My last experience with a Volkswagen microbus—actually it was a Vanagon—involved pushing a friend’s expiring husk of a machine uphill in Brooklyn while pondering the “Steal Your Face” sticker slapped to its rear window. (Somehow I feel like many of you have had a similar experience.) That in mind, it was a shock to sit shotgun in the seat of a prototype model of a revived VW bus—the first in three years—as it shot through the streets of East Austin, surging on electric power. Was it a flashback? Nah. The electric bus is definitely real. It’s the Volkswagen ID. Buzz.
This five-seat model will arrive in Europe later this year, and as a three-row vehicle in the U.S. in 2024 as part of VW’s plan to go EV-only by 2035. Sit in one and you’ll believe that goal should be possible. Whereas the old VW microbuses put forth a question mark as you set out in them—will I actually get to my destination, and does it matter?—the ID. Buzz has a sneaky inevitability to it.
The Euro-spec model I sat in is pushed by a 201-hp electric motor good for an expected 250-mile range. With the EV powertrain’s intrinsic low-end torque (230 lb.-ft.) it’s a natural fit for a people mover. Where the tippy-toppy 2,600-lb. Type 2 VW vans of the 1970s fared questionably when faced with a light gale, or a freeway on-ramp, the Volkswagen ID. Buzz forges onward like a late, second-set Garcia lick. When the U.S.-model arrives, it’ll come with a larger battery and an option for motors at each axle.
Despite (and in part, because of ) the Buzz’s future-forward powertrain, its designers kept admirably close to the layout of its classic forebears. Driver and front passenger sit alarmingly close to a giant, panoramic windscreen, the result of drawing the wheels out to each of the vehicle’s four corners, with very little overhang. Paired with that torque, you get the feeling you’re sitting in the first car of the airport monorail. The exterior features two-tone paint options, oversize VW badging and a V-shaped front hood line. It’s charmingly retro, though some no doubt will bemoan the lack of circular headlamps.
Beyond the longer, three-row model destined for the U.S., VW plans a camper van called ID. California. The Buzz, of course, was always destined for van life. Sure, there’s a strong market for it. But the Buzz’s designer had personal reasons to make the vehicle extra camping-friendly: Klaus Bischoff, Volkswagen’s chief designer, drove and camped in a classic bus during high school. Fast-forward to Gen Z: Kids will live out some wild stories in these things, we can hope. Instead of involving internal combustion breakdowns or Grateful Dead lot scenes, they might start with, “D’ya remember that time we couldn’t find a charging station?”
[From $40,000 (estimated); vw.com]