Currently reading: First drive: 2021 Volkswagen ID 4 prototype
VW’s first electric SUV boasts a familiar depth of engineering, quality and versatility. Initial signs suggest its mainstream ambitions are well warranted
5 mins read
3 September 2020

“Never before has an electric vehicle been conceived with such a global outlook.” That’s how Ralf Brandstätter, Volkswagen’s new CEO, introduced the ID 4 before our first drive of a near-to-production-ready prototype – and he is nothing but bullish about its mainstream market ambitions.

The second model from VW’s electric-only ID sub-brand sits in the world’s fastest-growing segment and will be built in five factories on three continents, starting at its Zwickau plant in Germany, from which right-hand-drive UK versions will begin rolling later this year. “The ID 4 will have a big impact in each of our three most important markets – Europe, China and North America,” said Brandstätter. “We see the potential for significant volumes.”

As well as being key to VW’s aim to sell up to 1.5 million EVs annually by 2025, the ID 4 also forms the basis for upcoming siblings such as the Audi Q4, Cupra Tavascan and Skoda Enyaq.

Like the smaller ID 3, it’s based the MEB electric car platform and will be sold with a range of power outputs in rear- and four-wheel-drive guises and two battery sizes. There are four initial rear-wheel-drive models, with a 146bhp, 168bhp, 173bhp or 201bhp motor. The lower-powered two have a 52kWh battery, the other two a 77kWh battery.

A pair of four-wheel drive models will arrive in 2021. They’ll use the 77kWh battery and two electric motors – a smaller one up front and a main unit at the rear, developing a combined 262bhp or, in a yet to be confirmed GTX-badged range-topper, 302bhp.

Volkswagen says the 77kWh battery gives a WLTP range of up to 323 miles in mid-range 173bhp rear-wheel-drive guise. This compares with 301 miles for the 64kWh Hyundai Kona Electric and 336 miles for the 62kWh Telsa Model Y.

Although our prototype carries light disguise, the ID 4 holds true to the look of the 2017 ID Crozz concept. It’s contemporary looking, with heavy crossover tones and unmistakable electric vehicle proportions. With a 0.26 drag co-efficient, it’s also among the most aerodynamic SUVs.

VW offers two charging options. The 52kWh battery can be charged at up to 100kW, the 77kWh battery at up to 125kW. As a guide, VW says 30min of charging provides up to 199 miles on the more powerful system. In most cases, you’ll have to pay for the privilege, though. The base model supports 50kW charging as standard.

What's it like?

Enough figures. Time to drive. The driver’s door opens wide and you step up into the ID 4 over a high body-coloured sill. The front seats are elevated but not excessively so and the floor is completely flat up front, without any defined footwells, because the battery is within the floorpan.


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The multi-layer dashboard houses two displays: a 5.3in digital instrument panel and a 10.0in central infotainment screen as standard, although our prototype has an optional 12.0in unit and augmented reality head-up display.

The cabin is roomy, with the greater rear leg room than in a standard-wheelbase Tiguan and excellent versatility, thanks to typical features such as a 40:20:40-split folding rear seat. The boot, despite a high-ish loading lip, is also quite commodious.

Hit the starter button and twist the gear selector. One notch forward gets you the standard drive mode and two notches Battery mode, which triggers the brake energy regeneration. It’s the same controller used by the ID 3, proving straightforward from the outset. Further drive modes – Eco, Comfort, Sport and Individual – alter steering, throttle, powertrain and adaptive damping responses.

We’re driving the most powerful rear-wheel-drive ID 4. With 229lb ft on tap from the moment you nudge the throttle, it is brilliantly responsive. It has instant performance and excellent traction.

Once rolling along, it gathers speed in quite a determined fashion on an open throttle. To be honest, it’s probably more spirited than it needs to be up to. At a cruise, it’s quiet and relaxed, although performance begins to fade at motorway cruising speeds. VW is yet to reveal performance figures, although initial rear-wheel-drive models will be limited to 100mph.

In standard drive mode, it coasts with a very faint hint of brake regeneration when you lift off the throttle. Battery mode’s regen means you rarely need to touch the brake pedal.

Beyond the acoustic pedestrian warning, which switches off above 12mph, the powertrain is virtually silent. More noticeable is some tyre roar from the optional 235/45 R21 and 255/40 R21 Bridgestone Turanzas and wind buffeting around the door mirrors at speed.

Dynamically, there’s quite a lot to like. The well-geared steering is nicely weighted and delivers a surprising amount of road feel. There’s also a 10.2m turning circle, so manoeuvrability and agility are outstanding.

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The chassis features MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link arrangement at the rear and it comes with optional adaptive damping control. There’s a measured rear-wheel-drive fluency to the handling, characterised by excellent lateral body control, strong grip and excellent traction in Sport mode. Despite the low-profile, large-diameter tyres of our prototype, the ride is very acceptable when you switch into Comfort, too.

Should I buy one?

If you’re considering an EV for everyday use, the ID 4 should be on your shopping list. It’s a car you adapt to quickly and it’s engagingly responsive and agile. Further appeal comes through its clever interior, versatile nature, feeling of deep-seated engineering integrity and, with the 77kWh battery, ample range.

If Volkswagen prices it right – we reckon it’ll be around £33,000 pre-government grant – the ID 4 promises to leave quite a mark, not only on its electric rivals but also the compact SUV class as a whole.

Volkswagen ID 4 77kWh specification

Where Germany Price Price £33,000 (est) On sale xxx Motor rear-mounted AC synchronous/induction Power 201bhp Torque 229lb ft Transmission single-speed, reduction gearing automatic Drive battery 77.0kWh Top speed 100mph 0-62mph not stated Kerb weight not stated Range 323 miles Rivals Tesla Model Y, Skoda Enyaq, Hyundai Kona Electric



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3 September 2020

This thing looks rather nice, doesn't it? OK, so you're never going to make a modern vehicle that – buyers demand remember – has the volume and proportions of a three-box car of the past. So moving on, and living in the present as we must, then I was surprised how much I like the looks as too often VWs seem so dull as to be invisible.

Mind you, I did a double-take at the front until I realized that VW PR people made the idiot mistake of putting white tape on the front as a pretend-disguise. Too many will look at those images I fear and hate it without noticing the disguise has all the sophistication of Peter Sellars as Cleusau. Other will hate it as blah-lah, blah its an SUv, it's electric, it doesn't spin its rear wheels. But, take it for what it is and it seems to show promise.

4 September 2020
Strangely I really like this car yet can't quite work out why?
Perhaps because it doesn't look electric. There does seem the need for designers to define the 'electric look.'
V Dub have not felt that need. Good job, oh, and not stupid money either!

4 September 2020
" a familiar depth of engineering, quality and versatility"

So half baked heavily marketed engineering mediocrity. Sounds about right for VW.

4 September 2020
After the very promising look of the iD3, simple, confident, effective, this lumpy effort is a major disappointment, relying as it does on incidental features to 'liven up' a poorly conceived overall shape, a shape that lies in the no man's land between the confident angularity of Land Rovers and the sensuous curvaceousness of the Macan.

4 September 2020
That interior still looks cheaper than what you get in a Dacia Sandero. I get it that these are built to a price but so is Hyundai Kona.

4 September 2020

The thing I struggle with here is that for the same price I could buy something like a brand new Range Rover Evoque or a Mercedes C Class. I'd rather drive a petrol car than spend 30k on something like this. A Zoe makes more sense at the lower price point as a commuter car but as a family car I don't get this.

VW are betting the house this will be a roaring sucess and it might be but only if people like me are forced to surrender their ICE cars.

4 September 2020

Blandly attractive, doesn't offend the eye of most people and solidly built, reliable and I kinda like it. Mostly because its electric. Yummy.


4 September 2020
Not convinced by the predicted price, I reckon it'll be more, and disguise aside I think it looks pretty anonymous and bland, but then others will consider it conservative which is a VW styling ethos, so I imagine it will do well, look forward to seeing it with no disguise and in a colour that makes it look less like white goods.
Also it's compared with the Kona but looks bigger, more like Kia's Miro.

4 September 2020
si73 wrote:

Not convinced by the predicted price, I reckon it'll be more, and disguise aside I think it looks pretty anonymous and bland, but then others will consider it conservative which is a VW styling ethos, so I imagine it will do well, look forward to seeing it with no disguise and in a colour that makes it look less like white goods. Also it's compared with the Kona but looks bigger, more like Kia's Miro.

But it's not cheap at the predicted price. I can buy a Mercedes C Class for that and I'd rather do so. Even paying for the petrol over the cheaper electric bills

4 September 2020
@TStag, then an electric isn't for you. So why bother reading and commenting.


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