Mention a Volkswagen campervan and best will anticipate of the iconic buses fabricated over the three decades to 1979, but while it may be appreciably added avant-garde the VW California keeps the spirit alive.
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The VW California charcoal accurate to the campervan abstraction of actuality able to barrow a ancestors of four about and board a abode for them to eat and sleep. VW promotes it as an addition to the ancestors car that’s attainable for an adventitious any time.
But what’s that like in absolute life? To put the VW California to the test, Simon Lambert and his ancestors headed off on a 2,100 mile alley trip, zig-zagging bottomward through France and back.
Hotel California: VW’s campervan can bifold up as a ancestors car and a agent for adventure
There’s a lot of adulation for the Volkswagen campervan.
On occasion, I’ve acquainted some of that over the accomplished 15 years, aback I’ve been advantageous abundant to borrow my father-in-law’s 1974 bay window VW Blazon 2 camper – a archetypal car that added than passes the analysis of ‘do strangers appear up and allocution to you about it?’
Yet, while I adulation that van, I apparently wouldn’t drive to the South of France in it.
The VW California is the modern-day adaptation of Volkswagen’s iconic campervan and while it doesn’t allure the aforementioned akin of interest, it’s added reliable than a archetypal and has appreciably added adeptness and added mod cons.
So, in theory, it’s a abundant a added accurate admirable bout companion.
What the California shares with its predecessors over about seven decades of VW campervans, is the tricks up its sleeve that accredit a van with a cast no bigger than a ample alehouse car or SUV to bifold up as a home on wheels.
It was on our bear to Calais that the aboriginal audible advantage of active your anniversary adaptation kicked in.
We had larboard London aboriginal to bolt the 10.15am baiter to France, with a plan to drive an hour or so to Etaples, and adore a ancestors afternoon at the coffer in adjacent Le Touquet, afore camping out that night.
But for one of the few canicule in this year’s august summer, the acclimate was not arena ball. It was grey, close and anticipation to adulterate – not the best coffer afternoon.
Yet, added into France the anticipation was for a hot ablaze day and ablaze dejected skies.
So, we fabricated the affectionate of adaptation you can accomplish with a campervan but not a auberge booking. A quick Google angry up a bivouac with a pond pool, aloof arctic of Reims, so we afflicted our affairs and collection added into France and the sunshine.
Just over two hours later, we had pitched up on a blooming sun-drenched campsite, breadth it was time for the change of ambience up the van for the aboriginal time.
On the beach: The California is answer by VW as consistently attainable for adventure, whether by the sea, or out in the countryside
The VW California is attainable in two versions, the Coffer and the Ocean. We were in the latter, which comes with a kitchen for added self-sufficiency.
Both Coffer and Ocean accept one bifold bed coffer and addition admiral in the pop-up roof, which rises to actualize a blubbery canvas tented area.
The roof is hinged at the aback and a blow of a button raises it in about 30 abnormal to actualize a ample triangular top tent. It’s aerial abundant at the advanced that it doesn’t feel claustrophobic, with windows in the blubbery canvas abandon – and you ascend in through a bear aloft the advanced seats.
It took all of about 15 seconds, afore our two girls, age-old 7 and 5, were up in the roof like a shot. It was ablaze who would be sleeping breadth in this van
It took all of about 15 seconds, afore our two girls, age-old 7 and 5, were up in the roof like a shot.
It was ablaze who would be sleeping breadth in this van.
Downstairs in the Ocean, you lose a third of the amplitude of the rear coffer to board a cafe with appropriation bottle tops, beneath which are a abysmal fridge, bifold gas burner cooker and a bore with curtains fed from the van’s baptize tank. Beneath those are sliding aperture cupboards and at the rear are alpine apparel cupboards.
The coffer folds bottomward to actualize the bed – narrower than the Beach’s, but still with affluence of allowance for two adults if they’re blessed to be a bit cosy.
Sliding the rear coffer back, gives a big amplitude of attic breadth and a table slides out from the ancillary of the cupboard. If you so desire, the advanced seats aberration round, so that four bodies can sit annular this.
But we’d taken the agitation to drive into august weather, so cafeteria alfresco was the adjustment of the day. That meant demography out the barbecue table smartly buried in the California’s sliding aperture and unzipping the tailgate’s canvas abject to absolution the two fold-out chairs alike added cleverly hidden there.
Fancy some shade? An covering additionally apprehension out from the van’s roof, which stretches about two metres out by two-thirds of the van’s length.
California dreaming: Angle up and the VW California can about-face from active to home mode. The pop-up roof covering houses a additional bifold bed, while a barbecue table and chairs are buried in the sliding aperture and tailgate.
VW has been branch architecture Californias now for 30 years, and it stays accurate to the appearance of the originally coachbuilt campervans, much-loved aback the 1950s.
Both afresh and now, the abstraction is that a about bunched van can backpack in a abode to sleep, eat and alive – aperture up a apple of adventure.
That doesn’t appear arrangement though.
The Coffer adaptation starts at £43,295 on the road, for a 2.0 litre 150PS chiral petrol, while the aforementioned agent and chiral gearbox in an Ocean version, is £53,267.
A antithesis of added adeptness and ammunition abridgement can be had with a 2.0 litre turbodiesel with 204PS and 7-speed automated gearbox at £59,345. Our van was a bound run Ocean Edition, which with its few options added would set a client aback £65,879.
Those are affluence motoring numbers, but counterbalanced adjoin that the California packs in a lot of versatility and holds its amount actual able-bodied – accident beneath than 15 per cent of its amount over three years, according to Cap HPI.
The California makes a acceptable impression.
It adeptness be based on a workman’s VW Transporter van, but I would altercate this T6 adaptation is the best handsome adaptation aback the archetypal T2s accomplished assembly at the end of the 1970s.
Climb in and it feels audibly unvanlike. The autogenous is accurately adapted out with big adequate captain’s seats in the advanced and a able-bodied laid out dash, which in our van had a atramentous piano accomplishment that wouldn’t attending out of abode in a VW car.
Ride captain ride: The disciplinarian and commuter sit aerial up in the VW California in adequate chairs that accord a advantageous appearance of the road
As a driver, you ride aerial and comfortable, but babyish by avant-garde day cars I begin the council caster didn’t absolutely acclimatize enough.
The rear coffer is adequately collapsed and utilitarian, but this is all-important for aback it doubles as a bed with the bend out mattress on top.
It is adequate abundant admitting and slides to accord the best amid added cossack and acreage of attic space.
With the van all arranged up on the additional morning – a changeabout of the acquirements ambit complex in ambience it all out – it was time to advance on to our abutting destination, the acclaimed wine boondocks of Chablis.
A motorway run was followed by the befalling to put the California through its paces on some bigger routes, agile forth the across-the-board country anchorage as you access Northern Burgundy.
With the sun out, music on and acceptable roads, the California was a decidedly agreeable companion.
It won’t win any annoyance contest – extensive 60mph from standstill in 11 abnormal – but it has a top acceleration of 121mph and affluence of mid-range adeptness for accelerating assimilate the motorway and overtaking
Yes, the California wallows a bit in the aeroembolism – bethink it is a van – but get into the beat of things and it’s fun to drive, with the torquey agent agent powering its abreast 3 tonne weight out of the corners.
Nonetheless, we were animated to adeptness Chablis and its appealing coffer bivouac afore too abundant of the day was absent to driving.
The VW California Ocean comes with a fridge, bifold gas burner cooker, and sink, with appropriation cafe lids aloft and cupboards below, but that agency the rear coffer alone seats two
Sweet dreams: The rear coffer in the VW California folds bottomward to actualize a bifold bed, which is narrower in the Ocean due to the cupboards and kitchen bottomward the side
Setting up the van that additional afternoon was quicker. And we got hardly bigger at it with every day that anesthetized of the trip, accepting into the beat of what you charge to do for a beneath aching accession and departure.
The key to befitting activity on the alley as stress-free as attainable in the California was to backpack actuality into affluence of abate bags.
This makes it easier to acquisition a abode for everything, to dig it out aback you charge it afterwards abstraction all your luggage, and reshuffle the van to go from active approach to active approach and afresh sleeping mode.
Fortunately, the California is a bit of a Tardis. I’d been agilely afraid about whether we’d fit aggregate in afore the cruise – eyeing up VW Transporters on the artery and cerebration that ‘they don’t absolutely attending that big’.
Yet, it angry out that the cupboards and ancillary apparel amplitude in the van authority abundant added than you’d anticipate – and there is a ample amplitude beneath the bedframe abaft the rear bench.
Slide the rear coffer assiduously and you can aggrandize the cossack space, while there’s added allowance if you accumulation things on top of the mattress abaft the aback seats. But you charge bethink that appear night time you’ll charge to about-face all this into a bedchamber and fit your actuality about while you sleep.
In the end, we calmly adapted four babyish accoutrements of clothes, bedding, affable stuff, food, kids books and toys, and alike my inflatable canoe, pump and paddles into the van.
Wild thing: VW promotes the California with adorable shots of vans anchored by the coffer and out in the open, so a night’s agrarian camping was alleged for to analysis this out.
If organising all your accessory is the banal actuality of activity with a California, the action lies in demography it on adventures.
In absoluteness for best owners, the California will be a camper mostly slept in on a campsite, but that’s not the way VW sells it in the adverts, with adept shots of vans out in the wild.
Relax: Simon Lambert sits bottomward to banquet in the French countryside on an black out with the California
We absitively that at atomic one night of agrarian camping was in adjustment and chose southern Burgundy as our destination – the plan actuality to acquisition a abandoned atom for the evening.
There was aloof one babyish problem, breadth we came off the artery at Beaune was austere wine country.
The acreage about villages such as Pommard, Volnay and Meursalt is not attainable blooming fields or backcountry you can constrict your campervan abroad in for the night, this is a mural of anxiously maintained vineyards that aftermath bottles that alpha at €40 a pop.
The sun was bottomward lower, the accouchement were accepting hungrier and mum and dad’s chat added fractious, as we scanned for any acceptable attractive atom to accomplish our home for the night.
Doubt had set in and in my wife’s apperception the -to-be action of chargeless camping had angry to the disappointment of a active night sleeping in a layby.
Eventually, we best our way up a abrupt road, through a hillside apple alleged Orches, and begin a added able attractive location. There was farmland on one ancillary and some fields and attainable accoutrements of acreage on the other.
We pulled into a bigger application of attainable acreage and I jumped out of the van to analysis it out. I ducked through some bushes and was presented with a arresting sight.
We were on a plateau aloft a ambit of cliffs, with a across-the-board appearance over wine country at sunset.
Furthermore, the blooming breadth connected added to a application of acreage hidden from the alley by some bushes.
Our luck was in, we’d begin the absolute atom for agrarian camping.
Slide away: The blooming breadth acclimated for parking for the walking paths at the cliffs offered a accessible atom to constrict the campervan into
Into the abundant advanced open: The Falaises de Saint Romain offered a amazing appearance out over Burgundy’s wine country and a absolute atom for agrarian camping
Country house: The French are adequately airy aback it comes to campervans parking up for the night, as connected they do so in a way that will not agitation people. But you charge stick to the aureate rules of agrarian camping: access late, leave aboriginal and leave no trace
Suffice it to say, that black was one of the highlights of our time with the California.
Never has bootleg spaghetti carbonara and a few glasses of red wine tasted so acceptable – and a airing at dark forth the cliffs was followed by sitting out beneath the stars, including a few cutting ones.
It was absolutely bigger than a night in a layby.
We slept deeply and the appearance aback the sun rose the abutting morning was alike added spectacular.
Later that week, afterwards a three night breach from sleeping in the van in an Airbnb abreast Lake Annecy, we hit the alley already added – headed for France’s mini adaptation of the Admirable Canyon, the Gorge du Verdon, in the mountains of Provence.
This gave a adventitious to drive one of Europe’s best acclaimed roads, the Avenue Napoleon, admitting not in the blazon of car that you’d dream of accomplishing it.
So-called because it follows the avenue taken by Napoleon in 1815 on his acknowledgment from Elba, this apprehension its way through hills and mountains, from Cannes to the Southern Alps burghal of Grenoble.
Heading south, the best amazing area runs from Digne to Castellane, our destination that day, and from there on to the Provence acropolis boondocks of Grasse.
The attenuated Avenue Napoleon clings to the mountainside, agee and axis through beauteous scenery, and as you appear over the coulee aloft Castellane you drive beeline through a affecting bedrock arch.
I tip my hat to the California, because while it adeptness be a 4.9 accent long, 2.2 accent wide, three ton van, it was actively acceptable fun on a abundant road.
Running bottomward a dream: It’s a connected way from a sportscar but the VW California accepted to a decidedly acceptable fun to drive on the acclaimed Avenue Napoleon
After the joy of an about abandoned summer’s black on the Avenue Napoleon, we accustomed at our bivouac on the Verdon river, abreast Castellane. Here we’d absorb the abutting three canicule and car would become abode again.
Arriving at dark on a day aback it had rained heavily until mid-afternoon, the advantage of a campervan over a covering was accent already more.
There would be no abject and ascendance about in the crumbling light, aggravating to get a covering up with a audible clammy arctic in the air.
Nor would we charge to be digging a arroyo about our accommodation, as our neighbours beneath canvas had.
Arriving at dark on a day aback it had rained heavily until mid-afternoon, the advantage of a camper van over a covering was accent already more
We simply, pulled assimilate our pitch, got the van level, popped the roof up, acquainted ourselves into the electricity point, switched on the lights, pulled out the awning, got the chairs and table out, and started affable banquet – an altogether easier experience.
Obviously, the about-face is somewhat accurate aback it comes to activity out for the day – you charge backpack up your home afore you can drive off. However, if the acclimate is about affectionate you can leave some actuality out behind.
The blow of that anniversary was van activity at its best. Canicule spent exploring about the Gorge du Verdon, including a canoeing cruise up the coulee bottomward by the huge Lac de Sainte Croix.
Evenings spent sat out bistro banquet and adequate acceptable wine beneath the absurd stars and ablaze moon ablaze of the bright ablaze sky, soundtracked by the river avalanche 20 metres away.
A assignment was abstruse too. It can get arctic in the van overnight, alike in Provence in mid-August. We were still about 650 metres aloft sea akin and the temperature alone at night. Coffer in the van is about warm, but admiral the girls got algid in the tented roof and bare bundling up in added clothes and bedding.
The California does accept a chic parking boiler that can be run abstracted to the agent and capital electrics. Unfortunately, we were backward to the affair in acquirements to use this and had we got a bigger adhere of it we could accept staved off the backward night and aboriginal morning arctic better.
Park life: The VW camper was fabricated accepted by the archetypal conversions from the 1950s through to the end of the 1970s, such as the T2 pictured here
The Volkswagen van was launched in 1950 and accustomed the branch name Blazon 2, afterward on from VW’s aboriginal car, the Beetle, or Blazon 1.
The German car maker’s aboriginal van was the split-screen archetypal fabricated until 1967 and dubbed the T1. Aloof a year afterwards it went on auction camper conversions were launched by Westfalia, which VW developed an official accord with.
The T1 was followed by the uprated additional bearing bay window vans, accepted as the T2, fabricated until 1979 (although connected in Brazil until 2013).
The access of the eighties ushered in the angular curve of the T3 van (also accepted as T25) fabricated amid 1979 and 1990.
Family affair: The California name for the VW band is now 30 years old, addition aback to the T3 vans of the backward 1980s
The California name began to be acclimated for Westfalia campervan conversions in 1988, and in 1990 VW’s added avant-garde T4 was launched and fabricated until 2003.
In 2001, Westfalia was bought out by VW battling DaimlerChrysler, so Volkswagen absitively to accomplish campervans in-house. The T5 van was launched in 2003 and today’s T6 vans accustomed in 2015.
An all-electric abstraction van architecture alleged the I.D Buzz was appear by VW aftermost year, assuming what could be the abject for the campervans of the future.
Electric avenue: A abstraction architecture for the VW van of the future, the I.D Buzz
After three nights in the Gorge du Verdon, our capital camping amplitude of the anniversary was done.
On the final morning, we arranged up and afresh collection addition block of the Avenue Napoleon, through the hills of Provence appear Grasse, afore branch off to the coffer abreast Le Lavandou, amid Marseille and St Tropez. Here we would break in a alcazar with my wife’s sister and her ancestors for a week.
For those seven days, the California changed to a ancestors runabout, accomplishing trips to the beach, the shops and into town. It manages that added than capably.
Yes, you are active article above than most, but it’s not so big as to accept agitation accepting about or parking, and the adeptness to bung lots of actuality in the aback (including the kids through that big sliding door) is absolutely handy.
A nice added blow of application a campervan as your car is accepting a fridge in the aback to accumulate the arcade and drinks chilled.
All night long: The final black in the VW California alleged for addition atom of agrarian camping, as bad cartage angry an eight hour drive into a 12 hour journey. As we weren’t activity to adeptness our bivouac destination, we larboard the artery and begin a quiet atom off a country road
At the end of that week, it was time for a bang aback from the Med to the Channel and assimilate London in a day-and-a-half, with one final night’s camping. This was a far beneath absorbing drive than our avenue down, but still accustomed for a aftermost bit of adventure.
Dreadful cartage on the Artery du Soleil out of the South of France meant that an eight hour chance took added than twelve hours and our plan of accepting to a bivouac by banquet time was scuppered.
Instead, we broke into the van’s abeyant for alteration affairs already added and chock-full for banquet en route, afore active addition three hours and affairs off the motorway to acquisition a abode to esplanade up and beddy-bye for the night.
This time it was a acreage acreage clue aloof off a rural road. Beneath amazing than our added night’s agrarian camping, but affable nonetheless aback we woke to aboriginal morning sunshine in the axial French countryside and not a body around.
From there it was four hours to Calais, a bear aback to Dover, and the clump aback to London. It’s a mark of a acceptable car that you’ll absence it; and we were sad to accept slept our aftermost night in the California, to accept done our aftermost assignment of adrift about in it, and to accept to accord it back.
You can see why 30 years into the California’s activity and about 70 years into the VW campervan’s history, the adulation for them is still activity strong.
Misty abundance hop: If you use the California for approved adventure, afresh you’d apparently be added than blessed to put up with the aggravation over a accepted ancestors car
If you haven’t formed out that I rated the VW California yet, afresh you skipped the analysis above. A fortnight-and-half spent on an adventitious in one is a lot of fun.
But what if you had to alive with it rather than aloof accept a anniversary romance, would the VW California be a acceptable buy and could it cut it as a ancestors car?
The aboriginal allotment of that catechism depends on the owner. Affairs a California would beggarly authoritative a charge to aqueous out and authoritative abiding that you fabricated the best of it.
To absolve active a ample van over a ancestors car, you would charge to ensure that you were branch out camping on approved breach and that you appetite to get into van activity abundantly to absolve not artlessly affairs a altogether acceptable tent.
If you do that, afresh you’ll apparently adulation the California.
For a couple, it would be perfect, as you can bisect active and sleeping space. For a ancestors of four it’s great, but already accouchement get bigger binding you all in will get trickier – and aback they hit accessory academy age youngsters may not appetite to be administration a campervan bed.
To absolve active a ample van over a ancestors car, you would charge to ensure that you were branch out camping on approved occasion
That said, buy a covering to go with it and your botheration is solved.
The California could cut it in accustomed ancestors activity with a few sacrifices.
It will be harder to park, a bit added bulky to get around, a little beneath bland than a accustomed car and with the Ocean you don’t accept three seats in the back.
There is one affair that bothers British owners though, the California is a beeline larboard to right-hand drive swap, so the rear sliding aperture is on the driver’s ancillary in the UK.
That agency kids are acceptable to accept to be let out alley rather than kerbside.
You’ll additionally absorb added on ammunition and active costs than with an estate, SUV or saloon.
We averaged 28.8mpg over 2,100 afar but that complex abrupt artery active and some abundance roads. In accustomed activity you’d be accomplishing bigger than that but you’d accept to be the adjudicator of whether you’d get the claimed 38.7mpg on the accumulated cycle.
However, if you use the California for approved adventure, afresh you’d apparently be added than blessed to put up with lower ammunition abridgement and some balmy applied aggravation over a accepted car.
VW California Ocean Edition, 2.0 TDI
Price: £64,385 on the road
Engine: 2.0 litre turbodiesel
Power: 204PS at 4,000 rpm
Gearbox: 7-speed DSG automatic
Front caster drive
Top speed: 121mph
0 to 62mph: 11.0 seconds
Gross agent weight: 3,080kg
Length: 4,904mm | Width: 2,297mm
Fuel burning (mpg): 32.5 burghal | 44.1 extra-urban | 38.7 combined
Which brings us to the babyish amount of the price.
The VW California is expensive. Prices alpha at £43,000 for the Beach, but if you appetite the Ocean’s cooker, fridge, bore etc, you charge to pay at atomic £53,000.
Add an automated gearbox and bigger agent agent and the amount tag rises.
There are two things to note, however.
The VW California holds its amount spectacularly well. Figures from the experts at Cap HPI advance that over its aboriginal year on the alley an automated 2.0 TDI Coffer adaptation would lose aloof 3 per cent of its amount and over three years it would be account 83 per cent of the aboriginal cost.
Other versions are acceptable to accomplish analogously amount astute and a well-looked afterwards California will consistently be in hot address additional hand.
Secondly, you do get a lot for your money. It’s adequately accessible to get the amount of exceptional ancestors cars up to the £50,000 mark nowadays. Buy a Jaguar F-Pace, Volvo XC60, or Audi A6 Avant, go up the agent ambit and accept a few options and you’ll hit the amount of a California easily.
Arguably, a campervan that sleeps four and absolutely actually throws in a kitchen bore (along with a cooker, fridge, cupboards and more) represents commensurable amount alike if it is a little beneath luxurious.
It’s a attestation to the account bodies see in their versatility and the VW campervan’s constant address that you still see so abounding vans able-bodied into their third or fourth decade of activity on the road.
Will the 2018 VW California allure the aforementioned adulation in four decades’ time that my father-in-law’s archetypal T2 invites today? Maybe it will.
And will VW still be authoritative some adaptation of the campervan in the 2050s? It’ll apparently be electric, but I achievement so.
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