Owners who lament the demise of the old van’s two-ring gas stove can use this table to support a separate induction hob, connected via one of the two electrical outlets found in the Cali’s main cupboard.

New in this 2024 VW California is a five-inch iPad-style panel in the C-pillar, giving owners access to vehicle functions such as the roof mechanism and the interior lights. It also offers instant visibility of the van’s systems, such as fresh and waste water levels, plus the charge state of the auxiliary battery. VW’s pictures suggest campers will be able to live off grid for almost five days before needing to connect to an external power supply.

This small screen and all its services are said to be mirrored in the van’s smartphone app, allowing those in the top bunk to control things without even getting out of bed. We asked Volkswagen CV’s CEO Carsten Intra whether this would give owners access to functions like the climate control to heat or cool the cabin remotely, but apparently this functionality isn’t yet possible.

Three engines will be available for the California, though UK specifications haven’t been confirmed. Front-wheel-drive TSI petrol and TDI diesels with 148bhp and 198bhp will be offered, as well as, for the first time, an all-wheel-drive plug-in hybrid. Volkswagen hasn’t officially confirmed an electric range for the 242bhp eHybrid model, but Intra said the PHEV will use “second-generation” plug-in technology with “a 21kWh battery” capable of up to 100km (62 miles) on a charge. This variant will tow up to two tonnes.

Plans for an Volkswagen ID. Buzz-based camper are still ticking along, though Intra insisted the market would decide when the time was right for an all-electric California: “We are waiting for the customer response on that”, he told us.

The new T7 California will go on sale in June this year priced from around £65,000, with the fully loaded plug-in hybrid Ocean likely to command a premium of between £15k and £20k. First cars will be delivered in the second half of the year – possibly in time for some late-summer sun.

Click here for our list of the best people carriers and MPVs...

Skip advert
Advertisement
Deputy editor

Richard has been part of the team for over a decade. During this time he has covered a huge amount of news and reviews for Auto Express, as well as being the face of Carbuyer and DrivingElectric on Youtube. In his current role as deputy editor, he is now responsible for keeping our content flowing and managing our team of talented writers.

Skip advert
Advertisement

Recommended

Full range of electric VW campervans incoming, says CEO
3 Volkswagen Californias on a beach
News

Full range of electric VW campervans incoming, says CEO

VW’s head of commercial vehicles has revealed plans for a line-up of EV California campervans are already in motion
8 May 2024
New Volkswagen California Concept previews plug-in hybrid campervan
Volkswagen California Concept - front
News

New Volkswagen California Concept previews plug-in hybrid campervan

Volkswagen Multivan will spawn a plug-in hybrid family-friendly camper due in 2024
24 Aug 2023

Most Popular

Car Deal of the Day: £14,000 off a factory fresh, top-of-the-range Nissan Leaf
Nissan Leaf
News

Car Deal of the Day: £14,000 off a factory fresh, top-of-the-range Nissan Leaf

Nissan’s electric family hatchback with a huge discount is our Deal of the Day for 20 June
20 Jun 2024
No more EV! New BMW X3 gets petrol, diesel and PHEV power only
BMW X3 - front
News

No more EV! New BMW X3 gets petrol, diesel and PHEV power only

The all-new premium BMW X3 SUV has a sharp new look and cutting-edge tech, but no iX3 EV this time around
18 Jun 2024
New Bugatti Tourbillon revealed: 1,774bhp, £3.8m, V16 hypercar aims to blow rivals away
Bugatti Tourbillon - front action
News

New Bugatti Tourbillon revealed: 1,774bhp, £3.8m, V16 hypercar aims to blow rivals away

1,774bhp, a new naturally aspirated V16 engine and an otherworldly design mark out Bugatti’s next new generation hypercar
20 Jun 2024