Like other models in the range, the Grand California is based on the Volkswagen Crafter cargo van, essentially VW’s equivalent to the Ford Transit or Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. It’s been upfitted with all manner of equipment that would make older Airstream and Winnebago owners weep with envy. There’s a large sleeping area, a kitchen, a bathroom and a bunk in the raised roof fit for small children as well as a number of optional extras.
The windows at the side and rear all pop out. They’re also fitted with screens to keep insects and other creatures from sneaking in while they’re open. Likewise, there’s a mosquito net in the door. The roof features a large skylight to help provide natural light to the interior. There’s also a blackout screen for the front cab. The exterior is fitted with lights above the sliding door so you can have powered light at your campsite. Out back, there are hookups for an external shower with adjustable water temperature.
The speakers in the living area can be controlled via Bluetooth, even when the rest of the car is powered down. That means you don’t have to run the accessories to listen to music. The front seats swivel backward while rear occupants can use a bench seat. In the middle, there’s a dining table large enough for four people. The kitchen area features two gas burners, a sink, a fridge with a freezer and a number of drawers and cabinets for storage. All in, the Grand Californian can hold about 29 gallons of water.
That said, the regular California camper has a number of those features already. The thing that makes the new model so grand is the built-in bathroom. No one enjoys using the damp and musty public restrooms at campsites. The Grand California has a toilet, a shower, a fold-out sink, shelves for toiletries, towel holders, a pop-up skylight for ventilation and — get this — an integrated cupboard that protects your toilet paper from getting damp. There are no light switches in the bathroom. Instead, the lighting is activated by motion detectors.
Options and creature comforts are numerous. In addition to the bunk bed, there’s a roof-mounted air-conditioning unit, bike racks, an awning and a folding table and camp chairs (that can be stored in the door). The standard gas heating can be expanded using a gasoline or diesel generator. Finally, there’s an optional solar panel for the roof, a satellite for TV reception and an LTE/Wi-Fi hotspot.
Other options include driver assist features and an updated infotainment system. The former includes surround monitoring, city brake assist, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, park assist and adaptive cruise control.