The electric Volkswagen ID Buggy makes even Ferrari drivers stop and stare

Volkswagen resurrected the emblematic Meyers Manx beach buggy as an electric vehicle when it unveiled the ID Buggy concept at the 2019 Geneva Auto Show. Switzerland in early March is no place for an open-top dune buggy, its interior is fully waterproof but I’m certainly not, so I trekked out to sunny Pebble Beach, California, to take this one-of-a-kind concept car for a quick spin in the conditions it was developed to be enjoyed in.

The ID Buggy shows the fun side of Volkswagen’s imminent electrification offensive, while showcasing the Lego-like flexibility of the electric technology it’s developing for production cars like the upcoming ID.3 hatchback. It turns heads everywhere it goes; I even unexpectedly got a thumbs-up from someone cruising in a Ferrari 458 Italia.

I’d stop and stare, too. The Buggy takes the form of a battery-powered two-seater that channels the spirit of the original, Beetle-based Manx sold between 1964 and 1971. It’s not merely a retro-styled re-creation, though. It stands out with a look and a personality of its own. It has no roof and no doors, but users can stretch a fabric top between the windshield frame and the roll bar to protect the passenger compartment from the sun, or from the elements. 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped by off-road tires help the ID Buggy plow through sand dunes without getting stuck, while aluminum skid plates ensure obstacles commonly encountered off-road, like rocks, won’t cause a high-voltage impact with the battery pack.

“There are enough vehicles with doors,” Volkswagen design boss Klaus Bischoff told Digital Trends during the 2019 Geneva show. On the scenic 17-Mile Drive that runs parallel to the Pacific coast, not having doors brings the ID’s occupants much closer to the sounds, smells, and sights of the ocean. It also creates a visual link between the concept and its predecessor. It didn’t have doors, either, so getting in required hopping over the body.

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.

Looking over the short, curvaceous front fenders to see the road ahead leaves no doubt that this concept was created with fun in mind. It also shows the freedom stylists have when they design an electric car whose silhouette isn’t defined by a suitcase-sized engine.

While the original Manx relied on a raucous flat-four, the ID’s lightweight composite body hides Volkswagen’s production-bound modular MEB platform. An electric motor mounted over the rear axle draws power from a 62-kWh lithium-ion battery pack stuffed under the passenger compartment to zap the rear wheels with 201 horsepower and 228 pound-feet of torque. Volkswagen pegs the concept’s driving range at about 155 miles, and its 0-to-60-mph time at 7.2 seconds. The concept is rear-wheel drive, but making it all-wheel drive would be as simple as adding an electric motor over the front axle.

It’s not just a wild, head-turning concept, either. Motorists may be able to buy one in a few years, but not necessarily from Volkswagen.

“We’ve been holding discussions with a company called E.Go who is very interested in bringing the ID Buggy to life. This show car is not a true show car, it is already conceptualized by e.Go’s team. It is feasible to build. E.Go will basically build the product you see, the shell, onto our platform in a low-volume, low-production series. The project needs to go through feasibility studies, so it hasn’t received final approval, but both parties have a strong will to make it happen,” Volkswagen board member Jürgen Stackmann told me shortly after the car’s unveiling in chilly Geneva.

The first grain of sand in the dune

When it arrives, assuming this green car receives the proverbial green light for production, the ID Buggy will showcase the MEB platform’s unusually high level of flexibility. Think of it as a skateboard; everything needed to make the car move is under the occupants. Volkswagen has also used the architecture as the basis for a Microbus-inspired van, an SUV, and a sleek-looking sedan. All of these vehicles have been previewed by concept cars over the past two years, and most will be in series production in early 2020 — one will even be built in the United States.

Enthusiasts worried electrification will turn cars into boring appliances can sleep easy; the ID Buggy shows how much character an EV can have.

Volkswagen’s willingness to license its technology could start a new trend. Coachbuilders new and old will be able to purchase a turn-key chassis straight from the factory, and put their own body on it, whether it’s to make a dune buggy, a sports car, a pickup truck, or something else. Electrification will open up new possibilities for companies seeking to make low-volume models without developing billion-dollar technology from scratch. Even major automakers are interested; Ford announced plans to build an electric car on Volkswagen’s technology during the early 2020s.

“[The Buggy] will be the start of more joint ventures created to bring MEB to companies to help them realize cars on our platform,” Stackmann concluded. Enthusiasts worried electrification will turn cars into boring appliances can sleep easy; the ID Buggy shows how much character an EV can have.

Cars

Beach to Baja: Dune buggies in the news, from VW ID concept to McQueen’s Manx

It was a big week for dune buggies. VW revealed an electric concept vehicle, the ID. BUGGY. Steve McQueen's Thomas Crown Affair buggy is headed to auction. Glickenhaus revealed the Baja Boot, a street-legal Baja-racing-capable dune buggy.
Cars

Infiniti’s Formula One-inspired Project Black S may enter production

The Infiniti Project Black S is a Q60 luxury coupe enhanced with a Formula One-inspired hybrid powertrain. The 563-horsepower car can sprint from zero to 62 mph in under four seconds, according to Infiniti.
Cars

Chevrolet’s one-of-a-kind electric Camaro drag racer is now for sale

The Chevrolet eCOPO Camaro concept is an all-electric drag racer that points toward a future of zero-emission performance. The 700-horsepower eCOPO can run the quarter mile in under 10 seconds, according to Chevy.
Buying Guides

The best hatchbacks for 2019 are small in size and big on tech

The hatchback segment isn't huge, but there are still plenty of good options to choose from. Here, we've rounded up the best hatchbacks available in America, whether you're a fan of efficiency or looks.
Cars

2019 Audi E-Tron is the first electric car to earn top IIHS safety rating

The 2019 Audi E-Tron is the first electric car to earn an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ rating. But the IIHS hasn't tested the Audi's two main rivals -- the Jaguar I-Pace and Tesla Model X.
News

UPS partners with TuSimple to test self-driving semi-trucks

UPS has been carrying truckloads of goods in self-driving semi-trucks since May. The vehicles are being tested in Arizona routes between Phoenix and Tucson for better service and efficiency for UPS delivery.
Cars

Vintage Electric readies the Roadster Speed Merchant, a souped-up ebike

Vintage Electric introduced the latest in its line of retro-styled premium performance ebikes for fall 2019. The Vintage Roadster gets styling cues from board track racing motorcycles and its power from a 1,123-watt battery.
Cars

Bored with stock? The best tuner cars are begging to be modified

Modification has been around almost as long as the automobile itself. Here are some of the best tuner cars you can find, ranging from American muscle standouts to Japanese drift cars.
Cars

Toyota raises the curtain on 2020 Corolla Nightshade Editions

The 2020 Toyota Corolla SE sedan and hatchback with a CVT (continuously variable transmission) will be available in Nightshade Editions, joining the Toyota 4Runner, Camry, Highlander, and Sienna with the blacked-out trim style option.
Cars

Here’s why your Uber or Lyft car always seems to be a Toyota Camry

The Toyota Camry is one of the most popular cars sold in the United States, and not just with retail buyers. Uber and Lyft drivers love the Camry for its reliability, according to a new report.
Cars

Infiniti will take on BMW and Mercedes-Benz with its own crossover coupe

Launching in 2020, the Infiniti QX55 will be a crossover coupe similar to models that have proven successful for BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Infiniti said the QX55 will have styling influenced by its early 2000s FX.
Cars

Limited-edition Subaru BRZ tS returns for 2020, WRX and STI get minor tweaks

Subaru performance cars remain mostly unchanged for the 2020 model year. The big news is the return of the limited-edition Subaru BRZ tS sports car, with production capped at 300 units.
Cars

The Bugatti Centodieci is only possible because of the latest design tech

Bugatti is celebrating its 110th birthday by releasing a limited-edition hypercar named Centodieci. It's based on the Chiron, but its engine makes 1,600 horsepower, and it's a tribute to the EB110 released during the 1990s.
Cars

Discover the engineering Easter eggs in the new 2020 Ford Explorer

The 2020 Ford Explorer received a ground-up overhaul, with major changes that include a new hybrid powertrain option. But even the engineering details of the new Explorer are worth checking out.