Dusseldorf, Germany - Volkswagen’s California, born of the 1960’s hippy-era Kombi, home from home for generations of surfers, has become the most popular camper van ever. But how much more could you fit into it, if the California was based, not on a Transporter, but on the next size up in the VW Commercial range, the Crafter?
And here it is - just a concept for now, but everything works. It’s called the California XXL and it’s on show at this year’s Caravan Salon Dusseldorf, on now.
And XXL is right; based on the medium-sized crafter chassis with a 130kW/410Nm two-litre turbodiesel, all-wheel drive and pneumatic suspension on a 3640mm wheelbase, it’s very nearly six metres long from bumper to bumper, with a 252mm overhang at the rear, making space for a queen-sized double bed with extra length in the master bedroom.
It’s only 2030mm wide, so it’s no hassle to drive - and it has not one but two rear cameras to help you park - but its fixed roof is almost three metres high, giving you 2.2 metres of standing headroom inside and a neat alcove over the flight deck, specially designed for children and young passengers.
There’s a pull-out shower and toilet, and the huge bed folds away to either significantly increase the size of the kitchen, or create a cosy seating corner.
A large sliding passenger door on the right of the body leads to the living and dining area - after you put your shoes in the specially designed drawer just inside. The kitchen and bathroom are then to your left, with wall units and ambient interior lighting (on two levels), as well as no less than nine 220 volt sockets and six USB ports - three in the living areas and three on the dash panel.
The bright white cabinets and trim contrast with the brightly-coloured upholstery and wood-patterned floor, while a glass roof 1100mm wide and 3700mm long floods the camper with light during the day, and strip lights, together with a U-shaped working light in the living area, do the same at night.
The kitchen has an extendable work surface that pulls out to the left and a second board that swivels to the right giving more than two metres of worktop; the second board then folds up at night to form a partition to the sleeping area.
The two gas burners retract electrically into the surface of the worktop when you aren’t cooking; by placing a moveable chopping board between the cooker and the sink, this area becomes part of the worktop - and when you’re finished, the board slides into a special slot in the 50 litre fridge under the hob.
There’s also a second 50 litre fridge in the wall unit over the cooker and the the sink, which includes a four-litre freezer compartment, fitted drawers for cutlery and crockery, a magnetic spice rack and more cupboards on either side of the kitchen walkway, under the double bed.
Need to use the bathroom? Simply pull the door towards you and the room extends from 600 x 600mm to 1200 x 1200mm, bringing its own waterproof floor with it, while the kitchen floor slides under the gas cooker. Above the fixed toilet there’s a fold-up basin, with a mixer tap that pulls out to become a shower head - although there’s a big rain shower head overhead as well.
Fold up the basin, and it disappears behind a swivelling, illuminated mirror, which is also the door to the bathroom cabinet - and can be opened from the top to form a toiletries tray. An electric skylight provides ventilation - either completely open, or if it’s raining, slanted to the front or the rear.
The front seats can be swivelled to face the living area when the camper is parked, and there’s a forward-facing double bench seat against the wall of the bathroom, with a removeable and extendable table. And in the cupboard above the table, there’s a built-in espresso machine.
All of the windows in the living and sleeping areas have double plissé blinds and fly screens, and there are privacy curtains between the sleeping and living areas.
A console above the double bench-seat, where a tablet with the California XXL App can be docked, acts as a digital control centre. You can use the tablet to modulate the lighting through seven settings, choose between Music, Film or Community settings on the entertainment menu (the music menu comes with three three playlists - Drive, Chill Out and Party, but you are welcome to add your own) and use the Functions menu to open or close the bathroom skylight, among other operations.
The double bed - two metres long and 1.7 metres wide - can be heated or cooled; the rear window can be opened wide and the panoramic roof lets you sleep under the stars. Above the head of the bed there’s a built-in digital projector so you can show videos or TV from a smartphone or tablet on the white wall of the bathroom, with 220V sockets for charging and USB ports for connectivity.
The alcove above the front seats - accessed by a folding stepladder - is two metres wide and 1.32 metres wide, big enough for two kids or a teenager, and has 600mm of headroom, with a big window in front and a glass roof.
The pneumatic suspension on each wheel can be individually jacked up or down to level the camper on uneven surfaces, and underfloor heating keeps it cosy even on winter trips. Under the sleeping compartment are the hot water boiler, fresh water tank (140 litres) waste water tank (90 litres) and a 37-litre gas tank for the cooker.
Inside the tailgate there’s stowage for two camping chairs, and you can take out the cabin table and mount it on the outside of the kitchen unit with the door open for al fresco dining on warmer evenings - which is why you will find another accessory there, that wasn’t designed for the California XXL, but suits it perfectly - a Weber braai!