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The 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 isn’t the automaker’s first electric car, but it might be the first one that matters.
As it works to distance itself from the “Dieselgate” emissions-cheating scandal, VW is finally getting serious about electric cars. Last year, VW unveiled the ID.3 hatchback, but where that model is aimed at Europe, the ID.4 crossover targets one of the most popular segments of the much larger U.S. market.
“Our goal is not to play this inside-baseball game” of comparisons to Tesla and other electric cars, VW Group of America CEO Scott Keogh told Digital Trends.
“Our goal is to drive adoption.”
So while it seems like a natural rival for the Tesla Model Y, Keogh claims the ID.4 will be pitched against popular gasoline crossovers like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. That’s a refreshing attitude from a mainstream automaker, most of which haven’t taken such a bold approach to promoting electric cars.
VW’s strategy started with choosing the ID.4 rather than the ID.3 to sell in the U.S. Small crossovers are displacing traditional sedans as many buyers’ default choice, but U.S. buyers have never been keen on hatchbacks.
However, as with the Tesla Model Y, styling blurs the line between hatchback and crossover. A taller-than-normal ride height and some plastic body cladding are the only design cues that mark the ID.4 as a crossover. The rest of the car bears a strong resemblance to the VW ID.3, with a streamlined shape to reduce aerodynamic drag, and wheels pushed out to the corners to maximize interior space. It’s a stark contrast to the boxy, trucklike, look of many other crossovers.
VW claims passenger space is fairly close to its Tiguan crossover, despite a smaller overall footprint. That’s the advantage of an electric powertrain, which takes up less space than a gasoline engine, transmission, and drivetrain. While Tesla and Ford brag about the size of their “frunks,” Keogh said designers wanted to emphasize passenger space, so the area under the hood primarily houses accessories.
At 41.1 inches for front passengers and 37.6 inches for rear passengers, the legroom is fairly close to the RAV4, while the CR-V offers an extra 2.8 inches for backseat passengers. The ID.4 also has much less cargo space than the gasoline crossovers, at 30.3 cubic feet with the rear seats in place, and 62.4 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. VW hasn’t released headroom measurements but, subjectively, it seems merely adequate.
The ID.4 gets a glass cockpit, consisting of a standard 10.0-inch infotainment display and 5.3-inch digital instrument cluster. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, and a 12-inch infotainment display is available as an option.
Screens can be manipulated using gesture control or a natural-language voice recognition system that responds to the prompt “Hello ID.” VW also included haptic touchpads on the steering wheel, and a row of sliders for climate control and volume below the infotainment screen. That design choice was inspired by the Apple desktop Dock, Dustin Krause, VW director of sales for e-mobility, told Digital Trends.
The ID.4 also gets ID.Light — a light strip at the base of the windshield designed to communicate information to the driver. It can change colors to show whether the car is locked or unlocked, whether driver-assist features are active, among other things, according to VW.
Standard driver-assist features include forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, park distance control, automatic high beams, and adaptive cruise control.
The ID.4 will launch with rear-wheel drive only; an all-wheel drive version will be available in spring 2021. All-wheel drive is one of the defining characteristics of a crossover, but this allowed VW to get the ID.4 to showrooms more quickly, Keogh told Digital Trends.
The single rear-mounted electric motor produces 201 horsepower and 228 pound-feet of torque, which VW indicated will allow for zero to 60 mph in the 7-second range. All-wheel drive models will get a second motor mounted on the front axle, boosting total output to 302 hp.
At launch, the ID.4 gets an 82-kilowatt-hour battery pack, enabling an estimated range of 250 miles. Lower-priced models with smaller battery packs will be added to the lineup at a later date.
An 11-kilowatt onboard charger can recover 33 miles of range in one hour from a Level 2 AC source, while a full recharge takes 7.5 hours. The ID.4 can also DC fast charge at 125 kW, allowing for an 80% charge in 38 minutes. Customers get three years of unlimited DC fast charging on the Electrify America network, which is funded by VW as part of its diesel-cheating settlement.
The ID.4 will launch with a limited-run 1st Edition model, priced at $43,995 and scheduled to start deliveries before the end of the year. These are fully loaded versions of the rear-wheel drive ID.4, with model-specific features like “play” and “pause” logos on the accelerator and brake pedals, respectively, and Electric White interior trim.
The 1st Edition will be followed by the ID.4 Pro trim level in the first quarter of 2021. It’s priced at $39,995 with rear-wheel drive, but the $7,500 federal tax credit brings the base price down to the level of a gasoline Tiguan SEL, according to VW. An all-wheel drive Pro will launch later in 2021, starting at $43,695. Statement ($4,500) and Gradient ($1,500) option packages will also be available.
Buyers can reserve an ID.4 with an initial $100 refundable deposit, followed by a $400 refundable deposit when production starts. VW plans to sell the ID.4 nationwide, and about 98% of its roughly 600 dealers have confirmed that they will stock the car, Krause said.
Initially, cars for the U.S. market will be built in Zwickau, Germany, which will build 330,000 electric cars annually by 2021. VW will start local production at its Chattanooga, Tennessee, factory in 2022. VW plans to lower the base price to around $35,000 (before tax credits and incentives) at that time.