A second motor makes a stark difference.
Adding all-wheel-drive to an average crossover doesn't drastically change how it drives. There's a bit more grip, the fuel economy takes a slight hit, and the buyer pays around $1,500 more for the all-weather peace of mind. But with the 2021 Volkswagen ID.4, the story is quite different. Volkswagen launched its first all-electric crossover in the United States with a rear-wheel-drive setup. Now, an AWD variant will join the lineup, offering more than just a traction boost.
To create the AWD ID.4, VW added an additional electric motor on the front axle. This motor drives the front wheels, while adding a significant amount of power to the total output. When you opt for AWD in an ID.4, it comes with a nearly 50% power increase. As you might expect, this has a pronounced effect on performance.
Very little differentiates an AWD ID.4 from a RWD one on the exterior. There's a tiny flitzer badge with "AWD" lettering, and the dual-motor ID.4 features 0.6 inches more ground clearance. Aside from these minor changes, the ID.4 remains pretty familiar. We think the Ford Mustang Mach-E is more aggressive, but the ID.4 might appeal to someone with more conventional tastes. It's attractive without drawing too much attention.
The ID.4's face is friendly, with standard LED headlights that give off a futuristic vibe. A body-color roof with black roof rails come standard, but we are partial to the black roof and silver rails that come as part of the Gradient Package. This package also brings in some stylish 20-inch wheels. The base color palette is pretty dull, with Glacier White Metallic, Mythos Black Metallic, Moonstone Grey, and Scale Silver as the only no-cost options. Blue Dusk Metallic is unlocked on the Pro S trim, while King's Red Metallic (a $395 option) is only available with the Gradient Package ($1,500).
We'd like to see VW offer the hotter-looking ID.4 GTX here in the US. It's mechanically similar to the AWD ID.4, but looks more like a GTI.
The RWD ID.4 employs a single electric motor on the rear axle, producing 201 horsepower and 229 lb-ft of torque. This yields a rather pedestrian 0-60 mph time of 7.5 seconds, which is comparable to an average mainstream crossover like a Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4. US-spec ID.4s are only available with a larger 82 kWh battery, enabling a 260-mile driving range, or 250 miles for Pro S. Stepping up to the AWD ID.4 keeps the same battery, but adds an electric motor on the front axle, good for 107 hp and 119 lb-ft.
Combined with the larger rear motor, the AWD ID.4 produces 295 hp and 339 lb-ft of torque. With nearly 50% more power, the AWD model takes only 5.4 seconds to hit 60 mph. Think of this then as the ID.4's performance option. Adding two driven wheels and a massive bump in performance only sacrifices 11 miles of driving range. The EPA says the AWD ID.4 will go 249 miles on a charge, or 240 miles in Pro S guise. In our opinion, the range trade-off for more power is well worth it.
The ID.4 ranks pretty highly on the fun scale as far as EVs go. It provides direct steering akin to a Golf, with nimble handling, an outstanding turning radius, and a controllable chassis. But, it was slow. The RWD ID.4 never felt dangerous when merging on the highway, but it was far from thrilling. The AWD model fixes that problem.
With 295 hp on tap, the ID.4 feels eager to accelerate. Mashing the throttle results in an instant jolt, but the power curve quickly trails off at higher speeds. This acceleration won't do much to impress Tesla Stans, but it's much quicker than the average ICE crossover.
Not only is the AWD ID.4 quicker, it's grippier too. The vehicle dynamics control system works in tandem with the stability control and electronic differential to decide when the front axle should engage. This system can also brake the inside wheels to help the ID.4 nudge itself around tighter corners. Combined with the low center of gravity from the floor-mounted batteries, the ID.4 can take turns at higher speeds than a conventional ICE crossover. It's a bit too heavy to be considered a hot hatchback, but it made us grin on windy back roads.
Having a usable driving range is meaningless if it's impossible to charge the car on a long road trip. Fortunately, the VW Group operates its own rapidly expanding charging network called Electrify America. With over 650 stations operating more than 2,700 DC fast chargers, it shouldn't be too hard to find a place to stop and "juice up" your ID.4. VW includes three years of complimentary charging with any ID.4 purchase or lease, with charging up to 125 kW.
In the real world, VW says the ID.4 should charge from 5% to 80% in around 38 minutes of DC fast charging. Put another way, it can add 62 miles of range in 10 minutes. When you stop to stretch your legs or grab a bite to eat, you can replenish those valuable electrons. For those who prefer to charge at home, the ID.4 takes around 7.5 hours to reach full battery on a Level 2 charger.
Stepping into the ID.4 is a tale of two cabins. The layout and design are excellent, but the technology could use some fine-tuning. When we drove the RWD ID.4 earlier this year, it was a pre-production unit with unfinished software. We noted in our review that the infotainment system was laggy between menus and the touch-capacitive buttons were finicky. A few months and a major over-the-air update haven't solved the problems. The screen still takes too long transitioning between menus, and the lack of physical controls is distracting while you drive.
We hope VW takes a page out of Honda's book and brings back simple controls like a volume knob and fan-speed controls. Turning up the air conditioning requires a trip to a separate menu screen, taking you away from your navigation or music. You can say "Hey ID" to have the car change the climate using your voice, but we found this process takes too long to initiate and it doesn't always understand your inputs.
We did enjoy the ID. Light, an LED strip that extends across the dashboard. It pulses to show navigation prompts, incoming phone calls, or charging status, and looks properly futuristic.
Putting the technology aside, the ID.4's cabin feels premium and well laid out. There's ample room for phones and drinks in the center console, which is configurable with removable cupholder attachments. While the infotainment is a swing and a miss, we appreciate how the ID.4 silently comes to life when you sit down and twist the drive selector. There's no need to press a start/stop button. When you get out of the seat, the car will automatically shut down, giving you an option to run the heating or A/C for a few minutes if you are running in and out on an errand.
The seats are cushy and feature a basic massage function with a rolling lumbar piece on the Pro S trim. The Pro S adds leatherette-wrapped seats in place of the upmarket-feeling premium cloth in the Pro model. Standard ten-color ambient lighting adds to the ambiance, with optional 30-color lighting available on the Pro S and First Edition. The interior feels airy thanks to an optional panoramic roof that extends well into the back seats and thankfully has a closable sunshade, unlike some competitors.
The ID.4 competes in the compact crossover segment, though it's a bit smaller than the most popular options like the CR-V and RAV4. There are 30.3 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats, and that area opens to 64.2 cubic feet with the second row folded. Most of the ID.4's gas-powered competitors offer more storage space. VW includes a bit more storage under the floor for the charging cable and other small items, and the Pro S and First Edition models include an adjustable trunk floor with a raised and lowered position, plus a ski passthrough. Unfortunately, there's no frunk, as that area is taken up by motors and other electric components.
Though it's not the largest crossover in this space, the ID.4 feels roomy for occupants. The ID.4 offers 78.7 inches of combined legroom (41.1 inches in the front and 37.6 inches in the rear), and with a flat floor, all five passengers should be comfortable on a long road trip.
Opting for AWD on a 2021 ID.4 will set you back $3,680 over a RWD model. That's significantly more than you'll pay for AWD on a CR-V or RAV4, but those don't get a 50% power increase. You also get a heated windshield, which should come in handy for cold climates. The base ID.4 Pro RWD carries a $39,995 price tag, while the Pro S trim starts at $44,495. Stepping up to an ID.4 Pro AWD costs $44,495, or $48,175 for the Pro S AWD, making this the least expensive AWD electric vehicle on sale in the US. Adding the $1,500 Gradient Package pushes the AWD model up to nearly $50,000.
The ID.4 is significantly more expensive than a gas-powered crossover, but it's also eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit from the government, plus local incentives. That credit can even be factored into a lease payment, making the ID.4 very affordable. VW offers a 36-month lease with 10,000 miles a year for $379 per month with $3,579 due at signing for the Pro RWD. From next year, the ID.4 will be built locally at VW's Chattanooga, Tennessee plant, which may lower the price in the coming years.
Now that we've had that opportunity to drive both versions of the ID.4, we highly recommend opting for the AWD model. If you can afford the $3,680 premium, the ID.4 AWD feels significantly quicker than its RWD counterpart without losing any of the driving enjoyment, and only hurting the range by 11 miles. The Ford Mustang Mach-E is larger, quicker, and includes a longer available driving range, but it's also more expensive. And while the Mach-E is quicker, we think the ID.4 is slightly more fun to drive, given its well-tuned steering.
VW hasn't created a Tesla Model Y killer here, but keep in mind that the cheapest Model Y costs roughly $14,000 more than the ID.4, so it's not an apples-to-apples comparison. If you are in the market for an affordable EV with AWD, the ID.4 is a no-brainer.