Volkswagen took honors as the World Car of the Year with its new ID.4 all-electric SUV, part of the automaker’s $85 billion push into the emerging battery-car market.
It was one of two battery-electric vehicles to be honored by a jury of 94 journalists from across Europe, North America, Asia and other parts of the world. The little Honda e electric city car was named World Urban Car of the Year. Porsche, Mercedes-Benz and Land Rover claimed additional awards.
The ID.4 is the second long-range BEV from Volkswagen, following to market the smaller ID.3 hatchback that launched in Europe first. The ID.4 is the debut model for the all-electric ID family in North America. The SUV initially is available in a single motor package delivering 250 miles of range. But VW eventually will add a variety of additional drive and battery-pack configurations.
“We are particularly pleased about our ID.4 being named World Car of the Year,” said Ralf Brandstätter, chief executive officer of Volkswagen passenger cars. “Not only because it’s one of the most important awards in the world, but also because the jury honored a great idea and a great team.”
Second all-electric World Car winner
The ID.4 becomes the second BEV to take World Car honors since the awards program began in 2005. The Jaguar I-Pace was the first all-electric winner in 2019. And jurors will find themselves having to judge significantly more all-electric models in the years ahead. The Volkswagen Group plans to bring 50 BEVs to market by 2025 through its various brands.
Earlier this week VW unveiled the three-row ID.6 at the Shanghai Auto Show. General Motors plans to have 30 BEVs out by mid-decade. Toyota announced plans for 15 BEVs at the Shanghai show.
Reflecting the fast evolution of the EV market, World Car organizers last year dropped a category covering hybrids and full electric models. They plan to launch a new award in 2022 for BEVs alone.
Where early EVs were largely relegated to a narrow niche, the upcoming wave will cover the gamut of market segments. The Honda e actually falls into the original category, the minicar offering relatively modest range of only 220 km, or 137 miles, per charge. But jurors felt that was a perfect fit for urban buyers who don’t need extensive range and want something that’s both affordable and able to navigate tight city streets.
Don’t count gas models out — yet
Conventional, gas-powered vehicles didn’t fall off the radar entirely for World Car jurors.
The newly redesigned Mercedes-Benz S-Class was named World Luxury Car of the Year. The seventh-generation S-Class — known inside Mercedes as the W223 model — is a showcase of high-tech features, from the studio quality “4D” surround sound system to the augmented reality Head-Up Display. It debuts an updated version of the MBUX voice assistant and an assortment of new driver assistance and smart safety systems. Even the powertrain goes high-tech with the addition of new EQ Boost powertrains.
“With the latest generation we want to offer our customers innovation, safety, comfort and quality as never before,” Ola Källenius, chairman of Daimler AG and Mercedes-Benz AG, said when it was unveiled last autumn.
The Porsche 911 Turbo, in turn, was chosen as World Performance Car of the Year. As is the norm for the German automaker, it has been rolling out a procession of different 911 variants, including a convertible and the distinctive Targa. The latest 911 Turbo punches out 572 horsepower — jumping to 640 in the Turbo S version. They can launch from 0 to 60 in 2.7 or 2.6 seconds, respectively.
The World Car Design of the Year trophy went to the Land Rover Defender. It marks the rebirth of an SUV that traces its roots directly back to the off-road brand’s very first model. The old Defender went out of production in 2016 and becomes the first version sold in the U.S. in two decades.
In a separate announcement made earlier this month, Toyota President and CEO Akio Toyoda was named World Car Person of the Year. Toyoda has won praise for pushing through dramatic changes at the Japanese giant. A semi-pro racer, Toyoda has put a premium on the sort of styling and performance that Toyota and Lexus products typically lacked.
Vehicles considered for a World Car Award must be available for at least a year, starting in May, They also must be sold on at least two continents.