The only area of the new car market that is as hot and competitive as the electric vehicle (EV) segment is the crossover segment. So it’s no surprise that automakers are scrambling to get EV crossovers into their dealerships right now. Volkswagen, one of the largest automakers in the world, is clearly investing in their EV future. However, at the moment, there is only one that you can buy, the ID.4 crossover. I just spent a week with one and I have a lot to say about it.
EVs are different than normal gas-powered cars, both mechanically as well as ideologically. We can probably thank Tesla for the latter, but every automaker who markets an EV online goes about it in a similar way. You don’t “build” an EV online. You “build and reserve” it. I’ve seen that same concept on Ford’s Mach-E website as well, and that tech-focused method definitely seems Tesla’ish. It’s a little presumptuous in my opinion, but things are changing.
The ID.4 comes in Pro and Pro S (which apparently stands for “Statement”…jazz hands). The Pro can be had with RWD or AWD, while the Pro S is AWD only. There was also a rear-drive ID4 1st Edition as well, but that doesn’t show up under VW’s configurator. The base Pro has a starting MSRP of $39,995, so it hits that magic sub $40K sauce that many buyers will be looking for. That is before any government tax incentives (currently $7,500 at the time of this writing).
Our Pro S press loaner was a top spec Pro S trim with a pretty decent list of features and options. Here, check it out:
The only substantial option is the “Gradient Package” for $1,500 which gets you:
- 20-inch wheels
- Black roof and silver bumper accents
- Roof rails
All in you’re at just over $47,000.
The ID.4 has to tow that line between practical crossover that a random person off the street could see themselves in and a “the future is now EV” that has to defy expectations and be a little, well…weird. OK, maybe “weird” is the wrong word, perhaps “different”. The ID.4, if anything manages to go a little too tame from an exterior design perspective. If VW had put it out as a petrol-powered vehicle exactly as-is (with more of a grille to allow air in) I don’t think it would stand out in the sea of crossovers, much less EVs.
The design is actually too conservative. I had someone tell me that the Mustang Mach-E I was driving recently looked like it was “from the future”, while I don’t know that anyone noticed that the ID.4 existed. It’s pretty blue paint scheme looks nice, but the only other colors it comes in are white, black, silver, and…gray. I suppose that makes it understated, a classic German plan. I just think that the ID.4 could use a little flair, a little pizzazz.
VW tries to do the same thing that Ford did with the Mach-E and give it a faux roofline that makes it look coupe-like, or is supposed to. The plunging panel is a different color from the body and is topped by black trim. From a distance it works. The overall profile is flowy and swoopy with an undulating main body beltline that drops across the middle. The whole thing looks a bit like a VW Atlas Cross Sport with sagging bodywork.
So, it’s a fairly pedestrian looking thing on the outside, let’s check out the interior. I guess honeycomb is hot right now, because this is the second or third vehicle I’ve seen the pattern used on a seat. Aside from the light “this gonn get dirty” color choice, I dig the seats.
They also have “ID.” on them in the perforations.
From a design perspective, it’s OK. More Tesla-inspired minimalism is pervasive across the interior. Mercifully the driver still gets an information screen, like in the Mach-E, so they didn’t go full Elon on the inside.
There are some ergonomic and usability issues in the ID.4 though. Take a closer look at the door controls up there in the gallery. There are only two window switches, you see that shit? At first I was annoyed and likely said aloud “really, I can’t put the back windows down from the front seat?” but then I looked a bit more closely. You can do it, but you have to switch to the “rear” setting using the hard-to-engage haptic button. There is a trick to put them all up or down with one button, but you have to find a magical spot somewhere on the left side of the “rear” button and hold it until it flashes. Then you can use a button to raise or lower all the windows.
This was much too complicated, and all in an effort to try and look cool and remove buttons. Speaking of that, it’s time to talk about the sliders. No, not small cheeseburgers, that would be great. If you looks closely below, you’ll see the small triangle (is that isosceles or scalene?) just below the screen. That little creation acts as the volume buttons for the radio. To either side are the dual-zone climate control sliders.
I went from “thanks, I hate it” to “I guess I’d get used to this” to “nope, where’s my volume knob“. More Tesla minimalism.
The larger issue was connectivity. My iPhone would not connect to Apple CarPlay until I separately paired it with Bluetooth first. Then it worked flawlessly…for about five minutes. Then it will not connect through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi and since VW has decided to move solely to USB-C, I couldn’t plug it in without an adapter. I suppose that’s how we move to the future and I’ll try to suppress the grumpy old man inside me. Supposedly USB-C will be a smaller, more standardized way to connect. I suppose not having to worry about which way is up is nice, but maybe let me transition a bit before going cold turkey.
My largest pet peeve when it comes to CarPlay is when the system thinks it knows best and changes my source. Every time I did voice-to-text it would take Pandora off the air and switch to…well I’m not sure what. Silence?
So, what are some things I like? Well as a fat American I love that it had four cupholders. When I had the kids with me and we stopped for food, there were plenty of spots for drinks. Also, the wireless charging pad is a very easy to reach spot. That was especially important when I wasn’t able to pair my phone.
The back is pretty usable, with decent room for legs and feet. The panoramic roof is cool, and seems to be on just about every press car I drive these days. It did get a bit hot in there while parked, but thankfully there is a cover.
The rear cargo area was spacious, although the only thing I transported was the charging cable. You’ll get 37.6 cubic feet in the rear, and 64.2 cu ft of space with the rear seats folded down.
Speaking of storage space, it doesn’t have a frunk. What the frunk?
A 82.0-kWh lithium-ion battery provides the power and the base rear-motor rear-drive ID4 puts out 201 horsepower and 229 lb-ft of torque. The Pro S AWD version delivers a much more impressive 302 horsepower. I’ll say it up front (OK towards the back), I love one foot driving. It feels natural and it’s really easy to get used to. The ID.4 is pretty easy to drive, once you figure out the damn controls.
There is no “start” button, you just walk up and get in and the car preps itself for transport. It’s a little disconcerting at first, but I dig it. What’s much more confusing at first is the shifter. It rotates clockwise a 1/3 turn to engage Drive (or D/B if you are playing at home). In the middle (where it always is) is Neutral somehow, and you have to turn it the other way for Reverse. Park is straight in on the side. Got it?
I did like that it stays in the drive move that I chose before I
switched it off got out. Not all vehicles do that, in fact most don’t. Even in the sportiest mode, the ID.4 doesn’t feel that quick. The FWD version has been tested in the 7.4 second to sixty while VW claims the AWD version hits it in around 5.7 seconds. Its 4559 pound curb weight is pretty evident during acceleration. The Mach-E weighs just as much, but somehow feels faster on the butt dyno.
Volkswagen played it safe with the ID.4 and that may, or may not, be a bad thing. I’m coming off of a super positive experience in the Mach-E, and didn’t help driving the ID.4 almost back-to-back with Ford’s latest EV. The Mustang was full of personality, usable technology integrations (with some real buttons) and the ID.4 just…wasn’t. The frustrations with the interface compounded with overall lack of exterior style and unimpressive performance to just leave me underwhelmed by the ID.4 Pro S. I have no doubt that VW will continue to refine and improve the ID vehicles, so we’ll see what comes next.