Volkswagen has been coyly teasing its electric dune buggy concept as “feasible for production” but I wouldn’t get your hopes up. That said, there is a working model playing around in the California sand right now, and a few notes from folks who got to drive it.
The ID. Buggy, as VW’s calling it, is really just a cute way to showcase the versatility of the company’s new MEB platform, on which many different mass-market vehicles will soon be built.
Since post-Dieselgate Volkswagen is probably still keen to leverage any opportunity to be associated with fun-loving hippies again instead of corporate greed and industrial-scale fraud, we got this adorable insectile electric concept vehicle with no roof, no doors, BF Goodrich all-terrain tires and a smiling face.
Those of you who have heard of the original Meyers Manx will surely recognize the cribbed design elements. For everybody else, the Manx was basically the “quintessential dune buggy” you might have seen in pop culture somewhere.
“It’s just kind of a visualization of friendship and love,” Bruce Meyers, the Manx’s designer, said of his original buggy in a VW promotional reel. “Everybody on the street started beeping their horn, giving the thumbs-up, and, happy waves, and smiles, and yells.”
“A little short car with great big wheels is cute,” he added. “Automatically, that says ‘fun.’ It has a sense of adventure.”
Here’s a closer look at the new VW version, from when it was first revealed:
It’s hard for me to articulate how much I love VW’s creation here. The ID. Buggy is effectively the perfect car, based on the criteria I just described.
Anyway, I’m going to guess it’s too niche-market and uncrashworthy for a gigantic company to bother seriously cultivating, but we can all appreciate the design as something delightful. And hey, maybe another outfit will be able to license and build it as a kit car or something, as others have speculated.
Meanwhile, VW’s brought the one Buggy that does exist to Pebble Beach, where a few people got to buzz around the block in it. Here are some excerpts.
Aaron Cole for Green Car Reports:
“On a sunny, misty California morning we hopped into the Buggy, which rode on hardly low-rolling-resistance 18-inch BFGoodrich KO2 all-terrain tires and set off. Everything in the concept vehicle was functional, aside from small zippers near the center tunnel that served as a makeshift glove compartment for small items. The speedometer, steering, steering wheel controls, accelerator, and brakes worked seamlessly, aside from slightly longer pedal travel and no regenerative braking feel at all. The Buggy crept slowly at “idle” but accelerated confidently toward 35 kph, lugging roughly 1,300 pounds of batteries. Engineers didn’t say how much the ID Buggy weighs, but safe speculation is about 3,300 pounds unladen—more with a bigger breakfast.”
Ronan Glon for Digital Trends:
“Once inside, it becomes immediately clear that the ID Buggy pays homage to its predecessors with an ultra-minimalist, back-to-basics interior that nonetheless incorporates state-of-the-art tech features. There are touch-sensitive buttons on the small, two-spoke steering wheel to control the stereo. Volkswagen also replaced the key with a chip card, integrated a wireless charger into the center console, and added a digital instrument cluster. The Buggy is a surprisingly comfortable car, its seats are higher and more upright than those in the original Manx, and visibility is as excellent as you’d expect.”
Those are the only real firsthand impressions I’ve been able to find so far, but hopefully, more will get dropped into the comments as they pop up. It’s likely VW is letting people take rides over the course of Monterey Car Week, so we might get some more nuggets about what the concept Buggy is really like soon.
More than anything, I just hope that this thing is a harbinger for electric cars with personality and not just a tease of what could have been.