The NEW California Concept (with pictures)

by | Sep 28, 2023 | News

After selling 260,000 units of the California product line, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles have just presented us with the world premiere of a near-production California CONCEPT at the Caravan Salon trade fair in Düsseldorf, thus paving the way for new technology and advanced campervan comforts. At a glance, new features include:

  • Extra length and width offer more living space, more comfort, safety and flexibility
  • Twin sliding doors creating a new three-zone concept with a kitchen that can be used from outside the vehicle
  • Significantly more flexibility for everyday use and for camping
  • New use of eHybrid drive, improved ride comfort and more assist systems
  • Camper van functions can be controlled via a new smartphone app or tablet-style control unit

The California by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles is a statement, a motoring way of life: a full-value VW bus suitable for every day of the year, which can also be converted into a fully-equipped camper van for adventures of any kind from one minute to the next. It is this versatility that has made the California the world’s most successful camper van in its class.

Featuring state-of-the-art powertrains and the latest assist and infotainment systems as well as the next generation of camper van equipment. the California CONCEPT is based on the long version of the Multivan launched in 2021, which makes it larger than its predecessor, the California 6.1.

A California for tomorrow
For the first time, the California CONCEPT offers plug-in hybrid technology that acts as a bridge to the world of electric mobility, offering huge overall ranges of distance, while still able to deliver emission-free driving for everyday urban life. Lithium-ion batteries on board the vehicle provide an almost completely autonomous 12 V power supply.

Life in the great outdoors
The campervan living and cooking area has undergone a extensive makeover. For the first time, this California is equipped with an additional sliding door on the kitchen side, which allows extended use of the space around the vehicle and adds a new dimension to summer camping in the great outdoors.

In the past, all California models based on the Transporter series had a kitchen area stretching down the left-hand side, with a sliding door on the right-hand side as the main entrance – both in everyday use and when camping. 

In future, the addition of the extra sliding door on the driver side of the California CONCEPT and a kitchen area that now is now located further back in the vehicle. This means that the left-hand side of the vehicle can now be opened up when camping, and, as a result, the California is now more versatile than ever before and safer for those drivers with a right-hand drive variant.

As the concept vehicle is fitted with a folding-arm awning on the left and a sun sail on the right, both sides of the vehicle can be protected from either sun or rain. The sun sail can be set up for use in a matter of moments. 

Three-zone concept
A new three-zone concept presents different exterior and interior scenarios for camping and day-to-day driving, and significantly expand the possibilities for use of the California.

Zone 1 (outside)
With the right hand sliding door, the vehicle provides a standard point of entry and exit for vehicles. On the campsite, the sun sail turns this area into an open-sided tent, enhancing the feeling of life in the great outdoors.

Zone 2 (inside)
Behind the height-adjustable and rotating front seats, the entire vehicle interior is an comfortable passenger compartment for day-to-day driving, offering the familiar flexibility of a Multivan; fitted with individual seats that are lightweight, removable and comfortable.

Thanks to these variable seats, surfboards and bikes and other equipment can now easily be transported inside the vehicle. When used as a camper van, the California CONCEPT’s seating area can quickly be converted into a flat chill-out zone, or offer face-to-face seating for shared mealtimes or games.

The solid rear bench seat in the California 6.1 makes way for individually adjustable rear seats with bed functions. The seats are upholstered with a hard-wearing and haptically pleasant fabric in Mélange design.

Zone 3 (outside)
Thanks to the new sliding door on the left hand side, and the new concept for the kitchen unit and awning, an additional outdoor area has been created on the left side of the vehicle – never seen before in conjunction with an outdoor kitchen in any other California.

For day-to-day driving, the second sliding door provides an additional point of entry and exit, and an additional loading option at home or at the stores. This also offers a further advantage for right-hand drive markets, where users can now enter and exit the California safely on the pavement side. 

When camping, this also creates a separate area for cooking and eating and long summer evenings spent under the awning. That is because the kitchen – including the sink, sliding induction hob and refrigerator – is now also accessible from outside.

In addition to the 230V induction hob, there is also an integrated gas cooker familiar from previous generations of the van. A 230-volt socket on the outside of the kitchen and an external folding table add the perfect finishing touch for life at the campsite. The kitchen drawers can be accessed from both inside and outside. Another highlight is the compact grill, which is stowed in the kitchen unit and can be conveniently removed from outside the vehicle.

The refrigerator offers practical benefits as it can be accessed from outside and is equipped with a drawer: it now takes even less time to serve breakfast. What is more, fresh summer produce can be loaded straight from the shopping trolley into the refrigerator.

The second sliding door One thing is certain: the dual concept – use as a VW Bus for day-to-day driving and as a versatile camper van for leisure – has now been improved even further thanks to the new three-zone concept.

Intelligent interior design, right down to the last detail
Since the Multivan is fitted with an electronic parking brake instead of a manual brake, the space between the driver and front passenger seat can now be put to much better use.

Practical drawers under the front height-adjustable swivel seats and the individual seats at the rear also offer extra storage space. There is now space behind the driver or front passenger seat for items such as a removable dry-composting toilet. There is also plenty of storage space in the top and bottom kitchen cupboards, located behind the refrigerator. In addition, there a separate storage area under the bed extension.

The vehicle interior is illuminated by all-round, dimmable background lighting with a range of colours available. To create the right atmosphere outside, the kitchen unit has an integrated removable table light to create a cosy feel around the camping table. If more light is needed, the LED lights on the awning arms bathe the vehicle’s ‘terrace’ in pleasant light.

Pop-up roof and high-quality roof bed
A VW bus as a California without a classic pop-up roof is inconceivable, and so the California CONCEPT is no exception. It comprises a lightweight aluminium roof shell and a triple- layered bellows with a large panorama opening at the front. Large side windows provide incredible panoramic views.

Like in all California models, the highest position for the pop-up roof is at the front. A high-quality roof bed with spring plates also guarantees a good night’s sleep beneath the stars, while USB-C sockets and LED lights provide power and light.

Control by smartphone, camper van control unit or the infotainment system
The roof’s pop-up mechanism can now be controlled using a vertical, multifunctional tablet on the cupboard at the C-pillar, with all of the features relevant for camping controllable via the touch display.

In addition to the pop-up roof, information is included on the fresh and waste water levels, the interior lighting functions (including background lighting), power supply status, refrigerator and auxiliary heater.

All of these functions can additionally be controlled from a smartphone using the “Cali on Tour” app. The infotainment system can also be used to access an inclination display that helps when levelling the van.

However, the tablet does not just provide information about the vehicle, it can also provide entertainment. For example, it can be swivelled out on an articulated arm and positioned to be easily visible from the passenger compartment. It can also be rotated by 90 degrees, meaning there is nothing in the way of an entertaining evening watching your favourite shows.

The California CONCEPT shows us that VW Commercial Vehicles will accompany all VW bus fans on their journeys across the world in the future that will become a reality in 2024 with all drive systems.


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