The forthcoming appearance of the 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 is far from a surprise if you pay attention to auto shows. It’s here that VW clearly proclaimed what it had up its corporate sleeve with a series of ID electric concept vehicles.
And given the consumer proclivity for crossovers, particularly compact crossovers, it’s little surprise that the first in a series of Volkswagen EVs under the ID sub-brand will appear in March 2021 in the form of the ID.4 compact crossover.
Overview: Offered in base, Pro and First Edition trims, Volkswagen allowed TheDetroitBureau.com to briefly drive a First Edition pre-production prototype, although Volkswagen is still finalizing the vehicle’s software before it enters production.
Initially, the two-row crossovers will be built in Germany, but that will change come 2022. In November 2018, Volkswagen began an $800 million expansion at its Chattanooga, Tennessee plant for a new body shop and battery manufacturing site for the ID.4.
Exterior: Given the solid, structural boxiness of VW’s crossovers, the ID.4 is a refreshing change of pace, with flowing, sensual lines offset by a gray accent to the vehicle’s side profile that visually lowers the car. The ID.4’s front-end recalls the new Golf despite the lack of a grille, and the overall presence is cutting-edge contemporary without being excessive. Uniquely, the ID.4’s charging port is not up front like many EVs; it’s in the rear where you would expect to find the fuel filler door. VW includes ports for its charger as well as a DC fast charger.
All models come with a body color roof, black roof rails, 19-inch aluminum alloy wheels, heated side mirrors and washer nozzles, and, on all-wheel-drive models, a heated windshield. The $4,500 Statement package adds a panoramic fixed-glass roof, premium LED projector headlights with adaptive front-lighting, power-folding side mirrors with puddle lamps, a 12-inch touchscreen, SiriusXM satellite radio with a three-month trial, an adjustable trunk floor, and a power tailgate. The $1,500 Gradient package upgrades the Statement package with 20-inch wheels, and a black roof with silver roof rails.
Interior: Like other EVs, the ID.4’s driveline components are mostly beneath the vehicle, allowing for a flat floor and generous interior space given the vehicle’s overall length, which nearly five inches shorter than a Tiguan. Yet it has 99.9 cubic feet of passenger volume, and 30.3 cubic feet of cargo space, expanding to 64.2 cubic feet with the seats folded.
“… Given the solid, structural boxiness of VW’s crossovers, the ID.4 is a refreshing change of pace …”
The First Edition’s fixed Panoramic glass roof made the cabin feel even larger. There’s ample legroom front and rear for even the tallest of passengers. The ID.4’s two-tone ambience is starkly modern, but less barren than comparable Teslas. Material quality is impressive.
Thoughtfully, designers have filled the ID.4 with little conveniences. The center console has a sloped compartment for wireless charging, as well as wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The console bin has removable dividers that form a cupholder.
The back of the front seatbacks has small secondary pockets to hold smartphones. And the base of the B-pillars has tie-down points, in case you fold down the rear seats and need to secure cargo. The rear cargo deck’s floor opens to reveal a shallow secondary compartment and another compartment that holds the charger and tire patch kit. There is no spare tire, but there a number of grocery bag hooks and USB-C ports.
The instrument panel contains capacitive switches, but there’s no haptic feedback to alert you of activation. Nonetheless, their spare design was refreshing, as there’s none of the visual clutter that so many designers seem to insist upon. Once deciphered, they’re easy enough to use. The instrument cluster is mounted on the steering column, and telescopes along with the steering column. The transmission switch is mounted next to the cluster, and actuates by twisting it forward for drive, and rearward for reverse. A button on its side engages park.
Standard features include a 10-inch touchscreen, rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming rearview mirror, dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless entry, and a heated steering wheel and a 4G LTE-enabled hotspot for up to four devices.
Powertrain: Uniquely for a modern Volkswagen, the ID.4 is rear-wheel drive, the first since the original VW Beetle and its offspring. An 82 kW AC Permanent-Magnet Synchronous Motor and 1-speed automatic transmission is mounted to the rear axle, and generates 201 horsepower, and 208 pound-feet of torque. A second motor will be added to the front axle later in the model year to provide 302 hp and all-wheel drive.
Volkswagen decided to use rear-wheel drive because it allows for a more powerful motor, negating any chance of torque steer, a common problem with front-wheel-drive EVs, according to Gunnar Wynarski, an engineer with Volkswagen in Chattanooga, Tennessee. In addition, engineers moved a lot of components out of the instrument panel and under the hood to add a margin of extra safety and provide more interior space.
The EPA rates the ID.4 at 104 MPGe city/89 MPGe mpg highway/97 MPGe combined, with a 250-mile range. Charging time from five to 80% takes about 38 minutes on a fast charger, according to Wynarski. Volkswagen also includes three years of fast charging with Electrify America at no additional cost.
Technology and Safety: Standard driver assistance technology includes anti-lock braking system, electronic stability control, forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring, blind-spot monitor, rear-traffic alert; adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, travel assist; and emergency assist, dynamic road sign display, park distance control, and automatic high-beam control.
Driving impressions: Our initial drive was brief and confined to the sort of mundane interstates and clogged thoroughfares that constitute daily driving. Clearly, the ID.4 has this sort of driving licked, as its instant torque lends the ID.4 a lively feel. The new MEB platform packs the batteries down low between the axles, which provides for a solid, weighty feel that ably balances compliance and control, while the absence of an internal combustion engine and any semblance of road noise made for a blessedly quiet driving experience. And the accelerator and brake pedals are whimsically embossed with play and pause symbols.
There was no chance to push the ID.4 through more abrupt maneuvers or measure long-term seat comfort or control logic. That will have to wait for a full road test.
Wrap Up: With the ID.4, Volkswagen has fielded an extremely competitive new entry in burgeoning compact crossover EV segment, one that could quickly grow to outsell its conventional VW siblings.