Volkswagen California 6.1 – the ultimate camper van

The Volkswagen Transporter T6.1 van received a facelift earlier this year, debuting in people carrier Multivan (or Caravelle) form. Now is the turn of the fun version – the California.

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles will be giving the refreshed Volkswagen California 6.1 its world premiere at the end of this month at the Caravan Salon show in Dusseldorf, Germany, but has released details and a gallery. Besides the new and very neat front end of the latest Transporter, the latest camper van boasts enhanced kitchen units and beds, and a new multi-function control panel in the overhead console.

The sixth Bulli generation is seen here in top California Ocean 6.1 form. The top part of the Ocean’s chrome grille forms a single unit with the new LED daytime running lights. Below it is a larger air intake and a chrome strip that adorns the new bumper. These chrome bits differentiates the top Ocean trim externally from the Beach and Coast variants.

The VW California is a fantastic camper van, and this latest version is even better as a home on wheels. Coast and Ocean versions include a compact set of kitchen units, now enhanced with details such as an additional double USB socket, aluminium handles on all doors, and push buttons for opening up the kitchen surface (to reveal the sink, cooker and fridge).

The shutters in the rear cupboard have been replaced by new design sliding doors, also with aluminium handles. The cupboards’ wood grains have also been redesigned: there’s a lighter Bright Oak and a darker Graphite Grey. Also matched to the new decor are the darker seat covers in Palladium Grey.

The beds are claimed to be more comfortable. The high bed will have a sprung base, while the double rear bench seat that folds out to create a bed can also be transformed into a lounge. One just needs to fold down the backrest and raise the bed extension at the very back up to the desired height, and you’ll get a cosy lounge for reading or relaxing. The camping table integrated within the sliding door and the camping chairs stowed in the tailgate remain.

Increased protection from too much outside light is provided by darker grey canvas sides of the pop-up roof with integrated top bed. Waking up is made more pleasant by a new sunrise function that uses individually selectable LEDs in the roof and living area to dim up the lights to the desired level of brightness, slowly, over a user-selectable length of time.

That function – like all main camper settings in the California 6.1 – is controlled via the new control panel in the overhead console, which replaces a monochrome display. The full-colour touchscreen’s menu includes ‘Camping’ (mode), ‘Cool Box’, ‘Light’ and ‘Set-up’ sections. The Ocean spec’s electro-hydraulic pop-up roof is another item in the menu, along with ‘Auxiliary Heating’.

One very practical feature is the new ‘Level’ function, a level indicator shows the lengthways and crossways angle at which the California is parked on the campsite. The sunrise function, meanwhile, is on the ‘Light’ menu and activated via ‘Alarm’. A smarthome on wheels, this is.

Lest we forget, this is also a car. Up front, for the first time, the instruments are optionally digital, and the infotainment range has been reconfigured. It begins with the Composition Audio and the Composition Colour (6.5-inch touchscreen), but you’ll want the Discover Media (8.0-inch touchscreen) or Discover Pro (9.2-inch) navigation systems from the third-gen Modular Infotainment Matrix (MIB3).

The most important new feature of all systems is an integrated eSIM (optional for Composition Audio). It forms the interface to “Volkswagen We” and thus to various online functions and services. MIB3 systems also bring integration of Apple Music and Tidal streaming services, natural voice control and App Connect Wireless.

Elsewhere, there’s a switch from hydraulic to electro-mechanical power steering. The California 6.1 will also come with driver assistance systems including Lane Assist, Park Assist (a side protection function that warns of obstacles) and Trailer Assist (simplifies manoeuvring with a trailer). Also included is Cross Wind Assist. The Volkswagen California 6.1 is powered by the group’s latest 2.0 TDI engines, and all-wheel drive is optional (FWD by default).