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.
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?
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).