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Could We See It Here?

VW Milano Taxo

VW Milano Taxi

2010 VW Polo

If nothing else, you’ve got to admit Volkswagen has come up with some pretty interesting rides these past few years. The Rabbit/Golf/Rabbit/Golf (hopefully they’ll settle on a final name someday) GTI has been just about everyone’s favorite pocket rocket for some time now. The Jetta has been the darling of affordable European sedan buyers in the US for years. The Phaeton luxury sedan, while perhaps a sales flop in America, is nontheless a superb automobile, and a good value, competitively speaking, for the money.

But there’s more to VW than what we see on the streets of Anytown, USA on any given day. For instance, the Scirocco: just like back in the late 1970s, a sporty coupe based on the Golf—pricier, less roomy, but wow, what a car! The Polo, which was recently named World Car of the Year at the New York Auto Show, and it’s not even available in North America! If you’ve never seen a Polo, it sort of looks like a Golf shrunken in the dryer. (When I was in Ireland a couple of summers ago I lusted mightily for a Polo rental car, but it wouldn’t carry the family and all of our luggage.) In the US we have a Jetta wagon, while Europe gets a Golf Estate—which are basically the same car, different marketing. There are also a couple of minivans, and a four-passenger Fox hatchback that is even smaller than the Polo. Not to mention a nifty Golf-based delivery van called the Caddy; a larger van never seen here called the Crafter; and the soon-to-come, and what I consider rather unfortunate-looking and perhaps even ill-timed pickup truck called the Amarok.

But what caught my eye today was the announcement of the Milano Taxi concept vehicle. Yes, a taxi cab. One we can only hope to see here someday soon. The Milano Taxi was conceived from the start as a taxi, unlike most cabs on the road today, which start life as something as mundane as a Ford Crown Victoria or Dodge Caravan and then get fitted with really cheap-looking interiors and bright yellow paint jobs. VW designers asked themselves what a cab should be and had at it. The Milano Taxi, some might say, has taken a step backwards in the sliding door department, providing only one on the right-hand side. But, argue designers, the safest way to enter or exit a cab is on the curb side: If that’s the only door, that solves that problem. The door opening also extends into the roof to make getting in and out easier, and opens out and slides forward for easier opening in tight spots. A series of glass panels in the roof brightens up the joint, and the spot normally occupied by a front passenger seat is left open for luggage and such. A touch screen in the back seat area displays fare information usually only available on the dashboard meter, while also offering the option of paying from your seat with your credit card.

Oh, and did I mention the Milano Taxi is an all-electric vehicle? It’s powered by an electric motor with a peak power of 85 kilowatts, which is supplied by a lithium-ion battery located in the car’s underbody. It should go 300 kilometers on a full charge, and can be recharged up to 80 percent of capacity in just one hour. The two-tone paint of the concept car—green and black—is the Volkswagen brand’s tribute to the fashion metropolis of Milan. That is where taxis were once painted in precisely this color combination. Volkswagen touts the Milan Taxi as something which would go well in large metropolises such as Milan, Berlin, New York, Beijing, Cape Town, London, Moscow, or Tokyo. And if the price is right, why not?

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