2021 Volkswagen ID.4 — VW’s new battery-powered SUV (hits & misses)

By Jim Prueter

(September 13, 2021) With the introduction this spring of Volkswagen’s first battery-electric crossover, the ID.4 is the beginning of an entire new powertrain offering of vehicles for the brand in North America. The all-new from the ground up ID.4 we tested here is the  1st Edition which as the name implies, is a short run first of several trim levels, and variations yet to come and carries a base price of $45,190 including destination charges.

Also offered are the Pro and Pro S trims priced at $41,990 and $45,690 respectively. All-wheel drive variants of both trim levels available this fall adds an additional $2,880 for the Pro and $3,690 for the Pro S. The ID.4 also qualifies for the $7,500 federal income tax credit and depending upon which state you live in may also qualify for additional tax credits. Those represent a significant potential savings for eligible buyers.

The ID.4 is a compact crossover closely sized to that of the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Nissan Rogue. For buyers only considering all-electric SUVs, rivals include the Chevrolet Bolt EV, Hyundai Kona Electric, Kia Niro EV, and Ford Mustang Mach-E, plus the soon-to debut Hyundai Ioniq 5, Nissan Ariya, and Toyota BZ4X along with several more on the way.

The ID.4 is powered by a single rear mounted electric motor and an 82-kWh lithium-ion battery pack that delivers 201-horsepower in a rear-wheel drive configuration. VW claims a driving range of up to 260 miles between charging. Our real-world results during a week-long testing of the ID.4 achieved just 190 miles before requiring a recharge. That’s far from the top of the heap in terms of driving range compared to competitors like the Tesla Model Y and Mustang Mach e.

The much feared “range anxiety” is real and even more critical when the temperature exceeds 90-degrees and more in Arizona where I tested our 1st Edition. No doubt, those who live in cold weather climates where temperatures drop below freezing could expect to lose 50 or more miles.

Volkswagen is including three years of free charging at any of Electrify America’s DC fast-charging stations. Electrify America claims more than 2,400 charging stalls at more than 555 stations, and VW has announced its intention to offer 3,500 total charging ports across more than 800 stations by the end of 2021. To use the service, you’ll need to download the Electrify America app to your smartphone and complete the information.

We found one of the Electrify America recharging stations 13 miles away and once we got there found the experience extremely frustrating to use and especially slow. We entered all the information on our smartphone that was required by the station, however the only way to have the information accepted was to hold the phone against the provided reader — except we kept getting an error message and it wouldn’t unlock the charger so we could connect. There was an 800 number printed on the charging unit, however after calling several times and getting “all representatives are busy” and holding for almost 30 minutes we gave up and used our own credit card to pay for the recharge.

This station was a maximum 350 kWh station and we had 19% charge remaining in the battery when we began. The charging price was indicated as costing $0.43 per kWh plus tax which we calculated to be approximately $3.60 per gallon of gasoline for an ICE vehicle. Volkswagen says you can charge 60 miles in 10 minutes. We charged our ID.4 to 60% and according to the receipt from Electrify America one hour and thirty-seven minutes, forty-two seconds at a cost of $13.76. That time and money bought us about 80 additional miles of driving.

A week earlier we drove a GMC Yukon to the Grand Canyon National Park from Phoenix, Az., 222 miles and a drive time of 3 hours and 30 minutes. Had we taken the ID.4 on the same trip we would have had to recharge in Flagstaff, Az., and the trip would have taken us 97 minutes more or a total of five hours. Ditto for the return trip back to Phoenix.

The ID.4’s standard 11kW dual-level provided charging cord allows for Level 1 (120-volt AC) and Level 2 (240-volt AC) at-home charging. If you don’t hire an electrician to install a 240-volt AC outlet at home, you can recharge the batter with conventional 120-volt outlet, but a full recharge could take several days to accomplish. The time is reduced to about 8 hours using the 240-outlet.

One final thought on recharging. Drivers can select either “D” mode on the shift knob when operating the vehicle that does net you some additional batter recharge when applying the brakes, or selecting the “B” mode, which allows for one-pedal driving. The vehicle with take on more aggressive regeneration charging and slows the vehicle down dramatically when taking your foot off the accelerator pedal. Bottom line, when braking, kinetic energy is converted into electrical energy back into the battery.

Outside, the ID.4 is an attractive if not plain styling that blends modern influences with VW’s more traditional styling cues. The ID.4 sits lower than a VW Tiguan yet sits higher with more ground clearance. The overall styling is more than pleasing presenting a handsome and modern look.

Inside, the ID.4 is surprisingly roomy with a good amount of cargo space even behind the rear seats. They can fold down to more than double the cargo capacity. The vehicle has seating for five with generous head and legroom for both front and rear seats. Not unlike other electric vehicles, the interior is minimalistic and futuristic in styling. Most materials are above average quality and nicely absent of abundant hard plastic surfaces.

Seats in our 1st edition were covered in perforated, V-Tex faux leather and along with the steering wheel included standard heating. Our tester also included standard cooling and massaging seats. Outward visibility was excellent thanks to the low-mounted instrument panel and thin A and B pillars and free-standing outside rearview mirrors.

A big “miss” for the ID.4 is the vehicle’s in-car technology with many of the controls fussy if not downright gimmicky to use and seemingly designed for the sake of wanting to appear futuristic. The operational design eliminates most physical switches and buttons, replacing them with voice command and touchscreen controls.

The center touchscreen is much more than the source and function for infotainment activity, it now is the main source for climate control, seat heating, cooling and massage controls, drive mode selection, charging protocols and more. It also serves to access the vehicles four selectable driving modes, (Eco, Comfort, Sport and Custom), multi-color interior ambient lighting selections (with enticing names like Infinity, Eternity, Desire, Euphoria, and Vitality), vehicle settings, parking assistance, vehicle charging protocols, and more.

For those who prefer, there’s redundant infotainment controls on the steering wheel, and sliders under the touchscreen. There are also slider touch-sensitive capacitive buttons directly the infotainment for climate control. One other quirky feature is the power window operation. There are only two buttons for to operate four windows rather than four. To move the rear door windows up and down you must first select the rear window switch on the driver’s door and once lit the buttons divert and open and close the rear windows. Gimmicky to be sure.

There’s no system start/stop — pushbutton, key or otherwise. Rather the vehicle wakes up when you sit in the drivers’s seat making you wonder if you turned the car off the last time you parked and exited. The only reassuring indication is the “goodbye” displayed on the touchscreen when you open the driver’s door.

There’s no traditional console mounted shift knob rather there’s a thick leather-wrapped twist-stalk for making automatic transmission selections. Twist it clockwise for Drive (indicated by “D”) counterclockwise for Reverse (“R”). To put the vehicle in Park requires pushing a button on the outer edge of the stalk.

A small driver information display screen is located on the steering column and viewed by looking through the steering wheel opening. It moves up and down, back and forth when adjusting the steering wheel position. It displays driver information such as speed, posted speed limit, gear selected and remaining battery range.

The absolute highlight of the ID.4 was its driving dynamics that are spectacular. Acceleration while not rocket-sled quick performed with expected immediacy with a 0 to 60 mph acceleration time of about 7 seconds. The ride is buttery smooth, yet firm enough to handle potholes and backroads. Road and wind noise are all but eliminated. The cabin library quiet. Handling is confident, predictable with a tight turning circle radius making parking a breeze.

The ID.4 comes loaded with standard advanced safety and driver-assist features mostly bundled in Volkswagens IQ.Drive system. These include forward-collision warning with auto emergency braking and pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning, a lane-keeping system, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, and active blind-spot and rear cross-traffic monitoring system that can intervene if the driver doesn’t to avoid an unsafe lane change or back-up collision.

Standard Travel Assist combines lane-centering and adaptive cruise control for reduced driver stress on well-marked highways. Also, standard is Emergency Assist which, in the event a driver is incapacitated, can safely bring the ID.4 to a stop.

Other standard ID.4 driver-assistive systems include a 360-degree overhead backup camera, automatic high-beam control, a dynamic road-sign display, and front and rear park distance warning.

The blind-spot system in the ID.4 is one of the best in the industry. Instead of the small, fingernail-size warning lamp in the side mirrors as in most other carmaker’s systems, the ID.4’s warning lamp is a much-larger, USB-stick-size bright orange warning lamp on the inboard side of the side mirror housings that really gets one’s attention in a hurry.

Overall, Volkswagen’s first dedicated all-electric battery-operated SUV is a decent effort, a pleasant-driving vehicle that’s roomy, functional and easy on the eyes and pocketbook and other than its quirky and odd operating controls, unsatisfying driving range and fussy recharging protocol it does offer a fresh look inside and out to all-electric compact SUV driving.

Vital Stats
Base Price: $45,190
Price as Tested: $45,190
What Makes it go: 221-horsepower rear mounted electric motor with an 82-kWh lithium-ion battery pack and a single-speed direct-drive automatic transmission
EPA Fuel Economy: 104/89/97 MPGe -City/Highway/Combined
Seating: Five

Crash Test Safety Ratings: Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has crash tested the 2021 Volkswagen ID.4.

Where Built: Mosel, Germany

Competes With:
Chevrolet Bolt
Ford Mustang Mach-
Hyundai Ioniq 5
Hyundai Kona EV
Kia Niro
Nissan Ariya
Toyota BZ4X

Fab Features:
Roomy interior for people and gear
Excellent ride, handling and driving dynamics
Loaded with standard safety and convenience features