I’ll be honest with you: this is kind of a strange press event. For one thing, there’s a lot of attempted secrecy around a vehicle that’s pretty much already been seen and everyone knows what it looks like. Hell, I’ve even already driven it! Well, almost. That was the short-wheelbase Euro version, and this one is the American market, long-wheelbase one. And, more importantly, this is the 2023 ID.Buzz, the latest incarnation of the legendary Volkswagen Type 2 Microbus, but now all modern and electric and a really, really important vehicle for Volkswagen. Maybe the most important one they’ve introduced in years. That’s why they’re having this big launch event in California. But it’s odd because none of us journalists will get to drive any of the vans, and it’s a strangely short event, an event that VW seems to have invited absolutely everyone to, and there’s barely any time to write about the three-row ID.Buzz before the embargo lifts, at midnight Pacific time. So, We’re going to try something different.
Instead of a usual review – which I can’t do, anyway, since we’re not allowed to drive anything here – I’ll just tell and show you all I was able to find out about the American market version of the bus and, because why not, I’ll do a sort-of-liveblog of the whole damn event, just so you can see all of what’s going on, too. That has to be better than just regurgitating the press release, right? We can find more fun stuff to regurgitate!
The Important Stuff About The Three-Row ID.Buzz
First, let’s get out of the way all of the important facts about the ID.Buzz that you’ll probably want to know. Really, for a lot of this you should just read my review of the two-row version we’re not getting here, because that covers an awful lot about what the ID.Buzz is, and this is mostly just that, just longer and with a number of improvements.
It’s probably worth reminding everyone just how long the gestation of this thing has been; Volkswagen has been playing with the idea of a re-born Microbus since before there were iPhones and when Netflix would physically mail DVDs to your house: 2001. If you were born when VW first started teasing us with concept car versions of a Modern Microbus, you’d be old enough to drink and vote and get drafted by now. The one that we see now, the one that made it to production, is the fifth incarnation of the idea.
Okay, but what we’re sale-abrating today is the three-row version of the ID.Buzz, so let’s go over the differences. First, it’s about 10 inches longer in the wheelbase:
This longer bus has, as you can see, a longer sliding rear door, and now includes a little sliding window-within-a-window set into the side glass there. This is great, as my big complaint about the short bus was the lack of rear ventilation: no windows to open, and no HVAC vents. Both of these issues have been solved in the three-row ID.Buzz.
And, as a three-row vehicle, this can seat up to seven, with options for a middle bench seat that can sit three or a pair of captain’s chairs.
Also note that VW finally illuminated the climate controls and volume slider, an absurd omission from their other ID-series cars, though this particular bit if user-interface madness still lumbers on:
I wrote a whole blog about these window switches. On a hopeful note, I was informed that VW is “aware” of the issues with this window switch setup.
VW’s people also say it looks better, because of the longer proportions, but I think that’s pretty subjective. I like the stubby look of the short one!
There’s also more power on tap, even with the rear-motor/RWD version: 282 vs. 201, and there’s also an AWD version with a front motor as well, and that version should make 330 hp. These are all a very far cry from the old 40-50 hp buses of the ’60s and ’70s.
The battery pack is bigger as well, 91 kWh vs 82 kWh, and I expect range to be improved too, but no numbers have been given yet. If I had to guess, which I don’t but will, I’d say between 250-275 miles seems likely. Maybe 300?
Oh, we also know what colors you can get these in, which is important for this car in particular, which is so well known for its vivid color options:
There’s great, real colors here, a welcome departure from the usual grayscale miasma, but VW did tell us they added some silvers and grays just for the US market. I’ve never been more ashamed to be an American. Why would you get one of these in boring-ass silver? Look at it:
Even with the tent and all the fun camp equipment, that silver de-charms everything by at least 40%. If you’re too chickenshit to get some real colors, maybe you should be looking at a Pacifica or something.
I Think I Know What The Price Will Be
Volkswagen has not officially revealed the pricing of the three-row ID.Buzz, but based on anonymous conversations with people who actually know the answer, it was strongly hinted that the ID.Buzz will start here at about $60,000 to $65,000. We were told that there is no base version of the ID.Buzz, they’re all quite premium, and it’s an expensive car to build, with a big, expensive battery. Okay, true, but it still sucks. The whole ethos of the original Type 2 Bus was that it was an affordable box-on-wheels for everyone, and this new one is a decidedly premium vehicle that isn’t even going to try to be affordable, not really. I understand the reasoning, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
Time For The Liveblog-Like Stuff
Okay, since we have the basics out of the way, join me, won’t you, on the first half of my barely-24-hour trip to Huntington Beach, California!
First, the LAX bathroom sinks are stupid. Three chrome faucet-like things, and you can’t really tell what does what. From left to right, one is soap, one water, one dries via air. But the soap one doesn’t work and the dryer is barely adequate, so we get duplicated soap and paper towel dispensers on the wall. Confusing and wasteful! I’m impressed!
Alright, time to get picked up in a VW ID.4! I tried to cram my bag into the place where the frunk should be, but they stopped me.
Okay, so this is a little gross, but remember when I screwed up my finger while attempting to chainsaw the batteries out of my Changli? Well, in the car, my fingernail finally fell off. It’s sort of gross, so don’t click here if you don’t want to see it. Seriously, that’s a picture of a fingernail, off a finger, tinged with some blood. You’ve been warned.
Okay, so now here I am, a nine-fingernail’d dipshit, heading to the hotel, and seeing the majestic battleship USS Nathan Lane! I think that’s what it’s named, but I’m not certain. Nobody check.
There’s a big gathering of old buses set to happen tomorrow (or, today, as it’s just past midnight and I need to get this published!) and I did manage to spot an interesting one being towed in:
That sort of single-cab/box rear is unusual; I should check it out closer tomorrow.
At the hotel, they had a sorta-hippy-ish wrapped Buzz covered with “Love the Earth” in many, many languages. I thought the Earth and I were just friends, but hey, I’m open to more! Call me, Earth!
All of VW’s signage is surfboard-shaped, which is I guess fitting, if a bit on-the-nose.
Check this shit out: VW had custom wooden room keys made! That’s fun, right? I mean, they’re a little hard to fit in your pocket, but beats the hell out of just printing on a plastic credit-card-like key, like most automakers do! Gauntlet’s been thrown, other companies! Your next keys will need to be little marble statuettes of the car to beat this!
Because this is a press event full of hungry, doughy auto journalists, there’s food everywhere and always.
Seeing The Three-Row ID.Buzz Up Close
I was late and technically not on The List, but I managed to get myself into the studio where we could see a three-row ID.Buzz in the metal, finally, up close and personal.
They spun it around on a turntable and I swear it felt just like being inside a giant microwave. I expected it to beep at the end and then discover that the inside was frozen. Then they did it again, with all the doors open:
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Did I mention we had to put on booties to be in the clean, clean studio? We did.
I also asked one of the PR people if there was any consideration of naming this new electric van the e-Routan, and was told no, absolutely not, just in case anyone was wondering. Same goes for ID.Sharan. I was impressed at how well the rep kept himself from slapping me with a clipboard, as he was technically permitted to do.
One disappointment: this one we photographed and saw is pre-production, and has the Euro-spec fantastic sequential amber rear indicators. I was told the US-spec one will have all-red ones, which sucks. Come on, VW! Just make the amber section larger so you can have a universal taillight! Why is this so flapjacking hard?
On the plus side of lighting, those look to be cornering lights in the headlamp units, and I like the DRL signature a lot. Let’s take a look inside:
The instrument binnacle is shared with the rest of the ID line, but the 12.9-inch center stack screen will have an improved UX and have more responsive software, I’m told. There’s also a customizable icon dock, which is a good idea.
The glass roof is huge, and the interior feels very airy and open. It’s nice! Plus, airplane-like rear seat trays.
The second-row bench is comfortable and there’s plenty of legroom. Same goes for the third row:
Look, there’s legs of the person next to me in the back row.
There’s the third row, seen over the 60% of folded middle seat.
Significantly, there’s HVAC controls at the rear and dedicated vents for each row. Yay! No asphyxiation for anyone!
There’s a view backwards. Let’s check out the cargo area:
With all three rows up, the rear cargo area isn’t terribly deep, but it is tall, and VW has an optional shelf system (that also forms a flat floor for sleeping/boning/shoving in a full-size marlin, etc) and you can get those VW-branded storage boxes for below the shelf, or, probably just as likely, get some that fit from Ikea or Wal-Mart, depending on what sorts of media you tend to enjoy.
Here’s what it looks like with all rear rows folded and the shelf unit in place: a nice, flat expanse of space, much like Nebraska, but with fewer tumbleweeds and more likely to house a first-rate philharmonic. I kid, I kid! I’m sure Omaha has a fantastic philharmonic. Oh, they do, look! No hard feelings, okay?
Without the platform-thing, it looks like this:
Less flat, but still a massive amount of room in this wheeled box, keeping with the whole raison d’etre of the Type 2. Those rear seats are pretty easily removable, separately:
…and I guess you could use them outside of the car. They’re pretty heavy, though, even if they do have carrying handles on them.
It looks like we have coilovers up front, and it’s hard to see exactly the setup in the rear, as most of the bottom is covered:
One other interesting tech detail down low: the radar transceiver looks like it’d actually be quite easy to remove and replace:
It’s a bit vulnerable in a minor wreck, but so is everyone else’s, and at least this one looks easy to remove and install.
Overall, I do like the ID.Buzz three-row. Sure, it’s maybe less overtly retro than I’d have done, and it definitely is more expensive than I’d like, but it’s a good, striking design, has plenty of room inside, drives well (well, the Euro one did), and aside from a few interface design irritants, seems like it’d be a satisfying and flexible vehicle to own.
Plus, there’s not much on the market that’s like this, and I respect that a lot.
Now scroll back up and click on the link to the fingernail picture. You know you’re curious.