The first mass produced all-electric from the iconic German automaker. Cliff Leppke – CleanMPG – Dec. 29, 2021 Meet the 2021 VW I.D. 4 VW’s ID.4 is more than a toe test of the brand's ability to innovate in the battery electric vehicle wading pool. As such, VW is putting all of its metaphorical bodily resources into a BEV tsunami. This long-range vehicle lets Americans join the current waves in an SUV-like package. And VW says it will build them here too. This machine differs from some long-range EVs (Chevy’s Bolt); it’s larger. VW doesn’t promise unbridled or ludicrous acceleration either; it’s adequate. VW’s BEV combines rear-motor propulsion—a onetime VW trait—with the software and hardware engineered to charge batteries and supply current to that motor. Plus, there’s an entire suite of newfangled gadgetry. Just say, “Hello ID, my feet are too hot” and the car responds saying it’s cooling the floor. Ask it to tell you a joke and it replies, “The developers had difficulties with the safety belts until it clicked.” Groan. Otherwise, the ID isn’t a joke, although its driver interface is goofy. At work charging like it should be charged. Will You Get Cold Feet? If you ask. The ID converses in various ways: One, there’s the dashboard voice; two, an LED strip at the windshield’s base responds mimicking an oscilloscope—echoes of Ernie Kovacs’ visual/aural trick; three, vehicle proximity sensors notice you and then pre-chill the interior before you enter it; and four, and most importantly, the machine’s architecture says volumes about how VW sees future automobility—one where electrical brawn and brains do the driving. Before I proceed, let’s examine this vehicle’s mission: VW’s brass says this car is for the millions, not millionaires. Really? Volume sales to everyday people aren’t here yet. Automotive News reports the ID.4’s is not faring well in VW’s biggest market—China, so VW plans a marketing/distribution shift. In Europe, the situation is promising. In the States, the ID.4 trails Tesla’s two most popular models and Ford’s Mach-E with a modest take rate—about 20,000 for 2021. The tested ID.4 Pro S (Statement) with Gradient Package lists for $47,190. Plus, in order to get the most out of this vehicle, you’ll need a Level 2 charging system at home (240 volts), because the standard Level 1 charger (120 volts) takes what seems like an eternity—it predicted one and a half days to replenish its 82-kWh lithium-ion battery to 240-plus range after a quick trek caused a dip to a predicted 160 miles. Thus, those going electric are buying more than a car; they’re acquiring or tapping into a nascent infrastructure. It’s not cheap. Yet, when you figure the going price for new automotive sleds now tops $45,000–the ID.4’s base $44,495 tab is close to the going rate for vehicles these days. Tax incentives, moreover, lower the hit. Still, the Mosel Germany-built compact crossover (SUV), which has 46% Chinese parts content (Germany is 39%), is the kind of transport appliance many shoppers want: a family friendly mid-height station wagon. Let’s compare the ID with a 1959 Rambler Cross Country—a sensible, but flawed trend-setting wagon. The ID’s wheelbase is .9 inches longer at 108.9. Width is .7 inches wider at 72.9. Length is about 13 inches shorter at 180.5 inches. Height is nearly 6 inches taller. In sum, it shares the same road space as Toyota’s popular Rambler-sized people mover: the RAV4. Inside, the ID is a people-friendly spacious wonder. The rear electric motor rides somewhat ahead of the rear wheels. Due to its nearly flat floor, lack of drive-train intrusion, plus theater style chair-like higher back seat, the ID offers lebensraum for four or maybe five adults under its panoramic glass roof. Cargo area is generous in length, but height is limited, as the rear hatch slopes downward from the C pillars. It’s easy to reconfigure into a cargo hauler; there’s plenty of drop-down space for the split-fold aft seatback. Below the two-level rear load floor, you’ll find a storage bin. It houses a portable Level 1 charger—works best on a dedicated 120-volt/20-amp (AC) circuit. VW includes a standard 11-kW onboard charger for Level 2/240-volt (AC) charging. It quickens fill ups: at 32 amps, you get a predicted 20 miles per hour and 40 amps for 27 miles per hour. In contrast, the 120-volt charger replenishes the battery at the rate of about two miles per hour—not road speed—we’re talking 80 hours to fully charge. The ID has a mobility kit instead of a spare tire. Another option is 125 kW (DC) fast charging at a compatible public charging station. Plug in for 40 minutes and you shoot from 5% charge to 80%. You can get to about 90% with about 10 more minutes. This isn’t intended for everyday use. But it’s certainly handy should you decide to take a day trip, say, from Chicago to Green Bay for a Bears/Packers game and back. Just duck into a fast charger, free at VW dealers, have a cup of joe and a snack and you’ll have enough mojo to get yourself home. The ID.4’s trip computer says it’s possible. The EPA-rated range is 250 miles (Some Pro models, says VW’s William Gock, reach 260), Level 2 charging time (7.5 hours) and its combined fuel economy is 97 MPGe— a savings of $4,000 in fuel cost over five years compared to the average new vehicle. Smog rating is tops at 10. Predicted energy cost is $700 a year. These calculations don’t reflect the environmental costs of building the car, its battery or generating electricity for it. VW recommends 80% charge level for everyday driving with a minimum level of 20% in mild weather, 40% in cold weather. Charging stations must be SAE J1772 compatible, which includes a rapid charge connector called CCS—combined charging system. The car communicates and charges via these wires. In the USA, you’ll find several kinds of charging connections. Tesla’s is different from the J1772 used on most other vehicles. You can plug your VW into a Tesla charger—not the Supercharger type, however, via an adapter. VW houses various vehicle systems under the front lid. Sorry no stowage here, but this scheme means you get a smorgasbord of front-cabin cubbies with provisions for wireless phone charging, drinks and several USB-C ports. Even the rear riders get low mounted vents and USB-C outlets. How Does It Drive? The ID.4 has an intuition for you and what you do. Just carry the key fob and the vehicle swings out its mirrors, cranks up the A/C, turns on the lights (Motel 6-like) and projects funky thumbprint-like puddle lamp patterns from below the sideview mirrors. You enter by tugging the door handle or more accurately touching its back side, which electronically releases the latch. After you’re seated, step on the brakes. The ID is ready. Or try the steering column’s pushbutton. Now, rotate the drive-gear selector. It’s on the right side of the instrument pod, which is attached to the steering column. Turn it clockwise (D for forward) or counterclockwise (R for reverse). Press to park. Twist it clockwise a second time and you enable B for braking energy recuperation—you get the sensation of removing your foot from a hard-working 1200cc Bug’s gas pedal. This nearly hidden ‘gear’ controller is odd. Yet, once mastered, it’s simple to use. The instrument pod provides an illuminated “shift quadrant indicator.” I preferred D as the car moved smoothly, coasted confidently and nearly silently—especially in the Comfort drive mode—a choice found on the 12-inch infotainment screen. There’s more recuperative action in the vehicle’s Sport mode. In addition to Sport, there’s Eco. Plus, you can customize the drive mode. At less than 20 mph, the ID emits a Maurice Jarre-style synthesized soundtrack meant to help you and others hear it while it ambulates. It even adds a whimsical coda, when you depart the car. Since the EV can creep when you take your foot off the brakes, I discovered a sort of yoyo sensation when backing up an inclined driveway. Because it creeps—just like a conventional car with an automatic transmission—those who prefer EV-style one-pedal driving will whine. Your ID vantage point is New Beetle like as the windshield is pushed far forward. I found foot space, pedal placement and adjustable steering column rake and telescope quite satisfactory. The instrument panel resembles an iPad—surprisingly lucid in bright sun or dark environs. Because the IP moves with the column, the distance between it and the steering wheel doesn't vary. Panel location might be a tad too low and too close for those who wear progressive lenses. It took me a day or so to learn how to tilt my head for a clearer image. Some carmakers angle their panels much like you’d hold a book, which works better. I’m not going to explore the merits of single-pedal BEV driving or the fanciful graphics employed to chart one’s EV battery use. The ID can do some of the former and almost none of the latter. Therefore, the ID’s EV proclamations are restrained. The pod in front has big digits for speed, posts the speed limit, has IQ Drive with Travel Assist indicator and a horizontal AA battery like graphic. This central image has two colors, green left of a divider line (eco/recovery), blue to the right (wasteful) and the estimated range. Gimmickry aside, novice EV drivers should relish the ID’s sense of normalcy. The go train is soothing like automotive frozen custard. It moves with a satiny carriage expected from a luxurious auto with a sudsy automatic transmission. I opted for the ID’s Sport steering effort while leaving the other drive-mode choices in Comfort. Acceleration is sudden but not particularly robust. It’s about what one expects from a compact SUV—and there’s no front-wheel fight. The ID maneuvers well in tight quarters due to its small turning radius. This BEV weighs a hefty 4,665 lbs. That’s about 1,000 lbs more than a VW Tiguan. VW wisely put that weight down low. This helps the ID’s handling. During hard cornering the ID loads the outside front tire—(235/50R20) Bridgestone Azena rubber. The rear tires are wider—255/45R20. This leads to tire squeal and a slight outward drift. Modulate the go pedal and the front pulls in. You can even get the rear to rotate a tad. As a result, the porky VW holds the road rather well with nearly neutral behavior. Stability control seems nicely calibrated. Steering has sufficient effort. And there’s some road sense, which proved helpful during a summer monsoon, which caused much highway ponding. Thus, I could sense hydroplaning through the leather-wrapped, flat-bottom tiller. That hoop’s sporty contours did not, however, make the ID racier than other SUVs. Sorry Tanner Foust, this isn’t a GTI. ID ride quality on Wisconsin’s lumpy roads apes an inflatable bounce house. It’s not amusing. It paddled my head mercilessly against the oxymoron head rest. Therefore, I reclined the seat for relief. Occasionally, the front end clanked on rough spots. Relentless bobbing triggered an onboard amber traction alert. There’s an underlying firmness despite the vertical jousting. Those who moderate their speed or live in tonier zip codes, however, might have a different opinion. And perhaps a different wheel combo might change its behavior. For example, roads that bothered my backside at 75 mph, morphed into placid pavements at 60 mph. The brake pedal felt squishy. If you press hard, it sinks below throttle pedal height, a trait I don’t like. Yet, the hefty VW slowed surely enough—using a combo of regenerative and conventional braking. VW employs rear drum brakes because they’re better protected from the elements—important when energy recuperation braking significantly reduces the vehicle’s use of friction braking. The front compartment is agreeable. You’ll find soft-touch materials top the dash and the door cards. There are slim adjustable front seat armrests. VW scores points for scooping out the front door panels; there’s more elbow room—and that space is available back to the B pillars—ideal for taller drivers. The split-fold rear seat with pass thru is nicely padded. Techno Terror Earlier I mentioned the ID represents a shift in VW’s mission. The electrified go train hints at future automobility. Then, there’s the car’s overly complicated driver interface. VW’s designers stole some Apple’s design language—for instance there’s an unlabeled home ‘button’ on the left-side of the infotainment screen. And then it went fast forward to the future with a touch/talk interface. It’s a mess. Want examples? Let’s start with the door window switches. The left front door has two. You must touch a hard panel ahead of them, which in turn, electronically toggles them. Now, they’re rear window controls. Want to go back? Touch the ‘rear’ spot and maybe it will change. The setup is buggy. Wait long enough and the car will return to its front window mode, though. And like an infomercial there’s more--a lot more. The radio does its own tuning and presents you with a channel guide—much like you’d find using a cable TV set-top box. Since there’s no tuning button or knob, you must worm your way into the appropriate menu and then scroll through choices. Once preset, you can tap the haptic feedback steering wheel switches to cycle through them. Be careful as inadvertently sliding your finger on these touchpoints can, say, bump the cruise control in five mph intervals. And VW moved the steering wheel’s volume buttons from the left spoke to the right one. Darn. You could play the old switches like a pianist at a Van Cliburn competition. Other tricks: sometimes you don’t touch the screen for additional info. Let’s take radio station info—program name or artist. You wave your hand several inches in front of the screen. That gesture summons radio station data. The home button gets fuzzy as your finger nears it. And the screen’s soft-square icons sprout labels identifying their purposes as your finger nears the screen. Nothing is simple. Climate control has three menus. One is Classic, which like most of the graphics, has generously sized rounded squares with clear iconography. But there’s no bi-level. For that, go to another menu and VW lets you customize climate control to the nth degree. Or just tell the ID your feet are too cold or too hot. It will redirect air as needed, and then return to its automatic setting, which in turn means you must request foot chilling again. I suspect VW didn’t think about a bi-level setting as exhaust doesn’t warm a tunnel near your right foot and maybe the heater doesn’t overbake your foot. Either way, it’s a problem; the low-mounted dashboard vents chill your elbows. Inexplicably, VW didn’t light the volume or temp tap-sensing points. There’s on a ledge at the base of the infotainment screen. And switching between climate, seat heat and heated steering wheel is needlessly fussy. There’s a dedicated touch spot near the headlight control (left of steering wheel) where you can pick defrost without going into an infotainment menu. Likewise, you’ll find short-cut spots for parking camera/sensors, drive mode, driver assist and climate under the infotainment screen. The navigation system proved vexing. In the “WOW” counties near Milwaukee, addresses use both north/south and east/west coordinates. The ID.4 simply refused to accept them—whether by voice or tap. In contrast, BMW’s nav system does. Plus, the ID ‘squared’ diagonal roadways between various MKE locales. Instead of guiding you to use these often-divided avenues, the ID tells you to turn onto side streets. Later, it guides you to the same avenue after the needless detour. VW’s interface isn’t a total wash, LEDs at the windshield’s base flash directing you where to go. One gesture rocked; it’s a kick. If you’re wearing the fob, a swift jab below the rear bumper summons a motorized lift. Once your arms are full of luggage, just do that NFL move again, and the lid automatically shuts. While the driver interface seems half-baked, the vehicle’s fit and finish were simmered to perfection. The gemlike blue paint with silvery roof panels and dark panoramic glass roof are handsome. Panel gaps are even (although you could see seam sealant at the back between the lid and quarter panel). Most pieces inside and out fit neatly, although there are some sharp transitions—such as the area above the rear charge port. Raised lettering on the front door, web-like headlamp treatments and the vaguely last-gen Toyota RAV4 lamps to the middle VW badge are cheerful. Handy Eye Candy VW’s designers dabbled in LEDs. They run them from the headlights to the grille logo, between both rear lamps, inside the door handles, under the side mirrors. Inside, the windshield’s base, the lower dash, front door cards—especially around the floating armrests and in the phone alcove glow. LEDs surround touch spots for the overhead lighting. Footwell lighting and cargo lighting make it easy to see your stuff. Those at the windshield’s base glow 7 Eleven green when charging. IQ DRIVE and IQ Travel The ID has VW’s latest drive assist and automated motion control. This combo does some slick tricks. Set the cruise control and you get more than a steady speed. It varies velocity to maintain vehicle-to-vehicle distance. And comes to a complete stop and then goes when you’re in a traffic jam. It will steer itself, although you’ll get a warning to put your hands on the wheel. The instrument cluster’s left side displays 3-D graphics depicting vehicles directly in front or in forward adjacent lanes. Semis look like semis, SUVs like SUVs and cars like cars although a Kia wore what looked like a VW roundel—dream on. Toward the rear you get amber side-view mirror alerts as blind spot detection. Should you deviate from an identified lane, without signaling, the steering wheel vibrates and then steers the vehicle into its lane. On my back-road route, the ID accepted my road-hogging vehicle placement—cornering through the banked turns by squaring the curve as you do on a racetrack. I experienced several glitches. The worst was Volkswagen of Milwaukee North’s charging station. It wouldn’t let me unplug, when it aborted a session. In desperation, I employed the ID’s emergency release cable hidden behind the stowage bay’s right-side panel. When charging goes as planned, there’s a vehicle/charger handshake. The touchscreen’s charger menu supplies a tapping spot for stopping charging and releasing the plug. This charger asks for your phone number. I entered 1 111 111 1111 and a loud fan-like noise proclaimed ready. Between the car’s graphics and the charging station you can judge how long you’ll wait to complete your session. VW offers three years free charging at Electrify America stations. This dealer claims it’s adding more chargers—a good thing as during daylight hours Porsches hogged the two available stalls. One quibble: sometimes the ID’s charge port LED doesn’t illuminate to help you plug in. That port’s light pulses green when charging, flashes green and red if the charge rate is lowered, say, because your 120-volt outlet cannot supply 10 amps; red if there’s a fault. If you’re ready to take the EV plunge, VW’s ID.4 offers you the compact crossover vibe with decent people and cargo hauling capabilities. Its range is certainly useful, not much different than what I’d expect from my everyday commuter. But you’ve got to make friends with its futuristic befuddling interface—you can work around some of this by uttering “Hello ID” after the car boots up. While the price of admission seems dear, you can rub shoulders with lead-foot Porsches for what in contrast seems like a pittance.