Expectations run high when one test drives an EV, more so when it’s German engineered. The ID.4 was not only intuitive, it punched way above its pay grade.
German-made cars come with expectations.
The burden is on the manufacturer when one sits behind the wheel of a BMW, Volkswagen, Audi, or Mercedes-Benz; The experience should not represent a standard test drive; it should represent a premium experience.
This stems from seventy-plus years of uber marketing, one that positions said brands as a cut above the rest. Therefore, my expectations surrounding the German-engineered ID.4 were way off the charts.
When a driver meets the ID.4 for the first time, from a brand that literally translates into ‘car for the people,’ the historical implications are considerable. We’re talking about a completely different drivetrain compared to combustible cars that made their debut in the first decade of the 1900s. The only ‘drivetrain’ prior to that (for personal use) was fueled by oats and the exhaust represented manure.
Did Volkswagen cross the chasm, From one drivetrain to the next, and exceed my premium expectations?
My humble review suggests that not only did Volkswagen cross the chasm, the ID.4 drives like a premium SUV that punches way above its pay grade.
Here’s why: The ID.4’s mid-level trim option is roughly $43,000, but is qualifies for a $7,500 federal tax credit. Sans sales taxes, this positions the ID.4 as a car priced in the mid $30’s. Bear that in mind as you read this review.
The compact SUV sightlines are modern, scream utilitarian, and they are a fresh departure from previous VW lines. With a slightly lower profile compared to the Tiguan, it feels like the two models are stepbrothers to one another. The ID.4, in this analogy, is the younger of the two. If this SUV were a person, he works in the tech industry and he’s also a bit more sensible. He’s also smarter given that he’s driving electric, which means he is inclined to believe scientists: i.e. carbon emissions are in fact raising the planet’s temperature.
When it comes down to a test drive, however, no one gives a damn about the planet. A more selfish and primitive mindset takes over when a human engages with an electric car (EV) for the first time.
Prior to making any judgements, a vehicle’s functionality represents boxes that need to be checked (4 children warrant a third row, front or all-wheel drive to manage snowy roads, etc.). And if no boxes are checked, there’s no reason to drive it.
But if the exterior is cool and it’s anything other than Walter White’s ride in Breaking Bad, a visceral experience transcends facts when one places his or her hands on the wheel. The ID.4 provides an extremely unique experience when it comes to that moment.
The steering wheel is white.
The steering wheel, console, and front-seat armrests are white and it’s a brilliant touch to the design. It’s a clear break from the past and the interior is inviting, comfortable, and functional. That’s refreshing—electric models can work too hard to make a whiz-bang first impression. Other models I have driven challenge the driver when it comes to the user interface. It’s almost as if the car is saying, ‘Are you smart enough to drive me? Well, you better be, because I’m likely smarter than you!’
I only asked one question when the Volkswagen salesperson showed me the vehicle: “How do I change gears?”
That says something about the vehicle itself. It took me ten seconds to figure out how to change the audio, temperature, and open the sunroof (which is ginormous by the way). The console is so intuitive my grandmother could have figured it out and she was very old school—she refused to watch cable TV before she turned 90. The user-interface screen is big enough without being obnoxious or overbearing.
When a driver can feel comfortable in a new model, one that is unlike anything produced by VW in the combustible era, that speaks to the thought given to driver intuition.
How does one change gears? It is the knob beside the front dashboard panel. Everything else fell into place for me and I didn’t need a manual (and four-spare hours) to figure out the ID.4.
Road performance surprised me in other ways as well.
240 miles on a single battery charge: That’s the range if one is conservative in his/her driving habits. Not a bad range but as has been reported in the press, these figures usually represent the high end. When air conditioning is used, hills are transcended, and quick acceleration is implemented, it has an impact on an EV’s total driving range.
If your commute is shorter in range and you have an alternative vehicle for long-haul trips, this could represent the perfect car for the suburban parent or commuter who doesn’t mind the 13 seconds it takes to plug in your vehicle overnight between drives. I have a plug-in hybrid Audi A3 and there’s no reason for concern about a vehicle’s range unless you work on a large Montana-sized ranch that requires you to drive from one fence post to the other multiple times a day.
Seriously—the question is not what will stop you at 240 electric miles per day, it’s a question of recharging time. My standard 3-prong plug does the trick every night.
There were two factors about the ID.4’s drive that surprised me. First, the suspension is sublime. When one traverses New Jersey roads in April, after a bad snow season, it’s on par with urban warfare as one is required to drive over bomb-crater-sized potholes. The ID.4 handled these like a champ and the ride was extremely comfortable.
Second, the car was surprisingly quiet. It was on par with a mid-range luxury SUV. You expect a premium SUV to be comfortable, quiet, and well-equipped to manage Jersey roads. You can experience that in the ID.4 for roughly $20,000 to $30,000 less compared to the price of larger luxury models that have high-grade suspension systems.
What you will not find is Tesla S-Model speed, but that’s not a bad thing (which I covered in a previous article). As I demonstrate in this video, the acceleration is adequate, but it won’t blow the skin on your face backward. That’s what the Model S feels like when you punch it, so if you have kids or outstanding traffic violations, perhaps that’s a good thing. You will be less inclined to roll up to a Maserati and taunt them at a red light for a drag race.
This represents a great start for a brand that will mass-produce electric vehicles before the end of 2030. The bigger question for drivers is, why would you not consider an electric vehicle moving forward?
Yes, there are some cases where charging a car represents a challenge. Parking garages in cities are not outfitted with chargers. Perhaps EVs are better suited to the suburbs or rural towns where consumers can plug in at their leisure. And given how people are fleeing cities right now, perhaps the audience for EVs overall will grow in the near term.
So if you can charge a car, EVs are not only fun to drive, they require less maintenance, are better for the environment, and frankly, it makes you look smarter compared to what I’ll refer to hereafter as smog cars… those gas sucking combustible smokestacks that keep us tethered to an 18th-century innovation (i.e. fossil fuels).
The ID.4 represents a great ride and a fresh perspective on the 21st century.
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