How camper vans can bring out the hidden explorers in all of us
* It's one way of the great ways of seeing the world, but buying a camper is a lot different to purchasing your regular car
Published 18/11/2015 | 02:30
A camper van is not just a means of transportation. It is a lifestyle choice.
Owning a camper is all about freedom - the ability to go anywhere in your home on wheels - kitchen sink and all.
Even if you have never been bitten by the camping bug, the ability to explore a remote part of the world, then pull over for the night by the side of a mountain or flowing stream appeals to a lot of us.
Choose carefully and you can have a vehicle not only for going on holidays, but one that can double up as everyday transport. With seating for up to five, camper vans are compact enough to take on the school run or into your local supermarket.
Alternatively take out the rear seating and you have yourself a rather useful van.
Volkswagen has captured the camper van zeitgeist more than any other manufacturer. Since the original air-cooled T1 of the early 1950s, VW campers have been the enduring symbol of go-anywhere adventure.
Branded the California since 1988, Volkswagen's motor has been a big success for the company, with more than 50,000 of the most recent T5 version sold worldwide.
Apart from the Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo, which isn't sold directly in Ireland, it's also the only fully factory-built version you can buy; all others are after-market conversions.
A new T6 California has now arrived, and at first glance it looks similar to its predecessor. A range of subtle improvements though add up to a significantly better all-rounder than before.
Notably there are now two versions of the California on sale here: the Coast and Ocean.
Both are fully equipped with kitchen and sleeping quarters, with the most significant difference being the Coast has a manual pop-up rather than automated roof.
A non-kitchen equipped version, the Beach, isn't on sale here largely because the vagaries of our VRT system would make it cost ineffective.
There's now a choice of three EURO6 2.0 TDI engines with power outputs of 102bhp, 150bhp and 204bhp, as well as 4Motion all-wheel-drive versions.
Refinement levels are much improved, particularly with the Ocean model which gets a more premium cabin.
I was going to say that the interior changes are more evolution than revolution but that would be quite an overstatement. Apart from some minor updates such as extra rails and cup holders in the kitchen area, and easier-to-slide bench seat, the T6 California is unchanged from before.
But then if it ain't broke, why fix it? It's a well proven layout, with every square inch cleverly utilised, and has been carefully tried and tested over many years.
Prices for the California Coast start from €48,975, with the California Ocean retailing from €57,855. It may be the only vehicle you'll ever need to unleash the hidden explorer in you.