Volkswagen I.D. Buzz concept - Microbus revived (again) at Detroit

Not for the first time, Volkswagen revives the concept of a modern-day microbus; updated with live images

This is the Volkswagen I.D. Buzz concept, the latest take on a VW 'Microbus' for the 21st century, and it's just been unveiled at the 2017 Detroit auto show.

Like VW's previous Type 2-style revivals, the 2001 Microbus Concept and 2012's 'Bulli' concept, the I.D. Buzz is little more than a carrot on a stick, with no evidence of plans for production at least in the short term - but it does serve to illustrate the company's renewed focus on electric vehicles in the coming years.

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As such, VW quotes a 373-mile range from the I.D. Buzz (or a more realistic 270-mile range by US standards), courtesy of a flat, Tesla-style bank of batteries forming part of the car's lower structure - not just ideally placed to keep the centre of gravity low, but also designed to ensure a flat cabin floor for maximum space.

> Click here to read our review of the Tesla Model S

Charging is relatively quick, with an 80 per cent boost available in 30 minutes with a 150kW charger. Given the 1960s throwback styling VW would no doubt like to think you'll spend that 30 minutes tying your friends' hair in braids and strumming along on an acoustic guitar, but in reality it should allow the van to charge while you're grabbing an overpriced coffee and using the WC at a grubby service station.

Range alone does not sell electric cars however: Ever since Tesla started extracting ludicrous speed (both figuratively and literally) from its cars, performance has also been an important factor. The I.D. Buzz delivers a combined output of 369bhp across its axles, or over 15 times the 24bhp output of the very first Volkswagen Type 2 vans.

0-62mph takes "around five seconds" as a result - more than enough to disturb your chakras - while top speed is limited to 99mph, one assumes to preserve range. VW does suggest that the adaptability of the electric drivetrain - the motor installation is modular - means less expensive, rear-wheel drive cars with lower range could be sold depending on market requirements.

There are other technical highlights too, including packaging that allows for a tight 11-metre turning circle, air suspension and adaptive dampers, and a long 3300mm wheelbase that, as well as housing a large battery pack, results in space for eight passengers.

Naturally, it also has autonomous functionality, just like the regular I.D. concept that debuted at last year's Paris motor show. Simply pushing on the steering wheel sees it retract towards the dashboard (hopefully, it wouldn't do the same were you to beep the horn) and take over driving duties.

> Also read: VW I.D. Concept revealed - VW's new electric and autonomous car

Information is disseminated via an augmented reality head-up display or via a portable tablet, while that retracting steering wheel also features touch-sensitive controls. The sensory assault continues outside, where its LED headlights don't just light up the road but communicate with others, while ambient lighting strips wrap around the entire vehicle.

Beautifully-styled inside and out, the I.D. Buzz probably has higher chances of actually reaching production than previous VW bus concepts, but we're not holding our breath - VW's real electric mobility push won't start until 2020 and it'll be 2025 before they're selling in any real volume - and something more akin to the regular I.D. concept will likely take priority in those plans.

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