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Hotel California: Three days in VW’s iconic campervan

Hotel California: We spend three days in VW’s iconic campervan

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The Volkswagen Camper. It’s got to rank up near the top of the most iconic cars ever, hasn’t it? Second only to the Beetle in terms of instantly recognisable VWs, most people’s minds will instantly go to the original – the Type 2 Microbus. But Volkswagen’s keen to remind potential buyers that the California has evolved – and so it invited us for a celebratory road trip around the American state from which it takes its name.

The California name was first used on campers built by famed camping brand Westfalia. Never officially applied to a Type 2 or bay window camper, it first appeared on a T3 camper in 1988.

Westfalia built another on the front-engined T4 platform, then VW itself took over production in 2003. The T5 California was the first to be officially built by Volkswagen in its own specialist facility – just down the road from where the vans themselves are made.


For 2018, the California is based on the latest T6 Transporter, and benefits from all the latest advancements – a car-like cab, retro styling details, and class-leading refinement, driving manners and safety kit.

After a 10-hour flight, we landed at LAX and took ownership of ‘our’ California. While the majority of Californias sold worldwide are diesels, to bring a fleet of Volkswagen oil-burners to the US would be a PR disaster – so our vans were 2.0-litre TSI petrol models, with four-wheel drive and DSG automatic gearboxes.

Powertrain aside, we were glad to be assigned a van in bright red – though sadly not the two-tone retro vibe of some T6 models – with stunning dished chrome wheels. Ours were ‘Ocean’ models, which gain a fully-fitted kitchen unit alongside a sliding rear bench. Cheaper ‘Beach’ models do without cooking facilities, but still retain a pop-up camper roof and space to sleep four.


After a brief tour courtesy of VW’s international press team, we fired up the air-conditioning as protection against the fierce California heat and set off to our first destination – Martin.

Picture ‘surfer dude’ and the chances are you’re visualising Martin. Every day, he parks his fleet of Type 2s on the Venice Beach seafront and offers surfing lessons and board rental to anyone who’s been drawn in by his colourful garage. He’s been here for eight years, and built himself up from living in one of the vans to owning several of them – and retiring every night to a real house.

“The VW van is the icon. It’s the star of TV and film and I think that’s why it’s endured so much,” he told us. “It’s what’s helped my business grow. If you’d told me back then, when I was living in the van and peeing in bottles, that one day I’d own so many, I’d’ve said you were crazy.”


And would Martin indulge in the latest T6 California if VW sold it in the US? “Of course,” he said. “I’d give my left nut to own one of those.”

After departing the beach, we headed to our overnight stop – driving down the iconic Pacific Coast Highway as we did. The T6 California really is remarkably car-like to drive, though a diesel engine would no doubt suit it better. The smooth-shifting DSG, ample power reserves and incredible refinement all made for a painless journey, leaving us plenty of time to admire the scenery.

And as we took in the coastline, the locals took in our vans. Stopping at traffic lights we had no shortage of admiring glances, with drivers often winding down their windows to enquire about the California. “Is that an import?” they asked. “You can’t call it a California if you don’t sell it here. Tell VW that. We want to buy this van.”


Our first overnight stop, with a stunning view of the coast, gave us an opportunity to test the California’s camping features. Building this van from the ground up has allowed VW to use every inch of space within this van, and it’s packed with features. Once you’ve raised the electric pop-top from the neatly integrated control panel and slid the front seats round to face the comfortable rear bench, you can wind out the built-in awning and get comfortable.

A pair of sturdy camping chairs stow away in the tailgate, and a freestanding table sits just inside the sliding door. As for the side kitchen unit, it hides a two-burner gas hob, a sink with running water, a top-loading fridge and bags of storage. Though you’d be hard-pressed to live in here permanently, it’s ideal for a weekend away.

When it comes to sleeping, you’ve got two beds to choose from. The first is ‘downstairs’ in the main cab – it’s a traditional campervan ‘rock’n’roll’ bed, and is easily made up with a few pulls of a lever.


Upstairs is definitely the captain’s quarters, though. The bed inside the rising roof is larger than the one downstairs, sits on a slatted bed base, and offers the best views out courtesy of three zip-up windows.

Though both beds are quite firm, you can quite easily grab a good night’s sleep – though a lack of ventilation at the rear of the van made our first evening uncomfortably hot.

The next day we headed away from the coast and into California’s twisting mountain roads, giving us a good opportunity to evaluate the VW on something other than a smooth freeway. Unsurprisingly, it’s no sports car, but once again it’s the refinement that blew us away. Most third-party built campervans creak, rattle and shiver over all but the smoothest surfaces. The California, built to VW’s exacting specifications in its own factory, is dead silent.

Of course, UK buyers are more likely to spec one of the diesel engines, and we found ourselves wishing that our California was similarly equipped. Though the 2.0-litre TSI petrol is a great engine when fitted to a Golf GTI, it’s simply not suited to lugging around two-plus-tonnes of motorhome. It lacks low-end torque, forcing you to explore the rev range to make any meaningful progress.


The trip computer made for some very depressing reading too – over several hundred miles, we averaged less than 16mpg. That would definitely be tough to stomach on UK shores.

After a night in the California desert, we headed back to Los Angeles – at rush hour – to see how the vans coped in the cut-and-thrust of city traffic. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the excellent DSG auto and decent amount of power kept us ticking over nicely – and despite the big kitchen unit, visibility is still great.

We waved goodbye to ‘our’ California with a pang of regret. Though it was of course pleasant in the 25-degree heat and endless sunshine of the Pacific coast, we’ve no doubt that it would be equally at home on a muddy campsite in Cornwall, with a pan of soup on the hob and a pack of beer in the fridge.

For us, there were only two sticking points. The first is fuel economy – easily remedied in the UK by speccing a diesel engine. The second is purchase price, which is less easy to overcome. Though a basic ‘Beach’ model can be had from around £46,000, the ‘Ocean’ – the true campervan – comes in at more than £56,000, and creative application of the spec sheet can see that rise over £60,000 and beyond. That could pay for quite a few family holidays.

But if you can afford it, if hotels, camping or caravanning doesn’t suit you and if the freedom of a California suits – then you won’t be disappointed.

New limited-run Volkswagen California Edition revealed

Special edition of VW’s iconic camper van limited to 80 units; prices start from £52,985


This is the Volkswagen California Edition – a limited-run version of the brand’s iconic camper van. Just 80 examples will come to the UK, adding styling and equipment upgrades to both Beach and Ocean models.

The Edition features a gloss black roof and door mirrors, exclusive decals and 17-inch alloy wheels with black inlays. The front passenger windows are fitted with heat-insulating glass, while the rear windows and tail-lamps are tinted. There are five exterior paint colours to choose from: Candy White, Cherry Red, Grape Yellow, Indium Grey and Oryx White.

Equipment upgrades include LED headlights, front fog lights with a cornering function, and the firm’s Discover Navigation infotainment system. The six-inch touchscreen comes with a reversing camera and smartphone integration through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A multifunction leather steering wheel, soft-touch dashboard and three-zone climate control are also included.

Both Beach and Ocean models are powered by VW’s 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine – the former gets the 148bhp version, while the latter gets the more powerful 201bhp unit – and both are equipped with a seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox. In addition to the more powerful engine, the Ocean adds an interior fitted with kitchen cupboards and a bed extension, plus a water connection for an outdoor shower.

The Beach Edition is priced from £52,985, and the Ocean Edition costs £65,879. Both models are available to order now with first deliveries due by the end of May.

This Sideways Microbus Out Road Racing Will Reinvigorate Your Entire Being

Race cars are great. Quirky race cars, whether that be by accident or on purpose, are even better. Just look at this sideways Volkswagen Type 2 Microbus camper running around a 24 Hours of LeMons track, made by the same guy who once turned an old police helicopter into a race car.

But it wasn’t actually the Microbus doing the “running” part, just like a 1985 Toyota Van Wagon made the old chopper go. This sideways 1976 Microbus shell, made by LeMons shitbox series legend Speedycop and named the “Trippy Tippy Hippy Van,” is mounted on a 1988 Volkswagen Rabbit and powered by a 1.8-liter GTI engine. Speedycop said the engine makes about 120 horsepower and will go from 0 to 60 in about eight seconds. Its speed caps off at around 100 mph.

Spending 27 Hours in a Volkswagen T3 Syncro Bus

Transporter Syncros are as desirable as T3s get. They can also go where no other VW camper would dare. Seeing one in America is a rare treat.

YouTubeClassic Car Club Manhattan

Volkswagen’s boxy Transporter Syncros were built in limited numbers for the European market from 1985 to 1992. Each came equipped with a four-wheel drive system added by Steyr-Daimler-Puch, the same people who brought you the Mercedes G-Wagen and the Fiat Panda 4×4. Only a handful have made it over to America.

Introduced for 1986, T3 Syncros featured rectangular headlamps, a tachometer, new fabric choices, a more effective air conditioner and a five-speed gearbox, with first being a crawl gear.

A Syncro at the 2017 VW Meet at the Hungaroring

The camper van the Classic Car Club Manhattan just bought from Tampa is powered by a 1.6-liter turbodiesel, producing 69 horsepower on a cold day. That means it will need 27 hours to cover 1200 miles, but that’s okay. It’s well-equipped, full of spare parts, and ready for all sorts of zombie apocalypse. Because yes, fuel economy will be a factor.

Westfalia’s latest Volkswagen camper van literally grows to add foot room

The new VW Crafter has been finding its place in the camper van market, in production campers like the Knaus Boxdrive to wild concepts like Volkswagen’s own California XXL. But there’s no better indication that Volkswagen’s latest full-size van has officially arrived on the camper van scene than a new package from Westfalia, the shop whose name will be forever intertwined with VW camper vans and buses. Westfalia turns the new Crafter into a smart, versatile camper with extendable bed, flexible storage and all the amenities you need to spend some time in nature.

While the second-generation Crafter that underpins the 2018 Sven Hedin is one of the latest vans on the market, the Sven Hedin itself isn’t a new model. In fact, Westfalia has been building it since the 1970s, first on the VW LT, the Crafter’s predecessor, and later on other vans like the Mercedes Sprinter. The new Sven Hedin capitalizes on the Crafter’s impressive suite of driver-assistance technologies while fitting a bedroom, kitchen, indoor bathroom, dining area and plenty of storage inside.

The Crafter is large enough to inspire converters to add a full bathroom, unlike smaller campers in which the closest thing to a bathroom is a storage compartment for a portable toilet. However, it’s not quite large enough to accommodate the bathroom and all the other fixins without a little extra strategy on laying out the interior.

In their respective Crafter campers, Volkswagen and Knaus address bathroom spacing with expandable bathroom compartments that extend out over the kitchen/hall floor space. Each uses a different system, but the idea is the same: grow the bathroom interior while in use, retract it back to free up space when not in use.

While Westfalia places its bathroom in the same place, amidships across from the kitchen, it uses a simpler, smaller fixed layout. A swivel toilet and corner sink help to save space inside the small wet bath, and wall-integrated cubbies hold soap, shampoo and other hygiene staples. A door provides privacy. The Sven Hedin’s bath compartment definitely looks more claustrophobic than the aforementioned expandable baths, but it does beat the other alternative – no indoor bathroom at all.

Westfalia also has its own ideas on how to best provide a comfortable sleeping experience without eating up too much interior floor space. Volkswagen actually extends out the bodywork on its California XXL concept, and Knaus cuts out a central chunk of its bed to add floor space. Both beds are longitudinally mounted, but Westfalia opts to swing the bed into transverse position. In order to provide the full 6.6 feet (2 m) of length that it wants for sleepers, an optional electrically extendable foot panel is added that pushes out the side of the van inside a fiberglass pop-out. This module is insulated, so it presumably keeps all 10 piggies nice and warm (or cool). When the bed’s not in use, the pop-out retracts flush with the van side, maintaining the standard van width and aerodynamics on the road.

The bed is also raised up, creating an empty cargo space below that can be used to load gear or luggage. The rear half of the bed can fold out of the way, too, making room for taller cargo. On the other side of the bed, the step that helps campers climb up doubles as a storage compartment for shoes or slippers.

The kitchen area plays host to the familiar camper van mix of dual-burner stove, sink, countertop and storage drawers. An innovative feature here is a specially designed dual-drawer refrigerator system that offers 70 liters of cold storage, replacing the more common stand-up refrigerator to save space. A high-mounted cabinet over the top of the dinette stores dishes and other serving ware.

The dining/lounge area features a two-seat bench, swivel driver cab seats and a retractable table top in between. This particular dinette does not convert into a bed, meaning that the Sven Hedin sleeps only two people (unless, we suppose, someone doesn’t mind sleeping sitting up in a seat or on the floor).

The Sven Hedin includes a 100 L fresh water tank, 84 L waste water tank and a 4.8-kW hot water heater that heats the interior and also delivers hot water at the tap. A 92 Ah AGM battery powers onboard equipment like the touch-operated LED lighting.

The base Sven Hedin relies on Volkswagen’s 101-hp 2.0-liter TDI engine and six-speed manual to power the front wheels. Westfalia does not list a 4Motion option, but it does offer the eight-speed automatic transmission and larger engine options up to a 174-hp TDI.

Standard vehicle equipment includes a radio with TFT display and Bluetooth, a remote-controlled locking system, an engine start-stop system with brake recuperation, and various assistive technologies like crosswind assistance and brake assist. Available options include heated front seats, added driver-assistance features like lane keeping and ParkPilot, and an infotainment/nav system with 8-in touchscreen.

Westfalia has created a fully equipped camper van out of the Volkswagen Crafter

Westfalia presented the Sven Hedin at the Düsseldorf Caravan Salon and gave it a UK premiere at last week’s Motorhome & Caravan Show. The camper van starts at €59,990/£59,100 (approx. US$70K based on euro conversion) when equipped with the 101-hp engine and six-speed manual. Options like the extendable bed with pop-out, second AGM battery and outdoor shower are available at extra cost. For more pricing details, you can check out the price lists on Westfalia’s downloads page.

Nvidia to power gesture controls and self-driving tech in VW’s electric Kombi

The way things are going, Nvidia stands to play a pretty big role in the future of self-driving cars. Its AI chips are already the driving force behind autonomous systems for Tesla, Audi and Toyota, and today it has added a couple more transportation powerhouses to its clientele, in the form of Volkswagen and Uber.

Interior of Volkswagen's forthcoming I.D. Buzz van, which will feature Nvidia tech to power its autonomous...

Interior of Volkswagen’s forthcoming I.D. Buzz van, which will feature Nvidia tech to power its autonomous systems


Volkswagen finally gave the go-ahead on the electrified Kombi van back in August, with plans to begin selling a modified production version in 2022. Dubbed the I.D. Buzz, it will start with level three self-driving capabilities, but the German automaker is hoping to achieve full autonomy by 2025.

At the heart of that, it was announced today at CES, will be Nvidia’s DRIVE IX Technology. The company bills this as not just self-driving hardware and software that relies on data from internal and external sensors to navigate through traffic, but as a kind of artificially intelligent co-pilot.

Interior of Volkswagen's forthcoming I.D. Buzz van, which will feature Nvidia tech to power its autonomous...

This means using deep learning networks to track the head movements of the driver to detect distractions and have conversations with them using speech recognition and lip-reading. It will also allow for owners to unlock the vehicle through facial recognition and control in-car settings with their gestures. Nvidia says these kinds of capabilities will be improved through software updates over time.

“In just a few years, every new vehicle should have AI assistants for voice, gesture and facial recognition as well as augmented reality,” says Nvidia founder and CEO Jensen Huang. “Working with Volkswagen, we are creating a new generation of cars that are safer, more enjoyable to ride in than anything that has come before, and accessible to everyone.”


Also signing on to make use of Nvidia’s AI systems is Uber, which plans to place it at the center of its self-driving car and truck fleets. Uber has been making steady progress on its autonomous vehicle aspirations, with its Otto self-driving big rig delivering 50,000 cans of Budweiser in 2016 and Volvo recently agreeing to sell it 24,000 XC90 premium SUVs. These Volvos will be purpose-built to accommodate Uber’s own self-driving tech sometime between 2019 and 2021, with the XC90s used in the company’s trials so far already incorporating more basic Nvidia processors.

“Developing safe, reliable autonomous vehicles requires sophisticated AI software and a high-performance GPU computing engine in the vehicle,” says Eric Meyhofer, head of Uber Advanced Technologies Group. “NVIDIA is a key technology provider to Uber as we bring scalable self-driving cars and trucks to market.”

Source: Volkswagen, Nvidia

When did vintage buses get so expensive??


While you were buying $30 holiday gifts last month, a Volkswagen Bus sold for more than a new Porsche 911 Turbo S.

Last month, RM Sotheby’s sold a 1960 Volkswagen 23-Window Microbus for $207,200. That’s not a typo – this vintage VW was hammered home during the Icons auction held December 6 in New York with a selling price more in line with modern Italian supercars.

Being armchair observers in the world of classic autos, we know these old buses have a storied history and are supported by a seriously devoted following. We also know they’ve been steadily creeping up in value for some time now. The thing is, these aren’t quite on the radar for many auto buffs, so we suspect there are many people like us wondering when – and how – a first-generation Volkswagen Type 2 Microbus ascended into the realm of six-figure collectible cars.

Other VW Microbus features:

To find out, we dialed up a couple experts on the matter – one from the auction world and one from the enthusiast realm – so we may better understand the bonkers phenomenon that is the vintage VW hippie bus.

“A 23-window Volkswagen is as iconic as a 1965 Mustang Convertible, or a Mercedes Gullwing,” said Gord Duff, global head of auctions for RM Sotheby’s in an interview with “It’s one of those things that relates to any age, and to any level of collector. It appeals to someone that only ever wanted a 23-window bus, or to the type of collector that has Ferraris, vintage American cars; a wide range classic, iconic vehicles.”

1960 VW 23-Window Microbus
1960 VW 23-Window Microbus
1960 VW 23-Window Microbus
1960 VW 23-Window Microbus

Or course, there’s more to a $207,200 sale price than just an iconic status. Duff explained that a perfect storm of features, restoration quality, and venue played into the sale of this 1960 Microbus. He also noted that color combination makes a big difference, saying that the right shades can add as much as 20 percent to the value. On the flip side, he said having the same van with 21 windows can drop the value by half. That’s still $100,000, which isn’t exactly cheap.

Now that we better understand the why, let’s take a look at when. For that, Duff points to the pre-financial crash world of 2007-2008 as the take-off point, which is roughly the same timeframe identified by VW guru Adam Hurlburt. Aside from being a proper motoring fanatic and journalist, Hurlburt actually lives the VW bus lifestyle with his own first-generation ride – a 1965 Riviera camper.

1960 VW 23-Window Microbus
1960 VW 23-Window Microbus

“Split-window price hikes began in the early 2000s,” he explained. “Before then then you could nab a clean 23-window for $10,000 or less. In the 1990s you could buy one off a street corner for as low as $500. Boomer nostalgia really drove prices up, much like it did with muscle car values.”

Since then, several vintage busses have eclipsed the $200,000 mark at auctions. In 2011, Barrett-Jackson sold a restored 1963 23-window for $217,800. Just last year, a 1965 21-window bus actually topped $300,000 at Barrett-Jackson, though with a tweaked engine, custom interior, and 17-inch wheels, it wasn’t entirely stock.

Will the prices go up from here? Trends are suggesting the top-dollar buses are stable, but that doesn’t mean other models might not inch up. Hurlburt bought his 1965 Riveria for $5,000 back in 2010 and feels he could get at least $22,000 for it now, but both Hurlburt and Duff say the first-generation 23-window models are where the really big money will likely stay.

Who knew that one of the biggest symbols of the 1960s would become such a high-dollar collectible? For now, anyway.

Source: RM Sotheby’s, Adam Hurlburt

Photos courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

1960 Volkwagen Deluxe 23-Window Microbus

The incredible story of how one British officer turned Volkswagen from dilapidated Nazi car company into Europe’s biggest motor firm

In 1945, major Ivan Hirst convinced the British Army to rebuild the bomb-battered VW factory in Wolfsburg and by the following year the plant was producing 1,000 cars every month

EUROPE’s biggest car giant Volkswagen is a byword for reliability and strength – however its dark past has more than a few bumps in the road.

After being started by Adolf Hitler in 1937 as a scheme to give ordinary Germans an affordable family car, VW quickly became part of the Nazi war machine.

 Major Ivan Hirst, pictured right, at the factory in Wolfsburg in 1946. The British officer helped to rescue and transform the company

Rex Features
Major Ivan Hirst, pictured right, at the factory in Wolfsburg in 1946. The British officer helped to rescue and transform the company

But out of the ashes of war, British army major Ivan Hirst rescued the plant from being dismantled and helped transform the company into what is now the world’s second biggest car maker behind Toyota.

When was Volkswagen set up by the Nazis?

Created by the Nazi trades union organisation in 1937, the company was named Volkswagenwerk GmbH in 1938 and had a factory built in the city of KdF-Stadt, now Wolfsburg.

Hitler demanded that Germany’s “people’s car” should carry two adults and three children and would cost no more than a motorcycle.

Designed by Ferdinand Porsche, the car had an air-cooled rear engine and was encased in a “beetle-style” shape – a design which eventually became synonymous with the swinging sixties.

 Adolf Hitler admires a model of the Volkswagen car along with the designer Ferdinand Porsche, left, pictured with his arm out stretched

Hulton Archive – Getty
Adolf Hitler admires a model of the Volkswagen car along with the designer Ferdinand Porsche, left, pictured with his arm out stretched
 Foundation stone for the Volkswagen factory on Adolf Hitler's 50th birthday

Getty – Contributor
Foundation stone for the Volkswagen factory on Adolf Hitler’s 50th birthday
 A Russian slave labourer pictured in 1942 at the Volkswagen plant

A Russian slave labourer pictured in 1942 at the Volkswagen plant

Despite over 300,000 Germans signing up to a scheme in which they could buy the car through monthly savings, very few vehicles are actually produced before the outbreak of World War II.

During the conflict, the firm became a supplier for the Nazi army using 15,000 slave labourers shipped in from concentration camps.

How was the Volkswagen transformed following WWII?

After the bomb-battered factory came under the control of the British military in May 1945, the plant was set to be dismantled with parts being sold for war reparations.

But, the firm was rescued by 29-year-old Major Ivan Hirst, who had a background in watch and clock manufacturing, who convinced his superiors of the potential of the factory and the beetle’s unique design.

 The bombed out factory after the war. However, much of the machinery was stored in outer buildings and was not damaged

Rex Features
The bombed out factory after the war. However, much of the machinery was stored in outer buildings and was not damaged
 An early picture of the factory after it was rebuilt by the British army

Hulton Archive – Getty
An early picture of the factory after it was rebuilt by the British army
 Workers on the production line at the Volkswagen factory at Wolfsburg in 1949

Getty – Contributor
Workers on the production line at the Volkswagen factory at Wolfsburg in 1949
 The first Beetles made in the newly established West Germany in 1945

Getty – Contributor
The first Beetles made in the newly established West Germany in 1945

And while the plant itself had been heavily damaged, and looted by US and Russian soldiers, much of the machinery remained intact in numerous outbuildings.

Along with partner Colonel Charles Radclyffe, Hirst rebranded the company as Volkswagen.

The British Army placed an order in September 1945 for more than 20,000 green Type 1 Beetles to assist with the running of post-war Germany.

And by 1946, VW was producing 1,000 cars per month.

The Beetle has since become a classic and one of the biggest selling cars ever with more than 20million produced.

Who was major Ivan Hirst?

Hirst was born to a family of watch and clock manufacturers in Saddleworth, Yorkshire in 1916.

After attending Hulme Grammar School in Oldham, he studied optical engineering at the University of Manchester before setting up his own optical repair firm.

While at uni he was a member of the Officers’ Training Corps contingent and eventually became a lieutenant in the Territorial Army in 1937.

After joining the war effort in 1939, Hirst became a Mechanical Engineering Officer in 1941 and eventually joined the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.

After the D-Day landing, he was in charge of tank repairs for the British Army in Belgium.

The Goodwood Test: Volkswagen Transporter California Ocean

The Goodwood Test: Volkswagen California Ocean

VW’s California XXL, an amazing camper van that needs to come to the US

I was alerted to this rather awesome-looking Volkswagen California XXL camper van by our policy editor and chief Ars van aficionado David Kravets. Based on the VW Crafter, this is a 21st-century descendent of the iconic VW bus (aka the Bulli/Camper/Kombi/Transporter/Type 2). It’s also perhaps the ultimate expression of car camping, short of one of those Russian things that are a spinoff of the armored personnel carrier.

Under the hood is a Euro 6-compliant TDI engine, pneumatic suspension, and a Haldex all-wheel drive system, but that’s pretty boring compared to the rest of this tricked-out ride. For one thing, the rear section has been stretched to provide room for a proper-sized bed, big enough for two adults to sleep comfortably.

In addition to the big bed upstairs, there’s another sleeping area at the back for smaller humans, and both areas feature heating and cooling (presumably just like the seats). Oh, and did I mention the van uses underfloor heating for all-year appeal?

And when they’re awake, the California XXL is tall enough inside to stand up, with 7.2 feet (2.2m) of head room, beneath a massive panoramic roof for watching the skies. But wait, there’s more. Putting a small kitchen in a VW camper is old news, as people have done that since the 1960s, but this one includes two gas burners that retract down into the aluminum work surface at the push of a button, not one but two fridges, and an integrated espresso machine.

Perhaps more impressive than the kitchen, this one also features a pull-out wet room that includes a toilet and shower—complete with rainfall shower head. When not in use, the wet room compacts down behind a door. And for those times when the great outdoors gets a little boring (or clouds make star watching impossible) there’s a built-in LCD projector that you can control (along with just about everything else on this ultimate tourer) via a mobile app.

“That is by far the sweetest VW I’ve ever seen,” Eurovanophile David Kravets told me on Ars Slack this morning. Sadly for David and anyone else in the US who thinks this thing would be ideal for driving vacations, VW has no plans to bring any of its commercial line of vehicles here to the US, despite a Facebook petition with more than 5,500 followers.