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2017 Volkswagen California Luxury VIP – interior Exterior and Drive



Volkswagen California T6 review
New Volkswagen camper is better than ever, but the high price will put some off

That huge number is the single most off-putting thing about the California, but to set up camp early, we’ll say already that this latest T6 generation model very nearly justifies the price tag – it’s very good indeed.
If you’re familiar with the T5 California (or indeed the Transporter), you may already have noted a striking familiarity about all this. If you haven’t – there really is one. That’s because the T6 Transporter van was developed along an “if it ain’t broke” policy, so Volkswagen kept all the fixed points of the chassis, most of the body panels and the internal dimensions exactly the same.

That extends to the California’s internal fittings, meaning the little kitchenette in this T6 Ocean model is basically the same as the T5’s was, just with a couple of extra rails and cup holders. There have been tweaks to the front and rear exterior styling, but the real work went into improving overall refinement, ride quality and cabin flair, and adding more of the technology that makes Volkswagen’s passenger cars so alluring.

For a start, the California gets Euro-6 emissions-compliant diesel engines, meaning economy is improved and CO2 emissions lowered across the range. So, while the 138bhp 2.0 TDI T5 California averaged 39.2mpg, this T6 equivalent, with 10bhp more, returns 44.1mpg.

More than that, all the new engines contribute to an overall sense of refinement bordering on remarkable for what is essentially a diesel van. All three available engines are 2.0-litre TDI diesel units, but outputs are 100bhp, 148bhp or 201bhp – the last of those being the most powerful ever put into a VW van.

But actually, pound-for-pound it’s the 100bhp engine that’s the most impressive, because Volkswagen has tuned it in the spirit of the old Pumpe Duse diesels from the Mk IV Golf era, concentrating all the torque in a thin band near the bottom of the rev range, so there’s instant, flexible pickup.

On that basis the 201bhp engine doesn’t feel twice as powerful, although there’s no denying its turn of pace. As ever, though, the middling 148bhp diesel is the best overall, superbly subdued at lower revs, far punchier than its 14.2-second 0-62mph sprint suggests, and silkily smooth – for a diesel, anyway. All California models are available with a seven-speed DSG automatic, while the two higher-powered engines can be specified with 4Motion four-wheel drive.

Despite an overarching sense that little has changed from the T5 California to the T6, that’s not exactly a fair assessment – Volkswagen counts 6,000 changes from the T5 Transporter to the T6, all of which carry over to the California. They just happen to be mostly suspension, engine and technology improvements, most of which you can feel rather than see.

And in this case, familiarity is no bad thing, especially rearward of the front seats, where the California is really easy to use: the roof can be popped up and the rear bench turned into a double bed in no time at all, which is especially appeasing on a wet, dark field in the middle of the night.

The main change at the front is the addition of a ‘premium’ cabin, standard with Ocean models but not available with Beach (these are the only two trim levels). It results in a significant upward ambience shift, dotted with glossy surfaces and soft-closing compartments – but unfortunately still none of the soft-touch surfaces that make certain Volkswagens feel so premium, and that you might expect to see in something of this price.

Without this cabin, the van-like driver ergonomics and open storage compartments conspire to make Beach models feel less a luxurious MPV and more a tarted-up van. Beach models don’t feel as good as their high price suggests they might – it costs from £37,657.

Ocean specification, formerly known as SE, is the Camper we’re all familiar with, complete with twin gas hobs, a sink, a fridge and a full suite of wood veneered storage units. It seats four, sleeps four (its pop-up roof is electrically operated), and comes with a side awning for outside shelter from the rain – a standard feature on UK Beach models, too. Prices for the California Ocean begin at £47,840.
And while it’s true that both of those prices look high, in both cases the specification sheet at least justifies some of the expense. All come with Bluetooth, DAB digital radio, climate control (three-zone in the Ocean), alloy wheels, LED taillights and an auxiliary heater to stave off the midnight chill.

Key specs
Price: £47,840
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl TDI
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power/torque: 148bhp/ 340Nm

0-62mph: 14.2 seconds
Top speed: 111mph
CO2: 169g/km
On sale: August 2015
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25 Comments

  1. When you go to a VW dealer in order to buy something for your beloved Syncro, they say that there is not such a thing as a t3 Syncro model.

    And they are right since the official name of the 1979 VW bus, (2wd), or of the 1985 Syncro, (4wd), model is: t25.

    But all the Syncronauts we know:

    t25=t3

    That is why t5/t6 cannot compete to the, highest, 4wd, named Syncro, with Gelande, dual lockers, auto central differential locking without hydraulics, (and maintenance), 50/50 weight ratio, symmetrical, (Mirage), transmission, Direct Drive rear differential, (no clutch), with unlimited, off road, load capabilities, Soft Start front differential, (never breaks), auto correction/auto regulation suspension, huge stealth stabilization spoiler, riding on the air feeling, (rear engine, forward control), i4/i5/v6/v8/w12 cheap engine modification, high snorkel, (~1.80 m), lowest IIHS of the 90's death rate, limited electronics and many others.

    We have to accept it:

    in the year 2200 the t25 will be, (again), available, (?).
    (Counting 10 years for the introduction of a new t model as up to now).

    2020=t7
    2030=t8
    2040=t9
    2050=t10
    2060=t11
    2070=t12
    2080=t13
    2090=t14
    2100=t15
    2110=t16
    2120=t17
    2130=t18
    2140=t19
    2150=t20
    2160=t21
    2170=t22
    2180=t23
    2190=t24
    2200=t25

    The t3(=t25) Syncro is a 30 years old car, back to the future, from the next century, year 2200.

    (Please don't worry. A 2018 Haldex t6 is readily available if you cannot wait for a t24 or a t25 from the next century).

    The Syncro Heresy

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