PAY IT FORWARD: Once a beacon shining atop the peak of fuel efficiency, the People’s Car Maker’s fall from high compression oil burning grace was, at best, convoluted and, at worst, stupid storied. Fines paid, vehicles owners reimbursed and executive heads rolling were only part of the lashing for Volkswagen Group A.G.’s faced for its diesel emissions data falsification scandal.
DE-BUGGED, PLUGGED-IN: The second phase of atonement for an emissions tainted VW has arrived. Ties to legacy internal combustion models like Beetle have been severed. The first fruit borne out of the German carmaker’s full court press towards zero emissions vehicles is the 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 .
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WHAT: 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 Pro S AWD plug-in battery electric compact sport activity vehicle, based on MEB Modularer E-Antriebs-Baukasten (Modular Electric Drive –Toolkit), itself related to the Audi Q4 e-tron and Škoda Enyaq compact crossover EVs (both non North America markets). “ID” denotes intelligent design, identity, and visionary technologies, while “4” represents compact crossover segment. The “ID’s” comprise VW’s first ground up battery electric vehicle series.
PROPULSION POWER (ELECTRIC):
- E-Motor 1, rear axle (RWD std.) = 360V synchronous AC traction & regenerative charging motor: 201 hp (148 kW) / 306 lb-ft,
- E-Motor 2, front axle (AWD only) = 360V asynchronous AC traction & regenerative charging motor: 107 hp (79 kW) / 111 lb-ft ,
- NET POWER AWD = 295 hp @3800 – 8000 rpm / 339 lb-ft @ 0-3600 rpm
- + 1 x VW iDM single (1) speed gear reduction drive per E-Motor
- battery – RWD models: 216 Lithium Ion Polymer cells, 356V, 180 amp hr, 68 kWh
- battery – AWD models: 288 Lithium Ion Polymer cells, 356V, 180 amp hr, 82 kWh (on test vehicle)
ONBOARD CHARGING PORT(S):
- SAE J1772 AC Levels 2/ 1: 11.5 kW (Pro) / 7.2 kW (Pure)
- 125 kW CCS Combo 2 (DC, Level 3)
- Level 1 110V AC 6 ampere charge = 95 hours 95% charge (from 80% discharge)
- Level 2 240V AC 6 ampere charge = 14 hours 95% charge
- Level 3 480V DC 16 ampere charge
- 50 kW = 1.5 hours to 80% charge
- 100 kW = 50 minutes to 80% charge
- 125 kW = 30 minutes to 80% charge
WHAT (A) STYLING DIFFERENCE: Any non coincidental resemblance to a bloated Golf is more apparent with designer Klaus Bischoff’s related ID.3 compact which isn’t offered in the U.S. Wisely the touring liftback attire of the ID.4, and the failure of the Golf-E to succeed here, explains the reluctance to trade on the heritage name of the gas compact hatchback. This distancing from heritage stands in contrast to the competing non-pony car Ford “Mustang Mach-E.”
Amorphy of People’s SEV: The Kammback rear is more wagon than fastback though a contrast silver band running up the C pillar to the roof line casts a floating roof. Athleticism is found in a tall beltline, kinking up at the rear quarter, flared into a hip, and sharp raked windscreen and rear sloping roof. Body creasing is notably sparse at the beltline. A single but deep valley hood falls to an grille-less nose with an available illuminated lateral light bar spanning to support the LED DRL headlamps. The jutting bow shaped mid fascia tends monolithic even with dark latticed lower air intake and straked corner brake ducts. The double beveled liftgate is flavored with a mid full spanning race way light bar, enhanced by locating the license plate bowl moved lower. Dark grey lower fascia is low on pizzazz, with some body color corner hook and vertical reflector to break up the monotony. And finally if there were any question about the Sport Utility mission faux front and rear silver metallic bash plates are stamped on.
WHY: Without a heritage moniker, premiering People’s Car EV SAV is measured effort for transition to electron exclusive traction.
WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since Winter 2020-2021
WHERE: Volkswagen new vehicle dealers
WHERE MADE: Zwickau, Germany (switching to Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA summer 2022)
HOW ROADWORTHY: A crossover replacement for the base Mk. 8 Golf the 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 is not. That void has been filled by the gasoline powered Taos, which itself is more a raised imaginary Jetta hatchback. Any optimistic “GTE” [performance Golf gas hybrid EV] name appendage is absent. As with most “single gear” battery electrics forward propulsion is seamless, though the accelerator pedal has a longer tip in than preferred. The result is delayed reaction requiring more pedal inputs to move smoothly in traffic. Other than external creep speed pedestrian warning whine the VW ID.4 is wholly devoid of mechanical audio. Nor is there any option to pipe in simulated propulsion sounds (as offered by competitors.) In silent concert with the minimal road feel from the Continental all-season tires that its hard to tell what is going on underfoot except to lower the window for wind rush. Calling up “Sport” mode makes the displays turn bright red and kicks up propulsion off the line to 50 but is no more aggressive past that.
There are no qualms with VW ID.4 stiffness. Indeed the immense battery mass is affixed down low. However, even the sportiest calibration of adjustable damping delivers a soft grand touring ride and some roll in transitions. Nor does hastening steering reaction settings offset a large chasm of road feel to hands on helm. Transitioning out of regenerative slowing amplifies brake pedal reaction which is initially meek in grab. For Volkswagen to have gone to the effort of neutralizing the ID.4 experience implies something more engaging lies on the enthusiast’s horizon.
ID.4 EV Driving Learning Curve:
- Depressing ignition and then applying brake pedal engages Drive
- The clunky stubby twist stalk drive mode selector (attached to gauge cluster behind right side of steering wheel) is really only for switching to Regenerative slowing or Reverse or Park.
- Regenerative slowing “B” mode isn’t variable except by altering drive mode, hence isn’t as useful for full time single pedal driving
- Drive modes (and custom settings) accessible via soft touch MIB display switch
- Four (4) drive modes = Eco, Comfort, Sport, Traction with attendant selectable damping, steering settings for Custom mode.
- ICE type sensory deprived driving isolation
- 3 miles per kWh
- 80 MPG-e electric equivalent to combined miles per gallon fuel economy
- 230 highway miles range per 95% full battery charge
HOW IT CHARGES: Volkswagen Group is majority owner of Electrify America which explains their unlimited complimentary public charging. Proprietary CarNet Remote Access EV subscription telematics (five year free trial included) provides remote vehicle climate preconditioning and home wall charging management. EA public network charging can also be initiated via standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay projection. Other public charging services can be controlled via the ID.4 Amazon Alexa app (via activated accounts) or via their respective smart phone apps. Included cloud navigation maps nearest charging stations or stations en route yet does not indicate real time station status (the way Teslas infotainment does). Charge depletion level re-charge notification settings.
- +1 Three (3) years complimentary unlimited public charging on Electrify America network (with 10 minute post full charge grace period.
- -1 No native navigation real time public charger status; No native trip re-charge plotting w/ projected remaining range (available via phone projection or phone apps.
- Connected to Electrify America DC CCSAO charging network in metropolitan Chicago
- DC Electrical charge cost = $0.43 / kWh on location payment, no connection fee, 10 minute idling before surcharge ($0.32 w/ $4.00 per month plan)
- Peak (observed) charging speeds from EA 150 / 350 kW CCS-2 DC chargers (at 80° F ambient temperature):
- 67 kW @ 53% charge status *
- 64 kW @ 64% charge
- 39 kW @ 88% charge
- 35 kW @ 91% charge
* Though the 2021 ID.4 onboard charger allows a peak 125 kW for some reason in the tester it was unachievable. High ambient and battery temperatures could slow charging speed, however such were not the conditions. In fact some EA CCS 150 kW chargers were as slow as 45 kW at 61% charge status.
HOW BIG/ LITTLE: √ 5 Occupant 2+3 seating. The typical VW ICE car driver seat to pedal offset it absent since this car was designed strictly with two pedals in the footwell. Rear leg room is ample though the front center console aft air vents protrude into the center spot. A sloping roof shaves headroom from boxier SUVs.
– For 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 Comparison’s Sake:
- Wheelbase, 108.7″ = 8.8″ < Ford Mustang Mach-E AWD; 5.5″ < Kia EV6; 1.1″ > Volvo XC40 Recharge
- 2nd Row legroom, 37.6″ = 0.5″ < Ford Mustang Mach-E AWD; 1.4″ < Kia EV6; 1.5″ > Volvo XC40 Recharge
- Nominal, expanded cargo capacity, 30.3 – 64.2 cu.ft. = -2%, -7% vs. Ford Mustang Mach-E AWD; – 20%, -22% vs. Kia EV6; +31%, +26% vs. Volvo XC40 Recharge
HOW USEFUL: √ Hatchback cargo bay; √ 60/40% split folding 2nd Row seat backs, with seatback tab releases; √ Cargo bay pass through; √ Variable height power liftgate, approach activated; √ Suspended cargo parcel shelf; √ Dual height adjust carpeted hard cargo floor; √ Sub cargo floor management & home charging cable; √ Cargo-area 12V outlet; √ Damped action glove box; √ Floating center console; √ Center console bin storage management with roll-top lid.
- +1 Front seat individual captain’s chair armrests; Non-intruding cargo area wheel arch for good cargo width; Felt lined door pockets; Front seat x 2 aft upper and lower map pockets; Cargo bay strap
- –1 No frunk; No overhead sunglass bin; High load liftover; No bumper protecting load sill; No cargo bay remote 2nd Row seatback releases; Shallow door pockets
HOW SAFE: 2021 IIHS **Top Safety Pick Plus**; STANDARD: √ 6 airbags; √ Rear camera w/ predictive grid; √ Audible rear park assist; √ Roll mitigation; √ KESSY restrictive access;
IQ.Drive: √ Forward collision, pedestrian detection warning w/ avoidance braking; √ Blind Spot, rear cross traffic warning & braking; √ Post collision S.O.S. alert; √ Adaptive Cruise Control w/ Stop and Go; √ Travel Assist semi-autonomous Lane Departure Warning & Steer Correction; √ Medical emergency safety assist; √ Auto high beam headlights
AVAILABLE (included in tester)
- Adaptive swivel headlamps
- Rain sensing windshield wipers
- Park distance control (fore and aft, sonar)
- Road sign display
HOW PEOPLE FRIENDLY: Without the constraints of traditional ICE vehicle drive controls and operational monitoring, EV display and controls are minimized and more concisely integrated. Accordingly the 2021 VW ID.4 ID.Cockpit instrument panel is a rectangular LCD screen mounted atop the steering column, such that tilt adjustment never impedes the view. Drive controls are uniquely integrated on a stalk at the right side of the instrument screen. Drive modes are engaged either by simple right hand twisting motions while Park mode is button depressed at the right side of the stalk. Possibly requiring more time for acclimation is the actuation of vehicle power simply by depressing the brake pedal (with comfort access keyfob inside). For those who cling onto old habits, the ID.4 is supplied with an old fashioned button switch on the right side of the steering column.
Maintaining some consistency the rest of the brand, the 2021 ID.4 adopts the latest version of Volkswagen’s MIB 3 infotainment from the Golf Mk. VIII, on a more traditional upper center dashboard touch landscape LCD display. While minimizing the need for dexterous reach and visual distraction, acclimating to gesture / slider soft touch activation of infotainment and steering wheel controls requires a degree of finesse.
Conventional though the exterior door handles might appear, rather than resorting to a fancy power ejecting blade, a pressure application on the underside of the bezel releases the door latch. In a wise effort not to re-invent what has served driver’s well for close to a century, releasing the door latch from the cabin involves laterally pulling a door panel mounted lever.
-1 Why oh why did VW combine driver’s door panel 1st and 2nd Row window lift switches into one?
√ V-Tex leatherette seating; √ Wide berth, sport bolstered front bucket seats; √ heated 12-way power front seats, w/ 3-setting driver memory; √ Driver’s seat massage; √ Leather tilt + telescoping steering wheel with spoke integrated tactile redundant controls; √ Automatic 2-zone climate control; √ 2nd Row climate vents; √ Large center console ribbed rotary metallic transmission position; √ Overhead console retracting sunglasses bin; √ Power folding side mirrors.
Cool Gizmo(s): √ Panoramic glass roof w/ power mesh shade; √ Variable mid-dash, color foot well, center console & door panel ambient lighting; √ Navigation direction change dash top segmented LED warning.
Details Done Right: √ Tuck stitched dash top and door panels saddle V-Tex leatherette; √ Upper and lower front seat aft map pockets;
Nearly Non-Descript: -1 Undistinctive center console piano gloss black accents; Low luster lower cabin wall & center console hard plastics; Omission of center console knee padding; Seats low on lateral torso support.
HOW “APP” -LICABLE: √ Discover Pro Max center dash tablet mount 12.0″-inch portrait oriented, capacitive touch LCD infotainment screen; √ Bluetooth & voice command hands-free communications; √ GPS HDD Navigation w/ 3-D map, voice guidance; √ SMS messaging; √ Android Auto / Apple Car Play smart phone projection; √ CarNet Remote Access EV subscription telematics; √ USB-C x 2, 12V x 2 (incl., cargo); √ Qi inductive phone charger
Audibly: √ 7-speaker, 150 watt audio spins the tunes with clarity but lacking audiophile depth
- +1 Wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto projection; Customizable app tile arrangement; Voice climate commands; Voice to text SMS and navigation inputs
- -1 No USB-A ports
By Subscription: √ Sirius XM Traffic, Metro Weather radio & TravelLink apps (5 yrs. included); √ Wi-Fi hot spot (by Verizon Wireless)
HOW MUCH: $55,020 = as tested 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 Pro S AWD suggested retail price
WHAT’S MISSING: Lighter weight; One pedal regenerative slowing driving; More cabin finish distinction; Real time power + regeneration flow display w/ battery discharge rate; DC charging which comes close to 125 kW speed, Separate driver’s & 2nd Row window lift switches.
ANY COMPETITION: Ford Mustang Mach-E AWD: quicker DC charging, premium cabin materials; Kia EV6 GT-Line: larger displays w/ more useful interface, spaciousness, variable one-pedal driving, faster DC charging; Volvo XC40 Recharge: Conventional ICE Volvo look inside and out; prestige cabin
FINAL WORD: People’s Car Maker first EV effort is credible but won’t completely erase fondness for diesels.
Contributing Editor: T. Paluch