The Volkswagen California is one of those vehicles that makes me turn my head every time I see one drive past. And I know I’m not the only one. e California, along with the all new Grand California, is marketed by VW as the ‘modern day Kombi’. For decades, the Kombi has been a symbol of freedom, simplicity, and independence. I know many of our readers have fond memories of their early days of RV travel in one of these iconic vans – of feeling liberated and carefree, of travelling where the road may take you. And while that’s still the essence of RV travel, today we expect a lot more comfort, technology, luxury, and space than the Kombi of the ‘60s era. e Grand California is VW’s answer to that demand.
The Grand California is available in two models, the 600 and the 680.
Based on a VW Crafter, the 600 model is approximately 6-metres long and is a four-berth, designed for two adults and two children. In the rear, the east-west bed measures 1.93m x 1.36m.
In the 680, which is approximately 6.8-metres long and a two-berth, the rear bed is oriented north-south and offers a bit more room, measuring 2m x 1.67m. Thanks to a rear window and large skylight, the ‘bedroom’ of the 680 gains more natural light than the 600, which has sacrificed the rear side windows to accommodate the bed’s east-west layout.
In both models, the rear beds include 80mm thick mattresses and plate springs in the base which provide good support and comfort for a great night’s sleep.
A total of 980L of storage space is available in the rear, with the under-bed area accessible from the rear doors, or you can fold the bed to the side for internal access.
For those travelling with littlies, the 600 model includes a cab-over bed which measures 1.6m x 1.9m and can hold up to 150kg of weight. The slatted base can be pulled out at the touch of a button, and the panorama roof comes with a handy shade and mosquito net. The bed also includes a fold-away aluminium ladder for easy access as well as a night reading light.
Above the rear bed in both models, overhead storage units provide space for any gear that you’d like to have ready access to, although they’re not as deep as you might expect.
All rear windows and doors in the vehicle include built-in mosquito nets – a must for those lake-side stays, as well as pleated curtains for night-time and privacy.
It’s worth noting that the windows open from the bottom upward, which means you can keep them open even when it’s raining without worrying about water getting in. The front window comes with a detachable curtain that fits snugly with magnets to the vehicle and can be folded away and stored when not in use.
Kitchen and dining
In both models, the main unit of the kitchen contains the fridge, cook top, drawers and cupboards. As you’d expect, it’s compact, but clever. The bench of the 600 model measures 980mm long but includes two hidden extension pieces. On the right side, the extension is stored vertically within the far side wall of the unit. To use, simply push down and it pops up and out and folds over the end of the rear bed and providing extra workspace. The other, smaller extension slides out horizontally from the left side (above the fridge). The two-burner gas cooker and sink each have fold-down glass covers that also doubles as extra bench space when you’re prepping a meal. The 680 model measures 1400mm long and includes an extra fixed work surface.
The 70L fridge slides out of the lefthand side of the cabinet unit which means you can easily access the fridge contents when you’re enjoying a meal outdoors and need to grab another bottle of wine.
There’s a decent amount of space including a slide out rack, plus a built-in freezer unit for that sneaky box of ice-creams or the essential frozen veges.
The cabinetry includes a nice big drawer for utensils and two deeper drawers for cookware. The drawer handles are flush with the cabinetry and lock shut for travel with soft-close functionality.
Opposite the kitchen workspace is the dining area. Both models include a removable table and a double bench seat. The passenger and driving seats can be fully swivelled around to create comfortable seating for four.
For outdoor dining, inside each of the rear doors is a cleverly designed storage space complete with an outdoor table and two chairs. They take up very little space, and it means you’ve always got them with you without having think about packing them in with your gear.
The Thule awning adds an extra living space. By extending out over the side doorway, it creates the perfect spot for setting up your outdoor dining space. The hand-held wind-out device is stored away safely above the rear doors, just grab it out, wind out your awning, and enjoy.
Bathrooms in smaller RVs are a great opportunity to demonstrate clever storage ideas and functional design. Volkswagen has met the brief with a fully equipped all-in-one bathroom with a shower, wash basin and toilet. Storage is provided in the form of a cupboard beneath the wash basin, plus shelving to hold all your bathroom necessities. There are some clever features in the bathroom including a wash basin that folds up out of the way when you need extra space, a motion sensor mirror light, and a hand-held shower head that sits in the basin for washing hands, and can then be pulled out and fixed on the wall for showering.
The Grand California has all the latest bells and whistles you’d expect from a modern vehicle. One of the first things you’ll notice when you hop inside the driver’s chair, is that, thanks to the Crafter base, you’re sitting nice and high up giving you great visibility. And for reversing, you have a roof-mounted camera which gives a great overview of what’s behind you. The captain’s chairs, which mentioned earlier, swivel around into the living space, also have fold down armrests for extra comfort during those long drives.
The steering wheel has built-in buttons for cruise control and radio volume, as well as options to alter the onboard computer settings on the dash display.
The touchscreen infotainment system is easy to use with functions to connect to Apple Car Play or Android Auto, so you can mirror your phone onto the screen.
A nice function for chilly winter trips is the heated seats and heated steering wheel, nothing quite like that extra bit of warmth on a cold morning.
The glovebox has some clever features including a cooling vent – handy for keeping your bottled water cool – plus a CD drive and SD card slot.
Standard safety features include hill start assist, daytime running lights, adaptive cruise, lane keeping assist, blind spot monitoring, crosswind assist, ABS, TCS, EDL, electronic immobiliser, and electromechanical power steering. 4MOTION All-Wheel Drive comes as standard on both Grand California models. Meaning those harder to reach off road locations are now possible.
Both models are backed by a Volkswagen Manufacturers 5-year warranty so that you can enjoy worry free monitoring and with 23 service agents across New Zealand you can kick start your holiday with confidence.
Lighting and power
Built into the kitchen unit, just above the fridge are two light switches, the first is a double switch used for the exterior light strip that runs along the top of the side door, along with the main cabinet lights, and the other is a master switch that will turn on/off all the interior lights in the vehicles.
Inside, a light strip above the door has a dimming function, just press and hold to choose the level of lighting that suits.
On the exterior side of the kitchen unit, a fold-down panel reveals a plug socket and a twin USB socket. When down, the panel creates a handy shelf space to keep your phone while it’s plugged in and charging. Next to the main bed are a couple of clever nooks with USB ports especially for charging and storing your phone.
In total, the Grand has six USB ports, four 230V sockets and one 12V socket.
And to make controlling it all nice and easy, a touch-operated control pad provides a single, central point for keeping tabs on all your essentials such as heating, water, and power.
The Grand California 680 will tick all the boxes for a couple who enjoy getting away for long weekends in comfort and style.
There’s enough room to unwind at the end of the day in comfort, and to enjoy a decent night’s sleep on a comfy bed. The 600 means the kiddies can come too, provided they’re still of the smallish variety. The price point is higher than comparable campervans currently on the market, but the quality is good and there are some nifty features that will attract attention.
Grand California specifications
600: VW Crafter MWB
2.0 l TDI (130kW, 410Nm) diesel
600: 6 metres
600: 2.97 metres
Price as reviewed: 600:$159,000, 680: $163,000
Some clever storage solutions and use of space
Quality fittings throughout
The price point is on the high side
Living area storage lockers are a bit shallow
For more information, visit volkswagen.co.nz