Is Volkswagen’s Bulli Concept Unveiled At 2011 Geneva Motor Show The New VW Microbus?

March 3, 2011

The VW bus, as some of the older crowd may recall with nostalgia may be reborn soon -- if the stars are in alignment and Volkswagen honchos follow through with a production model of the VW Bulli concept unveiled at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show. Actually, the VW Microbus was born in 1950 and was, according to Volkswagen, the “world’s first van,” driven on all continents. It was also a legend right here in America – especially during the 1960s. Anyone remember the wildly-colored hippie vehicles of those days? They were VW buses.

2001 Volkswagen Microbus concept

2001 Volkswagen Microbus concept

Enlarge Photo

Then there was the concept version Volkswagen released in 2001 of the Microbus. This newest concept is finishing what the automaker started.

But there are a few noteworthy differences between the old VW Microbus and the newest concept iteration. Make that more than a few.

2011 Volkswagen Bulli Concept live photos

2011 Volkswagen Bulli Concept live photos

Enlarge Photo

First, there’s undoubtedly the exterior styling. VW says the Bulli has “Volkswagen design DNA.” While it may look somewhat familiar, the concept design is evolved. Translate that to mean more in keeping with the times. Okay, specifically, there’s the big, round VW chrome emblem on the nose, two-tone paint scheme, and other design cues. Bottom line: It’s familiar, yet all-new. How refreshing is that? What is different, too, is that the new concept doesn’t have sliding doors – just two conventional doors in the rear of the bus.

Second, the VW Bulli – let’s just call it the VW Microbus from here on -- features an electric drivetrain, not gasoline. The six-passenger concept revealed in Geneva is powered by a 114-horsepower electric motor positioned in the front of the vehicle to drive the front wheels. The concept also delivers 199 pound-feet of torque. The 40-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack has a range of 186 miles and can be recharged in less than an hour, according to the automaker.

But hold on, Volkswagen says the engine compartment could also hold a gasoline or diesel engine – as long as it’s small. That’s quite a bit of flexibility, it seems.

Third, on the inside, instead of the three rows of seats in the original VW bus, there are now only two rows featuring bench seats allowing seating for six. The front bench seat is split and the rear can be completely folded down for greater cargo space. Just like the original VW bus, the concept’s rear seat system can be transformed to a flat reclining surface – voila, a perfect camper of a compact sort.

There’s also no tachometer or gear shift. A rotary dial selects drive, reverse, park and neutral. But there is a docking station with a removable iPad, which controls Bluetooth hands-free telephone and a navigation system. Controls for the climate control system and hazard warning switch are integrated into the iPad mount.  

Will the concept make it to reality? While Volkswagen gives no hint of production plans, it does say the downsizing makes the new Microbus “ideal for anyone who wants to cover maximum distances with minimal fuel consumption.”

Sounds like the Volkswagen Microbus just may have some part in VW’s forward planning after all. Soon, we may hear families saying, “Get on the bus” – the VW Microbus, that is.

For another take on the Volkswagen Bulli Concept vehicle, see Nelson Ireson’s article at MotorAuthority.

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