In many ways, the Grand California 680 is an absolute dream of a motorhome. It has enough innovations to keep you intrigued, and is well built and comfortable.
But in one way it is not – and that is the price. You would really have to be committed to splash out more than £70,000 on a ‘van that doesn’t include some features you can expect to find in coachbuilt motorhomes at a similar price.
Californias are well known for holding their value, though, so it’s likely that the Grand version will perform similarly.
Lots of storage space
High price tag
No hanging rail
Habitation door on the offside
Two years after making its debut as a concept ‘van – known as the California XXL – at the Caravan Salon in Düsseldorf, the new OEM vehicle from Volkswagen, based on the second-generation VW Crafter, is finally here in right-hand drive form.
It is quite a change from the concept vehicle, which features considerably more roof glass and one or two extra techie features that presumably didn’t make the final cut.
The ‘van is available in two versions: the 600, with a transverse bed and a bulbous, hard GRP roof housing an optional bed, and the longer 680, with fixed single beds in the rear.
In the week that VW started taking orders for the new models, ready for delivery in spring – and before their appearance at the NEC this autumn – we took the 680 out for a spin.
VW clearly had one eye to eating outside. Included as standard in all Grand Californias are two outdoor chairs and a table, which fit into snug pockets in the rear barn doors
The dinette table clips onto the side, and is easily big enough to reach the driver’s side. On the move, it has its own storage space with a strap under the nearside bed mattress.
There are two cubbyholes on the lower part of the wall – one with a set of USB sockets – that are much more accessible when you remove the table.
But VW has clearly had one eye to eating outside. Included as standard in all Grand Californias are two outdoor chairs and a table, which fit into snug pockets in the rear barn doors. The chairs are for sitting, rather than lounging, but they are useful all the same especially if you opt for the roll-out awning (£954). The clever design of the ‘van even includes a special slot for the awning winder.
The kitchen doesn’t include an oven, even as an option. You do have an extension, which pulls out in front of the door, but it’s so small, it hardly seems worth it; especially as, on the 680 at least, there is plenty of fixed workspace on the other side of the in-line two-burner hob and sink.
This area is well lit with a striplight, and there are two mains sockets. Two small drawers above two larger drawers make up the storage under the work surface, with overhead lockers above.
The 70-litre drawer fridge is also positioned at the end of the peninsula, so it is easily reached if you are sitting just outside.
A shelf opens onto the outside edge of the kitchen unit, revealing a TV connection, two USB sockets and another mains socket. So you can take your entertainment outside, too.
Of course, one way the Grand California really does differ from the original is the inclusion of a washroom opposite this kitchen.
One innovation you immediately notice is the motion-sensitive light that comes on as you step in. As with much else in this motorhome, the room looks rather like what you might find in an aeroplane – white moulded surfaces and a fold-up basin.
The tap doubles as a shower, and there is a toilet roll holder inside the cupboard underneath.
We liked the way the cupboard door above the basin has a mirror on both sides. So if one side steams up while you are shaving, there is always the other: both are well lit by a striplight.
VW has wisely seen fit to include two drainage holes in the shower tray – ideal for when the ‘van isn’t totally level – and although there is no central light, there is a roof vent. The toilet is circular and on our test model, came with an optional (£216) SOG unit.
The single beds at the back of the ‘van sit on sprung plastic. Although there is a 10cm difference in their length, they do more or less come together to make a very comfortable double.
There are individually switched and dimmable striplights on both sides for reading, and cubbyholes for glasses and your book; although only one of these is additionally furnished with a USB socket for charging your phone.
The six windows and rooflight back here mean the area is well ventilated. Should you be likely to tour in warmer climes, you can also have a lightweight (32kg) air conditioner installed in the roof here, which runs off the mains. So many windows makes shutting up for the night marginally more laborious, of course, and it is worth pointing out at this stage that the 680 does not come with cab blinds.
The separate blinds that VW supplies – which rely on magnets and a pole system for their attachment – are better than the sucker variety, but still a bit fiddly to put in place.
So what about storage? There’s certainly plenty of it under the beds. You can fold each of the beds up to put bicycles in here, although there are no holds for bungee cords. A removable partition stops everything flying forward when you are on the move.
Thanks to its extra length, the 680 has four cupboards in the rear here, while the 600 only has two. Two are in front of the partition, so are easily accessible when the bed is down.
Unusually, none of them is fitted with a hanging rail: VW has perhaps decided that the kind of people who want a Grand California either wear clothes that don’t need hanging up, or aren’t too fussed about them getting creased.
We were less sure about the overhead lockers. They look fantastic, with two doors on each locker, one opening up and the other opening down. But that’s a huge amount of engineering for what is a relatively small locker.
Perhaps this works because there are 11 of them – six down the offside, four on the nearside, and one across the back with a safety net.
|Shipping Length||6.84 m|
|Engine Size||2000 cc|