Volkswagen used to be the mass market carmaker everyone loved for its mainstream vehicles that anyone could afford, like the Beetle, Golf and split-screen camper van. But then Dieselgate tarnished its reputation. Now the German behemoth appears to be back – this time in electric form. In Europe, we had the ID. 3 compact car last year, which has already gone on to be a bestselling EV. This has at last been joined by the ID. 4 SUV, which opened for orders in the USA in 2020 but has only just reached Europe.
The ID.4 has a clear family resemblance to the ID. 3, albeit without the latter’s unusually stubby front. The looks are clean and unfussy, with big 20in alloys on the initial 1st Edition. The interior is remarkably like that of the ID. 3, only more spacious. This is a big car by European standards, around the same size as a VW Tiguan, although not by American ones. But having the batteries in the floor and the motor between the rear wheels means the maximum amount of exterior size is converted into interior space.
The front seats are roomy, and the rear seats are too, with plenty of space for tall people, although as always, the middle rear seat will be for the fifth occupant who drew the short straw. Rear occupants also get their own air vents and USB-C charge points for their devices. There is a lot of boot space, with 543 liters before you put the rear seats down, and 1,575 liters when you do. That is more than a C-class Mercedes estate, for example. There is no frunk, though. VW has somehow managed to completely stuff the area under the bonnet with electronics. There is also a slightly annoying step in the boot with the rear seats down.
Volkswagen has got the balance between simplicity and tradition just about right with the ID. series of cars’ controls. You simply get in and press the brake pedal with the keys on your person to start up the system. The drive system is operated via a rotating knob to the right of the steering wheel, which is very reminiscent of the BMW i3. There are traditional stalks for the lights and windscreen wipers (are you listening Tesla?), plus touch buttons for important functions like front and rear window demisting.
The dashboard display is quite simple, with mostly just a digital readout of speed and remaining range. You do get separate buttons for adjusting the dual-zoned climate control and accessing a few important features like changing the motor power between eco, normal and sport. There are volume control buttons too. But everything else goes through the LCD touchscreen. This is well structured and reasonably responsive. You also get three years of connected services included, which will be handy now VW has rolled out over-the-air updates for its ID. cars.
Performance figures for the ID. 4 are not very impressive by Tesla standards. The first version of the ID. 4 has the single rear motor with 201 hp, just like the ID.3, which seems decent enough. But it also weights 2.1 tons, so can only manage 0 to 60mph in 8.2 seconds. That is reasonably quick by internal combustion engine vehicle standards, but pedestrian for an EV. A Tesla Model Y Long Range takes just 4.8 seconds, and the Performance version drops this to 3.5 seconds.
That said, if you are moving over from an internal-combustion SUV, the ID. 4 will feel plenty quick enough, particularly with the instant torque of the electric motor, which always makes an EV feel faster than it really is, particularly below 30mph. The rear-wheel-drive, low center of gravity and even weight distribution (which VW claims is 50:50) all make this car handle much better than a 2.1-ton car should. In fact, it is extremely smooth and effortless, even when weaving its considerable bulk through traffic in a cramped British city street. It feels very planted and in its element at highways speeds, too.
Volkswagen opted to put its biggest current battery in the 1st Edition of the ID. 4, and this was a sensible choice. This 77kWh unit delivers 310 miles of WLTP range, which puts it in the same ballpark as the Tesla Model Y, and way ahead of more expensive luxury electric SUVs such as the Jaguar I-Pace, Audi e-tron and Mercedes EQC. In real-world driving including highways, this should give you much more than 200 miles between charging.
This might not be enough for American or Australian distances, or those who claim they can drive 800 miles without even a toilet break, but for most families travelling across a European country it will be fine. The ID. 4 supports DC charging up to 125kW, so can replenish to 80% in 38 minutes – just about right for a meal break. Sure, an internal combustion SUV will go a lot further, but the ID. 4 is in the right place for most everyday car duties.
ere are some pluses and minuses when it comes to luxury bells and whistles with the 1st Edition ID. 4. On the plus side, all cars have heated front seats and steering wheel. Adaptive cruise control is standard too. You get collision and lane departure warnings. But the seats are mechanically adjusted, not electronic, and the space for your phone does not have wireless charging (yet). Blind spot detection does not appear to be a feature either.
The price also is not quite mass market yet. In the UK, the ID. 4 1st Edition costs £40,800 (it was $43,995 in the US). That is as much as the most expensive, fully loaded Volkswagen Tiguan. But, considering the Tesla Model Y is not yet available in Europe, it is reasonable for an electric SUV this size. The cheapest e-tron is £11,000 ($15,000) more, and in many ways the ID. 4 is the more practical car, with much better range.
While the Volkswagen ID. 4 is not the mass market EV SUV version of the Beetle or Golf, and the ID. 3 is still a bit too pricey as well, it is still a great car. There is currently no electric SUV in Europe this size that costs less. The range is great, it is not fast, but it drives well, and it has the most important toys, with adaptive cruise control top of the list. The ID. 4 is a real statement that Volkswagen means business in the electric vehicle market, and electric vehicles are seriously worth considering too.