35 Years of an icon: The new VW California camper

 Published 12th September 2023
New Launches 

When it comes to icons it's hard to find one more iconic. It can trace its roots all the way back to the 1950s before it became a symbol of the hippie movement during the 1960s. While the current versions may only date back to the 1980s, making it a relative youngster in comparison, there's no denying the cool factor of a Volkswagen California camper van.

Now, 35 years after it first launched as the California Westfalia, the latest generation of VW California Concept is once again setting a new standard.

Over four generations, more than 260,000 units of this compact camper van have been sold to date. For many, the California Beach, Coast and Ocean models are already the epitome of freedom on wheels. With the new California Concept, Volkswagen is offering a glimpse into the future of the most successful camper van of all time.

The new Volkswagen California Concept is based on the long wheelbase version of the Multivan that launched in 2021. That makes it larger than its predecessor, the California 6.1, which means you have a whole lot more room for those off-grid adventures.

The camper van's living and kitchen areas have undergone a complete makeover and it's now fitted with a sliding door on both sides for real versatility.

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The addition of the extra sliding door and the kitchen area being located further back in the vehicle – just like in the larger Grand California – mean that both sides of the vehicle can now be opened up when camping. As the concept vehicle is fitted with a folding-arm awning on one side and a sun sail on the other, both sides of the vehicle can now be protected from both sun and rain. It also means that us Brits driving on the left now have a door on the pavement side too.

Behind the height-adjustable front seats – which can rotate through 180 degrees – the interior is designed as an ideal passenger compartment for day-to-day driving, offering the flexibility of a Multivan. It's fitted with individual seats that are lightweight and removable so surf boards and bikes can now easily be transported inside the vehicle. When used as a camper van, the seating area can quickly be converted into a flat chill-out area or face-to-face seating for mealtimes or games.

Pop-up roof for extra headroom

There is also plenty of storage space in the top and bottom kitchen cupboards, which are located behind the refrigerator. In addition, there's a separate storage area under the bed extension. The interior is softly lit with dimmable background lighting in the roof frame. And no California is complete without the pop-up roof that gives you a massive 2m of headroom when it's raised. The roof also includes USB-C sockets and LED lights so you can charge devices while you sleep beneath the stars.

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The roof mechanism is controlled using a vertical, multifunctional tablet mounted on the cupboard at the C-pillar. In addition to the pop-up roof function, this also displays information on the fresh and waste water levels, the interior lighting functions including background lighting, power supply status, refrigerator, and auxiliary heater. All of these functions can also be controlled on your smartphone or via the infotainment system. The multifunction tablet is also mounted on an articulated arm that can be rotated by 90 degrees so you never have to miss your favourite TV shows while you're away.

For the first time, the VW California Concept will also offer the advantages of a plug-in hybrid drive system. The new California can now give you emission-free driving for everyday urban life, while also offering much improved fuel economy for long journeys. The lithium-ion batteries also provide an almost completely autonomous 12 V power supply for all your camping needs.

The only downside is that you'll have to wait until next year to get your hands on one.

The production version of the latest generation of the Volkswagen California is scheduled to be built from 2024 onwards. We're not sure exactly when the first ones will be available for delivery but it's unlikely VW will want to make people wait too long for the California's updated iconic camper van experience.



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