Review: 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 is a good match for a ready market
The 2021 VW ID.4 is physically smaller than the Tiguan SUV, but has about the same interior room. It’s powered just right, with both two-wheel and all-wheel drive options, and has enough range to be realistically useful for nearly everyone. While it does have a few of the downers most electric vehicles currently share, this ground-up EV is aimed at the correct audience and hits a flourishing new market at just the right time.
At a Glance
- Nicely equipped, even at the base model
- Useful as a daily drive and family car
- Very good highway economy
- Over-austere interior may not be for everyone
As the first EV in Volkswagen’s production lineup to be made, from the get-go, to be electric, the ID.4 shows us where VW is headed. The platform this car is based upon allows the company to make smaller and larger vehicles as needed, so we can expect to see more compact and more sizable EVs from Volkswagen soon.
The ID.4 is powered by an 82 kWh battery pack (about 77 kWh of which is usable) and comes standard with rear-wheel drive with an option for all-wheel drive. The RWD model has a 201 horsepower (150 kW) motor while the AWD model boosts power to 302 HP (225 kW) by adding another motor to the front axle. Our limited 1st Edition model came with rear-wheel drive.
The base model ID.4 Pro comes pretty well heeled with 19-inch wheels, keyless entry, automatic headlamps, dual-zone climate, heated front seats, wireless smartphone charging, voice controls, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a Wi-Fi hotspot via VW CarNet, and a 10-inch touchscreen. DC fast charging at up to 125 kW is also standard. The onboard plug is the SAE type and thus can be used on most public charging stations.
For technology, the ID.4 comes with lane keeping assist, forward collision warning and mitigation, blind-spot monitoring, driver attention warning, a full suite of parking sensors, and adaptive cruise control as standard. Other packages for the ID.4 add things like a larger touchscreen, simulated leather upholstery (cloth is standard), massaging front seats, larger wheels, and roof rails. Our 1st Edition package upgraded the base model with “pause and play” logo’d pedals, white interior accents, and the towing package. Our test model was rated to tow up to 2,200 pounds and AWD models boost that to 2,700 (998 kg and 1,225 kg respectively).
Inside the 2021 Volkswagen ID.4, the interior is roomy and accommodating. Smart touches like the center console’s movable cup holders and several USB C charging points are nice. There are storage points and cubbies throughout the cabin, making for a usable interior. The back seats are larger than expected, with rear legroom and headroom being more than what’s found in many vehicles of this same size.
The cargo area of the 2021 ID.4 is also spacious and usable. Tie downs and a 12-volt plug are standard. Beneath the rear portion of the cargo area is a charging cord storage bin. The rear seats fold down to add more cargo space, but we note a 2.5-inch (6.35 cm) “lip” that prevents the loading floor from being flat. We also noted that the usual VW convention of having the VW logo flip to open the rear hatch is missing, replaced with a more conventional lower hatch button.
The drive quality of the 2021 VW ID.4 is really good. It’s smooth, confident, and has intuitive handling. For everyday driving around town or on the highway, it’s a great vehicle. During the heat of summer or cold of winter, the cloth seating that comes standard is probably preferable to the simulated leather. Especially for its efficiency in keeping the driver and passengers warm or cold without added climate systems waste. The added bonus of having climate presets that keep the cabin in a specific temperature range while it’s plugged in to charge is a great touch.
Charging and range tests
For charging purposes, we didn’t have access to a DC fast charger where we are located, but I have a 240V/50A charger in the garage that allowed metered testing. This saw the ID.4 charge at up to 42 amps – the maximum the charger used will output. Full charge from about 40 percent took about 6.5 hours from that charger. We estimate a full charge from near-zero would take about 11 hours. The ID.4’s total range is between 240 and 260 miles, depending on configuration and driving habits.
For testing, we used the same loop we normally use for vehicles, which adds up to about 42 miles of round trip driving, all on a freeway and in a loop that negates elevation changes. The drive is at high altitude (6,000 to 6,400 feet / 1,829 to 1,951 meters). On a clear day with the ID.4 topped off and showing 248 miles of range, we drove the loop and noted the range estimation changes and power usage. Speeds were between 65 and 70 miles per hour (105-113 km/h).
After the 40-some mile loop, the ID.4 showed an estimated range of 193 miles. The extra power usage and drop in range should be expected in any electric vehicle. This made the ID.4’s estimates roughly equal to the BMW i3 and Kia Niro EV we’ve tested in a similar way. After plugging in and topping off the ID.4 again, we looked at how much power was actually used. The car recharged, taking on 14.1 kWh of energy. Doing the math, that amount of energy for the 41.7 miles driven is about 2.96 miles/kWh (4.76 km/kWh). That is 99.8 highway MPGe, which is around three times better than gasoline-powered vehicles in this segment. Cost-wise, the ID.4 required about US$0.98 for that drive versus the equivalent gasoline cost of about $1.89. Those are using Wyoming costs for each, some areas may be more or less.
In every metric so far, the 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 is a great vehicle. Provided, of course, you have the ability to charge it – something we looked at in detail when installing a home EV charging station. Charge times from a normal household 120-volt outlet will be very, very long for this (or any) EV and apartment dwellers or those living in shared housing may be out of luck entirely. This is one of the current issues with electric vehicle adoption, of course, and one from which no EV is immune.
The other problem? Weird iPhone-like interiors. The ID.4, like many EVs, sports an exceedingly austere (even for Volkswagen) interior that has almost no buttons or switches. To the left of the steering wheel is a small group of buttons for lighting and (oddly) window defrosts. There’s a vehicle start button and, well, that’s about it. The only other buttons are below the infotainment and deal mostly with temperature control and volume. If you aren’t interested in using voice controls (which are somewhat slow and clunky), then changing channels and other things will require multiple screens via the infotainment and a lot of distraction from the road. Steering-mounted buttons can help, but they aren’t intuitive either. In fact, the weirdly-placed shift knob (behind and to the right of the steering wheel) is probably the most intuitive control in the whole cabin.
Many electric vehicles suffer from this “futuristic or else” design approach. It’s unnecessary and, especially in the relatively low-end cabin of the base model ID.4, a clash with the upholstery and unadorned plastics. At least in the cringe-worthy all-white Toyota Prius Prime, the uber-future design is holistic.
In every other respect, the 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 is a very well executed crossover that meets every expectation and need of those buying in its segment. It’s spacious, comfortable, drives well, and has plenty of storage and usefulness. Pricing starts at US$39,995 plus delivery.
Product Page: 2021 Volkswagen ID.4