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Volkswagen has been hovering around the possibility of a retro-styled update of the classic Type 2 Microbus for almost two decades now, but the reality of a Split-Screen revival could be a little closer with the reveal of this ID Buzz concept at the Detroit Motor Show. Using the same all-electric MEB underpinnings as last year's ID hatchback concept, seen at the Paris Motor Show, the Buzz is an unashamed throwback to the classic hippy wagon. It even seems to have a smile...
Underneath, of course, it's rather more high tech than that. The long wheelbase and underfloor mounted batteries make for huge cabin space, and with 369hp and a claimed one-charge range of 600km, this is going to be no spluttering-flat-four slowcoach. While the top speed is limited to 160kmh, Volkswagen says that it will accelerate to 100km/h in just over five seconds. The concept is four-wheel drive (with a so-called 'electric propshaft') but Volkswagen says that a lower-powered 268hp rear-drive version could also easily be created.
The Buzz is set up for full autonomous driving, and the steering wheel retracts into the dashboard when the robots take over while the interior ambient lighting switches to a warm white mode that indicates self-driving mode. Laser scanners, mounted in retractable pods, extend out of the roof to read the road ahead while Volkswagen's User-ID system will automatically set the cabin of the car up for your personal tastes. On the outside, lighting effects can make the Buzz look as if it is sleeping when it's parked up, while the LED headlights can swivel like eyes to make a form of eye contact with pedestrians to indicate that the car has spotted them.
Inside, the floor is lined with silver birch wood, but the rest is all ultra-high tech including a steering wheel that's "more of an interactive touch pad" and allows the driver to do everything from gear selection to switching on autonomous mode. There are integrated tablets and a Beats sound system, and an augmented reality heads up display system. The driver can even swivel their seat around to face the back, and have a chat with their passengers, when the vehicle is in autonomous mode.
Dr. Herbert Diess, Chairman of the Board of Management for the Volkswagen brand, says: "The Volkswagen brand's big electric offensive begins in the year 2020 with a completely new vehicle architecture. That is when we will be launching an entirely new generation of fully connected, all-electric vehicles to the market. By 2025 we want to be selling one million of these vehicles annually. We are making electric mobility the new trademark of Volkswagen."
Will it be built? That's TBC and Volkswagen, in spite of the success of the retro-look Beetle, has been reluctant so far to create a throwback-looking microbus. However, with the emphasis on electric power, and a keen-ness at board level to see this one through, this electric Type 2 could actually make it into dealerships some time after 2020.