A 0-62mph time of 11sec may not sound particularly rapid, but when you’re sat higher than any standard SUV, it feels pretty darn brisk. Thanks to the twin turbos, you don’t need much more than 1200rpm for it to start pulling with vigour.
Should you need more pace, stoking it harder is easy, too. The gearlever sprouts from the dashboard in close proximity to the steering wheel and offers unobstructive shifts. The engine may be a little rumbly at idle, but it’s virtually inaudible at a cruise. That's partly down to a fair bit of wind noise from the large door mirrors, though.
It may go well in a straight line, but the California isn’t quite so adept at tackling twisty bits. Yes, there’s plenty of grip and you can give car drivers a hell of a surprise, but the California is not overly happy doing this.
Because of the soft suspension, which is aimed at providing a comfy ride, there’s comical amounts of body roll that will cause those in the back to loll from side to side on the flat bench seat. The steering is also a little lighter and more sensitive than we’d ideally like.
Drive more sensibly, though, and it’s easy to appreciate the laid-back nature of the California. It lolloped over crests and compressions on our test drive, with only the occasional sharper-edged obstacle causing a thump through the suspension. This was usually accompanied by a creak from one of the many doors in the rear. However, compared with many other campers, it’s remarkably free from furniture noise.
We were also impressed by the quality of the dashboard. You’d normally get plenty of hard plastics in what is essentially a van, but there’s a lot more squishy surfaces than we were expecting. In fact, our only real complaint is that the infotainment screen feels like a bit of a stretch in its central location. Other than that, it is clear and easy to use.
More relevant is the easily erected roof, all done electrically and controlled by a unit in the front headlining that also controls the auxiliary heating and fridge. Once the roof is up, a hatch above the front seats provides access to it. This involves standing on the chairs and clambering up. Unfortunately, VW doesn’t provide a ladder.