Volkswagen AG (NASDAQOTH:VWAGY) will soon show a concept version of an upcoming premium electric sedan, with a twist: It'll have no steering wheel.
But whether VW ends up building it with or without a steering wheel, the concept car is almost certainly a preview of an upcoming electric sedan that might give Tesla's(NASDAQ:TSLA) Model 3 some stiff competition -- eventually.
Here's what we know.
The VW I.D. Vizzion: An upscale self-driving electric sedan
VW described its I.D. Vizzion concept car as a "fully automated premium class" sedan. It's self-driving -- in fact, VW says, it has no visible steering wheel or controls. It's driven by a "digital chauffeur"; the car's human passengers can communicate with the chauffeur via voice and gesture controls.
It will be the fourth vehicle that VW has shown under its upcoming all-electric "I.D." sub-brand. Like VW's other I.D. concept vehicles, the I.D. Vizzion is fully electric. It has a dual-motor setup for all-wheel-drive, with a 111-kilowatt-hour battery pack that gives it a range of "up to 665 kilometers when braking regeneration is factored in," VW said.
(That's about 413 miles, but note that that's an estimate of the car's rated range using the European testing cycle. The U.S. range test is more conservative: 665 kilometers of range in Europe probably translates to a rated range of a little over 300 miles in the U.S.)
As you'd expect from a fully self-driving vehicle, the I.D. Vizzion isn't a sport sedan. VW claims a top speed of 180 kilometers per hour, or about 112 miles per hour -- enough to keep up on the faster stretches of Germany's Autobahn, but not exactly race car territory.
VW said that the I.D. Vizzion concept car will have its world premiere at the Geneva International Motor Show, which begins on March 6.
Is this thing for real?
For now at least, the I.D. Vizzion is a concept, meaning that it's strictly for show. But VW has confirmed plans to put the first three I.D. concept vehicles into production between 2020 and 2022. It's very possible (even likely) that an all-electric production vehicle resembling this concept is in the works.
And given the state of self-driving technology (and of the laws and regulations around self-driving technology) today, it's also very possible that the production version will have a steering wheel -- even if it's offered with some self-driving capabilities.
If so, and if it arrives sooner rather than later, things could get interesting. With its dual-motor driveline and ample range, the I.D. Vizzion has the makings of a car that could be an alternative to Tesla's Model 3 -- especially if you imagine it in a sportier version, with a taut suspension and more powerful motors.
But for now, that's just speculation. We'll know much more after we hear what VW executives say about the I.D. Vizzion concept when it's unveiled next month.