As the ongoing Dieselgate fall-out continues to sully VW’s reputation – especially in the US – the latest conceptual reprise of its famous and popular camper van in full-electric guise was a good attempt to change the media narrative.
Yes, we’ve been here before – hello Microbus (2001), Bulli (2011) and Budd-e (2016) – but the I.D. Buzz is a smart iteration. Its architecture is a longer version of that used for the small five-door I.D. concept seen at the 2016 Paris motorshow, but the eight-seater package on top is suitably larger. How much larger? Interior designer Thorsten Richter says: “The exterior is the same size as the VW T6 [Transporter] but inside, since we were able to move the dashboard up front by 150mm as there is no combustion engine, the space inside is like the extended T. It’s a spacious feeling.”
Clearly product-design inspired, chrome is out and pop colours and simple surfaces are in, but with the help of good ambient lighting. Richter continues: “The main thing was to carry over the emotion from these very sympathetic products [from the past] but with a pure Bauhaus design. We wanted to know what the luxury of the future would be, and know it’s not chrome any more, so we replaced chrome with light inside. This has intelligent functions too, as it tells you whether you’re in manual or autonomous mode.”
One detail that wasn't very Bauhaus was the tiny gnome statue levitating just above the dash top. Richter concedes as much: “People used to take personal belongings into the car to make it theirs, and this is a reference to that.”
Fair enough, the gnome got loads of attention, and in combination with strong proportions, clean exterior details and strong colour and trim options, plus a Mini brand-style show stand vibe with a DJ playing pleasant uptempo house, you could almost forget about that nasty emissions scandal. If Volkswagen makes the I.D. Buzz, to a ‘level four’ autonomous drive mode – which basically means no human input required in most situations – and with a real 270-mile range with zero emissions at the tailpipe, perhaps the public might even forgive it.
Richter smiles when I ask about the I.D. Buzz’s production chances after so many previous false dawns, but leaves the door of hope open: “Since we said this car is autonomous, and one of our bosses said that will come for us in 2022, you can guess [what it would be]… if we make it.”