It’s here at last: VW’s reborn hippie bus for the Tesla generation
Twenty years of concept cars. Six decades of history. And here, at long last, we are. Volkswagen has reinvented the Microbus for the EV age – and called it the ID Buzz.
The new all-electric sliding door van’s zany name is actually a bit of a pun – in Germany these things are known as ‘bus’, so add in the hum of an electric motor, and Franz is your Onkel. The silly name is just one of the touches that aims to give this car what EVs sorely lack. Character. Personality. Soul.
You’ll have spotted the almost flat front by now, the minimal overhangs, the long wheelbase. All thanks to the same MEB platform that brought you the VW ID.3 and ID.4, Audi’s Q4 e-tron, Skoda’s Enyaq and a smattering of Cupras. This architecture means a tall van can have a super-low centre of gravity – by mounting the motor at the back – and be just as rear-engined and rear-wheel drive as the 1960s Beetle-powered original.
That’s not just a retro decision, of course. Putting the drive system at the back means the Buzz has a turning circle of just over 11 metres, because the front wheels can pivot that much further without driveshafts in the way. So, this big family bus is as manoeuvrable as a Golf. All-wheel drive ones will come later (with a larger turning circle) and there’s even insider mumblings of a performance-flavoured ID Buzz GTX...
Speaking of different versions, you’re looking at the OG ID – the standard-wheelbase, 77kWh Buzz Pro, good for just over 200bhp. Expect a real-world range of 200-250 miles. Next year there’ll be an entry-level Buzz Pure with a smaller battery and a £50,000 entry price, and a long-wheelbase which will up the chair count from five, and allow more seating plan variation. It’ll also have a bigger battery between the axles.
Of course, the one you really want is the surftastic all-electric ID Buzz California campervan. Not until 2025 at the earliest, apparently – VW is in no hurry to replace the diesel-powered Cali while it’s selling as well as it is.
When it does arrive, bi-directional charging will allow the ID Buzz to discharge itself while parked to juice your drinks fridge or campsite jacuzzi. Whatever you like. In the meantime, VW is touting this an eco-friendly way to lower your energy bills: charge up the Buzz during the day on cheaper electricity, and use it to power your home storage battery (we’ve all got those right? No, us neither) in the evening.
Other near-future tech in the Buzz includes car-to-X communication. It’ll download data from nearby Volkswagens in the cloud and learn of missing road markings or traffic nearby that could upset the sat-nav.
There’s also a self-parking function that can learn and remember tricky manoeuvres like a narrow driveway. So, you pull it off once, to prove it can be done without crashing, Buzz records your inputs, and does it hands-free next time. Clever. Until you forget to open the gate before pressing the big ‘go’ button.
Actually that’s a lie: buttons are few and far between in the Buzz. Volkswagen insists its haptic, touch-sensitive nonsense is improving and the software in the Buzz will be better than the awful interfaces in the current Golf and ID cars, but we’ll believe it when we see it. The design and materials are very light, cheery, and BMW i3-ish, though. That’s a good thing. Lounge vibes.
VW’s reborn bus has been a long time in the making. On first impression, was it worth the wait?