First Drive: 2021 VW ID.4, The Electric Beetle It's Not

By Author: Harvey Briggs, Date: Mar 20, 2022
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Volkswagen was founded as a company that built cars for the masses. The original Beetle was a brilliantly packaged, well engineered, easy to maintain vehicle that just about anyone could afford. During its 80 year run, the Beetle became an automotive icon.

Billed as an SUV, ID.4 is a crossover hatchback that’s designed to haul young families and their gear

With the rapid transition to electrification after the diesel-gate debacle, VW had the chance to reset, reconnect, and rebuild the brand from the ground up with the kind of focus and personality that made VW a global icon that single-handedly reformed the image of an entire nation. While VW claims they’re building EVs for millions, not millionaires, what we have here in the 2021 ID.4 AWD Pro S is a $48,175, 5-passenger crossover. It isn’t an egalitarian answer to the ever escalating MSRPs that are pricing more and more people out of the new car market. And it’s not a better engineered EV that will knock the mighty Tesla off its perch.

Road manners are excellent and ID.4 is fairly quick, but you won’t confuse it with a GTI

Unfortunately ID.4 is an electric crossover that could have come from any of the dozens of other manufacturers rapidly shipping battery-electric vehicles into showrooms right now. ID.4 is fine. It’s well-built. It has plenty of interior space. The seats are comfortable. It’s quick and the AWD Pro S version I drove is reasonably sure footed. What it’s not is unique.

One of the biggest problems with ID.4 is infotainment and user interface system that isn’t well sorted

Well, it is in one area, technology. And not in a good way. The user interface is frankly a mess. It’s not intuitive, the capacitive volume control for the volume is hard to use at speed. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to the placement of switches with the defrost controls on the other side of the steering wheel from the rest of the HVAC and a window controls system that only has two switches for four windows. You have to toggle a second switch to determine whether you’re activating the front or rear windows.

Front seat in ID.4 provide excellent comfort and support

A few other things I wasn’t enamored with is the lack of a front trunk, mediocre range, and the underwhelming regen mode. Most EVs – Bolt, Mach-E, Leaf, Ionic, Niro, and others – allow for one-pedal driving which improves range by using the motor/generator to slow the car and add juice back into the battery. While this does happen to some degree in ID.4, it’s not at the same level as competitors.

When you can find a high speed charger that works, ID.4 adds electrons and miles rapidly

Range was an issue during my time with ID.4. I picked it up with about 80% charge which should have been about 200 miles of range. My trip back to my office mapped out at 157 miles so I figured I’d be okay. Driving normally, i.e. the speed limit on the interstate and around town, it quickly became clear I wouldn’t reach my destination without topping up. That’s where Milwaukee’s woeful EV infrastructure reared its ugly head. Using both Chargepoint and Electrify America apps, I managed to find a high speed charging station that was only 10 miles out of my way. Unfortunately when I arrived it wasn’t working. My only other options were level 2 chargers that would only add about 20 miles to my range in an hour. Thankfully I had a book with me, so I plugged in and read a few chapters of Elmore Leonard, which was much more exciting than the rest of the drive.

Fold the rear seats and there’s room for most of your worldly possessions

ID.4 is a solid effort, but it’s not the revolutionary start I had hoped for from a company with the heritage and resources of VW. This is a company that builds one of my favorite cars on the road, the GTI. Hopefully the upcoming ID. Buzz provides more of a connection to the company’s past and a more optimistic glimpse into its future.

2021 Volkswagen ID.4 AWD Pro S with Gradient Package
Base Price: $39,900 for a RWD Pro model
Price As Tested: $49,675 + $1,195 for destination and delivery
Dual-motor all-wheel drive
Battery capacity: 82kWh
Power: 295 Horspower
Torque: 339 Pound-Feet
0-60 MPH: 5.8 seconds
Published Range: 249 miles
Mileage: 98 MPGe city, 88 MPGe highway, 93 MPGe combined

ID.4 has plenty of room in the rear seat and adequate storage behind it

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Harvey Briggs

Harvey Briggs is the Founder, Editor, and Publisher of Rides & Drives. He has also written for Car and Driver, Winding Road, and the luxury lifestyle blog, Pursuitist.com. His passions run from fast cars, small planes, boats and motorcycles to music, travel, and sports. When he's not on the road testing the latest cars, he been known to turn up on stage playing rock and blues guitar at clubs around his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. Follow Harvey's adventures on Instagram and Twitter @harvey_drives and find him on Facebook. Though keeping up could be a problem. As Harvey says, "If I don't slow down, time can't catch me."

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