May/June 2021



High-voltage technicians are ready to make the consumer transition as smooth as possible
By Cliff Leppke

Early this March, VW began shipping ID.4 long-range (250 miles) battery electric vehicles to nearly all of its stateside dealers. George Kwiecinski, sales consultant at VW of Milwaukee North, signed me up for a brief fling in VW’s latest eco machine.

Before I get to the vehicle, let’s talk logistics. VW energized dealer sales and service to make room for a different kind of VW — one with a usable 77-kWh battery pack below the floor and a 201-hp motor in the back where it doesn’t cause front-drive torque steer, says VW’s Mark Gillies. Dealers have high-voltage technicians ready to make your transition to an EV as smooth as possible. After sampling VW’s BEV, you place a reservation. Then, VW builds your ride — should take three months for a two-wheel-drive model, longer for AWD.

The ID.4, asserts Kwiecinski, is not about eking out unbridled bragging rights in a comparison with Tesla or Ford’s Mach-E. It’s about whispering this subtle message: I’m a family friendly compact crossover meant to shift EV curious shoppers into VW’s stores. Then, they can start long-term relationships with a machine you charge at home.

Once I shagged the key fob, the ID.4 noticed my proximity and tweaked the brake pedal — a secret invitation. There are trick door release buttons behind the door handles, which enable entrance. VW offers “welcome” LED signatures up front and inside.

The 1st Edition model I drove includes two optional packs. The interior’s two-tone interior is sanitary. Attached to the white steering wheel’s column is a 5.3-inch digital instrument screen — like an iPad mini. Because VW put much of the usual under-dash hardware in the “frunk,” it opened space for lots of cubbies and a less bulky dashboard. A soft dash pad, front door cards and seat mounted front armrests are inviting. Front or rear chairs are comfortable. VW sewed phone pouches into the front seat backs.

A 12-inch infotainment screen has super-size graphics — useful for adjusting driver-assist settings. At the screen’s base are touch-sensing HVAC sliders. Several items differ from conventional VWs. The steering wheel’s new-fangled switchgear, for example, apes a 2021 Atlas but requires new skills. Glossy stab points, illuminated during the day, are touch sensing with haptic feedback with an acoustic dunk.

VW smothers lower sections of the dash and the center console in hard plastics. But VW scooped out pillar covers for added elbow room in back. Two whimsical pedals: the long one has a forward icon on it, while the slow one has a pause icon to begin your drive. With the fob inside the cabin, just press the “pause” pedal and the ID is ready. Next, you twirl a funky knob on the right side of the instrument housing. Clockwise enables drive, do that again and you select regenerative braking, which commences almost one-pedal driving. Reverse is counter-clockwise and you press the knob inward for park. Releasing the forward pedal in standard drive mode imparts the same coasting sensation as gas-fueled VW with an automatic transmission.

A rear seat pocket to park your phone.

Acceleration is silky with a bit of a kick if you stab the forward pedal to the floor. Stopping isn’t as lovely, as the brake pedal’s action seems mushy at first but sinks precipitously when coming to a full halt. The ID.4 emits a whirling noise at speeds below 20 mph. Otherwise, this hefty 4,659-lb crossover with towing hitch receptacle is as quiet as the IRS office during an audit.

My brief test drive revealed suburban runabout with proper steering effort and good forward sightlines. Stay tuned for a complete Autoist review when we get a loaner. 

Cliff Leppke |

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