By Steve & Tamami Laser
We’ve been searching for a camper van that could fit into our underground parking garage since we can’t park a tall vehicle on the street (signs are posted restricting oversize vehicles). While surfing the web, we found the ideal candidate: The 2016 Volkswagen California. Unfortunately, it’s not available in America.
Vintage Volkswagen vans and campers enjoy a cult-like following here in California (and across the U.S.). We see beautifully restored examples at our local beaches and campgrounds. Yet the latest VW campers with the perfect names “California Beach” and “Ocean” (above) are ironically limited to the stuff of dreams for U.S. fans.
The latest California models are based on the new-for-2015 T6 platform, which wasn’t engineered for the U.S. market. While it’s equipped perfectly for our needs, it’s a bit expensive, with a base MSRP of $50,000 in the U.K. for the California Beach model. (Notice the clever number plate on the tailgate, “VW5I EEP” or “VWSLEEP.”)
The styling reminds us of the long-departed Chevrolet Astro. Yet the real beauty is inside, where the factory built pop-top camper is equipped for comfort, flexibility, and carefully engineered to save weight.
The new generation California includes modern safety features like a Driver Alert System, Brake Assist and an Automatic Post-Collision Braking System. Adaptive Cruise Control, Front Assist and City Emergency Braking are optional.
Take a closer look at the cool features of the Volkswagen California in this quick walkaround. (video: Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles)
Since its launch in 1988, VW says the California has become the benchmark vehicle in the camper van sector. Some 22,000 examples of the first T3 California models were produced, with the T4 version recording 39,000 sales. More than 50,000 examples of the T5 were sold.
California Ocean has a premium-look dashboard (optional on Beach) with wide center console and “car-like” feel, plus the latest infotainment system, DAB digital radio, Bluetooth and multi-function display.
The Beach is available with a 2.0L 102 PS TDI engine with 5-speed manual gearbox, or a 2.0L TDI 150 PS with 6-speed manual or 7-speed DSG transmission. California Ocean has two engine choices with 150 or 204 PS and 6-speed manual or 7-speed DSG. Volkswagen’s 4MOTION four-wheel drive is also offered.
This video shows how the Volkswagen California is built at the Hannover-Limmer facility. (video: Volkswagen Group)
Before the basic vehicles get converted into the California, they first pass through bodywork construction, the paint shop and the basic assembly facility at the VW main plant in Hannover Stöcken. Then they go on their first journey by truck to the California production facility in the Hannover district of Limmer for conversion.
The California production facility belongs to the Special Vehicles business unit of Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, which fits out the Transporter (above) and Multivan ranges for special uses. These include operations vehicles for the police, postal and customs services, plus taxis, vehicles for people with disabilities, the Multivan business and the T6 California.
Volkswagen says the California production facility covers around 13,000 square meters. Working there are approximately 150 men and women, all of whom are specialists trained in manual trades, not usually applied in typical car manufacturing, but in the conversion of the camper van’s interior: gas fitters and plumbers, 230V domestic electricians, joiners and trade show stand builders.
It’s unlikely that the VW California will ever come to California. However, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles could possibly reenter the U.S. market with a smaller van, called the Caddy (second from left above), and a larger van, dubbed Crafter (above right, with a new model coming in 2017) to take on entries like the Ford Transit Connect and Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.
We’ll keep on dreaming about the California. Yet we can’t have this magic bus.
For more information visit the Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles website.
News source, photos and videos courtesy Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles U.K., Volkswagen AG, and Volkswagen Group
Vehicle features, specifications, models and prices apply to the U.K. market and are subject to change without notice by the automaker.
Story © 2016 CarNichiWa.com