Grand California – Volkswagen’s biggest earner?

Over the past two years, demand for some vehicles has taken off while others have plummeted. Today, even though restrictions on international travel are being relaxed in many countries, motorhomes are still a big business.

Nutzfahrzeuge: German for maximum margin

Volkswagen, like Toyota, always seems to prepare the right models in its development kitchen. And not just passenger cars, including all IDs. vehicles that landed at the right time, even ahead of the demand curve. The Nutzfahrzeuge division also has a lot on its own menu.

As with equivalents at other OEMs, Volkswagen AG’s commercial vehicle part isn’t sexy, but it surely punches its weight when it comes to margins. Imagine what the profit must be on an £80,000+ Grand California, a model that hit the UK market just before flying more or less shut down overnight in 2020.

This number may shock anyone unfamiliar with the base stage of this class of full-length motorhomes. The VWCVs let me try one and the price, including options, was decidedly Audi-esque GBP86,938. Examples of extras are an awning (GBP960), water heating and interior power supply (GBP672), rear view camera (GBP282) – incredibly this is not standard, and another essential (? ), “Toilet Ventilation” at GBP216.

What you get for your money

Yes, the Grand Cali has restrooms; in fact, it has a bathroom. You can even detach the shower gubbins and take them outside for an outdoor ride if some ATV rides have gotten muddy. Naturally, there is a gas bottle and a rather impressive kitchenette. The whole shebang has the feel of a real VW about it too. Not attacking the ID.3 or Golf cars but we do know a few things about them and other new era Volkswagens are not universally admired.

This giant motorhome is based on a utility vehicle chassis; more specifically, the Crafter pickup truck. The engine is a fairly low-power (177 bhp) but at least high-torque (410 Nm) version of the well-known 2.0-litre TDI. The transmission may be self-shifting, but it has also been perfected for this heavy-duty vehicle.

Wheelbase of four and a half meters

Yes, the Grand Califiornia is not light. How could it be with all those modifications that turn an XXL-sized van – and the test model was the 6836mm 680 (GVW: 3880kg) versus the 5986mm 600 – into an apartment comfortable on wheels. A few more stats: the AdBlue tank holds 18 liters while the fuel tank only takes 75 litres, the wheelbase is 4490mm and the width with mirrors is 2410mm which makes it look like an Amarok or even a narrow Audi e-tron GT.

To drive, it’s slow but not painfully (top speed is 102 mph). Especially since it is better to take time for maneuvers due to the length of the thing. Sudden stops can cause belongings to be displaced if not secured, although there are so many latches, handles and locks that nothing like an opening toilet door will product. More than the center of gravity is high so respect is essential. Braking is very good but it is always wise to allow extra distance, especially in the wet.

Does it need all-wheel drive?

Volkswagen doesn’t specify 4MOTION as standard, which isn’t so much another chance for an even better profit than a sensible policy for those who will never need it. In northern Europe, yes, at certain times of the year at least. In places where heat, elevation above sea level, and a dry climate can mean less horsepower and torque from the turbocharged engine, any weight gain is a very good thing.

The tester was front-wheel-drive and it never lost traction even though there was no rain during my (Grand) California Dreaming week. The eight-speed transmission shifted incredibly quiet and smooth considering the load it has to deal with and while the noise might sound like a pickup truck, I like that. Not the clatter of the diesel as such, more that appealing mechanical music that’s been engineered from most passenger vehicles now or drowned out by soundproofing/noise-canceling tech.

Respect found for the DPD man

As a driver, the effect is that of being at the helm of a small coach rather than a huge LCV. It also makes those of us who live in villages even more impressed with courier company drivers driving in and out of narrow lanes driving LWB Crafters, making it look easy.

For various reasons I haven’t been camping in the GC but have played with all of its accessories, tried everything, ridden a lot and tested its ability to become a bedroom as well. You can switch it to office mode by swiveling one of the front seats and there’s also a rear bench seat for the family to fit in, or even co-workers. Prepare a cup of tea for everyone via one of the hotplates or plug in a kettle.

Comfort behind the wheel as on the mattress

As I write this I am back from a weekend in Rotterdam in a slightly smaller van (Vauxhall Vivaro) to see and then buy a classic car, bringing back a load of spare parts that came with it . Driving back from the Netherlands via Belgium and France to the west of England might have given us back pain 10-20 years ago.

I was tired but otherwise fine after being in four countries on Sunday. The big Volkswagen would have handled that distance and the gloriously empty two-lane roads just as well. Look at the low bridges though, something I had to remember during the week with the GC. And make time for the power lowering and raising side steps that fold out when the sliding side door is opened or closed. It’s a cool thing to look at, as is the lighting all around the vehicle when it turns on or off.

Like trying to park a palace?

While few would accuse the stretched-length Grand California of being good-looking, it’s still a nice thing to give away once, hitting the lock button and driving away from the nearly two needed parking spots by means of a a bunk. Call it a nice land yacht or a comfortable cruiser. While many people buy one to enjoy vacations, it continues even with more freedom of movement. I totally see the appeal of such vehicles. Just take your time backing up and in the case of this one, the camera above the rear doors is worth every penny.

Volkswagen will be very happy to continue building the GC in 600 and 680 forms as long as demand is high. Then comes electrification, once OEMs and Tier 1s figure out how to accommodate the size and weight of the massive batteries that will be needed: we’ve all seen the jaw-dropping mass of the GMC Hummer EV pickup (recall : 4,103kg before options, so imagine what the SUV will be like with all that extra glass and metal). The eCrafter already exists, of course, but all the extra glass, metal and interior fittings of a high-roof motorhome quickly see the curb weight increase.

Why no MHEV, HEV or PHEV?

The German giant seems to want to go directly to electric vehicles, bypassing hybridization, which must be a fairly substantial technical feat. Until that results in a production model that equals the GC, the latest TDI-powered model, all under 25 mpg (combined average), remains an absolute delight. For driving, working, sleeping, cooking, washing, showering. Could this really be the perfect premium priced vehicle?

The production version of the ID.Buzz will be unveiled by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles on March 9. There won’t be a California version initially, and there are no official plans (yet) for electric successors to today’s Grand Californias. VW Nutzfahrzeuge, however, noted in a December press release, this ID. Buzz California is said to be in production at its Hannover factories during the “second half of the decade”.

Wiley C. Thompson