2021 VOLKSWAGEN ID.4 1st EDITION - Review by David Colman +VIDEO
It needs some work
Story and Photos By David Colman
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
Volkswagen has been a little late taking a seat at the e-car banquet table. Environmentally speaking, they got off on the wrong foot by selling millions of so-called "clean" diesels cleverly designed to cheat smog testing equipment. In the aftermath of Dieselgate, the company fired the responsible bosses for the nefarious scheme, paid untold millions in fines here and abroad, and consented to construct a nationwide network of electric charging stations in the USA called Electrify America. As that network reached operational status, the company became acutely aware that they didn't have a long range e-car of their own to utilize the very recharging stations they themselves were building. An electric motor Golf was an interim measure, with e-power substituted for the gas driveline the Golf was originally designed to house. Additionally, the e-Golf suffered from short driving range, a major anxiety-inducing weakness.
Enter the 2021 ID.4, the first VW designed from the ground-up as an electric car. Although the debutante is available in several levels of trim (Pro, Pro S and 1st Edition), the one to own this year is the "1st Edition." You'll know it from afar because it sports chrome plated insignias on both flanks reading "1st." The most noticeable benefit of selecting this celebratory offering is a set of staggered width 20 inch alloy rims wrapped in hard (TW 580) Bridgestone Alenza A/S rubber (235/50R20 front;255/40R20 rear). These dazzlingly spoked wheels do a great job of setting off the fetching lines of the new ID.4. And despite their long life treadwear rating, they also do a commendable job of clipping apexes on challenging two lane country roads.
Other attributes of the 1st Edition include a rather startling interior treatment which covers all seating surfaces in Galaxy Black V-Tex leatherette. "ID.4" is subtly inscribed in the backrests of the front buckets. The dark seats are matched by a black headliner, as well as a heavily tinted, panoramic, fixed glass roof with an electrically operated black sunshade. Offsetting the prevailing gloom of all that noir is a shocking splash of white which covers the instrument binnacle, the cross member of the dashboard, and the steering wheel itself, which is emblazoned with "1st" in the vee of the lower spoke.
If you let your eyes wander down to the pedals in this playfully decorated VW, you'll find the go pedal marked with a triangle for "Play" while the brake pedal sports a pair of parallel bars for "Pause." In the middle of the dash sits a huge 12.3 inch touchscreen which controls virtually every function of the ID.4. Unfortunately, this nerve center defies easy use. We struggled to figure out what tricky maneuvers were required to control the infotainment system. Even after a week's time, we never felt fully competent in our quest to accomplish the simplest tasks, like changing the SiriusXM station band or installing a menu of favorites.
Driving the ID.4 is equally off-putting to someone used to being in control of their immediate automotive environment. The fun and games begin when you approach this VW with the key fob in your pocket. As the door automatically unlocks you slide into the seat to discover that the ID.4 is ready to drive off without any further intercession by you. VW calls this parlor trick "waking up" because the car senses your presence and intuitively starts. This disconcerting trait requires a willing suspension of disbelief on the part of the operator, who may not be mentally prepared to drive off just yet. As a sop to normalcy, VW does equip the ID.4 with a Stop/Start button on the steering column, which the company claims you should never need in normal operation.
The ID.4 rides harshly. It bucks and lurches over pavement imperfections that would go unnoticed by any number of similarly sized crossover SUVs. Due to its low level battery placement and tall cabin structure, the ID.4 generates a lot of head toss when you switch directions quickly from side to side. This aggravated motion can catch occupants off guard as they suddenly find themselves whipsawed to and fro. But no one will have to worry about neck snap when the accelerator is floored because this is one e-car that is slower in a straight line than the competition. The problem here is that the ID.4 weighs 4,698 lbs. With a horsepower rating of just 201hp, you are dealing with a mediocre power-to -weight ratio of 23.3 pounds/horsepower. This number in turn produces a less than scintillating 0-60mph run of 7.6 seconds and a standing start quarter mile sprint of 16 seconds at 86mph.
The control interface of the ID.4 carries with it more than a hint of home appliance. The Forward/Reverse stalk is quirky and insubstantial. The exterior mirror control feels cheap and imprecise. If you want to lower all four windows, you have to first select "front," then "rear" from a couple of poorly demarcated switches on the driver's arm rest. Doing this while driving presents a ridiculous task. But then, plowing into the electric future will be fraught with such inconsistencies, won't it? And the biggest ask of all will be, "Where's the closest Electrify America recharge station?
2021 VOLKSWAGEN ID.4 1st EDITION
MOTOR: Permanent Magnet Synchronous AC
POWER CONSUMPTION: 104MPGe City/ 89MPGe Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $45,190
HYPES: Cute Looks, 250 Mile Range
GRIPES: Ox-Cart Ride, Poor Seat Side Support
STAR RATING: 7 Stars out of 10