Volkswagen 2019

Volkswagen ID. Buggy review

A first spin in VW's concept for electric off-roading

Is this open-topped buggy to be taken seriously, or is it all just a bit of fun?
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Volkswagen is progressing ever faster towards a future of new zero-emissions electric-powered models under its recently created ID. sub-brand.

Its plans, which are budgeted to cost over AUD$70 billion through to 2028, have been meticulously conveyed to the car-buying public with the unveiling of a series of six different concepts over the past four years, the latest of which is the eye-catching ID. Buggy – a likeable back-to-basics two-seater inspired by the classic Meyers Manx Dune Buggy.

The high-riding battery-powered concept, which like its forebear does without doors and a fixed roof, was conceived to inject some fun and frippery into the upcoming ID. family. It showcases the impressive modularity and versatility of Volkswagen’s MEB electric car platform that will make its production debut next month underneath the new ID. 3 hatchback in the process.

However, it’s more than just for show.

Volkswagen says it is genuinely serious about placing the ID. Buggy into production as a low-volume addition to its future ID. line-up. It’s even taken the unusual step of seeking out possible partners capable of handling small-scale production, suggesting it could license the MEB platform to companies interested in building a modern-day recreation of the original Dune Buggy.

But while there’s no official confirmation when and where it will be built right now, the good news is the one and only ID. Buggy in existence is driveable – albeit at low speeds only. And it attracts more attention than a scantily clad supermodel at a football match as we cruise down 17 Mile Drive outside Monterey in California. It turns heads everywhere it goes and attracts a battery of smartphones as crowds jostle to snap a photograph.

The ID. Buggy successfully updates the look of the original Meyers Manx beach buggy with a friendly face featuring a low-set bumper and round headlamps, which receive daytime running lights and pupil-like dipped and main beam projectors.

It’s a look people can’t help but notice as we scoot by. We even get a thumbs-up from the excited driver of a Lamborghini Aventador clearly approving of the retro-inspired lines.

As with the original Meyers Manx, the unadorned plastic body appears to float above the chassis. The reinforced windscreen is freestanding, without any additional support by a quarter window or the like. Rollover protection is provided by a sturdy structure behind the cabin.

The rear, meanwhile, mirrors the look up front, with round tail-lamps and a bumper that mimics the shape of that up front.

The wheels are 18 inches all round and come shod with 255/55-profile front and 285/60-profile BFGoodrich All Terrain tyres. Owing to their generous side-wall profile, they help to increase the ground clearance of the ID. Buggy by some 60mm over the upcoming ID. 3 hatchback, upon which it is largely based.

Protection from the elements is provided by a composite fabric roof. It is designed to fasten to the windscreen header rail and clips integrated into the rollover structure.

At 4063mm in length, 1890mm in width and 1463mm in height, the ID. Buggy is 10mm longer, a good 149mm wider, and 17mm higher than the existing sixth-generation Volkswagen Polo. It also rides on a wheelbase of 2650mm and tracks that measure 1589mm at the front and 1598mm at the rear.

Power comes from a rear-mounted electric motor developing 150kW and 309Nm. It provides drive exclusively to the rear wheels, with an electronic differential providing a torque-vectoring effect for optimal traction.

As is typical for a concept, there is no official weight figure. However, Volkswagen quotes a 0–100km/h time of 7.2sec and a top speed of 160km/h. Energy is provided by a 62kWh battery, giving it a range that Volkswagen puts at “around 155 miles” on the WLTP test cycle.

With a charging capacity of 100kW, it also claims the battery of its latest concept can be charged from empty to an 80 per cent state of charge within 30 minutes.

As with the exterior, the rear-wheel-drive layout also echoes the design of the original Meyers Manx Buggy. As with other ID. models already signed off for production, though, Volkswagen says a second electric motor could be packaged up front to provide the ID. Buggy with four-wheel drive should buyers request it.

Our first drive of the ID. Buggy was limited to a brief run on public roads outside Monterey, where the Pebble Beach Concours takes place each year. Volkswagen admits it's not exactly the ideal conditions to display its true sandblasting ability. But even with a top speed limited to just 30km/h, it was enough to reveal that the sixth member of the ID. concept family is terrifically well built and sound enough in terms of design to consider for production.

The biggest hurdle to driving the ID. Buggy is getting into it. After testing a number of different variations, it seems easiest to simply sit on the high-mounted side structure before swinging your legs inside and plonking your backside on the driver’s seat. Once positioned, you’re confronted by a hexagonal-shaped steering wheel. Behind it sits a small digital display exclusively for the instruments and the controls; a rotary dial on the left-hand side works the blinkers, while a similar control on the right-hand side is used to select drive and engage the handbrake.

The minimalist interior makes extensive use of durable materials, including waterproof upholstery for the seats, cast aluminium pedals, and a largely flat plastic floor. It’s all very basic by modern-day standards. Without an infotainment system of any kind, the only real nod to luxury is a Bluetooth speaker positioned between the seats, which can be used to play music via a smartphone. Otherwise, the focus is very much on pure and simple driving fun.

A twist of the right-hand-side controller and a press of the throttle gets the ID. Buggy underway with a heady burst of acceleration. Without any sound generator to indicate its operation to other road users, progress is silent from step-off. Performance is instant thanks to the heady slug of torque sent to the rear wheels, though with the top speed limited to just 30km/h, it’s quickly stemmed.

Looking out over the front fenders while the wind licks through your hair, you’re reminded of the Meyers Manx. Like the original, this new-age Dune Buggy is not only unusual to look at, but great fun to drive, too.

The inherent characteristics of the Volkswagen-developed driveline satisfy the requirements of an off-road buggy quite well. This is not a class of car that's typically driven long distances, and even less so on highways. In this respect, its battery appears well matched to how potential buyers might use it, giving it sufficient range without ladening it with unnecessary weight.

The steering, like the driveline borrowed from the upcoming ID. 3, is very light and terrifically responsive, despite concerns that the off-road tyres, with their tall aspect ratio and generous tread depth, could reduce feel and sharpness. In combination with springs providing 100mm of travel under compression and 90mm in rebound all round, they ensure a surprisingly smooth and compliant ride.

Another endearing aspect of the new Volkswagen concept is its relatively small turning circle – something that makes manoeuvring it around the car park an absolute breeze.

It would be unfair to draw any definitive conclusions about the dynamic attributes. However, it is clear that the ID. Buggy doesn’t just resurrect the spirit of the original Meyers Manx: it also showcases the outstanding variability of Volkswagen’s MEB platform in a very convincing way. By providing its dedicated electric car structure with truly modular properties, the German carmaker has been able to use it for an astonishingly wide range of different models.

Will it ever see production?

Happily, it seems likely. Nothing is official just yet, though Volkswagen admits it is actively seeking partners to build the ID. Buggy. Interestingly, all the talk about its future has been quite positive up to now, so there’s no reason to believe it won’t see production.

One company widely tipped to partner with Volkswagen to build the back-to-basics electric car is German company e.Go. Having already obtained a licence for production of the MEB platform for its own models, the Aachen-based start-up already appears to have a head start on rivals seeking to grab a slice of the ID. Buggy business.

Speaking at its unveiling at the Geneva motor show back in March, Volkswagen’s sales and marketing boss Juergen Stackmann confirmed the ID. Buggy was “feasible as you see it” for production. “It’s not a show car, it’s pre-designed for readiness,” he said.

That said, don’t expect it to appear on Australian roads any time soon. Volkswagen already has its hands full gearing up for the introduction of its first dedicated electric car, the ID. 3. Supplying components to an outside company for what is, in essence, a low-volume proposition at best is not exactly at the top of its priority list at the moment.

Still, the ID. Buggy should be taken seriously. Volkswagen knows it is on to something with a modern-day resurrection of the original Meyers Manx, and all indications are it is already well down the road in negotiations to ensure it sees production.

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