While Volkswagen was, of course, keenly promoting the T-Roc compact SUV and sixth-generation Polo supermini in Frankfurt, both those cars are very much of the here-and-now: the I.D. family of electric vehicles, however, is growing, coming closer to production fruition, and developing its own distinct design identity.
“From the side view, we completely change the proportions compared to any combustion car,” says Marco Pavone, Volkswagen’s new head of exterior design (who has stepped into the role vacated by Oliver Stefani, now design director at Škoda). “Because obviously, we don’t have an engine there at the front – so we have a chance to change the whole thing. We moved the A-post forward so you have less bonnet, more cabin-size: this means that with a certain footprint, we offer a lot more space to occupants.”
“Then having changed the overall proportion, so you have a different side view approach, we move the wheels to the corners; you have a bigger wheel size, the car [I.D. Crozz] has up to a 21-inch wheel size, 750mm diameter. It’s really massive, it guarantees a really nice stance. So the car has shorter overhangs, because it has no engine at the front. It’s really compact, with a lot of room, a long wheelbase, and a nice roomy effect.
“So then, having set up these different proportions from the combustion cars, we start playing with the overall surface treatments,” Pavone continues. “We start dividing the height, the length and so on, and in all the e-cars that we have here on the stage [I.D. Concept, I.D. Buzz, I.D. Crozz] we have what we call this ‘one-line’ design that surrounds the whole body. Especially on the I.D. Crozz, we have this shoulder-line that goes up to the rear wheel arch and surrounds the whole front, circling the whole car.
“We have a soft surface treatment, we have a sculptured body side, we emphasise the wheel arches, and we have also, for instance, the roof in black, the roof rail [frame] in aluminium. It’s like DNA from our e-cars that we have been doing – and on top of that, for instance on the front end, we don’t have an upper grille any more, as we don’t have an engine there. We don’t need so much air intake, so we have a really clean upper mask, we have the logo illuminated, and our air intake is on the lower part.
“That’s all we have; so a really clean face and charismatic design, friendly, not aggressive at all although it’s really sporty. It’s easy to be recognised from far away, it’s pretty unique. We have the same kind of philosophy on the I.D. Buzz, on the original I.D., and then on the I.D. Crozz.”
The I.D. Crozz, a fastback compact crossover, was first seen at the Shanghai motor show earlier this year, and has since been confirmed for production in 2020. The car on display in Frankfurt has been updated to reflect this: “we have changed the front a little bit, we have reset some of the little things,” says Pavone.
“We made the front a little sportier, we have changed the graphic design on the headlights – slightly more focusing the eyes, the headlight design – [and] we have changed the tail-light graphic, a few things on the rear bumper, and the wheel design is also different.” The Frankfurt car has also had a paint job; bright red (“a bit more emotional”) replaces the Shanghai car’s rather dull silver-grey.
Where the I.D. cars differ the most from Volkswagen’s mainstream production range, however, is in their interiors: much more open-plan and minimal, as enabled by the electric ‘MEB’ platform, and trimmed in a lighter, softer and more homely way. “It was really important to show it [the differentiation] in the surfaces and the treatment, and on the feeling of the interior,” explains head of interior design Tomasz Bachorski.
“It’s complicated enough outside; we want to have a really easy interior with nice materials, connectivity, all the [digital] stuff at home you can bring into the car, and you don’t need to learn another language to control the car – this was really important. And in the MEB, I.D. family, we changed completely the interior design language; it’s more from the furniture world, less typical car design.”
This design language is subtly evolved between the different vehicles in the family, nonetheless. While the I.D. Buzz is playful – Bachorski refers to the IP-mounted Buddha figurine in the show car and says that this indicates “you can be a little bit ironic, but empathic, you can laugh about yourself a little bit” – the I.D. Crozz “is more like a modern tool, a modern gadget.”
“Today, when you look at [for example] speaker boxes like some by Apple, you don’t even see that it’s a speaker, it’s a sculpture with the best, fantastic technology inside: this same kind of feeling was important for us in the car. We supported that with the ambient light, we have completely different treatment of the surfaces, we don’t have the decoration elements, separate panels, because we have more feeling and structure in the plane surfaces – this different kind of style.”
“You can see as well in the I.D. Crozz, on the dash we have this fabric,” Bachorski adds. “The fabric has a flip effect, depending on the light, it changes colour. Today, when you go for leather, you have leather for always, but this car changes character – at night, in daylight – and this is important to us for the next generation, to play with different materials and colours as well.”
He is wary of gimmicks, however, pointing out that though the I.D. Crozz’s gesture-controlled interior lighting (embedded into the glass roof) creates an ambience, “it is really important to link not just an effect, not just a light to be a light: it was important to combine this with a function. It’s not just jewellery, you can use it for different things.”
The next step, he says, is for ambient lighting to serve as an indicator of hazards, i.e. to warn of cyclists in a blind spot or another driver overtaking.
Both Bachorski and Pavone are hugely enthusiastic about the I.D. range (soon to include a four-door saloon as well). “We are so excited about working with such products,” Pavone concludes.
“For us it is such an honour to take part in this adventure – when we did the [first] I.D. there for Paris, come on… And to be part of a project like the I.D. Buzz — this car we have been dreaming about for years. We’ve been working for Volkswagen a long time, and having a chance to be part of this electric car family, it’s really amazing.”