After a five-year wait, Volkswagen has finally pulled the covers off the production version of the ID.Buzz, the long-awaited, all-electric replacement for its old Microbus.
But don’t rush to your local VW showroom, at least not if you live in the U.S. Today’s global livestream debut focused on two short-wheelbase versions of the ID.Buzz, both targeted for Europe and other international markets. The U.S. is set to get a long-wheelbase model that won’t be introduced until next year, the automaker confirmed, as a 2024 model.
The original Microbus — officially known as the T1 — was an icon of the hippie era, a simple example of freedom and mobility. VW design chief Jozef Kaban insists his team “very consciously ensured that we were not making another T1.” Perhaps, but he quickly acknowledges “The ID.Buzz shows that it is successfully transferring the genes and stylistic elements of that iconic vehicle into the digital era.”
Return of an icon
VW spent decades trying to recapture the magic of the original Microbus, something lost in later Eurovan models. Part of the challenge was coming up with a modern take on the original’s distinctive design, with a blunt nose, short overhangs, a large interior and a rear-mounted engine.
The formula finally came together with a concept introduced at the 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The one big change — which made the show car possible — was a switch to an all-electric drivetrain.
The production version of the ID.Buzz will ride on the same flexible platform, known internally as the MEB, used for Volkswagen’s all-electric ID.4 crossover and other models.
The exterior design clearly picks up on key Microbus design cues that also include the classic, V-shaped “hood,” though it adds a number of distinctly modern elements, such as the slim LED headlamps, daytime running lights and large, backlit VW logo on the nose. An LED light bar runs across the back end, connecting the van’s horizontal taillights.
Two versions of the van are being launched, the ID.Buzz passenger model and the ID.Buzz Cargo for commercial customers. In a bit of a retro touch, both will come with 18-inch steel wheels, though aluminum alloy wheels ranging from 18 to 21 inches will be available on the passenger model.
The ID.Buzz cabin initially will come in a five-passenger layout with a sliding rear bench and fold-out tables in the back of the front seats. A six-seat configuration “will come later,” VW says, adding that the long-wheelbase model to follow will have a seven-seat, 2/3/2 layout. The two-row short passenger model will offer nearly 40 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats.
Expect to see even more space available for both cargo and passengers when the stretched U.S. version comes to market. The initial models feature a 117.6-inch wheelbase, and measure 185.5 inches in total length. The passenger ID.Buzz stands 76.3 inches in height, about 1 mm shorter than the commercial ID.Buzz Cargo model “due to slight differences in the chassis,” VW said in a statement. Both models are 78.1 inches wide. The long-wheelbase version could gain as much as a foot in overall length.
A look inside
“You feel so much space,” said design director Kaban. “It’s so clean. It feels like a very modern home.”
The various Buzz models will put an emphasis on sustainability with the materials used on the interior. Among other things that includes velour fabrics made from recycled soft drink bottles.
The cabin takes on a high-tech feel with a standard 10-inch digital gauge cluster and 10-inch infotainment screen. That can be upgraded to a 12-inch touch display with onboard navigation. Like the all-electric ID.4 crossover, key controls, such as volume and climate, are operated by digital buttons and sliders.
There’s also an interactive “ID.Light” stretching across the instrument panel just behind the windscreen. It changes colors to clue drivers in. If there’s a chance of a forward collision, for example, it will turn bright red. When using navigation, it might flash a signal on the passenger side to signal an upcoming right turn.
Several advanced driver assistance systems, including forward-collision warning and highway sign recognition, come standard, with others like adaptive cruise and blind-spot assist offered as options.
VW says it’s put a premium on sustainability. That includes a vegan alternative to leather, the use of recycled materials, such as soft drink bottles, and organically based paints. Of course, there’s also the all-electric drive system.
Initially, the ID.Buzz and ID.Buzz Cargo will feature a single motor on the rear axle making 201 horsepower and 229 pound-feet of torque. It will draw power from an 82 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. VW said in a statement it will release range information “at a later date,” but the initial version of the ID.Buzz is widely expected to get somewhat less than 250 miles per charge.
An 11 kilowatt, 240-volt charger is built in and the van also can handle up to 170 kW of power at a public high-speed charger.
The Buzz will feature “Plug and Charge” capabilities. When plugged into a public charger the car automatically will provide billing data so there will be no need to use a credit card or even a smartphone app. Currently, the VW-funded Electrify America network is the only public charging system to offer that feature but others are expected to follow.
U.S. version to follow
Looking ahead, the U.S. will only get a stretched version of the ID.Buzz. VW also plans to offer a twin motor version for the U.S. that will make an estimated 300 hp. The automaker has not confirmed whether European buyers will also get that all-wheel-drive package as a later option.
The concept version featured a 111 kWh pack and expectations are that a larger battery package also will be offered in the U.S. It would be useful to meet the 300-mile range target VW is believed to have set internally.
The U.S. model will be offered in a variety of configurations, in line with what VW did with the original T1 Microbus in its heyday and the automaker has signaled that this will include a California edition targeted at campers.
The American version is expected to be unveiled early in 2023 but will be sold as a 2024 model.