2025 VW California Campervan: PHEV, AWD, 2 Sliders, Pop-Top, and We Still Can't Have It (2024)

It’s a campervan with a pop-top roof, two sliding doors and a kitchen, plug-in hybrid power, and all-wheel drive. Of course, you can’t have one. It’s the latest version of the Volkswagen California, and Volkswagen will never actually sell it in California.

The VW California is an iconic campervan, at least in Europe. The California replaced the even more iconic (and occasionally available over here) Volkswagen Westfalia campers, which it sold based on the original Type 2, T3, and T4 vans. They were built from the peace-and-love era through to as late as 2003.

In 2005, VW started selling the T5 Transporter van converted into a camper. VW called it California, and it joined a long line of new vehicles that would never be sold new in the place they were named after.

2025 VW California Gets Bigger

The latest model is called the T7 California, and it is based on the company’s latest Multivan. It is bigger than before, growing 10.6 inches longer and 1.5 inches wider, making it 203.7 inches long overall and 76.4 inches wide.

It’s not the extra size that makes this latest California pop, though. It’s not even the pop-top that does, though getting access to more headroom when parked — thanks to that super-high roof and the extra sleeping space way up high — is pretty great.

No, it’s the extra features that Volkswagen can give this van. The Volkswagen Group uses the same underpinnings to build vehicles ranging from the Audi A3 to the third-generation Tiguan, which is not even on sale yet, and that brings some cool new options.

Diesel, Gas, and PHEV

Volkswagen offers the engines you’d expect to find in a European van. There’s a 147-horsepower four-cylinder turbodiesel and a 201-horsepower gas engine, both of which drive the front wheels.

The one that’s really special, though, is the eHybrid model. It’s a plug-in hybrid model that uses a 1.5L turbo-four and electric motors to make 242 horsepower. Volkswagen didn’t say how far it could go on a charge, but the battery is 13kWh, which should be good for 20-30 miles.

More importantly for van life owners, it should be plenty for a couple of days off the grid — especially when equipped with up to two extra house batteries with the ability to recharge with the gas engine. The PHEV VW California will even tow, up to 4,400 pounds.

Why Is the Volkswagen California So Special?

About 5 years ago, when Volkswagen launched the previous-generation California, I was fortunate enough to be able to drive it. The big difference between it and the North American campervans I was used to was the incredible use of a small space.

From the start, big automaker budgets and integration into the process made for amazing use of space and solid build quality. Hidden cupboards, tables hidden in body panels, and other clever touches separate this campervan from the aftermarket-built units we know and love in North America.

5 Types of VW Van

It looks like Volkswagen has upped its game in this one. There are five versions of the van, with the Coast and Ocean sitting at the top. Both of those get a full kitchen.

The Coast adds a second 40Ah battery (the Beach Tour and Beach Camper have one), a fridge, cabinets, and a sink.

The Ocean has recycled fabric seats, a cabin air heater and climate control system, and a storage box on the roof. The water tank now holds 7 gallons, about a gallon more than last year.

Perhaps most impressively, despite having that side-mount kitchen, both of these vans have sliding doors on both sides. Parts of the kitchen can slide, letting you get in and out. Or they can just offer more airflow to shed heat and cooking smells.

The Beach model is the basic one, but it still gets seats that fold into a bed, the pop-top, rotating front seats, and extra folding chairs. It has sliding doors on both sides, making it easier to get in and out.

California Beach Tour gets a 40Ah auxiliary battery for camping. It has two extra bed spaces and an extra mattress but is still primarily a passenger hauler. The California Beach Camper can take passengers, but it’s meant for camping.

Even though it has sliding doors on both sides, it still has a kitchenette. It’s not as big as the Coast or Ocean models, because it’s located on the back wall instead of the side. It has a single-burner stove, a cutlery drawer, and extra storage space.

All of the vans get a new camper control unit on the passenger C-Pillar. The 5.1-inch screen can control all of the van’s camping functions, or they can be operated from a smartphone app. The integrated controls allow special touches, like letting you turn off all the lights from any of the vehicle’s light switches.

The New California will be on sale soon in Europe, with deliveries starting in the second half of 2024. But this AWD pop-top PHEV will not go on sale in America.

Why Is the 2025 VW California Still Forbidden Fruit?

Why won’t it go on sale here? The same reasons Volkswagen gave me back in 2019 apply today. For one, the van that it is built on isn’t sold here. That means expensive work passing emissions and crash testing rules for a small-volume product.

For another, it’s small. This rig is 204 inches long, but the smallest Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is 233.5 inches. The longest Sprinter is 290 inches. That’s a whole lot more interior space.

The size ties into the final reason, and that’s the price. Pricing for the new model hasn’t been revealed yet, but the last-generation Ocean started from £74,242. Take out tax, convert the currency, and you’re looking at $80,000.

The new model, with AWD and PHEV, will be more expensive. For a smallish Class B, that doesn’t sound unreasonable. But with the added certification costs and up against Sprinter, Transit, and ProMaster-based vans for not a lot more, the automaker said it would not be worthwhile.

Mini Van Life: 5 Best Family-Haulers for Life on the RoadCheck out our top picks for the best minivans that are perfect for life on the road. Yep — minivans. Read more…
2025 VW California Campervan: PHEV, AWD, 2 Sliders, Pop-Top, and We Still Can't Have It (2024)

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