Open gallery Close by Matt Saunders 10 January 2020 Follow @TheDarkStormy1 Share
How we test cars
To a great many people used to modern luxury hotels, the idea of a luxurious, aspirational ‘lifestyle’ motorhome may well seem like a brazen contradiction in terms.
Not to those who’ve spent happy days wandering around the trade shows organised to show off the various ways in which you can spend a six-figure sum on a high-end camper, though; and clearly not to the product planners at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, who’ve brought us the subject of this week’s road test, the new Grand California.
Bulbous shape to the over-cabin roof is present on the short-wheelbase chassis only and it’s there to make space for the smaller of two double beds on board.Matt SaundersRoad test editor
VW isn’t the only (predominantly car-making) brand to have sought to explore such an idea in recent years, of course. As competition for Wolfsburg’s own regular California, German rival Mercedes-Benz launched the similar, V-Class-based Marco Polo only a couple of years ago.
And yet even the Mercedes doesn’t go quite as ‘large’ as the car we’re interrogating over the next few pages. Unlike its considerably smaller namesake, the Grand California takes aim at full-sized, third-party-conversion motorhomes and comes with all of the on-board sleeping, living and stowage space, and all of the fitted creature comforts that statement implies.
What distinguishes it from most of the ‘campers’ with which it’ll be compared is that it’s not a third-party conversion. After a special production line was added at Volkswagen Commercial’s factory in Poznan, Poland, the Grand California is being built by VW itself, at the same factory that’s making the current Transporter and Crafter panel vans and the California camper. But what does that mean, exactly, for the performance, usability and perceived quality of this vehicle – and how much will the motorhome fraternity be expected to pay for differences?
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The Volkswagen California range at a glance
The Crafter van’s flexiblity of design and layout is truncated a little bit for the Grand California motorhome: you get two choices rather than three on overall length, two choices instead of three on axle drive (front drive or four-wheel drive) and two choices on roof height (the shorter 600 has the higher top).
There is effectively only one common trim level on both derivates of the vehicle, with just a handful of options available on either the 600 or the 680.
Price £68,899 Power 174bhp Torque 302lb ft 0-60mph 15.8sec Fuel economy 26.1mpg CO2 emissions 218g/km 70-0mph 66.8m 30-70mph in fourth 19.3sec
Verdict Model tested: Rating:
Volkswagen Grand California
GoodImpressive mechanical and rolling refinementDecent drivabilityQuality of fixtures and fittingsBadLayout and packaging could be more space efficientIt feels every bit as big as it looks on the road