2021 Volkswagen ID 4 Pro S review: A good EV let down by the details
The ID 4 is Volkswagen's first all-electric SUV and the brand's first global EV. Right out of the gate, this vehicle does a lot of things right. The ID 4 is spacious and comfortable inside, it has a smooth powertrain, comes with plenty of standard driver aids and offers competitive range for a mass-market EV. On the surface, this cheerful-looking VW is entirely pleasant, but the devil is always in the details and it's the little things that take their toll.
An upscale, spacious interior
But first, some good news. The ID 4 Pro S interior is unexpectedly premium, looking -- and in many ways feeling -- like something from Volvo. The dashboard's simple layout is modern and functional, with the infotainment screen angled slightly toward the driver. I love the rich, geometric patterns used on many of the surfaces, plus there are plenty of soft plastics and everything's assembled with painstaking care.
Pro S models feature 12-way power front bucket seats, which even offer massage functionality. Curiously, these chairs also have minivan-like armrests. Yes, they look unusual in an SUV, but they're cushy and adjustable, locking in different positions for enhanced comfort. Also, between those seats is a well-thought-out and versatile center console. Not only does it offer plenty of storage space and features a roll-top cover, it boasts a wireless charging pad, some American-sized cup holders and four USB-C ports, two up front and two serving passengers in the rear.
Speaking of the backseat, it's another one of the ID 4's strong suits. There's plenty of space in all three dimensions, the cushions are nicely contoured and the floor is nearly flat, helping make this VW an excellent people-hauler. And when it's time to move cargo, the ID 4 ain't too shabby, either. There's more than 30 cubic feet of space behind the rear backrest and more than 64 when you fold it down, figures that are similar to the larger Volkswagen Tiguan. Unlike some of its rivals, the ID 4 doesn't have a front trunk.
High-tech hits and misses
Moving along, a 10-inch infotainment display is standard equipment in the ID 4, though a 12-incher is included in Pro S and First Edition models. Either way, embedded navigation and wireless smartphone mirroring via Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is included.
That up-level touchscreen makes a great first impression. It's colorful, super crisp and easy to reach. Unfortunately, the infotainment software that lives inside leaves much to be desired. The learning curve is steep as some elements of the user interface don't make a lot of sense, such as how you get to the home screen or pull up the radio station you're currently listening to. But worse than the menu structure is the system's responsiveness. It constantly lags when swiping between screens or pinching and zooming on the map. Frustratingly, it even flat-out ignores inputs sometimes.
Matching the main display is a digital instrument cluster. At just 5.3 inches, it's small, though it works well. It moves when you adjust the wheel, which enhances visibility. Other standard equipment includes keyless entry, rain-sensing wipers and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Plenty of things are heated, too, including the steering wheel, front seats, mirrors and washer nozzles. When all-wheel-drive models become available later this month, they'll also benefit from a heated windshield to help keep Old Man Winter at bay.
When I first heard VW was switching to touch-sensitive controls on its vehicles I was aghast because this is a battle automakers have already fought -- and lost. Physical buttons and switches are always more intuitive and responsive, something recent Mercedes-Benz models prove. But in this case, I was completely wrong. The touch-sensitive controls VW implemented on the steering wheel work perfectly, reacting instantly to taps or swipes and doing an admirable job of avoiding false inputs. If only the ID 4's infotainment system were this responsive.
Touch-sensitive controls are used elsewhere in the ID 4's interior, with mixed results. There are volume and temperature sliders on the dashboard that mostly work well, even if they're not illuminated at night, a curious omission. The door locks (including child locks) and headlamps operate off touch-sensitive controls, though they're merely OK. More annoyingly, the driver has no physical switches for the rear power windows. There are two for the fronts, but if you want to lower the back glass you have to press and hold another touch-sensitive control which allows those switches to operate the rear windows. A VW spokesman explained to Roadshow that their research shows drivers rarely ever lower the back glass in four-door vehicles, so they ditched the physical buttons. Still, I hope this is a trend that does not continue.
The ID 4 Pro S uses rear-wheel drive, its aft-mounted electric motor delivering 201 horsepower and 229 pound-feet of torque, decent figures that are similar to what you get in a Chevy Bolt EUV (200 hp, 266 lb-ft) or Hyundai Kona Electric (201 hp, 291 lb-ft). The EPA-estimated range these SUVs provide is in lockstep, too, with this VW able to go 250 miles between charges, courtesy of its floor-mounted, liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack, which has a net capacity of 77 kilowatt-hours (82 kWh gross). In comparison, the Chevy is rated at 247 miles of range and the Hyundai 258. Built for the long haul, the ID 4's battery is guaranteed to maintain 70% of its original charge capacity for eight years or 100,000 miles.
Like practically every other EV, this Volkswagen has buckets of torque, which translates into impressive low-speed scoot. This vehicle is responsive when accelerating from a stop, though its enthusiasm does wane noticeably at higher speeds. The ID 4 is sprightly, but it's not a high-performance EV, so don't expect it to keep pace with any version of the Ford Mustang Mach-E or Tesla Model Y, to say nothing of some race-ready electric cars such as the upcoming Lucid Aid Dream Edition, which brandishes up to 1,111 hp.
When it's time to replenish that battery, the ID 4's 11-kW onboard charger can do the deed in about 7.5 hours when hooked to a Level 2 power source. Track down a 125-kW DC fast charger and this VW can go from 5% to 80% in as little as 38 minutes. A welcome bonus, ID 4 owners get three years of unlimited Electrify America DC fast charging at no extra cost.
This uplevel ID 4 is rated at 104 mpge in the city and 89 mpge on highway drives. Combined, expect 97 mpge. In mixed use, this SUV says I'm getting about 3.5 miles per kWh, which is about 118 mpge, far better than what the window sticker says it should be returning. (That's 3.5 miles per kWh times 33.7 kWh, the electrical equivalent of a gallon of gasoline. Does that make sense? Nope, I don't understand it, either.)
Thanks to its nearly 4,700-pound as-tested curb weight, the ID 4 always feels planted. It also rides like a luxury car, its chassis tuning being neither so firm that it clops or bounds over imperfections nor so soft that the body flops around while cornering. There is a wisp of roll in turns, but surprisingly little. This vehicle's steering is as benign as you'd expect for a mainstream SUV. It's light and smooth, though the turning circle is shockingly tight at just shy of 34 feet, something that makes maneuvering in tight spaces a breeze. Snake the ID 4 through some twisties and it's eager to play, shockingly well balanced and neutral, like it rotates about an axis that's right where you're sitting.
This VW's front seats are nice and supportive, but forward visibility could be better. It's difficult to estimate where the front of the ID 4 ends and the corners are hard to see because of the bulging fenders. Fortunately, front and rear parking sensors are standard equipment, drastically reducing the likelihood of hitting something.
Like other EVs and hybrids, regenerative braking helps the ID 4 capture energy that would otherwise be wasted. Its pedal feels smooth and natural, though if you flick the gear selector over to Brake mode instead of Drive, this VW provides much greater regenerative braking. This is basically a one-pedal driving experience, which takes some getting used to but is great once you get the feel for it.
A helping hand
All versions of the ID 4 come with Volkswagen's IQ Drive suite of assistance features. This bundles amenities like forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring and more. You also get automatic high beams and road sign recognition.
Travel Assist, the German automaker's version of adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability and lane centering, is standard equipment, too. For the most part, this system works well, smoothly adjusting the ID 4's speed to match surrounding traffic, though the lane centering could be improved. When engaged, it's constantly making small adjustments, moving the wheel slightly from left to right. Competing systems from Honda, Hyundai, Toyota and other automakers don't exhibit this unsettling behavior.
Checking the boxes
The ID 4 starts at around $41,000 including $1,195 in destination fees, though that figure excludes any potential tax credits, which could total up to $7,500 from the feds. This figure is a bit steeper than its main battery-powered rivals, with the Chevy Bolt EUV kicking off at about 34 grand and the Hyundai Kona Electric around $1,200 more than that. Of course, the fashionable Mach-E is pricier still and an entry-level Model Y even richer. Before any discounts, VW wants $47,190 for the Pro S model evaluated here, which puts it solidly in Mach-E and Model Y territory.
The 2022 Volkswagen ID 4 does what it needs to do but, unfortunately, not a whole lot more. Its spacious, upscale interior, ample standard technology and refined road manners make it easy to live with, however, questionable controls and a slothful infotainment system detract from an otherwise pleasant package. The ID 4 has its strengths, and it's certainly not a bad option if you're shopping for an all-electric SUV, but there are probably better choices available today, especially if you're willing to spend just a little more.