Motor enthusiasts were afforded a glimpse into Volkswagen’s future this month when the car giant unveiled plans for a signature EV model. Choosing the Geneva Auto Show to debut the aptly titled Vizzion, chief executive Matthais Muller proudly talked up plans for an augmented reality, one in which drivers navigate via facial scanning no less.
It is certainly high tech stuff and progress underlining VW’s commitment to producing one million electric vehicles by 2025.
Indeed a production version of the Vizzion – one encompassing a steering wheel and pedals – will be released no later than 2022 but its electrified brethren will follow close behind, we’re assured.
So how will this futuristic equivalent work?
In essence, occupants will use a combination of their voice and hand gesticulations to guide the car. Instructions will be fed into a virtual interface (there is no dash), one made visible to them courtesy of Microsoft Hololens glasses. The likes of temperature, audio and even seating arrangements will be governed this way as the designated driver takes a backseat... literally if they so wish.
Eventually the Vizzion will be primed to drive itself entirely. Notably, the prototype shared in Switzerland comes with Level 5 autonomy – the highest possible - and shows where focus has shifted since work on a petrol/diesel replacement for the Phaeton ground to a halt.
Interestingly the Vizzion is but the fourth instalment of VW’s planned EV range.
An SUV christened Crozz is slated for release in 2019, while a compact hatchback with an even less imaginatively labelled – I.D. – will follow hot on its heels. VW boss Herbert Diess has billed this duo the Golf and Tiguan of the electric era.
Not to be forgotten is the final sibling, Buzz; the microbus due in four years time. All four models tap into VW’s Modular Electrification Tookit (MEB), a generic electric vehicle platform that will enable all of its brand groups to offer long range all-electric models in multiple configurations.
Between them this quartet collection look set to propel VW into the modern era. A wider debate is perhaps whether or not road laws can keep pace with such technological advancement.
For reaction to the Vizzion has proven largely positive but some query why such a forward thinking concept remains so rigid when it comes to interior design and namely the placement of seats. The law, quite simply.
Seatbelts are non-negotiable and rather than incite legal challenges designers have chosen to keep seating arrangements standard. Passengers will need to buckle up and face forward a little while yet.
Similar climb downs have been made on the likes of distinctive suicide doors, an ambition not wholly affordable if mass production is rolled out. Development chief Frank Welsch accepts this fact, despite lamenting it.
VW have also been quick to disclose – or rather admit – the Vizzion will be on the hefty side. Housing a 111kWh-ion battery necessitates bulk, the kind that’s 5,163mm long, 1,947mm wide and 1.506mm tall to be precise. On the plus side there is considerably more in the way of legroom, space that will grow further still without a steering wheel, dashboard or pedals.
Other titbits shared at the convention included confirmation that electric motors will be placed on both the front and rear axles, making for all wheel drive and – it’s hoped - 301bhp. The wheels themselves will be 24 inch, in case you were wondering.
As for that all important battery life, VW estimate a full charge will carry you 413 miles. A good effort.
Price wise attendees were told the production model is likely to cost the same as a midsize, diesel Sedan. That’s approximately £36,500. Make no mistake; the Vizzion is earmarked to become the premium offering.
As with any design the car’s aesthetics are a matter of taste. Some will favour the synthetic carpet, while others will yearn for an authentic Aston Martin type alternative. Similarly, LED strips are somewhat of the Marmite variety. You either love or hate such accessories. Greater unanimity is likely to stem from the blood red paintwork, one befitting of a luxury saloon.
Most acknowledge VW have veered from their typical look and feel. The bigger debate centres on whether that deviation has gone far enough.
Whatever your view, undeniable is the manufacturer’s long-term ambitions. We may have to wait until 2030 for fully fledged, self-autonomous functionality but forward planning ensures VW and its Vizzion should be one of the first on the grid.