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Fun seeker: VW unveils revamped California camper van bristling with new technology

By Paul Connolly

Volkswagen has unveiled its latest California camper van – and it’s packed with new tech and comfort features designed for happier touring.

The face-lifted camper – based on the VW Transporter van platform – gets a front-end redesign, new cabin furniture and most importantly a raft of technology updates.

Named the California 6.1, the revamped camper is the sixth generation California since the original launch of a camper van using VW architecture nearly 70 years.

Known to its fans as the Bulli or T2 (Type 2), it remains one of the few factory-built campers you can buy as most of the others are conversions.

Eighteen thousand models still roll off VW’s production line in Hannover every year, and over 175,000 vehicles have been made to date. This year VW introduced a larger Grand California as well.

Fresh styling for the regular California for 2019 includes a redesigned front that gives sharper character to the world’s biggest-selling camper van, making it appear wider.

The first few images just released show the range-topping California Ocean 6.1. The top part of the Ocean's chrome-plated radiator grille forms a single unit with the new LED daytime running lights.

Below there’s a larger air intake for the efficient engines and a chrome strip also adorns the new bumper. This chrome detailing differentiates the Ocean from the entry-level Beach and mid-range Coast models.

A big new innovation is that the old overhead monochrome display has been replaced by a large overhead full-colour touchscreen with added features.

This means that much information can be controlled via the touchscreen, including functions like Camping Mode, Cool Box, Lights and system set-up.

A new Level function has been added, which shows the lengthways and crossways angle at which the California is parked on the campsite. There’s also a Sunrise function designed to wake you up slowly.

Coast and Ocean models include a compact set of kitchen units, which get improved for the new model. Enhancements include an extra double USB socket, new handles and push buttons, and new wood grains matched to new upholstery. All models get more comfortable beds.

For the first time, a new Digital Cockpit is offered, but you’ll have to pay extra for that feature.

There have been improvements to the infotainment, with a new 6.5-inch touch screen and a choice of two navigation systems, Discover Media (8-inch touchscreen) and Discover Pro (9.2-inch).

A new audio input feature links the occupants to Volkswagen We, which offers a range of online functions and services including connection to music and streaming services.

The key technical change in terms of handling is a switch from hydraulic to electro-mechanical power steering.

As a result, the California 6.1 will now come with new driver assistance systems like Lane Assist, Park Assist, a side protection function (warns of obstacles when manoeuvring) and Trailer Assist (simplifies manoeuvring with a trailer).

Also included as standard will be Cross Wind Assist, which automatically stabilises the vehicle in strong winds.

The new model will launch with efficient 2-litre turbo diesel engines (2.0 TDI), which all fulfil the Euro 6d Temp Evap emissions standard.

Full details of all models will be revealed at big Dusseldorf Caravan Salon show at the end of this month.

UK price and spec will follow some weeks later. We wouldn’t expect a big difference from the existing range, which costs from £46,432 on the road including VAT for an entry-level model, rising to £56,884 for the range-topper.

The new Grand California, based on the larger Crafter van platform, is significantly bigger and doesn’t feature the regular California’s famous pop-up roof.

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