Expecting big things
Over £76,000? For a van conversion? This had better be special. Luckily, the Grand California 680 is!
But, that price is misleading, the demonstrator shown here, for example retails just shy of £88,000, thanks to some attractive but expensive optional extras – that natty two-tone paint job accounts for some £2,868, for example.
The 680 tops the extended offering of California models from Volkswagen and it’s the biggest of the family. Like its Grand California 600 sibling, it’s based on the Crafter (the numbers a direct reference to their respective lengths) – a van that’s one size up from its Transporter, and means Volkswagen, too, can take a step up – from campervans and into the van conversion sector.
That, alone, goes some way to explaining the pricing. For its Grand Californias, the Crafter base comes with the 175bhp engine and eight-speed automatic transmission as standard. VW’s 4motion all-wheel drive, on this example, accounts for a whopping £7,000, but many will consider it an essential for extra safety (on- and off-road) and superior handling.
Build quality sets this vehicle apart. Coming wholly from Volkswagen, as you probably suspected, overall build is very much to car values. Inside, too, there’s evidence of high standards – the extensive plastic mouldings, a smooth furniture finish that’s easy to wipe clean, and a general feel that it’s made to take the knocks that are inevitable when you go camping.
Indeed, this is a world away from the more typical extensive use of carpet linings, wood furniture finish and other soft furnishings you’d associate with most van conversions.
The Grand California 480 is all very practical, too, of course. It’s a proven floorplan – with all seating towards the front (both cab seats swivel to face a rear forward-facing bench with Isofix as standard) for sitting around a sturdy table that attaches to the wall.
There are central kitchen and washroom, and space for a generous fixed double bed for sleeping lengthways at the back.
That bed (it could also be used as two singles) comprises three mattresses on plastic springing. Its maximum dimensions are 1.95m x 1.56m, but there’s a cut-out section at the foot end that makes access easier (although the lack of a step or ladder is a bit of a faux pas).
The bed bases can also fold away should you want to use the whole rear area for transporting tall/bulkier items (anything from bikes up).
The kitchen extends across the sliding doorway. You get a two-burner hob and sink combination with permanent worktop to either side as well as a small pull-out extension on the left.
There’s also a slide-out 70-litre compressor fridge with freezer – its location allowing you to get to it from inside the vehicle or out.
There’s a good choice of kitchen storage in the Grand California 680 too – four drawers with soft-close action, plus a double high-level locker.
Across in the washroom, which is all-plastic lined, there’s sensor-operated lighting, a Thetford swivel-bowl toilet, fold-down soakaway tray (as opposed to a basin) with its outlet on an extending hose so it can be used as a shower (the suction pad to mount it wherever you want is another clever touch).
There’s only a small rooflight for ventilation, but storage is excellent and that large mirror is on a hinge for a choice of locations.
Overall, the Grand Cali has a generous enough starting specification. Truma Combi for heating and hot water, two large sunroofs, two camping chairs and a table for outdoor use – plus an extensive list of neat touches that range from the gas isolator switches behind a flap in the kitchen, to two USB ports next to the rear seat, to the flyscreen for the sliding door, to the bedside switch to operate the central locking, to the simple-to-operate main appliances control panel, to the touch-sensitive strip lights.
Downsides? The sliding door on the UK offside might be a concern for some. You’ll need C1 on your driving licence. And, as said, you’ll still want to top up the price with some very attractive optional extras.
Verdict: Grand approach for a quality van conversion
Plus: Top-drawer build, coachbuilt facilities in a (large) van conversion
Minus: Sliding door UK offside, restricted upper locker space, some weight issues. Costly too.
In-a-nutshell: Hail to the modern ‘van
There’s more information on the Grand California range on the Volkswagen website. Find out more about insuring this or your current campervan on our campervan insurance discounts page.
Alternatives: Hillside Heatherton, IH N-680, Knaus BoxDrive 680 ME
Volkswagen Grand California 680 factfile
|Model||Volkswagen Grand California 680|
|Base vehicle||Volkswagen Crafter|
|Dimensions||6.80m L x 2.04m W x 2.84m H|
|Safety & security||ABS with Electronic Brake Assist, ESP, alarm with immobiliser, cross-wind assist, Driver Alert system, Isofix rear seat, front and rear parking sensors, hill-hold control|
|Key options||Two-tone paint (£2,868), metallic paint (£1,392), ambient lighting (£480), Lights and Vision Pack A (£276), Lights and Vision Pack B (£420), Driver Assistance Pack A (£390), folding door mirrors (£330), rear view camera (£282), headlamp washer system (£336), awning (£960), wi-fi hotspot (£702), solar panels (£1,758), roof-mounted air conditioner £2,148, towbar (from £720)|