Pulling up to the Oak Ridge Pantry in Spencer, Tennessee, a small country store Volkswagen had chosen to be our turnaround spot, we were greeted by a scene of the future shot through the lens of the past. Conspicuous by their absence were a set of gas pumps, so commonplace outside small stores out in the sticks.
Ensconced in a small Mennonite community, it featured, instead, a hitching rail with a horse tied to it, itself harnessed to a simple wagon. Contrasting the one-horse cart was a multi-colored row of Volkswagen ID.4 AWD electric crossovers – the new dual-motor all-wheel-drive version of the crossover SUV. None of them were more eye-catching, perhaps, than a particular example in the Pro S trim wearing a rich hue dubbed Kings Red Metallic.
Posed in front of a hilltop cornfield, it reflected the rays of the afternoon sun and maybe even the future of motoring. If that sounds like hyperbole, read on.
|Quick Stats||2021 Volkswagen ID.4 Pro S AWD|
|Motor:||Dual Permanent Magnet Synchronous|
|Output:||295 Horsepower / 339 Pound-Feet|
|0-60 MPH:||5.4 Seconds|
The rear-wheel-drive version of the Volkswagen ID.4 has been at dealerships since the Tennessee foliage turned green this past spring. Now, as those same leaves prepare to turn all shades of yellow and crimson, the AWD model is trickling into the country in an attempt to quench a growing reservation list with over 10,000 names attached. That may prove to be a challenge.
As word gets out about this battery-powered car, it seems likely the desire to add it to family fleets will amplify through word of mouth. The ID.4 is shaped and sized like the most popular automotive segment – think Honda CR-V or Nissan Rogue – and possesses just enough hints of character to set itself apart from the competition. Thankfully, it's no electric weird-mobile, brusquely beaten with an ugly stick in an attempt to draw attention to its environmental credentials.
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Volkswagen is expanding its Chattanooga manufacturing with 565,000 square feet of fresh space devoted to ID.4 production, and an additional 223,000 sq-ft for making battery packs, in order to address this burgeoning demand – the car already has a very short 12-day dealer-to-driveway turnaround time. Pre-production vehicles are already being pieced together in the new robot-packed buildings, but high-volume manufacturing won't start in earnest until the second half of 2022. Until then, VW’s Zwickau, Germany plant is doing its best to tackle supply.
In rear-wheel-drive guise, the VW ID.4 is fine. It's comfortable and competitively priced. Nippy in city traffic, it has a remarkably small turning radius that ride-share drivers and, well, everyone, will absolutely love (33.5 feet). The AWD model ups the accelerative ante. It adds an additional motor up front with 107 horsepower and 119 pound-feet of torque, which joins the 201 hp and 228 lb-ft from the motor on the back axle.
The effect is transformational; suddenly you've got the go-anywhere confidence and the sit-back-in-the-seat zip Americans crave. We're talking 0-to-60 in a quick 5.4 seconds instead of the RWD’s mediocre 8.5-second time. Sure, you lose 10 to 11 miles of range and that magical turning radius (now 36.4 feet) with the extra motor, but it's a compromise most can easily live with.
The other differences between RWD and AWD are seemingly small, but welcome. The AWD model sits 0.6 inches higher and gets slightly larger brakes and sway bars. In other markets, only the sporty GTX model that we won’t get in the US earns these additions.
Just like the RWD version, the AWD ID.4 is available in two trims in the US: Pro and Pro S (the "S" stands for "Statement"). The EPA-rated range on a single charge for the Pro is 249 miles . The Pro S, which adds, among other things, a glass roof with an electrically retractable shade and front seats with leatherette upholstery, 12-way power adjustability (including four-way lumbar support and a massage system), and a memory function to an already feature-rich base vehicle, is good, VW says, for 240 miles .
Judging by the way the energy indicator crept down during our 140-mile romp, we'd say those numbers should be very achievable in everyday driving. If you're traveling at 70 miles per hour on an Interstate highway, expect less – perhaps 230 miles under dry summer conditions.
The effect of a second motor is transformational; suddenly you've got the go-anywhere confidence and the sit-back-in-the-seat zip Americans crave.
That's not as much leash as, say, the Tesla Model Y, which boasts a somewhat optimistic 326-mile EPA range, but the VW is a good deal more affordable. Tesla prices change relatively frequently, but as of this writing its compact crossover starts at $53,990. The Volkswagen ID.4 Pro starts at $43,675 and the Pro S at $48,175. On top of that, the Volkswagen is eligible for a $7,500 federal income-tax credit. So, if you have a large enough tax bill, you could effectively pay as little as $36,175. And, of course, there may be state-level incentives available as well.
Like the RWD version, the ID.4 AWD comes with a built-in 11.0-kilowatt AC charger capable of filling the 82 kilowatt-hour battery (77 kWh usable) in 7.5 hours from empty to full. This is how most owners will add energy to their packs, using a Level 2 charger installed at their homes.
For street parkers or during road trips, DC fast charging becomes the order of the day. It also presents a great opportunity to take advantage of the 3-year free charging on the Electrify America network that comes with the car. Plugged into a unit capable of satisfying its peak 125-kW power rating, the ID.4 can charge from zero to 100 percent in 65 minutes, according to testing performed by InsideEVs.
A better metric for road-trip charging, though, is five-to-eighty percent. In the case of this electric crossover, that's achievable in 38 minutes. Volkswagen also reminds that if you just need extra range to get to home, you can add about 60 miles in ten minutes.
Behind The Wheel
In the real-life electric-vehicle ownership experience, all this fussing about range and charging really goes away. What matters is how the car is to drive. Is it comfortable? Is it convenient? Is it actually enjoyable? In the case of the ID.4 AWD, we would answer yes, yes, and, well, yes.
Our co-driver got behind the wheel for the first leg of our adventure, so we focused more on the comfort aspect of things as we began the jaunt. As we mentioned above, the seats are widely adjustable, so finding a comfortable position is easy. The leatherette chairs have a pleasant enough feel, and have as much side bolstering as you'd want in a vehicle of this type. By the time we returned hours later, they still felt great.
In the bends, the chassis allows only low, undramatic amounts of body roll.
In our brief experience with the single-motor ID.4 1st Edition, which came standard with 20-inch wheels, earlier this year, we found the suspension tuning unrefined. Road imperfections were easily felt and speed bumps were jarring. A not-so-pleasant reminder of that experience came the night prior, as the ID.4 1st Edition that got me from Chattanooga's airport to our hotel tried and failed to tame rough roads and speed bumps.
This car, a Pro S, without the $1,500 Gradient package that adds 20-inch wheels and some contrasting color flourishes to the exterior, sat, instead, on the standard 19-inch wheels. It's hard to judge whether this was the sole reason for what felt like a massive improvement, or whether some of the added weight of the AWD also came into play. In any case, the difference was remarkable enough that we would urge buyers to try both wheel sizes, if possible, before shelling out extra cash.
After a spell of enjoying the scenery on our ride out of the charming little city that is Chattanooga, it was finally our turn to get behind the wheel. At a gangly 6-foot two-inches, we had plenty of room. The leather-wrapped steering wheel felt very good in the hand. Mirrors adjusted, we put our foot into it to get a taste of what was on tap.
The acceleration isn't brutal by any stretch. It was a little soft off the line, but it just keeps pouring on the metaphorical steam as long as you keep pressure on the accelerator. Climbing effortlessly up twisty, greenery-soaked mountain roads, the 339 lb-ft of torque laughs, almost out loud, at the challenge.
In the bends, the chassis allows only low, undramatic amounts of body roll as the car makes its way through the curves better than it would seemingly have a right to. Sure, the battery pack in the floor keeps the center of gravity low, but Volkswagen's electronic differential lock (XDS) system, adapted from its front-drive Golf GTI, appears to make magic happen.
Besides that genie, there's something else going on here. There’s no mechanical link, like a center differential, between the front and rear axles. In Comfort mode, the front induction motor only activates when the car deems it necessary – VW claims this happens far quicker than with a mechanical linkage, and that the driver may never notice it working. In Sport Mode, that front motor is always active to offer max acceleration.
The car's comfort, competence, and confidence makes it as good or better than anything in its class.
Don’t mistake the ID.4 for a sports car, though. Even with the steering tightened up in Sports Mode, the rack is relatively relaxed. If you happen to come into a turn a little hot, electronic stability control (ESC) software nannies will step in to settle things down, almost invisibly. Almost.
After pulling us effortlessly up one Appalachian mountain, we began the descent and the nose of the AWD Volkswagen ID. 4 pointed downward. Gravity's pull was in full effect as the electric crossover steadily picked up more momentum than desired and we began dabbing at the brakes to scrub off speed ahead of a series of curves and switchbacks.
Realizing the situation could use more regenerative braking, we twisted the car's novel "dog ear" gear selector forward to engage "B" mode. Suddenly, a sense of control returned to the car. Like pulling up on the reins of a frisky horse, it immediately and amazingly settled back down to business casual. Our right foot ceased its twitching toward the brake pedal and the worry about coming into turns too hot dissipated.
There's just a lot to like about this vehicle.
Mulling over our experience driving the Volkswagen ID.4 AWD, we settled on an alliterative troika to pull our thoughts together. The car's comfort, competence, and confidence makes it as good or better than anything in its class and should probably have been the version the automaker launched with. It's not perfect – hello, navigation software – but over-the-air software updates should address most of its shortcomings.
There's just a lot to like about this vehicle. It has tons of features and abilities that we didn't even touch on in this AWD review (they were mostly mentioned in our first drive of the rear-drive ID.4), but basically, it's a practical hauler built for today's world and an absolute joy to drive to boot.
ID.4 AWD Competitor Reviews:
- Ford Mustang Mach-E: 9.1/10
- Tesla Model Y: Not Rated
Gallery: 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 AWD: First Drive
2021 Volkswagen ID.4 Pro S AWD