2021 Volkswagen ID 4 review: Hitting the EV sweet spot

Good EV I’m finally here, and this is something worth getting excited about. All those electrified models that manufacturers have been teasing us with for years are hitting retailers’ lots. Anyone who wants to finally ditch internal combustion has a number of real and truly compelling choices.

Volkswagen was among the state-of-the-art electric vehicle suppliers here in the United States, releasing the excellent, albeit expensive and short-range, E-Golf in 2012. The new ID 4 is the successor to that car, which sits on the new MQB platform and designed from the ground up to be fully electric. Where the E-Golf has been fundamentally compromised by its internal combustion heritage, the ID 4 shows just how good a pure EV can be.

Like it

  • Excellent, smooth ride
  • Calm and peaceful
  • Refreshing interior

I do not like

  • Frumpy style
  • No regeneration with a pedal

That dedicated platform means Volkswagen engineers can put 82 kilowatt-hours of battery into the ID 4, although it’s interesting to note that only 77 kWh of these are actually usable. This extra headroom means the car can intelligently manage charge cycles across a larger number of cells, which should lead to longer life and more predictable range. Regardless, you’re backed by an eight-year, 100,000-mile warranty on the package itself.

Those cells power one or two electric motors. Initial versions of the car, like the first edition model pictured here, are content with 201 horsepower through the rear wheels. In the future, an all-wheel drive model will bring it up to 302 hp. The torque on the RWD flavor is 228 foot pounds. It is very healthy and, given that it is an electric vehicle, readily available. On the deceleration side, while there are two regeneration modes to select from here, neither is close to what I would consider a one pedal mode. This is definitely a disappointment.

As for the all-important range, VW’s EPA figure is 250 miles. In my tests, which included a mix of city, country, and highway driving in temperatures generally between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, I compensated for … 250 miles. Yes, 250 exactly.

I feel compelled to point out that this was with me treating the ID 4 like a normal car. I turned on the heating and air conditioning when I wanted, and made generous use of both the heated seats and the steering wheel, even the massage function. Even though I generally left the car in Eco mode, I wasn’t kind to the throttle, yet I easily achieved the EPA rating. Drive a little more frugally and I’m sure you can beat him.

That said, there is little reason to drive aggressively. While the ID 4 has that fun EV throttle response, taking you off the line and through the cracks in traffic, this isn’t a fast car. This is especially noticeable at highway speeds, where the ID 4 travels smoothly but doesn’t exactly jump forward when called upon.

It looks a bit sloppy.

Tim Stevens / Roadshow

No problem. To get the most out of ID 4 I recommend that you take a deep breath, take your seat, set the adaptive cruise at a reasonable speed and relax. The car is also smart enough to vary the chase distance depending on the driving mode chosen, lagging a little further back in Eco mode to ensure it doesn’t have to speed up and slow down as frequently.

The handling is just as relaxed, but the ride quality is good. Impressive, considering the 20-inch wheels and tires fitted to this First Edition. And, while you’d obviously expect an electric vehicle to be quiet, VW engineers clearly spent a lot of time isolating any hint of road and wind noise. The driver’s seat is a peaceful place.

This is aided by the white interior highlights in this version of the first edition. While the materials themselves are a little hard in places, the overall look has a distinctly concept car vibe, which I really appreciate. I also love the gearbox, mounted high on the instrument panel like the one in BMW i3. Just tilt it in the direction you want to go or click the P button when you’re done.

2021 VW ID 4

I love the atmosphere of the interior.

Tim Stevens / Roadshow

That cluster of gauges is tiny, but it’s at least present and large enough to give you all the relevant information about speed, range, and navigation instructions. The instrument cluster will also display navigation prompts from Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. This is key because I have a feeling you don’t want to rely on the built-in navigator a lot.

The infotainment experience in ID 4 is clean and simple, showing serious iOS influence with a Home button on the left that you’ll need to press to jump between sections. It’s an easy way to switch, for example, from media to browsing, but it means reaching out to that home button a lot.

And also waiting a lot. When I got my first ID 4 unit last year I was disappointed with the slowness of the software. The optimist in me hoped things would be optimized before the car was shipped. The realist in me now sees that such optimizations have not been made. Scrolling and scrolling are often subject to prolonged and painful delays. If that’s not enough, the speech recognition system is rudimentary at best. As I said, stick to Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, both of which are supported, wirelessly.

Quite functional too.

Tim Stevens / Roadshow

It should come as no surprise that most of the car’s controls rely on capacitive touch. The sun visor slider to cover the large, bright panoramic roof is also touch sensitive. The side window controls are still physical, thankfully, but there’s an element of touch here as well. Instead of the driver with four switches, one per window, there are only two. To check the rear windows you need to touch a tiny “rear” indicator. Good luck doing this without taking your eyes off the road.

That panoramic roof offers good headroom, front and back. Those in the rear will find their seats slightly raised, offering a clear and commanding view of the world around them. A pair of USB-C connectors on the back will keep kids from complaining about their own batteries, while there’s a wireless charging bay with multiple USB ports for phones on the front.

All are protected by a comprehensive active safety suite, with subtleties such as automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring, rear traffic alert, and even traffic sign detection. Anything that is also included in Base ID 4.

That basic edition, called Pro, starts at $ 41,190 including a $ 1,195 destination fee. The first edition you see here is no longer available, meaning your only options are Pro or the $ 45,790 Pro S, which adds many of the features you see here, including the panoramic roof, electric massage seats, and an upgrade to a 12 inch navigation screen. Another $ 1,500 gets you to the Gradient trim, layering on those 20-inch wheels, and a few more visual touches. The eventual AWD upgrade will cost an additional $ 3,680, and aside from the floor mats and the usual wave of accessories, there really aren’t any extra boxes to tick.

How does it compare to other electric vehicles on the market today? The closest Tesla is the Model Y, which starts at $ 52,190 including a $ 1,200 destination fee. For this you get more range, 326 miles for the EPA and also faster performance. But the inside of the ID 4 is miles better and, well, I’ll let you know if you have multiple Tesla or VW service centers nearby. There’s also the not insignificant $ 7,500 federal discount, applicable to VW but not Tesla, meaning ID 4 could go for over $ 10,000 less.

Volkswagen ID4 from 2021

Not entirely flawless, but hard to fault all the same.

Tim Stevens / Roadshow

The new Chevrolet Bolt EUV it’s another EV that many will cross-shop, and for good reason. It is based on the proven Bolt platform, offering a little more space and a fresh style. There is no EPA-rated range yet, but GM’s engineers say they expect around 250 miles. A FWD Premier Bolt EUV has an MSRP of $ 43,925 including a $ 995 destination charge. This puts it within spitting distance of ID 4.

So, the ID 4 is competitively priced and nice to drive, with enough range to defeat anxiety and a cool interior that made me smile. What didn’t make me smile? I have to admit I’ve never fallen in love with that thing. After the gonzo Buggy ID concept and the incredible charm of the ID Buzz, ID 4 seems more than simple.

But you know what? All right. Not every electric vehicle has to make a statement, and that exudes a quiet confidence. Volkswagen ID 4 is better than a good car, it’s great, it just won World Car of the Year Awards– and definitely a sign of even better electric vehicles coming from VW.

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