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Volkswagen's ID Buzz: My micro-freakout over window pillars.

Some time this week, select auto journalists will travel to Barcelona and be the first to drive VW's first fully-electric van. We've been teased with countless Microbus concepts for years and now we're just weeks away from seeing the second coming of this iconic Volkswagen model.

But here's the thing: is VW going to bring us a high-style, retro-cool van that the public seems to desire, or will this be an electric van that just happens to have some styling-nods to the past? Will this be a hit like the New Beetle was back in 1998, or will it be a dud like the Chevy SSR?

Here's my concern: from the spy shots and the VW-sourced renderings/sketches, a lot of the retro-ness may have been removed from the final production model. And if too much of the "charm" is erased from this van, what are we left with? Has the ID Buzz moved much more mainstream to court traditional van buyers?

I've asked a lot of questions, so let me explain where this is coming from. First, let's look at the nifty ID.Buzz concept car. A couple things to point out: the wide front "V" that dips far down the front of the van, and the "framed" windows.

While not-just-these-two-items make a retro design, they are two very powerful design elements. The front V is perhaps the defining styling element of the original Type 2, so VW is smart to keep it. And we've seen flush-window designs with blacked-out pillars since the Audi 5000 debuted way back in the 1980s, so the body-colored window surrounds are quite pronounced on the concept. And they feel very old-school cool. Although I can't believe I'm talking about window pillars.

Now to the production model. VW has released a number of sketches and renderings, and yes, they all show a very Microbus-y shape. Online there's been some complaints of the cowl section ruining the "one box" look, and just as things move from concept to production, changes like this have to happen. But where my eyes go first is the front "V" and those darn window surrounds. The V, the most pronounced styling feature, is now a wide "U." And it's far more shallow than the concept van.

But the thing that bugs me most, and you can see it on the image above, are the blacked-out window pillars. You can see the lack of body-colored pillars on the sketch VW released a few weeks ago too:

This is quite different than the concept, and if it is VW's styling direction, could be a mistake. Now maybe they've taken artistic license here. Maybe they're just showing the design intent, but I have to believe these images are what we are going to see in March when the production Buzz is revealed.

One thing that gives me hope: the pre-production Buzzes that rolled off the assembly line last week all had body-colored A-pillars (image below). Pausing the video clearly reveals the white elements are a wrap (you can see the wrap in the close up shot of the lower grille), but maybe, just maybe the final design will have body-colored window surrounds.

And hopefully that's the last I'll have to write about body pillars.


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