The good EVs are finally here, and that's something worth getting excited about. All those electrified models that manufacturers have been teasing us with for years are hitting dealer lots. Now, anyone wanting to finally ditch internal combustion has a series of real, and really compelling, choices.
Volkswagen was among the leading-edge EV providers here in the US, releasing the excellent, if expensive and short-ranged, E-Golf back in 2012. The new ID 4 is that car's successor, riding on the new MEB platform and designed from the ground up to be all-electric. Where the E-Golf was fundamentally compromised by its internally combusted heritage, the ID 4 shows just how good a pure EV can be.
That dedicated platform means Volkswagen engineers can stuff 82 kilowatt-hours' worth of battery into the ID 4, though interestingly only 77 kWh of those are actually usable. This extra headroom means the car can intelligently manage charge cycles across a broader number of cells, which should lead to greater life and more predictable range. Regardless, you're covered by an eight-year, 100,000-mile warranty on the pack itself.
Those cells power either one or two electric motors. Initial versions of the car, like the First Edition model pictured here, make do with 201 horsepower through the rear wheels. In the future, an all-wheel-drive model will bump that up to 302 hp. Torque on the RWD flavor is 228 pound-feet. That's plenty healthy and, given it's an EV, readily available. On the deceleration side, while there are two regen modes to select from here, neither is close to what I'd consider a one-pedal mode. That's a disappointment for sure.
As to the all-important range, VW's EPA figure is 250 miles. In my testing, which included a mix of city, rural and highway driving at temperatures generally in the 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit range, I netted... 250 miles. Yes, 250 exactly.
I feel compelled to point out that this was with me treating the ID 4 like a normal car. I toggled the heat and the air-con when I wanted, and made liberal use of both heated seats and steering wheel, even the massage feature. While I did generally leave the car in Eco mode, I wasn't gentle with the throttle, and yet I easily met the EPA rating. Drive a little more frugally and I'm sure you can beat it.
That said, there's little reason to drive aggressively. While the ID 4 does have that fun EV throttle response, zipping you off the line and through traffic gaps, this is not a quick car. That fact is particularly evident at highway speeds, where the ID 4 cruises without issue but doesn't exactly leap forward when prodded.
No worries. To get the most out of the ID 4 I recommend you take a deep breath, settle back in your seat, set the adaptive cruise to a reasonable speed and just relax. The car is even smart enough to vary the follow distance depending on your chosen driving mode, staying a little farther back in Eco mode to ensure it won't need to speed up and slow down so frequently.
The handling is similarly relaxed, but the ride quality is good. Impressive, that, considering the 20-inch wheels and tires outfitted on this First Edition. And, while you'd of course expect an EV to be quiet, VW engineers clearly spent a lot of time isolating any hint of road and wind noise. The driver's seat is a serene place.
That's helped by the stark white interior highlights on this First Edition version. While the materials themselves are a little harsh in places, the overall look has a distinctively concept-car vibe, which I appreciate greatly. I also love the shifter, mounted high on the gauge cluster like the one in the BMW i3. Just tilt it in the direction you want to go -- or click the P button when you're done with the going.
That gauge cluster is petite, but is at least present, and plenty big enough to give you all the relevant information about speed, range and navigation prompts. The gauge cluster will even display navigation prompts from Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. That's key because I have a feeling you won't want to rely much on the baked-in nav.
The infotainment experience in the ID 4 is clean and simple, showing some serious iOS influence with a home button on the left that you'll need to hit to jump between various sections. It makes for an easy way to get from, say, media to navigation, but it does mean reaching for that home button a lot.
And waiting a lot, too. When I got my first drive of the ID 4 last year I was disappointed at how sluggish the software was. The optimist in me hoped that things would be optimized before the car shipped. The realist in me now sees no such optimizations have been made. Sliding and swiping is often met with extended, painful delays. If that weren't enough, the voice recognition system is rudimentary at best. Like I said, stick to Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, both of which are supported, wirelessly at that.
It should come as no surprise that most of the car's controls rely on capacitive touch. Even the slider for the sun shade to cover the big, bright panoramic roof is touch-sensitive. Side window controls are still physical, thank goodness, but there's an element of touch here, too. Instead of the driver having four switches, one per window, there are only two. To control the rear windows you have to touch a tiny little "rear" indicator. Good luck doing that without taking your eyes off the road.
That panoramic roof provides good headroom, front and rear. Those in the back will find their seats slightly elevated, giving a clear, commanding view of the world around. A pair of USB-C connectors back there will keep the kids from complaining about their own batteries, while there's a wireless charging cubby with more USB ports for phones up front.
Everybody is protected by a comprehensive active safety suite, featuring niceties like automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, rear-traffic alert and even road sign detection. All that's included on even the base ID 4.
That base edition, called Pro, starts at $41,190 including a $1,195 destination charge. The First Edition you see here is no longer available, meaning your only options are the Pro or the $45,690 Pro S, which adds many of the features you see here, including the panoramic roof, massaging power seats and an upgrade to a 12-inch navigation screen. Another $1,500 brings you up to the Gradient trim, layering on those 20-inch wheels and some other visual flair. The eventual AWD upgrade will be a further $3,680 and, other than floor mats and the usual spate of accessories, there really aren't any extra boxes to tick.
How does that compare with other EVs on the market today? The closest Tesla is the Model Y, which starts at $52,190 including a $1,200 destination fee. For that you get more range, 326 miles per the EPA, and quicker performance, too. But the ID 4's interior is miles better and, well, I'll let you figure out whether you have more Tesla or VW service centers nearby. There's also the not-insignificant $7,500 federal rebate, applicable to the VW but not the Tesla, which means the ID 4 could come in at over $10,000 cheaper.
The new Chevrolet Bolt EUV is another EV that many will be cross-shopping, and for good reason. It builds on the well-proven Bolt platform, giving a little more room and some fresh styling. No EPA-rated range just yet, but GM's engineers say to expect around 250 miles. An FWD Premier Bolt EUV has an MSRP of $43,925 including a $995 destination charge. That puts it right within spitting distance of the ID 4.
So, the ID 4 is competitively priced and nice to drive, with enough range to vanquish anxiety and a fresh interior that made me smile. What didn't make me smile? I have to admit I never really fell for the thing. After the gonzo ID Buggy concept and the amazing charm of the ID Buzz, the ID 4 feels more than a little plain.
But you know what? That's OK. Not every EV needs to make a statement, and this one exudes quiet confidence. The Volkswagen ID 4 is better than a good car, it's a great one -- it just won World Car of the Year honors-- and surely a sign of even better EVs to come from VW.