Little seems to be either recorded or published about the performance of full-sized motorhomes by the specialist press that concerns itself with them and less still is claimed about the same subject by their manufacturers.
Since this is the first such vehicle to undergo an Autocar road test, relevant benchmark comparisons are hard to make about the Grand California’s performance statistics. What we can say, having tested back in 2015 an example of the VW Caravelle on which the regular California is based, is that someone ‘trading up’ from the smaller recreational vehicle would quite plainly notice what they were giving up on the road, as well as what they were gaining in cabin furnishings. The Grand California feels, and goes, very much like a large commercial vehicle – and, unlike the regular California, there is nothing you might call ‘car-like’ about it.
Despite being evidently short-geared, it’s an order of magnitude slower than even a slow modern passenger car; and although the automatic gearbox combines with decent engine isolation to make it relatively mechanically refined in use, it’s still far from an effortless thing to drive, mostly because of its sheer size. The upshot? That while a regular California or a Mercedes Marco Polo could just about serve as a second family car, a Grand California definitely couldn’t.
Still, while the VW needed nearly 16sec to hit 60mph from rest, and longer still to get from 30mph to 70mph through the gears, it’s decently drivable and responsive for roll-on acceleration once you get acclimatised. The gearbox is fairly slick, getting through several gearchanges on the way even to urban speeds, and the Grand California gets up to the easily maintained 50mph cross-country stride that UK traffic law allows for it without straining.
Wheezing from there up to motorway speeds is more trying. You really can hear the toll that wind resistance is taking on your fuel economy here, as the air whistles past the vehicle’s A-pillar and its large door mirrors. Still, once you’ve persuaded it up to speed, there’s enough torque to keep it there.
Emergency braking performance is passable, although again it’s adrift of modern large passenger car standards by a considerable margin. The good news is that the Grand California stays stable and goes straight when you nail the middle pedal; that it doesn’t dive too hard onto its front axle; and that the various brake-force-distributing and boosting electronics seem to work as well as you’d hope.