Forbidden Van: We Go On a VW California AWD Camper Adventure [Video]

2018 vw california camper van
2018 VW California camper van

The latest VW California T6 AWD van may be the coolest small camper you cannot buy in the United States, and here is why.

The TFLtruck team (Andre and Nathan) were invited by Volkswagen to head to SoCal and drive the Volkswagen California Camper Van. The Volkswagen California is based on the Volkswagen Transporter that Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles (VWCV) modifies in-house. Our version, the fully loaded Volkswagen California Ocean model, came with a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine that makes 204 horsepower and is mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission.

It also came with Volkswagen’s lauded 4Motion all-wheel drive system that even has a rear locker (for low-speed, low traction situations). This van is a far cry from the somewhat primitive original as it drives like any other minivan, has an excellent sound system and is fairly discrete as to how much camping gear it packs under an innocuous exterior.

1988 vw california van camper
1988 VW California (photo: VW)

Starting back in 1988, Volkswagen sold a (Westfalia-built) van that had a pop-up roof which provided sleeping space for two – or one large person. This original van had provisions for a full kitchen, a two-person bed below and seating for up to seven, depending on the model. It was a rear-engine, rear-drive van that later had an extremely off-road-capable Syncro 4X4 system available as well.

The red 2018 California van you see here is the top of the line Ocean edition that includes a kitchen and an electro-hydraulic powered roof tent. This van goes for around 60,000 Euro in Germany or about $72,000 using a direct currency conversion.

While it is indeed true that Volkswagen will not sell this version of the Volkswagen California in the United States, they wanted to celebrate the vehicle’s 30th anniversary in the place that inspired its name – California. We suspect that Volkswagen wanted to see how Americans react to their vehicle and, possibly, consider the outcome while they are putting their finishing touches on a van we will get, the all-electric Volkswagen I.D. Buzz. Maybe.

In this video, the TFLtruck team goes on an adventure riding horses, camping in the wild, driving through all sorts of different environments and dodging a drone-eating dog. You will also see our team in the most gut wrenching environment of all, waking up without coffee. All this and more as we take on California in a Volkswagen California Camper Van!

Yes – I stayed on the poor horse for over an hour. Yes, I’m sore. No, I do not want to own a horse – ever!

Easily amused by anything with four wheels, Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. Wrecking yards, dealer lots, garages, racetracks, professional automotive testing and automotive journalism - Nathan has experienced a wide range of the automotive spectrum. Brought up in the California car culture and educated in theater, childhood education, film, journalism and history, Nathan now lives with his family in Denver, CO. His words, good humor and video are enjoyed worldwide.