According to TV ratings, the programme Grand Designs boasts a viewership of over nigh-on 5 million and the VW Kombi has since 1950 produced (in some shape or form) produced over 10 million units, so to me, it was inevitable that at some point a Grand Kombi or Grand California would be produced – and Volkswagen New Zealand has just unveiled it to us.
Alright, so the purists will point out that as it’s based on the Crafter platform the new VW camper isn’t an exact descendant of the 1950s version, more of a much bigger (Grander) relative but then again, not even the current California Ocean model can claim to be as fully self-contained as this new model, and certainly not the 4.2m long hippie icon of yesteryear.
In fact, as it turns out, comparing the Grand Cali to the iconic Kombi is a rather futile exercise, (not even the logos are the same) so let’s move on.
We were welcomed to the local unveiling by a vision of Kevin Richards, Head of Commercial Vehicles NZ exiting the Grand California dressed (or is that undressed) in a white dressing gown, something, believe me, you can’t unsee. His message was simple, the Grand Cali is for rest and relaxation, it’s a vacation Vdub, a vehicle designed to not only explore our great land but also designed to let you stay a while too. We delved a little deeper (into the vehicle not Kevin’s dress sense).
The Grand Cali comes in two variants, the 600 and 680 and both relate to their length. At around 6.8m long, the 680 is more ‘couples’ minded, with a large queen bed at the rear, while the ‘shorter’ 6m 600, boasts a loft-style bunk above the driver for the kids. The 600 is a fraction taller, however, they both nudge up around the 3-metre mark.
Substantial as they are, they both come jam-packed with gear, including a two-burner stove, a 70L fridge, a small freezer and, drum-roll please, a bathroom. Yes, my friends, you can venture into the wild and still come back smelling of roses.
As with the California Ocean model, the Grand version comes with heaps and I mean heaps of clever camping accessories and gadgets. It’s got fly screens, awnings, table and chairs, pots and pans, I seriously could go on and on and they are all tucked away in easy to get at but very smart areas.
Something else that’s smart is the fact that both models come with 4Motion all-wheel-drive AND both have loads of smart safety tech to keep you on the road including cross wind assist to ensure these high-sided campers stay in their lanes.
The interior finishing is yacht like and comes with a ‘coach builders’ feel, it should do as they only turn out about 10-15 vehicles a day from their plant in Września but they’ve also built it with the Alps in mind, so it comes very well insulated (even though there’s AC too).
Powering it all is 2L turbo diesel engine that offers 130kW and 410Nm, which is ample for getting you where you need to go, and back, and uses fuel at a rate of 9.2-9.5L/100km. Plus for those happy campers out there, it has a 110L freshwater tank and 90L for not so fresh.
Having taken the Ocean variant away a couple of times before, the Grand California has been on my radar for while. And now that places like Disneyland are off the menu, certainly for the immediate future, the extra space and gadgets that come with this new dub look like an amusement park all by themselves. I must give Volkswagen New Zealand a call and see if I can do a more in-depth review (do I take the family along or do I leave them at home watching TV?)