The California is the most popular camper van ever. With its systematically thought-out interior and an absolutely unmistakable design, the Bulli – with its pop-up roof – became an icon for motoring globetrotters and camping enthusiasts. Now Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles has the taken the legendary concept of the California and applied it to the next size up in camper vans, refined it further and come up with the California XXL Concept. It is based on the new Crafter, which is among the most modern all-round transporters in the world, with its comfortable and safe handling, efficient engines and a wealth of driver assistance systems. Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles is showing the California XXL Concept as a world premiere at this year’s ‘Caravan Salon Düsseldorf’ (26 August to 3 September 2017).
Two camper vans sharing the same legendary design DNA
Equipped with a fixed high panoramic roof, an extended rear section with an enormous bed, an alcove for the children, all-wheel drive, pneumatic suspension and a systematically thought-out new interior, planned down to the last detail, this concept vehicle is the big brother of the iconic California. Both of these camper vans share the same design DNA and an interior concept that in its detail are stylish and pure. With the California XXL this interior concept is now on course into the future. It features sophisticated details such as a retractable wet room, a heated and cooled bed, an extendible work surface, underfloor heating, a panoramic roof with light strips and a broad range of functions that can be controlled by tablet or the “California XXL App”, which Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles will be offering the globetrotters of the future. As well as the increased convenience and spaciousness, the California XXL also has that sense of freedom that is so important to fans of the California – as the interior fittings have been designed in such a way that the camper can be ready to set off for the next destination in a matter of minutes.
Integrated body concept with a standing height of up to 2,200 mm
The California XXL is based on the Crafter with the medium wheelbase of 3,640 mm, resulting in an overall length of 5,986 mm between the front and rear bumpers. But in the case of the California, this is only half the story, because Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles has extended the superstructure above the tornado line (the height of the door handles) to the rear, thus making room for an enormous bed, in which two adults can comfortably sleep lengthwise. From the height of the tornado line upwards it thus has an overall length of 6,238 mm. The new camper is a slim 2,030 mm wide (2,424 mm including the exterior mirrors), and 2,900 mm in height, making it some 102 mm higher than a Crafter panel van with a “Super High Roof”. And these are crucial millimetres, since they make it possible to create an interior with a comfortable standing height of up to 2,200 mm and an alcove at the front. This alcove is located right above the cab and has been specially designed for children and young passengers.
When manoeuvring, the driver can keep an eye on everything going on behind the California XXL thanks to two reversing cameras. One of these cameras is integrated into the bodywork on the edge of the roof and the second is further down near the handle on the tailgate.
Multi-variable interior with living, sleeping and bathroom areas
The aim of the California XXL’s development team was to make optimum use of space and achieve ideal partitioning on board the new camper. They succeeded in this, as innovative individual solutions enabled them to create a pioneering, flexible package, including the pull-out wet room with shower and WC and the rear bed, which can be folded away in sections in a matter of seconds in order to either significantly increase the size of the kitchen or to create a cosy seating corner. Viewed from above, the motorhome can be divided into six areas, which, depending on usage, merge into each other:
- Living and dining area
- Kitchen with sink, gas hob and fridges
- Wet room with shower, sink and WC
- Spacious sleeping area at the rear
- Alcoves for two children
- Integrated cab
The kitchen, the wet room and the living and dining area take centre stage in this mobile home. As, by virtue of the variable package the rear sleeping area is also used as an extended walkway in front of the kitchen unit during the day, this central area grows significantly in size. The large sliding passenger door provides direct access to the living and dining area. A handy feature is the specially designed drawer for dirty shoes near to the door. The kitchen and wet room are to the left of the door and thus right in the middle of the California XXL. The all-round roof section is fitted with wall units and dual ambient interior lighting (on two levels), but thanks to the camper van’s generous internal height, the units never get in the way. Connectivity on board is also no problem, with a total of nine 220 V sockets and six USB charging ports distributed around the interior (three in the living areas and three on the dash panel).
Panoramic roof with light strips ensure a bright interior
The interior is remarkably bright, warm and inviting. The striped cork flooring resembles a ship’s deck. The bright white cabinets and trim are a perfect match for the pure and well thought-out design of the interior. The upholstery of the seats and sleeping areas is also bright (and durable).
The wrap-around dual ambient lighting and the panoramic roof, which is 1,100 mm wide and 3,700 mm long, provide an abundance of light. This floods the interior with light during the day. It is also fitted with light strips that also keep the interior bright during bad weather or in the evening by providing extra background lighting. On top of this, the California XXL is fitted with a u-shaped functional light in the living areas, which can be switched on and off using a capacitive sensor.
Functional kitchen with two fridges and retractable gas hobs
The kitchen is multifunctional and significantly larger than is typical of a Crafter class camper van. Thanks to an extendible work surface that pulls out to the left and a second board that swivels to the right and that folds up to serve as a partition to the sleeping area at night, the worktop in the kitchen can be extended from 1,100 mm to 2,050 mm in total. The kitchen area is also fitted with a twin-hob gas cooker, a sink, a double fridge and a host of ingenious innovations. For example, the gas cooker: when you aren’t cooking, the two gas hobs retract into the aluminium surface of the cooker (they are retracted and extended electrically at the push of a button); with a movable chopping board between cooker and sink, it is thus possible to use this area too as a worktop. After use, the chopping board is simply slipped into a specially designed slot in the fridge door. There are two fridges, each with a capacity of 50 litres. The first one is under the gas hob, while the second one is housed within the wall unit over the cooker and the sink, this one also has an has an integrated 4-litre freezer compartment. The cabinets in this part of the kitchen are fitted with drawers for dishes and cutlery, a waste bin and a magnetic spice rack. There are more cupboards with sliding doors to the left and right of the kitchen walkway under the central bed, which is folded away in this configuration.
Shower unit pulls out, doubling its surface area
One of the largest challenges when designing a slim camper van that is suitable for everyday use is the integration of a sufficiently large and practically functional wet room. So the engineers and designers at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles came up with a retractable shower and toilet unit, which looks like a cabinet front when not in use. If anyone needs to use the shower or toilet, the cabinet front is simply pulled out via a handle towards the kitchen unit. Looking at it from the living area, it just looks like a sliding door. The floor of the wet room is also connected to the pull-out compartment. The floor of the living area therefore slides under the kitchen unit when the compartment is pulled out, while the floor of the wet room extends along with the integrated shower tray. When it is extended, the floor area of the wet room doubles, from 600 x 600 mm to 1,200 x 600 mm.
The wet room is fitted with a full-size fixed toilet, which adheres to the pure, sleek design of the whole interior. Fitted above the toilet is a wall-mounted, fold-away sink with a tap that also folds away. As is often seen in kitchens, the tap can also be pulled out for use as a shower head thanks to a hose extension. When it is folded up, the sink disappears behind a swivelling, illuminated mirror. In this configuration, the drains are automatically shut off to keep out any bad smells. To the left of the sink there is a cabinet, for which the swivelling mirror doubles as the door, and which can be used as a tray for toiletries when open. Located just below the ceiling of the wet room there is a big rain shower head. Hot water is provided by a gas-fired boiler. An electrically controlled skylight window in the roof over the wet room can be completely opened or, if it is raining, slanted towards the back or front of the vehicle to provide ventilation. In addition to the mirror light, the wet room is also equipped with light strips above the cabinet and under the toilet to provide additional, indirect lighting. At night, the extended wet room serves as a partition between the sleeping area and the living area.
Living area with a big table, four seats and an espresso machine
Similar to the front seats in the California, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles has also equipped the California XXL with driver and front passenger seats that can be rotated 180 degrees. When parked, they can be rotated to face the interior. That can be done even if the parking brake has already been applied, thanks to its folding handle. Attached to the back wall of the wet room there is a double bench-seat, which can, of course, also be used while driving. The generously proportioned table, some 910 mm long, 600 mm wide and 700 mm high, between the seats tapers towards the door in order to increase the space available in the kitchen area. If necessary, the table can also be enlarged by an additional 325 mm using an extension. If it isn’t required while driving, the table can also be removed and stowed away in the rear storage space. In the overhead cabinet above the seats there is even an integrated espresso machine. Additional light is provided by a lighting strip made up of spotlights and ambient lighting.
All of the windows in the living and sleeping areas are fitted with double plissé blinds. For the side windows of the vehicle, a fly screen slides up from below, while a plissé blind slides down from the top for privacy. Both of the plissé blinds are infinitely adjustable. At the rear, the fly screen and the blind slide open and close horizontally. In the cab movable fabric elements are used for privacy. On the dash panel the removable storage bags for smaller items are a handy detail.
Vehicle functions can be controlled using the “California XXL App”
A console above the double bench-seat, where a tablet with the “California XXL App” can be fitted, acts as a digital control centre. This tablet can be used to control a range of vehicle functions. Take the lights, for instance: the “Light control” menu can be used to activate seven different lighting settings, including four settings that depend on the time of day: “Day”, “Night”, “Spot” and “Sleep”. The reading lights can also be controlled using the app. Another menu item in the app is “Entertainment”, with the options “Music”, “Film” and “Community”. In the California XXL Concept, the “Music” submenu currently offers three play lists: “Drive”, “Chill out” and “Party”. Of course it is also possible to synchronise individual play lists. “Functions” is another important menu option used to control the California XXL. This menu can be used to open and close the skylight window in the wet room, for example.
Rear with projector and comfortable bed that can be heated or cooled
The elongated superstructure at the rear extends the useful passenger compartment length inside the California XXL by about 250 mm, resulting in ample space behind the wet room for a spacious, comfortable bed that is a full 2 metres long and 1.7 metres wide. A special detail: the California XXL’s electrical system can be used to heat the bed in the winter or to ventilate and cool it in the summer. The rear window in the sleeping area can be opened wide, and the large panoramic roof affords a wonderful view of the stars at night. The ergonomic spring plate mattress ensures a good night’s sleep. The bed itself is just 800 mm high, making getting in easy without the need for any additional step.
During the day, the bed is stowed away in a storage compartment in the middle section using an easy-to-use folding mechanism to permit access to the 450 mm wide walkway in the kitchen area. This walkway also provides access from inside the vehicle to the large lower rear storage compartment, while simultaneously creating another corner seating unit. No matter whether this area is currently configured as a bed or seats – you always have access to a comprehensive electronic infotainment system here. There are 220 V sockets as well as AUX and USB ports for connecting and charging smartphones and tablets, and Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles has even integrated a digital projector in the overhead cabinet at the head end of the bed, which can be used to project videos, photos and TV via smartphone or tablet onto the white back wall of the wet room. The lighting – from reading light to the full lighting or even the ambient lighting in the panoramic roof – can be controlled using touch-sensitive switches in the passenger compartment.
Cot in the front alcove with panoramic window
Families with small children or grandparents with their grandchildren will be especially thrilled when on their travels by the alcove fitted with a cot – which is 1,720 mm long and 1,320 mm wide. It has a headroom of 600 mm, but thanks to the panoramic roof the alcove appears significantly higher. On the left, an extension can be slotted into the bed surface to extend the length of the bed to 2,000 mm, thus providing sufficient space for a teenager.
Looking out at the front, a panoramic window in the roof affords fantastic views of the scenery or camp site. The children can climb up to this bunk bed via a stepladder that can simply be folded away. When the bed is not in use, it is ideal for storing bedding, coats, blankets and other soft items.
Portable tables and chairs for summer use, auxiliary heating for the winter
As shown here, two camping chairs can be stowed away compactly inside the tailgate, while the interior table from the living area can simply be removed and attached to the rear panel of the kitchen unit using an extension module when the sliding door is open – resulting in a large open-air table for mild summer evenings. But the California XXL isn’t limited to camping in the summer. Thanks to a powerful auxiliary and underfloor heater, this motorhome is just as suitable for camping in the winter, which experienced campers will appreciate, especially as the auxiliary and underfloor heating is faster than you may think. Even a classic early season route, such as a spring trip from northern Europe over the Brenner pass and down to Lake Garda can still be plagued by snow and frost north of the Alps.
4MOTION and a powerful Euro 6 turbo diesel
The winter won’t pose any problems for the California XXL’s drive systems, either. The California XXL Concept comes with the same 4MOTION all-wheel drive as used in the Crafter. A Haldex clutch distributes the engine’s propulsive power fully variably between the rear and front axles, based on the grip conditions. Even muddy access roads or rough terrain on camp sites are no problem with 4MOTION. Traction for the California XXL Concept is provided by a Crafter TDI that delivers 130 kW / 177 PS (at 3,600 rpm) – a Euro 6 turbo diesel, which with its high efficiency and supreme maximum torque of 410 Nm (between 1,500 and 2,000 rpm) is ideally suited for use in this camper van of the future. A new feature to any Crafter is the pneumatic suspension used by the California XXL. This optimises ride comfort and simplifies horizontal alignment of the motorhome on the camp site: instead of having to drive onto wedges, you can simply vary the height of the shock absorbers on each axle.
Gas refilling from outside, camping chairs back in the tailgate
The outside of the vehicle body painted in two-tone “Candy White” and “Mojave Beige” is also well thought-out right down to the smallest detail. As outlined above, two camping chairs can be stowed away in the tailgate, as in the California. Behind the tailgate there is also a large storage space, some 1,600 mm in length, 1,850 mm wide and 720 mm high. The storage space is also accessible from the inside, so that you don’t need to get out if it is raining or cold. Also housed in the rear section is the on-board technical equipment, including the underfloor heating, hot water boiler, fresh water tank (140 litres) and a waste water tank (90 litres). The gas tank (37 litres), meanwhile, is located on the outside, underneath the vehicle. The California XXL is supplied with electricity, fresh water and gas via two supply system flaps on the left and right of the extended rear section of the superstructure. Another outside flap provides easy access to the WC tank. Yet another camping accessory that wasn’t designed specifically for the California XXL, but that comes in very handy, can be found in the storage space of the California XXL Concept: a large Weber grill.