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Volkswagen’s New California Camper Van Is Almost Perfect Except for One Thing

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After two decades, the iconic camper van is more spectacular than ever. But there’s a reason I won’t buy one.


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Since its introduction in 2003, the Volkswagen California has been one of the bestselling and most iconic camper vans in the world. But after more than two decades on the road, the vehicle was getting a bit long in the tooth and was in need of a major overhaul. Today, that reboot has arrived in the form of the 2025 Volkswagen New California. (Yes, that’s the model name. Remember the New Beetle?)

VW is calling the New California its most innovative version of the camper van yet, and it’s hard to argue that point. Five trims, all with a pop-up roof, dual sliding doors and the option of a plug-in hybrid, all-wheel drive powertrain, put the new model head and shoulders above its predecessors.

So, what’s the problem?

The VW New California Is Not Coming to the U.S.

Get a good look now; the New California won’t be sold anywhere near California. Volkswagen

The California continues to be the most cruelly named vehicle in existence. While its freewheeling spirit and suite of adventure-ready features would make it the perfect vessel for a lengthy road trip down the California coast, the camper van remains unavailable in its namesake state.

No VW California has ever been sold in the United States, and that trend is unfortunately going to continue with the New California. Why do you hate us, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles? Is it the cargo shorts? They can carry so much stuff!

With That Ugliness Out of the Way, Here Are Some Specs

If you are reading this as someone living outside the U.S. or are otherwise planning to become an expat depending on the outcome of this fall’s election, listen up. The New California is stacked in terms of what it offers as both standard and additional equipment, with basically all of it maximized to help owners get the most out of their camper van. Here’s a non-comprehensive rundown of the most exciting features.

Five Trims

The Coast and Ocean trims include a full kitchenette featuring a gas burner and wet sink.Volkswagen

Beach: The entry-level model that is essentially a standard multivan with a pop-up roof tent.

Beach Tour: Introduces more camping features, like foldable seats and an included mattress.

Beach Camper: A more traditional camper van, with a 230-volt shore power connection mini kitchen including a single gas burner.

Coast: Includes a full kitchenette complete with a sink and fridge, a fold-out bed and a second camper van battery.

Ocean: The top-line trim has everything the Coast has but is more luxurious while also boasting additional storage and features.

Pop-up Roof

The pop-up roof has long been a key aspect of the California’s design, so naturally it was going to make its way to the New California. It’s available on all five trims and features three windows, one on the front and two on the sides, along with a huge front opening. All windows include mosquito nets. The roof includes lighting in all trims but the entry-level Beach.

Sliding Doors and Individual Seats

Pairing the optional right and left awnings with the dual sliding doors allows you to create an impressive basecamp. Volkswagen

The last generation of the California only featured a sliding door on the passenger side. The New California gets sliding doors on both sides of the vehicle, making it easier to load and unload your gear. You can even order an optional awning for one or both sides to create a sort of shaded basecamp with “terraces” on either side.

Additionally, the rear bench seat of the previous generation has been jettisoned in favor of removable individual seats that give you more room to store bikes or other unwieldy gear securely inside the van instead of mounting them to the outside. Both the dual sliding doors and individual seats come standard on all trims.

A Nifty Control Unit

Every model of the New California, save for the Beach, includes a new 5-inch digital touchscreen control pad integrated into the passenger side C-pillar. This control center allows you to check the status of things like your fresh and waste water levels and power supply, and control the lighting, climate and more. These functions can also be accessed via an app in the dashboard’s infotainment center or on your smartphone.

The control center includes a dedicated “Camping Mode” feature that automatically will deactivate the vehicle’s “Coming Home” and “Leaving Home” functions.Volkswagen


Three powertrains are available on all five trims of the New California: Front-wheel drive systems powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder engine running on gas or diesel, or, most interestingly, a plug-in hybrid powerplant mated to VW’s 4MOTION all-wheel drive system. It’s the first vehicle on VW’s MQB to combine a PHEV system with AWD, and it provides the New California with a towing capacity of 4,409 lbs.

Availability and Pricing

As stated already, the New California will not be heading to American shores, and there is no pricing information as of yet. But the camper van will go on sale this June in European markets, with deliveries expected in the latter half of this year.


2025 Volkswagen New California

The next generation of VW’s iconic camper van is a seriously impressive turnkey vehicle with a pop-up roof tent, dual sliding doors and integrated kitchens (on some trims) all standard.



Plug-in hybrid 1.5L turbocharged i4; all-wheel drive




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