In a pandemic, no better way to travel than a VW Grand California

By DPA | 30 July 2020

BERLIN: For some it's the worst of times, for others, the best: While the coronavirus pandemic is roiling the travel industry, makers of RVs can barely handle the surge in demand.

Many tourists are choosing to play safe and make for the hills with their own hotel on wheels instead of jumping on a plane or train.

The VW California is a fixture on this market, based on the carmaker's camper van that's been around for 30 years. But the Grand California is an option for anyone who would feel too cooped up and is willing to pay a price tag of more than US$64,000 (RM272,000).

The bumper camper van is based on the Crafter delivery vehicle and at a good 6 metres, it's all you could wish for if you're planning a holiday during a pandemic. Head up the steps, which are electrically powered, and step through the gigantic sliding door, where you'll enter the perfect mobile holiday apartment. It's packed with everything you could possibly need on a vacation.


There's a table in the front, and if you turn the bench and chairs 180 degrees, the cockpit is transformed into a seating area.

On the side, there's a kitchenette with two gas flames, a sink and a fridge, and right next to that there's a bathroom equipped with a shower, sink and toilet. Behind that, a spacious sleeping area.

The standard version is 6 metres across, but with the Crafter, which is expanded by an extra 80 centimetres, there's even more legroom, as it's aligned length-ways.

If this is your first trip out in a camper, then this alone may seem like the stuff of miracles. But just as there's always something new to surprise you in a hotel room, VW too offers plenty to discover. Take, for example, the second pull-out bed that's under the roof, or the numerous built-in cupboards.

There are smaller treats too, such as the USB ports, wireless charging cradle and four-colour ambient lighting.

And of course, as with every California, there's garden furniture so you can set up a summer terrace in a matter of minutes, under the awning's shade.

The Grand California is reasonably self-sufficient, so you can enjoy your vacation on wheels without outside contact if necessary. The tanks for fresh and waste water are big enough for a weekend, the automatic gas heating system will keep you toasty in bad weather, and if there's no power to be found, no worries: The furnished Crafter has a large solar panel on the roof.

The living is easy in the Grand California, but driving needs getting used to. The engine has plenty of power with 177hp, but you won't hit speeds above 162kph. Acceleration also has its limits. Drivers are helped by automatic transmission and power steering, so you have what you need for a relaxed trip, if not a race. But keep an eye on the fuel gauge: The diesel consumes an average of 8.3 litres per 100km, according to the manufacturer. So plan your route carefully to avoid getting stuck.

And stay calm while you're manoeuvring, because the vehicle beeps even when you're parking, and despite the rear view camera, you're still driving a far larger vehicle than the normal California.

Just the right car? Or maybe a little unimaginative or just too expensive? Seasoned campers may differ in their assessments of the Grand California. But it is fit for purpose as a self-sufficient vehicle and is solid on the road, making it a good choice, especially for beginners.

However you may feel, if you're itching to get away, it enables you to take a break — without the risk of infection.