california dreamin | 

This VW campervan is a one-stop shop for family fun in the sun

The Grand California campervan is well-equipped and user-friendly

Ruby and Isabella enjoying the Grand California

The Grand California’s amazing interior

The Grand California with the comfortable double bed at the rear

The fridge unit and wet-room in the background

The double bed above the cabin is very tight and only really suited for small children

There are plenty of storage areas inside the Grand California

There is ample storage space underneath the double bed at the rear

The double bed at the back can be stored away securely while on the move

The Grand California is loaded with all the latest technology. All interior pictures by Paddy McGrath.

There is a two-ring hob and sink in the Grand California

Robbie FarrellSunday World

Road trips. I have been on so many over the last few years that I think I should be in the running for the ‘King of the Road’ gong.

Only this week, I decided to rent a 250cc scooter on my holidays on Spain’s Costa Blanca and stick my biker-chick wife on the back for a 280km round trip to Benidorm for the day.

I was just about to boast to my pals about cruising the Spanish autopistas in the scorching temperatures until my weather forecaster mother, yet again, told me it was almost as hot back in Ireland due to a mini heatwave.

It was only when I reached the golden beach in Benidorm, which is plastered with Manhattan-like high-rise towers, that I remembered an earlier road trip this year to the rural west of Ireland in the new Volkswagen Grand California campervan.

The Grand California is the bigger sibling to the California Beach/Ocean models, based on the Volkswagen Transporter, that come with the famous pop-up roof.

The Grand California is loaded with all the latest technology. All interior pictures by Paddy McGrath.

On the outside, the much more spacious Grand California takes its cues from the VW Crafter van – albeit with an additional roofline that’s taller than the bungalow I grew up in.

The tinted side windows, double bicycle rack at the rear and (optional) solar panel that sits above the driver’s cabin, are a clear note that this is no ordinary load lugger.

No, this big bad boy is a home on wheels that, despite its flaws, should give years of enjoyment to families, as long as the children don’t get too big for their boots – sorry, roof.

The Grand California’s amazing interior

On the inside, Volkswagen’s in-house design team has done an amazing job of putting every last detail in place.

This is one of the only campervans that is actually built entirely by the manufacturer themselves and not just supplying a van shell for someone else to kit out, like most other brands do.

From the moment you step inside the side sliding door you can see that this home on wheels has been so well thought out.

The Grand California is fitted with a fridge, two-ring cooker and more storage space than all the Ikea units in my house.

There is a two-ring hob and sink in the Grand California

The biggest difference the Grand California has over the Transporter-based model is that it comes with a wet room complete with shower and toilet.

Elsewhere around the cabin, there is an extremely comfortable double bed at the rear – which can be folded away while you’re driving – with an enormous storage area underneath.

The Grand California with the comfortable double bed at the rear

The sad news is that the other double bed that is built into the roofline and accessed by a ladder is only really good to accommodate very small children – even the two teenagers I had with me on my travels had difficulty getting up and down and had to reverse down the ladder after a night’s slumber.

If I am to be totally honest, I think the pop-up roof in the smaller Beach/Ocean model is much more airy and far less claustrophobic.

The double bed above the cabin is very tight and only really suited for small children

Overall, the Grand California is a superb camper that will give you many years of pleasure.

However, with entry-level prices starting at just shy of €90k, it is not cheap – you could almost buy a home on ‘Cheap Irish Houses’ for less.

The fridge unit and wet-room in the background

I still think I would forfeit the loo and shower for smaller more compact Transporter-based model if I were in the market – and I am in the market.


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