An update for the iconic Volkswagen camper

The Type 2 was loved by Sixties surfers and hipsters

Think campervans and the iconic Volkswagen Type 2 will immediately spring to mind as the father of the genre. Beginning life as a van in 1950 it evolved into the ‘Microbus’ popular with hippies and those following the 1960s counter-culture. From surfers and musicians to adventurous families, the first ever minivan quickly gained cult status. Most recently TV chef Jamie Oliver toured southern Europe in a 1959 Volkswagen Samba with 23 windows and a Porsche engine.

With such a rich heritage in campervans in mind, Volkswagen have made updates to the modern equivalent of the Type 2 named the California.

The world debut of the new California will be at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September, but Caravan Times has obtained the first pictures ahead of the launch.

Just as the Type 2 began life as a van before evolving into an iconic camping vehicle, the California is also based on a commercial vehicle. Identical in shape and design to the seven-seater T5 multivan it builds on this platform through offering a battery of equipment for campers.

At first glance the external changes to the California are subtle, more evolution than revolution. New rear light clusters and an entirely new front use the latest Volkswagen design language seen recently in the new Polo and Golf. Sleeker door mirrors and a lashing of chrome trim dress the package. Otherwise it’s business as usual for the California.

The main changes however are under the bodywork. An all-new ESP (Electronic Stabilisation Program) is standard, alongside a very useful hill-start assist. Safety is emphasised in the new range: an emergency brake light system is introduced, along with a tyre monitor display to alert driver to any loss in pressure.

A welcome addition is Volkswagen’s Side Assist lane change system first seen in the Touareg off-roader. This warns the driver of anything in the vehicle’s blind spot.

The interior has been updated to reflect the new style of the passenger car range. In comes three-spoke steering wheels, shiny new instruments and a nifty ‘recommended gear shift’ display for slick shifting.

Touchscreen satellite navigation is also available, with a USB media-interface on offer for integration with external sources.

Last but not least Volkswagen will be offering for the first time their 4MOTION all-wheel drive system (featuring fourth generation Haldex coupling). Also introduced will be the seven-speed DSG automatic transmission which will be married to a new range of cleaner, more efficient engines. All are 2.0 litre TDI diesels with four options from 84PS to a powerful 180PS.

At this stage in time Caravan Times was unable to obtain prices and full specifications for the new California range. However we were told new models will arrive in selected Volkswagen Van Centres from January 2010.