What it's like to drive a concept car Page 2


A different kind of go-kart driving experience

Driving the I.D. Buzz Concept is like glimpsing the future while driving the go-kart your dad put together from lawn mower parts on a welded frame of his own design. 

Hit the throttle and you soon find that power from the e-Golf battery and motor is only partially integrated. The e-Golf is rated at 134 hp and 214 pound-feet of torque, can reach a top speed of 93, and has 125 miles of range. The I.D. Buzz is limited to about 30 mph. After that, the throttle pedal simply does nothing. It has no brake energy regeneration, and the range is maybe 40 miles.

Speaking of the brakes, the pedal in the I.D. Buzz is very touchy, as I learned with my first abrupt stop.

The seating position is tall and upright, and you are confronted with that odd rectangular steering wheel. That tiller actually works fairly well, steering like any other round wheel, though perhaps a bit slowly.

ALSO SEE: Volkswagen ID Buzz drive: electric VW bus offers unique EV concept

The ride is also awful, and it's probably due to those prototype tires. The tires aren't ready for use on the road, and the car handlers we spoke to said they were one reason the I.D. Buzz is limited to 30 mph. This thing rides like a buckboard, it creaks and rattles quite a bit, and the concept car's German babysitters didn't want me taking turns with much speed. Again, however, this van doesn't need to handle well or make passengers comfortable. It just needs to get onto and off of a stage.

Volkswagen I.D. Buzz Concept

Volkswagen I.D. Buzz Concept

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Volkswagen I.D. Buzz Concept

Volkswagen I.D. Buzz Concept

Enlarge Photo
Kirk Bell and John Voelcker in Volkswagen ID Buzz electric Microbus concept vehicle

Kirk Bell and John Voelcker in Volkswagen ID Buzz electric Microbus concept vehicle

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Useful features

The I.D Buzz may be hand-built, but it has some pretty cool features that work quite well. The doors open and close with the push of a button from the inside, and from the outside it's a simple swipe below the door handle for either the front doors or side doors.

The steering wheel retracts easily and the driver's seat spins around for the would-be autonomous mode, but the vehicle isn't equipped with that technology. To retract the steering wheel you simply press the VW logo in its center and watch it go. The seat will only turn once the steering wheel has retracted, and it only requires the push of button along the side.

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One of the great advantages of an EV is the fact that you don't need to make room for a large engine. The battery is located under the floor, which is the basis for a large, skateboard-like platform that gives the I.D. Buzz lots of interior space, especially in a box on wheels that is almost 16 feet long. That left room for VW to outfit it with lounge-like seating that can be reconfigured. VW also provides a rear storage compartment with a tablet-like controller that occupants can use to open and close the doors and handle other vehicle controls.

Final thoughts

The I.D. Buzz is basic and advanced at the same time. All of its electronics work well, which is a credit to the folks who built it. It doesn't ride or drive well, but it looks great, proves out its concept, and bodes well for the future provided VW can make the powertrain technology work. That shouldn't be a problem because it basically exists already over at Tesla. I just wish it wouldn't take Volkswagen five years to get it ready.


 
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