Next-gen campervan previewed with more space, hybrid power, improved kitchen and a second sliding door.
The new Volkswagen California concept previews the “future of the camper van”, showcasing a raft of extensive upgrades that will feature on the seventh-generation model which launches next year.
Based on the Volkswagen Multivan, the concept was revealed at the Caravan Salon trade fair in Düsseldorf. Its near-production form showed off significant changes – such as a plug-in hybrid powertrain shared with the Multivan – that will be introduced to the campervan as it moves over to VW’s car-derived MQB architecture.
The concept shares the Multivan’s plug-in hybrid powertrain, which pairs a 1.4-litre petrol engine with an electric motor, and draws EV power from a 13kWh battery – which should give an engine-off range of around 40-50km.
One of the big updates to the Ford Transit Custom Nugget rival – itself revealed this week – is a second sliding door, which resolves a key grievance for current California owners in right-hand-drive markets because the outgoing T6.1 model only opens on the right-hand side, which can complicate kerbside drop-offs.
Having the pair of sliding doors also allows for the kitchen – with larger worktops, a hob, a cool box and a sink – to be accessed from outside the vehicle for the first time. This gives owners “the feeling of more living space”, the brand says. Built-in extendable awnings give a further increase to this living area.
The concept brings with it modern touches including colour-adjustable LEDs that light up the cupboards and the awning arms to “bathe the vehicle’s terrace” in light. A removable camping light is also fitted. There’s even a built-in shower that attaches to the boot’s open hatch.
But the key feature – one that the brand says makes the concept “the ideal camper van for the modern age” – is a new removable tablet device. This controls “all of the features relevant for camping”, such as raising the pop-up roof and providing information on the fresh and waste water levels, the interior lighting functions, power supply status, refrigerator and auxiliary. It can even be used to watch movies and television.
The California Concept also benefits from its Multivan sibling’s flexibility. This includes the ability to vary the interior layout with easy-to-move lightweight chairs – the T6.1’s rear bench has been replaced by three individual seats – and tables, and there’s a fold-out double bed. Like its predecessor, the California Concept gets rotating front seats and the traditional pop-out rooftop sleeping area, with space for another two to sleep.
The Multivan’s platform means the standard California is the biggest it’s ever been, growing in overall length by 412mm to 5304mm and in width by 40mm to 1941mm.
That extra size offers more living space, comfort, safety and flexibility, its maker says. It is expected to be called the Multivan California, given how closely related the pair will be.
The increased size also opens up new storage possibilities. Much of this is because the Multivan uses an electronic parking brake instead of a manual handbrake, leaving space for drawers and a removable dry-composting toilet in the space left behind.
Production of the next-generation California will begin at Volkswagen’s Hanover plant in Germany next year, the firm confirmed in a statement.
As for the long-awaited all-electric California based on the Volkswagen ID Buzz, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles CEO Carsten Intra confirmed in March that this will arrive in 2025.
Speaking at the company’s annual press conference, he said: “We want to expand the range around the business with our camper models and offer what people really like in our products – what we call the ‘California feeling’.
“It includes digital services for the California community, new services to complement the purchase of a vehicle and the presentation of a new California vehicle based on the Volkswagen Multivan. This is what we are planning for later this year.”