By on August 12, 2018

While the United States seems intent on pushing vans into the work-vehicle category, Europe continues to enjoy them for leisure activities. That’s a shame because there’s a chance some of that interesting van culture would have trickled over the ocean were it not for the chicken tax and unwarranted prejudice.

Volkswagen has several such lifestyle units, with the California being arguably the best in its fleet. Funnily enough, the model isn’t sold in California — nor anywhere else in the U.S. — but a recent update could hint at the direction VW will be taking with the I.D. Buzz. Based on the Transporter and outfitted as a camper van, the California is the true spiritual successor to the microbus. It can certainly trace its linage back to the Type 2 via the Transporter, while its motorhome amenities and optional paint schemes help to finish the job. 

Last last week, VW unveiled the Grand California. Effectively a jumbo-sized version of the original, the model stuffs in more camper-friendly features an the promise of a cross-country adventure. It even comes with a fully functional bathroom, for Christ’s sake.

However, as I was swooning over the German brand’s tribute to that sweet van life, I noticed the press photos featured a shot next to the standard California. It was decked out in a two-tone paint scheme that made me genuinely hopeful that the Buzz wouldn’t be butchered into a completely vanilla family hauler. We’ve seen the concept wearing bright, contrasting hues without any assurance that Volkswagen would stick with it once production time came. But the California seems like a good omen.

Since the California isn’t sold here, the model is usually off my radar. I don’t keep close tabs on it, as there’s no good reason to get worked up over a vehicle I’ll never have the opportunity to own. However, the Buzz is coming to America and it’s supposed to be a passenger van as well as a lifestyle vehicle — just like the Type 2 used to be.

VW has repeatedly mentioned how the MEB platform allows the electrified van to have a totally flat floor. That’s code for “we can fill it with crap.”

What kind of additions can we expect to the cabin? Based on the preview images of the concept, adjustable seats are probably a given and a collapsable table with some unique storage options are also likely. But the Buzz’s smaller size nullifies its ability to become a full-blown mobile home. We don’t expect VW to be chucking in dishwashers or bathrooms. However, the manufacturer (or an aftermarket company) could easily toss a pop top on the e-van for upright standing or improvised sleeping arrangements.

The commercial-airplane interior of the Grand California is a little too ambitious for the Buzz, but it certainly whets the appetite of hungry van enthusiasts. Hopefully, VW does this one right and realizes that the Buzz isn’t getting all this attention just because it’s an electric vehicle. It’s the customizability of the platform and Volkswagen’s promise of fun and adventure that’s getting so many of us excited.

[Images: Volkswagen Group]

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17 Comments on “Dear God, Please Let the I.D. Buzz Copy the Volkswagen California’s Interior...”

  • avatar

    This about the coolest vehicle I’ve seen in 20 years. Which means it will never come here.

    • 0 avatar


      +100, heck, I’d buy one of these just to go visit family, etc. Amazing how much utility that they can build into this product. Please, VW, make an occasional correct decision!

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Posky

      Never fear, there are a handful of conversion van companies that will hook you up in North America. Off Grid Adventure Vans is doing some budget-focused stuff. It has a DIY feel but they still go all out with a bathroom and kitchen area. Meanwhile, Hymer has some exceptionally plush interiors while Airstream has the really big-n-fancy stuff.

      • 0 avatar

        Sure, although you can’t get the van itself (not that the US market isn’t now awash in Euro-style commercial vans). But nothing has the clean design and prestige of a factory Westfalia. Not even an insane Airstream Interstate (which, with its attempt to pack a full-on motorhome into a narrow van body, makes me wonder why Airstream doesn’t just build their own dedicated motorhome body on the MBZ chassis, complete with slideouts—that much money for something that cramped doesn’t compute).

      • 0 avatar

        There still seems to be a bifurcated market for camper vans – either old school, crazy graphics, plaid interiors…..or over the top airstream like overkill. Where are the simple, attractive campers? Makes me want to import something from Europe.

    • 0 avatar

      100% agree.

  • avatar

    I just saw an older example of the smaller one at our local metropark! Why would’t they sell if here? Makes no sense.

  • avatar

    Every once in a while I run into a Westfalia Eurovan, some old ones with the inline 5, and few a bit more recent ones with the VR6 and they look great.

    I suspect that these didn’t sell particularly well in the U.S. because they were so very different from the rest of the VW lineup. At my local VW dealer, they sell lots of Jettas (and a fair number of Golf, Passats, Tiguans and Atlases) fairly cheaply and the buyers seem to be people who would otherwise have bought a Hyundai, Kia or Mitsubishi.

    These probably would sell better through a separate dealer network, one that is dedicated to selling RVs.

  • avatar

    VW does indeed have a weird pricing and positioning spread: at one point you could buy a sad de-contented Jetta for less than a Hyundai or a 10-cylinder turbodiesel Touareg for more than a Range Rover, under the same roof. And yet somehow they made it work, at least on the West Coast, and I think it was a mistake to step back from the high-priced end of the marque. The scarcity of those wackier, pricier models that weren’t kept in the line means that you could have bought a VR6 Eurovan camper new ten years ago, gotten that decade of happy use from it, and sold it for more than you paid. Same deal with the wacky gray-market import stuff like rear-engine crew-cab AWD pickups. Hell, if only for the ability to honestly say that the VW California camper is available in California (home of #vanlife), they should do it: it’s way slicker than the six-figure Sprinter conversions that are thick on the ground here.

  • avatar

    What’s with VW getting all 1990s hoodrat with the zed?
    D Buzz on D Crozz got me shakin Dat Azz.

  • avatar

    We had a ’00 T4 Eurovan full Camper. Eight years, 70K miles, and more memories than you could pack on one memory stick. We bought a Wells Cargo Aluminum Cargo trailer to stow bikes, coolers, etc. The VW had a VR6, so it could tow it like it wasn’t there. It routinely went to the San Juan Islands, played ski bus to Mt. Hood, base station when we went to the beach, and attended more Scout Campouts than I can count.

    A brief moment of silence for the Eurovan Camper.

  • avatar

    Lots of people converting dodge rams and ford whatevers to campers. The well heeled seem to be driving converted Mercedes stuff. VW won’t be giving these away, and the retro one looks like the glass area could use a 6″ extension.

    Me? I’ve got a tent, some gear, and I either rent a car or ride the motorcycle.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    I don’t know. These interiors look great when photographed via a fish-eye filter, but the photo of the two kids on the bunk bed gives me a sense that the vehicle would be fairly claustrophobic inside. In light of the fact that converted ProMasters, Transits, Sprinters, etcetera offer roomier and more practical interior appointments, I feel that the VW would have to be a fantastic deal over those for it to succeed.

    • 0 avatar

      Volkswagen has a range of different size vans. There’s a large version of their transporter called the Crafter that is about the same size as a Transit or Sprinter. It could certainly be converted into a comfortable camper. Of course, VW would have to invest in developing a competitive product and then market, sell and service it.

  • avatar

    These vehicles are good arguments for consistent safety standards across continents. I should be able to special order one of these if VW chose not to directly offer them to dealers, but because of reasons (?), I can’t.

    Can someone enlighten me as to the differences between NCAP standards and those here in the US?

  • avatar

    And the average garage continues to shrink in area and door height. These might make sense for the few that own dedicated RV spaces or those that can afford to store the vehicle when it’s not in use. For everyone else it sits in a driveway or siding, cooking and deteriorating in the sun. Perhaps they might find a market in RV rental services.

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