I Want the New VW California Camper, but I Can't Have It

Yellow van with elevated camper top parked on the beac


Who needs a big RV when you can travel in tried-and-true style? If only they sold it here.

A lot of people (including me) have a dream of hitting the road and seeing the world, or at least the continent. The Volkswagen camper always seemed to me to be the perfect escape vehicle; it is no larger than a car (smaller in footprint than a lot of American SUVs), yet they pack so much into that box that you can almost live in it. They are magical transformers.

The remarkable thing about the latest California Camper from VW is how little has changed, and yet how much. Everything is more refined, from the pop-up roof down, but it now has the oomph of a diesel that gets excellent mileage (41 miles per gallon), all-wheel drive, decent handling, and some crash-worthiness that was sorely lacking in the old ones.

Interior table folded down in front of van seats

Volkswagen recently took a bunch of them to California to celebrate its 30th birthday and loaned them to car reviewers (alas, not TreeHugger) -- which was pretty mean considering that they are not for sale here, getting all of us excited over something we can't have.

Improved Driving Experience

AutoWeek's Mark Vaughn, who has owned a few vans (including the previous T4 Model), liked it a lot.

The T6 is better than the T4 in almost every way. The most impressive thing? Every window has hidden little blackout screens you can pull down, or up, so the morning sun doesn't blast your eyeballs awake at 0600 hours. The rest of the vehicle is pretty cool, too. Driving it is a breeze. I put about 500 miles on mine over the course of three days and remained just as enthusiastic about it at the end of the three days as I was at the beginning.
Close-up of drawn gray window blind

As one whose worst driving experience ever was in a VW van, this is good to hear. Although to be fair, my experience was in the desert three hours out of Cairo after the windshield blew out, when my wife had to huddle with our one-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son under blankets to avoid being sandblasted. Everyone has VW van stories to tell.

View of storage close inside of van

Features and Amenities

There are some lovely features, including the kitchen that includes a sink, two-burner stove, and a fridge. The bed appears to set up easily, and the pop-up roof is now all automatic and easy. There are an outdoor table and even two lawn chairs stored in the back door. They thought of everything except the toilet, a common but not minor problem, although there are an outdoor shower and a storage closet that looks like it might be big enough to hold a little composter.

Gray VW with with camper top raised, parked on sandy terrain

Dream Camper Van Availability

So why aren't these sold in the USA? Apparently, they have not been through the American safety tests, although they do meet European standards. There is also the problem of cost. With the current exchange rates, it would hit the street at about $110,000. With Trump talk of big tariffs on imported cars, it will only go up, which is a real shame. Christopher McGraw of Autoblog thinks we should all start complaining to VW.

This home away from home has certainly been the most comfortable we've tested, and it can easily be daily-driven, which is something that cannot be said about its competitors. So please, comment, email, Tweet, and Instagram VW. If they hear from enough of us, the next thirty years might feature a California that's available stateside.

I hope it is sooner than that; I would love to hit the road in this. Jason of Jalopnik sure had fun: