The Düsseldorf Caravan Salon kicks off today, and Volkswagen is using it to explore a potential Crafter-based camper van, a larger, smarter version of its popular California. The innovative California XXL Concept packs sleeping space for the family, a space-enhancing slide-out wet bath, a digital projection system, a full stargazer panoramic roof, and an all-conditions all-wheel-drive build below. If it gets the green light, this could very well be the next iconic Volkswagen camper van.
It's a good time for the many global fans of Volkswagen camper vans. Just days after confirmation that the timelessly iconic Kombi is finally making its grand comeback as an electric van, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles shows off another camper van possibility featuring a stylish design and modern solutions.
With the California XXL, Volkswagen explores how it could upsize the successful California, not simply by using the largest van in its lineup in place of the mid-size Transporter but also by incorporating folding, sliding and swiveling features to make the interior space feel even larger.
The XXL calls the 143-in (3,640-mm) wheelbase Crafter its foundation, and Volkswagen has opted for an extra-high fixed roof, which helps accommodate a two-child sleeping alcove above the front seats. The automaker has also extended the rear section of the van above the door handle line, creating a rear protrusion that looks a bit ungainly from the outside but creates a more spacious interior with a longitudinally mounted, 6.6 x 5.6-foot (2 x 1.7-m) rear bed for two adults. The full van measures 236 in (5,986 mm) from front to rear bumper and 246 in (6,238 mm) higher up, making us wonder why Volkswagen didn't just start with a longer version of the Crafter, like the 269-in (6,836-mm) long-wheelbase variant.
At night, the rear bed keeps its two occupants cozy with an electrical heating/cooling system that helps maintain a comfortable temperature, no matter the season. During the day, the bed can be transformed into a second seating area via a folding segment that also frees up indoor access to the storage compartment at the back of the van. A mobile device-fed digital projector in the cabinet above the bed plays movies and videos on the rear wall of the wet bath.
The van's roof stands 4 in (100 mm) higher than the "super high roof" Volkswagen offers on the Crafter panel van, providing a full 7.2 feet (2.2 m) of headroom inside. The stretched, 146-mm (3,700-mm) panoramic roof construction helps flood the interior with natural light, an effect furthered by the white camping furniture, light upholstery and marine-inspired striped cork flooring. When the sun goes down, the ambient lighting array keeps the cabin filled with soft, gentle light, and the panoramic roof serves up views of the stars.
The highlight of the Crafter interior is its expandable wet bath. The Transporter-based production California does not include a bathroom, but the added size of this extended Crafter van inspired Volkswagen to install one. But, though the Crafter is larger, space still comes at a premium, so Volkswagen makes the most of that space with a slide-out compartment that doubles the square footage of the wet bath from 3.9 square feet (3,600 sq cm) to 7.8 square feet (7,200 sq cm) before sliding away to clear the kitchen floor and walkway.
The retractable front of the bathroom pulls back to the kitchen unit via a simple handle, providing access to the full-size toilet and shower inside. The pull-out structure includes a separate wet-room floor with shower tray (so you're not showering on the kitchen floor), and the kitchen floor slides under the kitchen block when the bathroom is pulled out. The deployed bathroom also serves as a privacy divider wall between the rear bed and front living area and alcove and works as the projector screen for the rear bedroom area.
The bathroom includes a fold-away sink above the full-size toilet that flips up and disappears behind a swiveling illuminated mirror when not in use. The sink drain automatically closes off in this configuration. The sink's pull-out sprayer serves as both faucet and supplementary shower head to assist the ceiling-mounted rain shower.
The kitchen across from the bathroom also features innovative retractable features. A unique iteration of a typical dual-burner stove, Volkswagen's design features X-shaped burners that raise up for cooking and electrically lower into the aluminum stove structure, creating a flush countertop that accommodates the included cutting board. This solution serves the same purpose as a glass stove lid, albeit in a sleeker form.
When more worktop is needed, a pull-out panel to the left and fold-down panel to the right quickly grow the amount of counter space. When left in upright position, the fold-down countertop section at the right extends the privacy division of the slide-out bathroom to the side van wall.
The kitchen also includes a dual-refrigerator set-up, with one 50L refrigerator below the stove and one 50L fridge-freezer located up above the kitchen block. Cabinets, a garbage can, drawers and a magnetic spice rack fill out the kitchen design.
The living area is probably the California XXL's simplest, most classic design, partnering a dual-seat rear bench with the swivel front seats and a table. The table can be removed and attached to the outside of the van, used with the folding chairs that store in the rear cargo area. The one standout feature in the living area is the espresso machine built into the overhead cabinet.
Being a concept camper van, the California XXL doesn't bring with it the long scroll of specs, features and options that accompany the typical production camper, but Volkswagen is clear that the van has underfloor heating for fast, reliable warmth and year-round camping comfort. The electrical system includes nine 220V outlets and six USB outlets for seamless powering of appliances and electronics and charging of devices. A living area-mounted tablet running the "California XXL App" provides intuitive control and monitoring of onboard systems like lighting and entertainment.
Other inclusions of note include a dirty shoe compartment just inside the sliding door entry and a stored BBQ grill.
The California XXL is powered by a 175-hp turbodiesel engine. The 4-Matic all-wheel drive ensures all-weather, all-terrain traction, and a custom air suspension system improves ride comfort and makes for easy leveling at camp.
Volkswagen doesn't mention any plans of bringing a California XXL to market, but it seems likely to draw plenty of attention and praise in Düsseldorf, so perhaps the folks at Volks will give it some hard thought. We wouldn't expect a production model to have all the extensions and sliding and swiveling components, but even a simplified version could prove a nice family camper option.
We'll have more from Düsseldorf as the show hits its stride.
Source: Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles
Want a cleaner, faster loading and ad free reading experience?
Try New Atlas Plus. Learn more