Volkswagen says the boxy concept weighs close to 2000kg, though it gives the impression of being a lot lighter. Like most electric vehicles, the strong torque ensures it feels eager.
With a coasting function aiming to maximise efficiency, it freewheels with very low frictional losses when you come off the throttle, rolling along with the electric motor disengaged from the drive process until you pick up the power again or nudge the brake pedal to wipe off speed. Drivetrain refinement is quite impressive; there’s no trace of whine from the electric motor mounted in the back.
Volkswagen intends equipping its new Microbus with contemporary autonomous driving technology. With a steering wheel that retracts back into the dashboard and a driver’s seat that swivels through a full 180deg to face the rear, it has been properly conceived to support hands-off driving. The concept, though, runs a more conventional set-up that relies purely on the driver.
The steering is light but slow to respond and not very direct at all – but with four years of planned development before it is due to reach showrooms, Volkswagen will surely ensure it matches the impressive levels of steering response and directness shown by recent new models.
The electro-mechanical system, whose rack is mounted forward of the front axle line, can manoeuvre the ID Buzz around a Pebble Beach car park without much trouble, although it requires a good deal of twirling the steering wheel to engage much lock. Once up to speed, it improves with greater weighting and more feel. Among the functions Volkswagen is touting is a rear-wheel steer system offering a turning circle of less than 11 metres.
The ride is firm and quite noisy. Most design-based concepts ride like shopping trolleys, and with the ID Buzz riding on 22in aerodynamically optimised wheels shod with prototype 235/45 tyres, there’s little in the way of proper wheel travel or comfort-inducing compliance.
But these particular facets of the ID Buzz’s driving characteristics are not really representative of what we can expect of the finished product. When it's launched in 2022, it will use the MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension set to be used by all MEB-based Volkswagen models. They’re taken from the company’s existing MQB-based models, and for the most part they all handle and ride with pleasingly direct and refined driving traits.
Further likely developments include adaptive damping and self-levelling rear air springs to control ride height when loaded with passengers and/or luggage. This, and the fact that the MPV’s inherent layout provides it with a very low centre of gravity, is reason enough to suggest its dynamic qualities should meet the heady expectations already being heaped upon it.