I assume the issue is that we’ve all turn out to be, in our heads, American. We’ve turn out to be so subsumed into the Sky Atlantic/Netflix/Amazon High tradition that we think ourselves to be a minimum of honorary Yankees, and so we have a tendency to view our international thru an American prism. Our automobiles have turn out to be greater and extra sumptuous, and automated gearboxes are gaining in recognition. Our espresso cups are all Venti, and our burger parts are actually XXL as same old. Because of this, so too are our shirts.

Therefore it used to be that after introduced the danger to check out out Volkswagen’s new Grand California, my ideas grew to become right away to the solar dappling throughout my ripped abs because the comfortable Pacific breeze tousles my lengthy, blonde hair. Any other day’s browsing finished, I will now calm down in my Vee-Dub camper, a chilly one in my hand, and the beautiful sundown mere moments away.

I had forgotten, it appears, that we in reality continue to exist a moist, mossy rock protruding of the North Atlantic, and that reports to be discovered right here when hauling your house on vacation are much more likely to be comparable to Father Ted than to Level Ruin. Nonetheless, I used to be sport. So too used to be my circle of relatives, and so it used to be that we loaded up the Volkswagen Grand California and headed camping-sitewards.

The entirety is going slightly slower however that’s ok as a result of what’s the panic?

The Grand California is, as you could be expecting, a VW van that’s been become a cellular house on wheels. It’s now not, even though, the rather compact Transporter van that paperwork the root for the “commonplace” California style, however in reality a miles greater Crafter van with a loft conversion. There’s an enormous protuberance above the entrance finish that one colleague, appropriately, reckoned appears a little like an Airbus Beluga shipment plane, the only with the distended brow.

In fact, delivery plane appears to be a beautiful excellent metaphor for the way the Grand California drives. Should you’ve ever observed in-cockpit photos of anyone piloting, say, a Boeing C-17 Globemaster, they sit down upright, in entrance of an enormous windscreen, and leap round quite in rhythm with the boiling air currents that batter the plane. As a substitute of the fast, darting actions of a fighter pilot, they use lengthy, lazy keep watch over inputs, leaning gently into the aircraft’s motions.


That’s on the subject of the way it feels to power a Grand California. You sway, gently, for your seat in conjunction with the frame’s actions, and there’s no level in speeding the steerage, nor the braking. The entirety is going slightly slower however that’s ok as a result of what’s the panic? You will have your beds with you, finally.

You even have, erm, amenities. The additional measurement of the Grand California signifies that there’s room for a small bathroom and bathe room. Now, that is in fact a chemical bathroom, so the waste is going right into a small, suitcase-sized tank underneath the car which you – and it’ll inevitably be you – need to unlatch and deliver down, like the arena’s maximum malodorous carry-on, to the campsite’s sluice space. Then you empty it, which comes to a legitimate that I will best transcribe as “blork”. because the contents come tumbling out. In all probability you turn out to be hardened, over years of devoted caravanning, to this. Judging by way of my dry heaves, I’ve now not but hardened. It additionally signifies that your tenting go back and forth mainly turns into 48 hours of repeatedly screaming “NUMBER ONES ONLY!!!!!” at your kids.

There’s something deeply attractive concerning the California’s inside. Arrange the foldaway desk, stuff the quite a lot of cabinets and drawers with meals, blankets, and utensils, and swivel the entrance seats round and you’ve got relatively the comfortable and relaxed dwelling house. You’ll cook dinner up some sausages at the two-burner gasoline hob, after which do the washing-up within the bijou sink-ette. There’s additionally one thing reasonably pretty about the way in which the whole lot folds away and has its position. Beautiful, this is, till your eldest comes to a decision that he’s advanced a “machine” for the place the whole lot is going. A “machine” that he has now not totally defined to you and so that you spend an hour – a complete hour – on the lookout for the bread rolls that compliment the impulsively congealing sausages till you find that they’re now not in one of the vital neat cabinets, however as a substitute have turn out to be hid underneath a carelessly stashed pillow.

I didn’t get a lot sleep. I did see some Perseid meteors, even though, so there’s that

Nonetheless, with the neat folding desk and deckchairs got rid of from their stowage within the rear doorways, the solar taking place, and a sneaky bottle of Malbec uncorked, the tenting factor used to be beginning to seem like a excellent choice. The children had been even toasting marshmallows for s’mores at the gasoline ring. It’s even reasonable to tax – regardless of the 191g/km CO2 ranking, camper vehicles revel in a flat-rate annual tax of simply €102. Inexpensive than a Prius . . .

Upstairs bunk

Till bedtime. With the bigger double mattress in the back of the California already spoken for, I used to be consigned to the upstairs bunk. This double mattress, which sits above the driving force’s cab, within the Airbus bulge, folds out and, in planform, is quite roomy. No doubt, the 10-year-old (who’s nonetheless helpfully compact) and I had enough space on the subject of width. On the subject of duration and intensity, even though, I used to be in hassle. I couldn’t relatively stretch out my legs, as my toes would jam towards the entrance bulkhead. I couldn’t roll over simply as the peak between the mattress and the interior of the roof used to be too shallow. In truth, a few instances, to check out to get relaxed, I in reality needed to open the skylight, without delay above the mattress, and poke my head and higher torso out to show round. Suffice to mention, I didn’t get a lot sleep. I did see some Perseid meteors, even though, so there’s that.

Through morning, I used to be drained and cranky, and the interior of the van used to be an utter mess, with discarded garments, empty tea mugs, half-eaten packets of marshmallows, and sneakers. Getting dressed used to be an workout in surrendering dignity. The usage of the bathroom doubly so.

It’s now not that I will not see the enchantment, nor that the California isn’t an excellent car. It’s now not reasonable – our check model ran to €88,000 – however then it’s, necessarily, a two-bedroom rental with ensuite and comfort German fixtures and fittings, so in finding me a type of that’s mounted to the bottom for much less money. There’s additionally the deep and abiding pleasure of, as soon as the whole lot’s stowed appropriately away (in keeping with the Boy’s machine) of heading out at the street once more, to the inevitable traces of Willie Nelson, and now not actually being too afflicted about the place you cross, as a result of you could have all you wish to have with you.

Tenting, even though? In Eire? Put out of your mind it. Too damp, too crowded, and I will’t surf. There’s a reason we invented the resort.

Lowdown: Volkswagen Grand California 600

Energy: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel hanging out 177hp and 410Nm of torque with a DSG automated transmission and front-wheel power
CO2 emissions (annual motor tax): 191g/km (€102)
L/100km (mpg): 9.7 (29.0)
0-100km/h: No legitimate determine given
Worth: €88,325 as examined (Grand California begins at €76,975)
Verdict: As a car, it’s vastly completed and brilliantly designed. However you wish to have to be in exact California to get the most efficient from it

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