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Get away from it all

Volkswagen’s new Grand California camper will take you in comfort to out-of-the-way places where other campers fear to tread, says Alastair Sloane.

10 March 2022

If ever there was a perfect time to launch a new range of campervans – this is it, says Kevin Richards, the manager of the commercial arm of Volkswagen New Zealand.

Why? Because New Zealanders are being encouraged to shake off the cobwebs of Covid-19 confinement and hit the road to help the economy get going again.

And, says Richards, what better way to do so than in another spiritual successor to the most famous freewheelin’ camper of all, the original VW Kombi.

This new one is the Grand California, bigger everywhere and with more of everything than the California camper, which has been available in New Zealand for some time.

There are two Grand California variants, the 600 and 680. The 600 is 6 metres long; the 680 is 6.8m. Both are based on the Crafter platform and imported fully built up from the Volkswagen commercial plant in Wrzesnia, Poland.

Richards and his team have landed 15 of each in the first shipment.

“We are aiming them almost exclusively at the private market,” he says. “But we will talk to commercial tour operators if they are interested.”

Both models are powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel generating 130kW/410Nm and mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Drive goes to all four wheels, when needed, via VW’s 4MOTION system.

“We hit the nail on the head with 4MOTION,” says Richards. “It will enable Kiwis to get to those out-of-the-way places that might be inaccessible in two-wheel-drive campers.”

The length isn’t the only difference. The 600 might be shorter but it is slightly taller, allowing for a touch more interior headroom. It also sleeps four – mum and dad in a (195cm x 140cm) double bed and two (children) in an over-cab pull-out bed. The 680 (above) is an adults-only model, with a 200cm x 170cm double bed.

Elsewhere, the layout is pretty much identical. Driver and passenger seats up front swivel to face a two-seat dinette with table.

The kitchenette offers a two-burner cooktop, sink, worktop, fridge with freezer. There’s storage everywhere.

Amidships is the ‘wet room’ – an all-in-one shower and toilet with basin, vanity mirror, and overhead ventilation.

Fresh water is drawn from a 110-litre (24gal) tank that drains into a 90-litre (19.7gal) waste tank.

There’s a second battery, 12-volt outlets, gas heating, hot water cylinder, solar panels on the roof, table and chairs for outside under the awning … pretty much Uncle Tom Cobbley and all for life on the road.

Safety equipment includes cross wind assist, an electronic aid that serves to stabilise the vehicle on the move when it is being buffeted by gusts.

The Grand California comes with a five-year, 150,000km warranty. The 600 is priced at $159,000, the 680 at $163,000.

Alastair Sloane is the managing editor of Automotive News and a former editor of the NZ Herald’s motoring section.


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