Apart from the Beetle, no other Volkswagen model can claim ’iconic’ status as the venerable Volkswagen "Type2 T1" Microbus. Back in its glory years, the Microbus was one of the most popular vehicles on the planet, used in more ways than anybody could have anticipated. Remember the 70’s and those ’Love Buses’? Yeah, those were the days, right?
It’s been a while since we last saw an iteration of the Microbus so you can imagine our surprise - and excitement - when Volkswagen unveiled the Bulli Concept at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show. Finally, the latest spiritual successor to the Microbus of yesteryear has arrived. Measuring 3.99 m in length, 1.75 m in width, and 1.70 m in height, the Bulli Concept is far from being green-lighted as a production vehicle, but now that a concept version has come out as a development model of the last Microbus concept that was unveiled back in 2001, it bodes well for those people that have been clamoring for a new Volkswagen Transporter to be released.
Whether we see one or not is all up to Volkswagen. But if we had a say on it, we’d be sending this vehicle to the production line in the blink of an eye.
UPDATE 08/15/11: It took a while, and it’s not set in stone yet, but if recent rumors are to be believed, it looks like the iconic Microbus will finally get its long awaited successor. Volkswagen hasn’t confirmed anything yet, but it appears that they’re seriously considering building a production version of the Bulli concept by 2014. We won’t draw any conclusions here, but at this point, we’d be very surprised if the Bulli doesn’t hit production anytime soon.
Details on the Volkswagen Bulli after the jump.
Exterior and Interior
Harkening back to the days of the Samba, the Volkswagen Bulli comes with a similar two-tone paint job with the distinctive ‘V’ on the van’s bonnet. Likewise, the Bulli’s 18” alloy wheels were dressed with the same stylized chrome hubcaps as another apparent tribute to the old Samba bus.
The interior of the Bulli is where things get a little more different, particularly because the new Bulli comes with a lot of new high-tech digs. Before getting to that, it must be noted that the Bulli’s interior comes with a 3+3 seating configuration with the three rear seats capable of being folded flat to maximize cargo space – or if you’re really feeling the 70’s vibe, you can turn all that space into your own mobile “good time spot”. If all six seats are occupied, the Bulli will still have an available load-space of 370 liters compared to the 1,600-liter load-space available with the seats folded.
Now for the fun stuff. The "center console" of the Bulli comes with a removable iPad, which serves as a multi-function touchscreen that comes with Internet-based applications, its own media center, as well as phone and navigation functions. Conspicuous by their absence are the tachometer, which we’ll explain later, and the gear lever. Taking the place of the lever is a rotary switch just to the right of the driver that’s used to select both forward and reverse gears. There’s also a push button found in the same switch that can be used to activate and switch off the motors. Finally, there’s another rotary switch found on the left side of the driver that controls every and all lighting functions of the Bulli.
The Bulli is an electric vehicle, which explains the absence of the tachometer, and is powered by a 40 kWh lithium-ion battery that is joined by an 85 kW electric motor. With this powertrain, the Bulli is capable of producing 113 horsepower and 192 lb/ft of torque with a 0-62 mph time of 11.5 seconds and an electronically limited top speed of 87 mph. Expected driving range for the Bulli is at 186 miles, which for all intents and purposes, is an impressive number for an electric car.
No word yet on pricing since the car is still a concept. And since it’s been a while since Volkswagen has released a spiritual successor to the VW buses of yesteryear, there’s no telling how much they’re going to price this one in the event that a production version is green-lighted. Nonetheless, we’re pegging a sticker price of somewhere around $24,000 - $33,000 based on what a Volkswagen Touran costs these days.
Should the Volkswagen Bulli hit the production block, you can expect it to compete against something like the Fiat Nuovo Doblo. Depending on how you configure the seats of the Bulli, the Nuovo Doblo’s load-space capacity is either going to be smaller or bigger than the Volkswagen concept at 790-liter load space.
While the Bulli will carry its name as an electric vehicle, the Nuovo Doblo is all gasoline, with up to four different powertrain options, beginning with a 1.3-liter engine that produces 95 horsepower and three diesel Multijet engine variants with an output at 90, 105, and 135 horsepower.
Depending on your taste, each vehicle has its own merit, so picking one over the other may end being a matter of preference. That is, if the Bulli ends up as a production vehicle. Otherwise, all comparisons end up being moot points.
Nice dress-up ’tribute’ to the old Microbus
No word on production
While efficient, powertrain could be more powerful
How long ’til we see it out on the streets?