While the United States seems intent on pushing vans into the work-vehicle category, Europe continues to enjoy them for leisure items. 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 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 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, since there’s no 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 worked up.
[Images: Volkswagen Group]