Enter the Grand. Volkswagen's newest Californial models are based on its Crafter. Nick Harding was at the official launch to find out more.
Timing right? A year after Volkswagen didn't really fool anyone by calling its California XXL a 'concept', reality has hit. In the interim, it's gained a new name, Grand California, along with several tweaks - some highly significant.
Gone, for example, is the rear 'bulge'; also, the extensive glass roof area. The former has been downplayed to twin back doors, which also mean a bike rack can now be fitted, if required. The roof simply sports a large, opening sunroof.
The official launch also saw Volkswagen unveiling a bigger sister model - Grand California 680 - as well as this, the 600 version. Both will go on sale in the UK early next year.
And, although the UK prices are still to be confirmed, the initial mainland tag of €55,000 (just under £50,000 at the time of writing, and that's for the most powerful 177PS engine with DSG automatic transmission) is going to be enough to send shivers down the spines of anyone else considering converting the Crafter. Ditto Fiat and Peugeot, whose Ducato and Boxer base vehicles are suddenly looking rather aged.
It's certainly the most modern of base vehicles. Crafter is the Transporter's bigger sister - that's just the starting point for Grand Californias.
Whichever version you go for, you'll get a whole host of safety and handling fittings - parking sensors front and rear, City Emergency Braking, Lane Assist, Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Traffic Alert, Park Assist, Sensor-controlled Side Protection System, Adaptive Cruise Control - boy, those capital letters are well-earned.
There are no plans to transpose everything for right-hand-drive markets, yet, but it does have a fly screen.
Lounging & dining
The sculpted all-white furniture, for instance, is fully in keeping with the more automotive styling that we've come to expect from Californias. It's all assembled by Volkswagen, so we're right to demand - and get - superior build qualities throughout.
A nifty touch, however, is the way the lighting in here automatically comes on as soon as you enter.
There are a few other extras to consider, too, such as two-tone paint choices.
It's the many neat touches that will impress here. There's Bluetooth connectivity for the rear speakers, so you can hook up your own device if you don't want to hear what they're listening to in the cab. There's also a blackout system for the cab windows. And there are aspects such as the furniture quality, including plastic mouldings of a quality otherwise unknown in the mainstream motorhome market.
|Layout||Camper with washroom|
|Fresh/waste water||110L / 90L|
|Leisure battery||92 Ah|
2-burner gas hob
Thetford C-200 toilet
The plus points - right up to car-standard build quality - far outweigh the main contention: appearance. That roofline will divide opinion, for sure. But, so much else about this ground-breaking new van conversion is to be lauded. We honestly weren't expecting that price, either.