As electric vehicle adoption hits an inflection point in the market, Volkswagen’s new all-electric crossover is pure vanilla that punctuates its mainstream ambitions. The 2021 VW ID.4 takes aim at gas-guzzling competitors from Honda and Toyota, striving for a place in a crowded and competitive class of ICE (internal combusion engine) cousins. And it largely succeeds thanks to some cutting-edge tech, an airy interior, and a comfortable ride, making it easy to recommend—as long as you aren’t planning to charge up with Electrify America in the near future.
ID.4 Trims and Pricing
The 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 all-electric compact SUV is built on VW’s new MEB modular EV platform with the rear axle (RWD) connected to an electric motor that puts out 201 horsepower and 229 lb-ft of instant torque. Its 82kWh battery pack tucked under the floor generates a 250-mile range, and charging from empty takes 7.5 hours on a 220V charger, while a 125kW DC setup reaches 80% in just under 40 minutes. The ID.4 comes with up to a $7,500 federal tax credit, as well as three years of free access to fast charging via VW’s sister company, Electrify America.
The ID.4 comes in three trims with only two currently available on the market. We drove the 1st Edition, which is now sold out.
Starting at $39,995 for RWD and $43,675 for AWD, the Pro trim comes standard with 19-inch aluminum alloy wheels, LED headlights with rain-sensing wipers and tail lights, keyless entry with illuminated flush door handles, a heated windshield (on the all-wheel-drive option), and door mirrors and washer nozzles. Interior standard features include a dual-zone automatic climate control system, a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel with haptic feedback, cloth power seats with front heating and six-way power recline, a digital instrument cluster and a 10-inch center display, Bluetooth and SiriusXM satellite radio, wireless app connection, wireless charging, and VW Car-Net services via Wi-Fi.
Car-Net Safe & Secure is a paid subscription service that includes Emergency Assistance and Automatic Crash Notification for $159 per year. Car-Net Hotspot allows passengers to access 4G LTE connectivity with up to four compatible connected devices simultaneously by adding the vehicle to your existing T-Mobile or Verizon data plan. Car-Net Remote Access EV lets you interact with the vehicle from miles away via the mobile app and is offered at no additional charge for five years from the date of vehicle purchase. Features include remote battery stop/start charging, remote climate controls, searching for charging stations, and finding off-street parking availability.
Volkwagen is debuting its IQ.DRIVE driver assistance suite in the 2021 ID.4, which includes forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring, blind spot monitoring, rear traffic alerts, adaptive cruise control, lane assist, travel assist, and emergency assist. Also included are dynamic road sign display, park assist, and dynamic high beam control. Across the soft foam skin headliner is VW’s ID.Light, an intuitive feature that highlights communication within the vehicle.
The Pro S trim is offered with RWD and starting at $44,495, or AWD for $48,175. Additions to the standard features include adaptive LED headlights, an illuminated lightline and Volkswagen logo, a panoramic fixed glass roof, power-folding door mirrors with puddle lamps, and a power tailgate. Interior upgrades include leatherette seating surfaces with front 12-way power and memory, a 12-inch center display, enhanced ambient lighting, and a variable trunk floor.
The 1st Edition we drove tacked on the Gradient Package (available on the Pro S trim for $1,500), which includes 20-inch machined alloy wheels with all-season tires, a black roof, silver anodized roof rails, silver roof accents and C-pillar, and silver accents on the front and rear bumpers. The 1st Edition introduces unique touches like accelerator and brake pedals with Play and Pause logos reminiscent of the ID.BUZZ concept, as well as a white steering wheel and column, a radio bezel, a door armrest module, and a steering wheel clip. Additional exterior embellishments include a 1st Edition fender badge, mirror caps in black, and a tow hitch with a towing capacity of 2,200 lbs. The sticker price came to $45,190, including a destination charge of $1,195.
ID.4 Infotainment and Connectivity
The ID.4 is conventional and straightforward in its design, taking aim at best-selling gas-guzzling compact SUVs. When it comes to tech, VW added touches to the cockpit and infotainment interface that deviate from the vanilla exterior packaging with 30-color enhanced ambient interior lighting with preset Moods, as well as a slider bar to customize the touch infotainment system. Menus can be moved by swiping your hand in front of the screen. Sliders for volume and temperature adjustment are located on the inclined surface below the display.
VW’s Hello ID voice control is capable of understanding commands such as, “Hello ID, I’m cold,” to turn up heat, and a light strip below the windshield streams colorful and intuitive lighting effects to support you in situations with visual and acoustic notifications tied to driver-assistance and navigation systems, charge status, braking prompts, and incoming phone calls. It uses various light pulses to signal readiness to drive, turn instructions from the navigation system, brake prompts, and incoming calls. When using voice commands, it signals that it is listening. When the ID.4 is plugged in to charge, the ID. Light indicates the current level of charge.
The interface takes some getting used to with no physical controls available, relying instead on a touch-screen menu and voice control. Touch-sensitive sliders adjust climate controls, sunshade, and volume, and haptic buttons access various menus.
Driving the ID.4
The VW ID.4 is a pleasant ride with reliable handling. What stands out is actually what’s missing but expected from all-electric vehicles these days: quirky design features, instant torque upon acceleration, and regenerative one-pedaling. Instead, the ID.4 emulates the look and feel of a gas-powered vehicle. For instance, rather than the regenerative pull of an EV engine when releasing the pedal, it coasts like an automatic internal combustion engine.
Regardless, we found the ID.4 to be stellar for a road trip to from Portland to Seattle. At highway speeds, the cabin was serene and the powertrain remained subdued, even when passing. However, the ID.4 was sluggish when maneuvering around trucks on I-5. While it was quicker than our own standard Honda CR-V, it was significantly slower than EV competitors in its class such as the Ford Mustang Mach-E. Volkswagen promises a more powerful 300-horsepower ID.4 later this year.
The ID.4 had four driving modes—Eco, Comfort, Sport, and Custom—and settings on the central display allow you to choose between Comfort and Sport for more dynamic driving. The B (Brake) position enables you to select a heavier amount of regeneration. We used the gear selector switch to change from the D position to B periodically, but were hard-pressed to feel any real pull from the system and one-pedal driving wasn’t an option.
The EPA claims a 250-mile range in combined driving; on our roadtrip we achieved about 190 miles. But here is where our biggest complaint lies: Electrify America. An entity VW set up as part of its Dieselgate settlement, Electrify America (EA) announced recently that it plans to double the number of EV fast charging stations in the US over the next four years. It intends to deploy 800 charging stations with 3,500 chargers by the end of this year, and 1,800 stations and about 10,000 chargers by the end of 2025.
This kind of infrastructure expansion is essential to reach mass adoption of EVs, and a boon for those wanting to tap into the free three-year charging bonus. Unfortunately, we found our free card useless while we frantically searched for an EA station that wasn’t offline. What was even more irritating was the customer service euphemisms we received about the status of the dysfunctional equipment. Each time we called from a station, we’d be told how long it had been offline, but not any intelligence about what that meant or if it would be ready to access anytime soon. After a few calls, we quickly learned that if the station was offline for more than 24 hours, to move on to another. After almost running out of juice while searching multiple stations for a working unit, we ditched our free EA card and sought out the much more reliable Chargepoint network.
All ID.4 models are equipped with a charging cable, which allows for both home and public charging. The 11kW onboard charger enables the ID.4 to charge to full in as little as seven and a half hours at a home.
A Strong Start
Whether you’re considering the switch to electric or not, we urge anyone shopping for a compact SUV to test drive the ID.4. Taking aim at popular competitors like the Honda CR-V, the Mazda XZ-5, the Subaru Forester, and the Toyota Rav4, VW is betting that its first all-electric crossover in the US will blend right in and that the gas-free and greenhouse bonus will win over a significant segment of the class. And we tend to agree, though as our Electrify America debacle revealed, the industry can’t accomplish EV mass adoption until the infrastructure issue is resolved. For this reason, and because the ride will benefit from the 300-horsepower model due out later this year, this debut ID.4 doesn’t quite earn our Editors’ Choice award.