VW’s Electric Rebirth in America Begins
After years of anticipation, I finally got to see and touch a Volkswagen ID.4 crossover back in mid-September. I examined it from every angle, sat in the seats, and handled the controls. But it wasn’t until yesterday that I actually got behind the wheel of this gamechanger from Volkswagen for the U.S. market.
VW gave me 45 minutes to myself on a route that let me measure the white crossover’s behavior on city streets, freeways and empty, narrow country roads. The good news is, the prototype model acquitted itself just fine, thank you!
Like my September visit, this test was carefully prepared with cleaning, masks and distancing. I took the virus-free test ride on my own, after enjoying a masked chat in the parking lot with the friendly VW press folks on a splendid autumn Northern California day.
In the ID.4 you feel like you’re sitting up high—just as the American buyer demands—but with a low center of gravity, thanks to the battery pack below the floor. When you turn the fat steering wheel, the ID.4 responds. It’s as fun and easy to push into a corner as a Golf. The vigorous motor happily moves the car ahead when you press the accelerator.
As an EV, the ID.4 lets you select D for Drive or B for Regen with a click on the dash-mounted switch, so you can choose one-pedal driving when you want it. I found the regen just right on the back roads but flipped it off on the freeway so I could take my foot off the right pedal now and then.
In the countryside, the silent drivetrain delivers that exhilaration you get with EVs—a feeling of flight and amazement at so much motion in whisper quiet. The ID.4 features plenty of glass—including a huge sunroof—so you can see outside, but you don’t have to hear it. The car buzzes its “hey, pedestrians!” noise when backing up and when it’s moving slowly (for parking lots), but you won’t hear it while driving.
The interior is angular, but not overdone, and the small info pod on the steering wheel serves as a source of instant info without being overwhelming. The center dash panel offers a set of rectangles to choose from. There, you can:
- Set up and use your phone
- Select radio and other media
- Configure and use a clear navigation system
- Configure vehicle settings
- Connect to apps (including Android Auto and Apple Carplay)
- Fine tune the audio sound
- Customize a selection of colorful ambient lighting
- Request help
A longer term test will give me a chance to really work these options, but I can say that the audio works fine and the navigation came in handy when I found myself in a different place than my printed route indicated.
The seats were comfy for the ride, and I can imagine taking longer trips in this new car. With an official range of 250 miles, you could build in one charging stop to make the San Francisco to Los Angeles trip.
The ID.4 introduces a new design language to America. Europeans have enjoyed the ID.3 hatchback for a while now, but VW decided that this will be our first taste of VW’s new line of EVs. While VWs have always put form over function, this design features softer, more sensuous surfaces with a friendly, grown up face and taut detailing.
You can place an order now and expect a car in early 2021. For now, your ID.4 will be built overseas, but before too long, the Chattanooga, Tennessee, plant will start making ID.4s. That should increase availability and will be the start of the less expensive entry-level model.
The next step will be a full week-long test, and we can’t wait. With a new look and drivetrain, the Volkswagen ID.4 may end up having the impact of the Beetle or the Golf for VW in today’s rapidly evolving automotive world.
Story by Steve Schaefer; photos from Volkswagen.
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