When an automaker stakes its future on diesel engines and those suddenly fall out of favor, where does it go next? Electric vehicles seem like a nice pivot, and Volkswagen is currently overseeing one of the most rapid direction changes we've seen in the automotive industry, shunning diesel engines completely in favor of cleaner electric powertrains. The company launched its affordable ID.3 electric hatchback in Europe last year, but since Americans hate hatchbacks, some work was needed to make it a viable seller here. Volkswagen knew in order to sell an electric vehicle in the US, it had to be a crossover.
The 201-horsepower Volkswagen ID.4 arrives as the German automaker's first electric SUV, targeted at making EVs attainable for millions, not millionaires. With a sub-$40,000 starting price plus federal incentives, a strong 250-mile range, and approachable performance with quirky German flavor, the ID.4 is positioned to offer buyers an affordable entry into the EV lifestyle. The ID.4 doesn't arrive without competition though, as a refreshed Chevrolet Bolt and sporty Ford Mustang Mach-E will also be seeking to capture first-time EV buyers and Tesla converts alike. Is the ID.4 truly the people's electric car? We spent a few days in a 1st Edition model to find out.
The 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 is an all-new arrival this year. This dedicated electric crossover will initially be offered in a rear-wheel-drive configuration with 201 horsepower from a single electric motor, but a more powerful AWD version with dual motors and 302 hp will be available midway through the year. For the RWD model, range on a full charge works out to 250 miles. The stylish lines conceal a spacious, two-row interior with over 30 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row. A digital cockpit and a large rocker switch replacing a conventional shift lever are some of the notable technologies to be found in the cabin, along with a central touchscreen measuring up to 12 inches.
See trim levels and configurations:
It's clear that Volkswagen set out to create a vehicle that was just as approachable as any other SUV from within its stable with a friendly vibe reminiscent of a Beetle. In fact, casual observers may assume that this is simply an attractively-styled new VW crossover with a conventional powertrain. There are signs that this isn't the case, though, such as the absence of a normal radiator grille. The LED headlights are nicely styled and customers can opt for an illuminated VW logo as well as an illuminated light bar. A few honeycomb accents add a dash of sportiness.
On the base model, the ID.4 rides on 19-inch machined alloy wheels and wears black roof rails. The higher-spec Pro S - also known as the Pro S (Statement) - has a panoramic fixed glass roof and premium LED projector headlights. On this trim, the Gradient package adds 20-inch wheels, a roof painted in black, and a silver side accent. Those lucky enough to get hold of a 1st Edition model will get unique badging, 20-inch wheels, an illuminated grille, and the fixed glass panoramic roof.
According to VW, the ID.4's dimensions indicate that it is 4.6 inches shorter, 1.9 inches lower, but 0.5 inches wider than the Tiguan. All ID.4s have a 108.9-inch wheelbase, while the total body length is 180.5 inches. It is 72.9 inches wide and 64.4 inches in height. With its SUV body and battery pack, the ID.4 is quite heavy at 4,559 pounds in Pro RWD guise and 4,665 in Pro S and 1st Edition RWD guise.
The entry-level ID.4 Pro can be finished in a choice of four colors. Only Moonstone Gray isn't metallic, but the other three are. These are Glacier White, Mythos Black, and Scale Silver. You'd need to upgrade to the Pro S to get anything that can be described as vibrant, and even then, this trim level only adds one more color, Dusk Blue metallic. When speccing the optional Gradient package on the Pro S, Kings Red metallic becomes available for an extra $395 - this is the only color that costs anything extra. Everyone who saw our Dusk Blue test vehicle commented on how pretty the color looks, so this is the hue we'd be most likely to recommend.
Newer EVs promise more immediate acceleration than their conventionally-powered counterparts, especially when darting from one traffic light to the next at city speeds. The base rear-wheel-drive model produces 201 horsepower and 228 lb-ft of torque; reports from independent testing suggest that the ID.4 can sprint from 0-60 mph in as little as 7.5 seconds on its way to a top speed of 99 mph.
Some might find this acceleration figure to be a bit disappointing considering that the Hyundai Kona Electric can achieve the same sprint in well under seven seconds, and even the slowest Tesla Model Y Standard Range only needs 5.3 seconds to do the same, while the pricier Long Range takes 4.8 seconds for the same sprint. For this reason, it may be worth waiting a bit longer for the dual-motor AWD version with its 302-hp powertrain, which should be significantly quicker - we estimate a 0-60 time in the mid-six-second range. This AWD version also offers a braked towing capacity of 2,700 lbs compared to 2,200 lbs on the RWD model.
At first, the VW ID.4 will be offered with just one powertrain. The rear-mounted AC permanent-magnet synchronous electric motor generates 201 hp and 228 lb-ft of torque and comes with a lithium-ion battery with a gross capacity of 82 kWh. It makes use of a single-speed direct-drive transmission. Later in the year, the dual-motor AWD version will add a second motor to the front axle and produce up to 302 hp and 330-lb ft of torque.
The Driving Mode Selection system allows the driver to choose between four modes: Eco, Comfort, Sport, and Custom. At its best, the ID.4 gets up to around 40 or 50 mph with ease, feeling every bit like a swift EV with its immediately available torque. There's no Tesla-like shove into the seats, but acceleration feels on par with most conventional mainstream crossovers, albeit smoother and quieter. Thereafter, its responsiveness does taper off a bit disappointingly, but the more powerful AWD version should remedy any concerns you may have about the SUV's performance.
Volkswagen didn't build the ID.4 to be a rear-wheel-drive GTI alternative, so it's naive to think of it as one. We'd describe the handling characteristics as spry without going so far as to call them sporty. Think of it like a Golf or Tiguan, but electric. The steering is light, like most Volkswagen vehicles, but sport mode adds a tremendous amount of weight to make it feel more GTI-like. With drive going to the rear, the front wheels can focus on the task of steering, making the connection to the road feel more precise, better than what we've experienced in a Tesla or Chevrolet Bolt. The ID.4's low center of gravity, thanks to the floor-mounted batteries, keeps it level through the corners in a way none of its gasoline competitors can match. We particularly enjoyed the ID.4's B mode, which triggers one-pedal driving with the regenerative brakes. If we modulated it correctly, we could do nearly an entire journey without touching the brake pedal.
In its Eco and Normal modes, the ID.4's accelerator requires a heavy foot to get the car moving quickly, likely in an attempt to conserve range. Placing the car into Sport mode makes it feel far more eager to deliver power in a hurry, though it's worth noting that the electric acceleration feels smooth and instant in all drive modes. The RWD ID.4 feels quick but not fast, so we'd wait for the more powerful AWD variant for a sportier experience. Though there is no adaptive suspension on the ID.4, ride quality is generally excellent, offering less choppy suspension than a comparable Tesla Model Y and much better than a Chevrolet Bolt. Road and wind noise is fairly low, though both are more noticeable with the lack of an engine. Just turn the radio on, and the disturbances fade away almost entirely.
According to the EPA, both the ID.4 1st Edition and the Pro S trims will manage figures of 104/89/97 MPGe city/highway/combined and a total range on a full charge of 250 miles thanks to the 82-kWh battery. The Tesla Model Y Long Range Dual Motor manages a significantly better 131/117/125 MPGe and a range of 326 miles. Other affordable EV options with slightly more range include the Chevrolet Bolt and Hyundai Kona Electric with 259 and 258 miles, respectively. We noted that the ID.4 seemed to discharge electricity slower than expected. The onboard computer showed only a five-mile range loss after 20 miles of driving, leading us to believe the ID.4 could go further than 250 miles if needed. Later in the year, the more powerful ID.4 AWD model will offer a 230-mile range.
The ID.4 comes with an 11-kW AC onboard charger, a 110-volt charging cable, and has a DC charging acceptance rate of up to 125 kW. Using DC fast charging, the ID.4 can add 60 miles of range in 10 minutes or be recharged from five to 80 percent in around 38 minutes. With a Level 2 charger, either at home or at a public charging point, 33 miles of range can be added in about an hour, but a full charge will take 7.5 to 11.5 hours overnight. On the plus side, the ID.4 comes with three years of inclusive fast charging with Electrify America where customers can take advantage of over 17,000 chargers spread across the country. As with most EVs, the decision to buy an ID.4 will be predicated on how convenient it is to charge near you.
VW hasn't tried to squeeze in a third row of seats, so most will be happy with the spacious and airy two-row cabin. There are similarities between the design of the ID.4's cabin and the ID.3 hatchback which won't be sold here, but the overall feel is undeniably sleek, modern, and devoid of buttons. This reliance on either touch or voice controls will require you to get familiar with the digital interfaces, which include a 5.3-inch digital driver's display known as the ID.Cockpit. We think Volkswagen tried a bit too hard to reinvent the wheel with some of the controls, and the ID.4 might have been more approachable with conventional buttons. There's also no normal gear shift lever as this has been replaced by a rocker switch situated close to the digital gauge cluster. Drivers need not hit a start button when they enter the vehicle; just hop in, press the brake, and twist the drive rocker. The base version comes with features like dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, keyless access, and pedestrian monitoring. Fully power-adjustable seats and a panoramic fixed glass roof are available.
When equipped with the optional glass panoramic roof, the ID.4's cabin feels extremely spacious and airy. The lack of an engine or transmission tunnel left the designers to create a roomy interior that feels quite near to ergonomic perfection. We found the front seats to provide plenty of comfort with slight bolstering that feels reminiscent of an R-Line model, but not as grippy as a GTI or R variant.
The ID.4 seats five adults, with rear passengers receiving 37.6 inches of legroom. This is a bit less than what's found in a Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4, but the ID.4's lack of a transmission tunnel means middle seat occupants will feel more comfortable. The headroom is generally spacious in both rows, and is unaffected by the optional glass roof.
We pointed out the entry-level Pro's limited exterior color palette earlier in our review, and there's even less variety in the cabin. As standard, the interior features black cloth seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The Pro S comes with more lively V-tex perforated leatherette seats in either Galaxy Black or Lunar Gray. However, if you choose the Moonstone Gray or Scale Silver exterior paints, the Lunar Gray interior option falls away. With the optional Gradient package on the Pro S, choosing the Kings Red exterior paint also eliminates the Lunar Gray interior option.
With the 1st Edition models, there are quirky "play" and "pause" logos to be found on the accelerator and brake pedals, along with a steering wheel and interior trim pieces finished in Electric White as a nod to classic VW products like the Beetle. Be sure to wash your hands before touching the 1st Edition's steering wheel, though.
Behind the rear seats, the new ID.4 offers 30.3 cubic feet of space. This is much better than in any electric sedan, but some conventionally-powered crossovers like the Honda CR-V offer more space; the Honda's trunk measures 39.2 cubes. A closer competitor to the ID.4, the Honda CR-V Hybrid, manages slightly more cargo room at 33.2 cubes. With the 60/40-split second row folded, the ID.4's cargo area grows to 64.2 cubes. Tesla does not provide a specific figure for the Model Y's trunk, but says that its crossover offers 68 cubic feet of total enclosed cargo space, narrowly beating the VW. The ID.4 does not offer a 'frunk' as in some other EVs like the Model Y.
In the cabin, the ID.4 offers numerous clever storage solutions for small items. Between the seats, there is a massive storage space and a cupholder tray that can be removed or left in place. The center storage area also offers a space for your phone while it is being wirelessly charged. There are also well-sized door pockets front and rear, a usual glovebox, and rear phone pouches on the seatbacks.
The Volkswagen ID.4's specification level starts off at a fairly high level. With the entry-level Pro, it comes with four-way manually-adjustable front seats with a two-way power-reclining function. These seats are also heated and, along with the heated steering wheel and the dual-zone climate control system, even this base model will keep you comfortable on chilly winter mornings. VW's ID.Light function uses a strip of ambient light to indicate, for instance, whether the drive system is active or not by way of changing colors. This feature is also linked to some driver-assist functions, navigation, and charging status. Other features include wireless device charging, a digital driver's display, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, keyless access, front/rear parking sensors, heated side mirrors, and adaptive cruise control. The Pro S has all of these features along with 12-way fully power-adjustable front seats with a massaging function, hands-free access, and a panoramic fixed glass roof.
The ID.4 debuts a brand-new infotainment system for Volkswagen that will eventually find its way into other models like the upcoming Golf GTI. In our very early test of the ID.4, we enjoyed the system's graphics and overall layout, but experienced several glitches including a blank screen, laggy transitions, and a lack of voice command. Volkswagen told us that our tester featured a software version that was not 100% complete, and that customer cars would receive a more smoothed-out system.
When it did function properly, we enjoyed the new setup. The base infotainment lives on a 10-inch Discover Pro touchscreen, while the upper trim levels gain a 12-inch Discover Pro Max display. Both screens function like a smartphone does, and can be customized with different colors and design schemes. Should the interface not be to the driver's liking, both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are included with wireless capability. Information such as speed and driver assist information is shown on an ID.Cockpit display in front of the steering wheel.
Drivers who hate touch-sensitive controls can also talk to the car using the "Hello ID" voice prompt, but we found the responses to be slower than what we could do ourselves on the screen. Overall, we felt the lack of physical controls to be a hindrance rather than a positive feature. This is one area where Volkswagen may have been better off not copying Tesla.
The 2021 VW ID.4 is a brand new arrival so has not yet established a reliability record. No early recalls were issued at the time of writing.
Both the NHTSA and the IIHS have not yet evaluated the ID.4 for crashworthiness. However, another member of the ID.series family, the ID.3 hatchback that is built on the same MEB platform as the ID.4, attained an excellent five-star safety rating in the Euro NCAP test. We expect the ID.4 to achieve similarly strong results when it is evaluated.
Volkswagen should be commended for the ID.4's array of standard safety items. It comes with all the essentials like electronic stability control and anti-slip regulation, plus a suite of six airbags. This is made up of dual front airbags, dual side airbags in front, and curtain airbags for both rows. The obligatory rearview camera is complemented by front/rear parking sensors, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and high beam control.
Every ID.4 enjoys adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keep assist, dynamic road sign display, forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, travel assist, emergency assist, and pedestrian monitoring. These features fall under the brand's IQ.DRIVE suite of driver-assist innovations. In the event of a severe collision, the battery will be automatically disabled. The Pro S adds an adaptive front-lighting system with a low-speed cornering function.
Volkswagen boldly calls the ID.4 its most important vehicle since the original Beetle, and this point is difficult to dispute. Some might argue that Volkswagen's success in the US hinges on the ID.4, so it's crucial that the launch goes without any hiccups. So long as the company's engineers solve the infotainment glitches we experienced on our early test car before customer deliveries begin, we see no reason why the ID.4 can't be "the people's car" to get people talking about electric vehicles.
The driving experience feels surprisingly normal, which should appeal to nervous buyers who may be hesitant to purchase their first EV. We can't see many Tesla owners rushing to sell their cars, but then again, the ID.4 competes in a lower price point and is not directly fighting the Model Y. As an alternative to the less expensive Chevrolet Bolt and Bolt EUV, we think the ID.4 feels less economy-minded and more premium overall. Options like the Hyundai Kona Electric and Kia Niro EV offer comparable range and performance at a similar price, but feel less unique since they are both based on conventional crossovers. Volkswagen's stiffest competition should come with the arrival of the Hyundai Ioniq 5, though pricing information for that vehicle is still unavailable.
Choosing a 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 will still boil down to the individual buyer, their available charging methods, and driving habits. High-mileage drivers and buyers who live in apartments without charging stations might be better off with a plug-in hybrid alternative like the Toyota RAV4 Prime. But if the ID.4 suits your lifestyle, we see it as a fun new option in the affordable EV space. So long as the launch goes smoothly, the ID.4 should be an EV conversation starter.
For the value-conscious customer, the base ID.4 Pro will be the first choice as it carries a starting MSRP of $39,995. It's followed by the limited 1st Edition model at $43,995. Next is the Pro S (Statement) at a cost of $44,495. The Pro S can be upgraded with the $1,500 Gradient package, but both the Pro and the Pro S can be equipped with the dual-motor, all-wheel drivetrain for an additional $3,680. All ID.4 models potentially qualify for a federal tax credit of up to $7,500. These prices exclude a destination charge of $1,195.
Volkswagen has divided the 2021 ID.4 lineup into three models: the base Pro, the limited 1st Edition, and the Pro S (Statement). All are powered by a 201-horsepower electric motor that directs power to the rear wheels. An 82-kWh battery allows for a range of 250 miles on a full charge. Available at a later stage will be an AWD, dual-motor derivative with 302 hp. All models are capable of DC fast charging.
The Pro has 19-inch machined alloy wheels and black roof rails, along with LED reflector headlights, LED daytime running lights, and LED taillights. Inside, the cloth-covered seats are partially power-adjustable in front, while the driver has access to both a digital gauge cluster and a 10-inch touchscreen display. Adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning form part of the comprehensive safety offering.
Available in only limited numbers is the ID.4 1st Edition. It adds unique touches like 1st Edition badging, black mirror caps, 20-inch alloy wheels, premium LED projector headlights, and a panoramic fixed glass roof. It also gets unique white interior accents.
The Pro S - or Pro S (Statement) - shares most of the 1st Edition's features like a panoramic fixed glass roof, a 12-inch touchscreen display, and 12-way power-adjustable front seats. This trim can be equipped with the Gradient package that will add 20-inch alloy wheels, silver roof rails and silver accents, and a black-painted roof. Leatherette upholstery with additional color choices distinguishes this trim from the Pro.
The high standard specification level means that there are very few options on offer. In fact, the only available package is the Gradient package, and it's only offered on the Pro S for an additional $1,500. Primarily an aesthetic upgrade, it equips the ID.4 Pro S with 20-inch wheels, while silver roof rails/silver accents contrast nicely with a black roof. By choosing the Gradient package, you can also add Kings Red metallic paint for an additional $395.
The ID.4 will be available at launch with three trim levels, all including a single electric motor driving the rear wheels only. Our easy advice here is to buy the 1st Edition model, which includes all of the upgrades found on the Pro S (Statement) trim with the optional Gradient Package, but at a lower $43,995 price point. Volkswagen offered the 1st Edition as a reward to early adopters, but this trim level is sadly sold out. We'd therefore default to the Pro S trim for $44,495, but skip the $1,500 Gradient Package with larger wheels, and bolder exterior accents. Should the lower 230-mile range and price not be an issue, we'd highly consider waiting for the AWD model, which costs $3,680 more than the RWD ID.4. Adding a second motor increases the power by nearly 50% while improving the car's usefulness in winter weather.
The Nissan Ariya is another bold electric vehicle from a respected mainstream automaker. In fact, whereas the ID.4 has smart but restrained styling, the production Ariya has a dramatic, concept-like look. The Nissan will be offered in either FWD or AWD configurations, while the ID.4 is either RWD or AWD. With between 215 and 389 hp, the Nissan won't only be more powerful than the comparable ID.4 models, but Nissan claims a maximum range of 300 miles which will surpass the 250-mile range of the ID.4. However, the ID.4 may just be the better SUV as its 30.3-cubic-foot trunk is larger than the Ariya's rather poor 22.8-cube effort. More than one battery option is an advantage for the Ariya. We look forward to putting these two rivals up against each other when the Ariya arrives at the end of 2021.
There's no doubt that the Tesla Model Y is the crossover that VW would like to conquer with the ID.4. However, it's somewhat of a mismatch as Tesla seems to have lost faith in the RWD-only Standard Range Model Y, removing it from its website but then saying it was still technically available. Its 244-mile range and price of just below $40,000 makes it a near-identical match for the base ID.4 Pro, which has a 250-mile range and a sub-$40k price as well. The Model Y is easily quicker, though, and both the Long Range and Performance models will embarrass the single-motor ID.4 in a straight line. These versions of the Model Y also have a better range of 326 and 303 miles respectively, along with access to Tesla's comprehensive Supercharger network. However, the Model Y has had a few quality foibles along the way, and we don't anticipate the same for a VW product. The ID.4 benefits from a federal tax credit of up to $7,500, dramatically improving the value proposition of the newer vehicle. Based on the early evidence, the Model Y looks to have retained its edge as the better EV, but not necessarily the better crossover.
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