Volkswagen's full-scale pivot towards an electric-car future took another step forward at this year's North American International Auto Show in Detroit, when the German carmaker unveiled its I.D. Buzz concept to the press and the world. The I.D. Buzz is a fully electric, all-wheel-drive microbus with autonomous-driving capability, and another possible wild card in Volkswagen's expanding electric vehicle deck. As VW brand chief Herbert Diess put it, "We are aiming for the lead in electro-mobility within the next 10 years."

Fully electric, fully self-driving...

Carrying the long-wheelbase footprint of VW's current-generation Transporter (T6) van, the I.D. Buzz is powered by small electric motors at the front and rear axles, good for a total of 369 horsepower. VW says that the floor-mounted 111-kWh battery can be charged to 80 percent of its capacity in 30 minutes. All-wheel drive and the same length as a Honda Pilot, the I.D. Buzz's can go to 270 miles on a full charge and sprint from 0-60 mph in just 5.0 seconds.

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A deep-future concept, the Volkswagen I.D. Buzz can be put into fully autonomous driving mode (I.D. Pilot mode) simply by pushing the steering wheel to make it retract and put an arsenal of scanners, sensors and cameras to work. The interior mood lighting also changes to a warmer shade to encourage relaxation (not a lie), and members of the Grateful Dead and Phish appear to give you a foot massage and chakra alignment (definitely a lie, but this is a concept vehicle).

...and fully a microbus

Carrying a full set of familiar VW box-on-wheels design cues, the I.D. Buzz proclaims its microbus styling roots at every angle. Mostly broad, flat panels below the beltline and all windows above, the Buzz only needs bamboo curtains and gorgeous, grungy air-cooled, flat-four engine sounds coming through the removable/portable Beats Bluetooth loudspeakers to complete the "forward, into the past" effect. The flexible cab design allows for seating of up to eight passengers and makes way for front and rear luggage compartments. Best of all (and very microbus in spirit), when the autonomous I.D. Pilot is engaged, the driver's seat can be spun around 180 degrees so the driver can cut the cards, roll the dice, or engage the 2nd-row captain's-chair occupants in face-to-face conversation.

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The I.D. Buzz is the second vehicle of a family of electric-powered candidates based on VW's versatile "Modular Electric Drive" architecture, which the company calls "MEB" internally. Volkswagen's first MEB design, the 4-passenger I.D. Concept, appeared at last year's Paris auto show. And just as the I.D. Concept may be a prediction for the VW Golf of 2020, the new I.D. Buzz may be a hint at the company's people-moving plans for 2025.


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