2021 VW ID.4 AWD Pro S review
Electric car haters might as well tune out right now, as this review of Volkswagen’s new ID.4 all-electric crossover/SUV might melt your battery pack and explode your mother board.
That’s because the ID.4 is an extremely well thought out and executed electric vehicle (EV) that most families would enjoy. Like other crossovers and SUVs it's roomy inside, offers a comfortable ride, a quiet (electrics are quiet by nature) interior, and for us Wisconsinites, there’s AWD.
This was the top-level ID.4 AWD Pro S model in Dusk Blue, a mid-to-deep metallic blue conjoined with silver roof pillars and a black roof thanks to the $1,500 Gradient package.
ID.4 comes as either a rear-drive Pro or AWD Pro S model. The difference, other than AWD, is that there’s an electric motor front and rear for the Pro S and that gives the ID.4 295 horsepower and 339 lb.-ft. of torque. The rear-drive model has just 201 horsepower and milder torque.
Another difference, the RWD model has a 260-mile range while the AWD’s range is rated 250 miles, although in our 20- to 40-degree weather the most I got on a full charge was 235 miles.
For the technically inclined this new VW, which is just slightly smaller than VW’s gas-powered Tiguan, uses two 82 kW lithium ion battery backs with 288 pouch style cells that ride in an extruded aluminum case in the floor for power. One electric motor powers the front wheels, another the rear. The batteries are charged via a plug-in charger that neatly stores under the cargo bay’s floor. A standard 120-volt outlet slowly adds about 1 to 1.5 miles per hour of charge. A 240-volt charger reportedly more than doubles that.
Naturally there’s range anxiety if one were planning an inter-state trip in the ID.4, but VW has an answer for that — free charging at Electrify America charging stations, of which there are about 2,550 nationwide with nearly 5,500 charging stalls. Many are located in Walmart lots and an app will help you find them. A fast charge from 5% up to 80% takes about 40 minutes, just long enough to sample a Slurpy with a side of Slim Jims.
VW says ID will be its sub-brand for electric vehicles and the German carmaker is pushing to have half its sales be all-electric by 2030 with close to 100% by 2040. Much of that is pushed by stricter emission rules in Europe than in the U.S.
ID.4 competes with the likes of Ford’s new Mustang Mach E, although the VW is more family friendly whereas the Mustang is more performance oriented, not surprising considering its name.
The VW features a better ride than Mach E despite a considerably shorter 108.9-inch wheelbase. Handling is good, but only sporty in the Sport drive mode, one of five. Acceleration is smooth and quiet (some electric whine, naturally), but not rocket ship fast - just quick.
VW claims a 0-60 mph start of 5.4 seconds with the AWD and 7.6 seconds with the rear-drive model. Then again, this is a family crossover/SUV, so you’re likely not planning any dragstrip action. Let’s be honest, most Mach E drivers aren’t either.
For the record the EPA rates the VW at 98 MPGe city, 88 highway. The big info screen readout told me I was getting about 2.5 miles per kWh. So 10 hours of charging should net me about 25 miles of charge. Cruising on the highway I saw the figure hit 2.7 kWh.
The key for moms and dads is that the ID.4 is a useful crossover that easily caries four or five adults while offering oodles of storage room behind the second row seats. There’s a power hatch and under-floor storage there, too.
VW’s interior is comfy and looks more Star Wars than Saved by the Bell, meaning digital to the max. With a few exceptions it’s quite functional.
First, there’s a small driver’s instrument pod with speedometer and battery mileage readout attached to the manual tilt/telescope steering wheel column. So adjusting the wheel never blocks a driver’s vision of the pod. Bravo!
The other centrally mounted info screen controls virtually everything else and is a bit more than 12 inches. A 10-incher comes on the RWD model. Once you play with it a bit you’ll understand its levels, but there are a few fixes needed. First, there’s no dedicated radio button so you must access it by punching a square button on the left that apparently is Home. Beyond climate controls a radio is the second most used item, so requires a dedicated icon below the screen.
That’s where the climate controls are accessed, but sadly that includes the heated seats and steering wheel. Those should be on the console or steering wheel for easier access. That’s especially important because only the driver’s heated seat setting is remembered once the vehicle’s ignition is switched off. The heated wheel should be recalled too. A friend who adores VW agreed and also noted that the touchscreen was somewhat slow to respond to input too, resulting in double-punching some screen icons.
Another item that takes some getting used to, but becomes normal within a week’s drive, is the gear-shift selector, a knob attached to the right side of the instrument pod binnacle or hood. Rotate it forward for Drive and back for Reverse. Park requires pushing the end of the knob. Note too that rotating the knob forward twice shifts drive mode into one that allows more aggressive regenerative braking when the vehicle is coasting. Normally the ID.4 coasts like a standard car, but in this B mode the electric motor braking engages more aggressively to boost battery charge and you’ll find yourself using less brake pedal.
The upside of the shifter's location is that this allows for a wide-open console with oodles of storage space and a roll-top storage bin that includes the wireless phone charger. It’s easy to get at and to see, if you leave the bin opened.
My test vehicle featured a brown leather dash top and door trim along with perforated black leatherette seats and satin chrome dash trim and door releases and side air vents. Trim on the screens, arm rests and console were piano gloss black. Front seats also come with captain’s chairs armrests that fold back.
Overhead is an absolutely massive panoramic sunroof and shade. The roof is fixed, so does not retract.
Seating is well shaped and comfy with powered front seats, plus VW wisely goes with a flat-bottom steering wheel to create more knee room when entering and exiting the crossover. I should note that the ID.4 climate system heats extremely quickly too, a big plus in winter and ironic considering the bad ol’ days of the original Beetle’s horrible heater.
On a practical note, the plug-in port for the charger is located on the rear passenger’s side, much as you’d find with a standard fuel-filler door. That will work for some folks, but if your garage’s electrical sockets are on a driver’s side wall or front of the garage, as are mine, this requires you to back the ID.4 in for a charge. Not optimal, and all other EVs I’ve driven had their port in the nose or just in front of the driver’s door, both seem like better locations.
Pricing? First, remember there’s a $7,500 government tax incentive on most electric vehicles. Those will disappear as each manufacturer’s sales move behind the government-set maximums.
But the current base Pro model lists at $41,190 with delivery and the tested Pro S at $49,370 with delivery. With its Gradient package this hit $50,870.
Additionally the tester was built in Mosel, Germany, because it’s an early model. But future ID.4s are to be built at VW’s Chattanooga, Tenn., plant. VW reports it will make a lower-cost entry-level ID.4 there, with a starting price expected in the $35,000 range.
ID.4 proves that automakers are closing in on affordable electrics that meet family needs and offer reasonable range. This is just the start, more range and more models will be coming along in the next few years. Watch this space!
Overview: 2021 VW ID.4 AWD Pro S
Hits: Smooth, quiet, comfy, plus AWD. Roomy crossover with good handling, ride and power, and 230-mile range in cold weather. Usual standard electronic safety features. Five drive modes, massive panoramic sunroof, heated seats and wheel, fast interior heating, power hatch, comfy seats, flat-bottom wheel, wireless phone charger.
Misses: Climate controls accessed only through touchscreen, no dedicated radio entry to touchscreen, touchscreen somewhat slow to respond, heated wheel not included in climate memory when restarting crossover, odd shift knob by instrument pod, plug in on rear passenger’s side, not convenient for garage plugs.
Made in: Mosel, Germany
Engine: 2 electric motors, 82kWh lithium battery pack, 295 horsepower/339 torque
Transmission: 1-speed automatic
Weight: 4,559 lbs. (RWD), 4,884 lbs. (C&D*)
Length: 180.5 in.
Wheelbase: 108.9 in.
Cargo: 37.5-73.5 cu.ft.
Base Price: $49,370 (includes delivery)
Major Options: Gradient package (20-inch alloy wheels, black roof, silver accents & roof rails & roof accents), $1,500
Test vehicle: $50,870
*Car and Driver figures
Editor's Note: Mark Savage's auto review column, Savage On Wheels, looks at a new vehicle every week and tells consumers what’s good, what’s not so good, and how the vehicle fits into the marketplace.