Volkswagen IDLife Concept First Look: Living Its Best (ID) Life

Volkswagen’s new IDLife concept, a future vision of a subcompact, front-wheel driven, all-electric powered crossover, is itself an acceleration of the German automaker’s already aggressive Accelerate future electrified vehicle strategy. IDLife is also being billed as an eminently affordable EV with wow-factor features including facial recognition entry, advanced smartphone integration, a novel removable top, and versatile interior packaging for younger drivers looking to live their best EV life. That three young VW engineers who worked on the IDLife took center stage at its Munich auto show debut was no accident.

As for when buyers will actually be able to live that IDLife, VW says it’s been able to push up the timetable for the production version to 2025, and that it will be priced as little as 20,000 euros (just shy of $24,000 at current exchange rates) to start. There’s one catch, however, at least for us Americans: VW says it won’t be coming here.

IDLife Powertrain and Performance

The IDLife, like all of VW’s smaller EVs, will roll on a version of its MEB components set EV platform. But the IDLife will mark the first time an MEB-based model will feature a front-drive powertrain. Its electric motor—rated at 234 horsepower and 214 lb-ft of torque—is positioned at the front of the vehicle, unlike its present ID3 for other markets and the 2021 VW ID4 we get here, which have rear-mounted motors in their base configurations. VW says the IDLife is capable of a 0-60 mph time of 6.9 seconds on to a top speed of 112 mph. That’s quicker than the 7.4 second 60 mph time we recorded for the ID4 in our first test.

Power for the IDLife is supplied by a 62.0-kWh battery pack. VW estimates the vehicle will be capable of a range in the neighborhood of 250-miles to a charge and will be able to be recharged to around 100 miles in as little as 10 minutes at a DC fast-charging station.

Lots of Fun Features For IDLife Living

But enough about all that range and battery and power, let’s get to the fun stuff. While we’ll be er, shocked, if all of it makes it to the production IDLife given the price point VW is aiming for, the concept has a bushel full of features that the kids will likely be all right with.

It starts the access to the vehicle, which utilizes a camera in the B-pillar of the car with facial recognition software, much like many of today’s smartphones. Once inside, your smartphone is integrated into IDLife via an app that optimizes communication, infotainment, and ventilation to your pre-sets, with a heads-up display showing an array of information. Additional controls are modified through the hexagonal, open-topped steering wheel. There are no buttons of note for traditional functions like wipers and lights, they’re replaced instead by a touch-sensitive control panel on the wheel itself. Cameras abound in the IDLife, taking the place of traditional rear view exterior and interiors mirrors.

One of the wow-est of the IDLife’s features is the addition a game console and retractable projector, which are integrated into the vehicle’s multimedia system. You can also connect your device to the system (power is supplied via a 230-volt socket), and the game/movie/video is projected onto a screen that extends from the upper part of the dash, covering the entire windshield. The screen itself is operated by your smartphone or a panel in the roof frame. Making things even more impressive is the configurability of the cabin to orient the seating to optimize the viewability of the screen for occupants.

The IDLife also boasts multiple flexible stowage compartments, rear seats that can stow vertically so you can easily add objects to the vehicle transversely, and there are multiple inductive charging areas to power up several devices. The seating can also be moved fore and aft to either easily stow long objects like surfboards or positioned to act as a flat floor for sleeping. Oh, and everything’s a purple hue on the inside. Why, we’re not sure. Maybe the cool kids love purple?

Recycling Future and Exterior Features

Volkswagen isn’t the first automaker to integrate the use of recycled materials into a concept vehicle, but it’s taking it up a couple of landfills on the IDLife. For example, the vehicle’s low-rolling resistance tires are partially constructed using vegetable oil and resins, recycled rubber, and silica from rice husks.

Even more impressive is the fact that there are no traditional plastics used in the IDLife’s interior. The surrounds for the dash panel, windscreen, rear seat, and rear window are made of Forest Stewardship Council (an international non-profit that promotes responsible management of the world’s forests) certified raw material. The seat surfaces and door trim are composed of 71 percent PET (polyethylene terephthalate, a form of polyester) bottles and shredded T-Shirts, and the purple stitching is 100 percent PET. Used, shredded tires are a key component of the car’s distinctive rubber paint finish. We’ll see how much of this eco-friendly fanciness is used on the production version, but it all sounds doable enough.

As for the exterior, while the IDLife exudes muscularity in its overall proportions, with a clear horizontal division between its body, the glass surfaces, and its distinctive removable roof, VW stylists took a minimalist approach overall, deliberately eschewing any real decorative elements or add-on parts and employing flush door handles. It rolls on a 20-inch alloy wheel and tire package, framed by mildly flared wheel arches. Dimensionally, the IDLife’s 104.3-inch wheelbase is 4.6-inches shorter than the ID4 (for comparison sake, the VW GTI has a 103.6-inch wheelbase), and it’s a whopping 18.9-inches shorter in overall length than the ID4.

Its toupee acts as the IDLife’s main exterior attraction, utilizing what Volkswagen calls a two-layer air chamber textile that’s also composed of 100 percent recycled PET bottles. The lightweight top and hood (it’s made of the stuff as well) are attached via zip fasteners. Unzip the top and you’re living a convertible IDLife.

At the front of the IDLife concept, a translucent surface with three circles in satin-finished glass and a connecting light line form what VW calls a new interpretation of its brand face. The truncated outer circles act as the parking and daytime running lights, with an illuminated brand logo taking center stage. At night, additional LED light banks further illuminate the surface. The rear light banks are similar in scope to the front, though the light source located centrally in the two outer circles becomes the brake light function.

So why aren’t we getting a production version of the IDLife in the U.S.? We’re attempting to find that out, but we suspect Volkswagen believes the ID4 is the floor of where it wants its U.S. market EV strategy to be from a size and price standpoint, at least for now. But if the rest of the world loves living the IDLife, maybe VW’s U.S. arm will rethink its strategy.

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