The powerful and affordable 2021 Volkswagen ID4 AWD price, performance and features are an inflection point as mainstream drivers in America decide whether an electric vehicle is right for them.
I spent a day driving a 295-horsepower compact SUV in the hills west of the $4.3 billion assembly complex in Chattanooga, Tennessee, adding the ID4 to the Passat sedans and Atlas and Atlas Cross midsize SUVs that already makes.
Prices for the ID4 AWD will start at $43,675 when US sales begin later this month. The 201-hp rear-drive ID4 that went on sale earlier this year starts at $39,995. Neither of those prices include the $7,500 federal tax credit or local tax credit that could further reduce the cost of the vehicles. They also don’t include the $1,195 destination fee each customer pays, but that’s another story.
The ID4’s price and profile put it in the middle of the US market. It is a compact SUV that is priced to compete with the best sellers like Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Nissan Rogue.
You may have noticed that I didn’t mention high-profile electric SUVs like the Ford Mustang Mach-E or Tesla Y. This is because they are not competing. If EVs are successful — and they almost certainly will be — it won’t be fighting each other for 2%-3% of EV sales currently.
That would be because people decided they would rather have an electric ID4, Mach-E, Y or Cadillac Lyric than a gasoline-powered SUV. Other EVs aren’t competing. They are company.
In that context, the ID4 AWD fills an important spot. Its pricing is at the heart of the compact SUV market. It’s more fun to drive than the RAV/CR-V/Rogue cabal mentioned above. It’s comfortably anonymous—you’ll find it in the parking lot, but it doesn’t garner attention like the upcoming $79,995 Hummer EV pickup.
The base rear-drive ID4 is a fully serviceable vehicle, but it lacks the pizzazz that a newcomer needs.
AWD fixes this. That’s 295 hp and 339 pound-feet of torque providing strong, easy acceleration. The fact that most EVs will be better balanced than vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICE) – most of their weight is midcar, front and rear, and less in the chassis – lends itself to stability and good roadholding. Steering is direct and responsive.
Quick aside: Many EVs will have RWD base models. Don’t worry if you live in the frosty belt. Electronic traction control, the EV’s unique weight distribution and other factors will keep your wheels from running idly on the first chilly day. EVs, especially electric ones, promise to be very manageable in low-traction situations. They should also be water resistant, in fact, more so than some ICE vehicles.
ID4 is bigger than you might expect. There is no transmission tunnel because there is no need for a drive shaft to connect the independent electric motors to the front and rear axles.
According to VW, the ID4 AWD should have an EPA rating of about 249 miles on a single charge. The rear-drive model is rated at 260 miles.
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Controls and over-the-air updates
The controls are a bit conspicuous—there’s no start button; Enter the car with your key, the fob, tap the brake pedal and all systems shut down.
Despite their newness, I found most of the controls to be easy to use. The ID4 has very few dials or buttons. This leads to a neat appearance, but is somewhat overdone. How much is the ownership experience improved by the fact that the driver has two, not four toggles for raising and lowering windows? (A separate touch point on the driver’s door shifts the purpose of the switch from front to rear windows. Someone who took the time to figure this out could have been spent playing with his kids or knitting a sweater.)
The drivetrain has a setting that increases regenerative braking when the driver lifts his foot off the accelerator. This feature provides significantly less deceleration than the “one-pedal driving” offered by the Mach-E and many other EVs.
ID4 is already receiving over-the-air updates to improve features. Adding one-pedal driving would be one of them, unless I’m the only one wanting this feature.
The ID4 was developed to beat the Anodyne compact SUVs, which are among America’s top sellers in their own right, with the added benefits of unobtrusive sports, low energy costs, at-home charging and low emissions. The AWD model adds power and fun to that equation. It is included in America’s shopping list.
2021 Volkswagen AD4 AWD at a glance
Compact five-passenger all-wheel-drive electric SUV
Base Price: $43,675
Model Powered: ID4 AWD Pro S
$48,175 as trial
Destination Fee: $1,195
On sale October 2021
Power: An electric motor mounted on each axle
Output: 295 hp; 339 pound-feet of torque
Transmission: Single-speed automatic
Battery: 82 kWh Li-ion
Estimated EPA Fuel Economy Rating: 240 Mile Range; 93 mpge gasoline equivalent.
Charging time: 7.5 hours at 240v; 400 V DC. But in 38 minutes from 5% charge to 80%
EPA Estimated Annual Fuel Cost: $700
Wheelbase: 108.7 inches
Length: 180.5 inches
Width: 72.9 inches
Height: 65.1 inches
Curb Weight: 4,888 pounds
Passenger Volume: 99.9 cubic feet
Cargo space behind the rear seat: 30.3 cubic feet
Towing Capacity: 2,700 pounds
assembled in Zwickau, Germany; US production begins in mid-2022 in Chattanooga, Tennessee.