Payne: Stylin’ ID.4 is VW future, unless Tiggy has its way

Posted by Talbot Payne on March 25, 2021

The Volkswagen ID.4 comes with big expectations.

“For us, psychologically, we’re thinking about the ID.4 as our next Beetle,” says vice president of e-mobility at Volkswagen of America, Matthew Renna. VW’s first electric SUV aims to duplicate the defining trait of the German automaker’s most iconic car: practicality.

The 2022 VW ID.4 is the German brand's first EV in the USA. It starts at $41k and benefits from a $7,500 federal tax credit.

Unlike when the Bug hit U.S. shores over a half century ago, however, VW already has a practical ute in showrooms: the gas-powered VW Tiguan.

A weekend with the ID.4 shows Tiggy has met its match in some ways: handling, torque, novelty. But not practicality.

Like the Beetle, my ID.4 tester makes a pleasant first impression. Targeted at the market’s biggest volume segment, it is stylish, uncluttered. Detouring from its right-angled Tiguan peer, the grille-less ID is sculpted like a sand dune. Wrapped headlights flow into rising shoulder lines punctuated by a horizontal LED taillamp. Crouched under a narrow greenhouse on big, 20-inch wheels, my 1st Edition-trimmed model may not inspire a cute “Bug” nickname — but it has presence.

Slip inside with key in pocket and ID greets you with a Tesla-like, sci-fi vibe. Detecting my tush in seat, the VW’s twin driver/console screens flickered to life like a spaceship control room. Step on the brake pedal and ID is ready for duty.

The clever console of the 2022 VW ID.4 can be configured multiple ways.

That Tiguan across the showroom? Haw, you still have to press an ignition button. Dude, that’s so 15 minutes ago.

But that Tiguan also starts at just $26,440. The ID.4 at $39,995. Oh.

Tesla’s Model Y (and sister Model 3) debuted with shortcomings — lack of service network, poor build quality — but price was not one of them. Despite its pricey battery drivetrain, Y is priced right on top of a comparably equipped, all-wheel-drive BMW X3, for example: $52,190 vs. $52,895 for the Bimmer.

Add Tesla’s unique operating system and ferocious acceleration, and customers flocked to the new kid on the block.

Load a Volkswagen ID.4 Pro S trim with comparable features and its $48,195 sticker is more in line with these luxury chariots. A comparable Tiguan SEL — panoramic roof, adaptive cruise, blind-spot assist, auto wipers, leatherette seats — will set you back just $35,040. Practical.

Sure, ID.4 will initially benefit from a federal $7,500 tax subsidy (Beetle never needed that) — a capped credit that Tesla has exhausted by selling over 200,000 EVs. But add the credit and my tester was $37,690 — still 4 grand north of the comparable Tiggy.

For that premium ID.4 delivers good ol’ sporty V-dub handling.

I’ve lamented that VW cars’ sporty nature hasn’t translated to its SUVs. Compared to its thrill-ride Golf GTI cousin, Tiggy is uninterested in dancing through the twisties.

ID.4 has inherited Golf’s DNA. Volkswagen takes the inherent, low-center of gravity of ID.4’s electric, MBE “skateboard” chassis and marries it to a rear-drive motor (Tiguan is front-drive) to create a nimble ute.

On a trip to Hell’s devilish roads, ID had a blast despite its 4,665-pound girth (Tiguan weighs 3,757). In Sport mode, the heavy steering felt rooted in tight bends, the RWD chassis rotating confidently. When traffic interrupted my fun, 229 pound-feet of instant electric torque was on hand — ZOT! — to squirt past when a broken center line presented itself.

Curious, then, that V-dub holds back other unique EV features that have made rear-wheel-drive Model Ys and Mach Es so appealing. Notably absent, for example, is a frunk (“front truck”) that never fails to wow EV neophytes. Instead, the front bonnet is crammed with electric hardware despite the aft-located motor.

This lack of extra storage is especially jarring since ID lags Tiggy in cargo space: 64.2 cubic feet vs. 65.7.

The interior of the 2022 VW ID.4 is simple and modern. All digital displays and good storage space.

Inside, ID is nicely minimalist. Sans driveshaft, the console is a well of storage that includes a wireless charger. Though shy of Tesla/Mach E’s radical tablet approach, the console and steering-column-mounted touchscreens are rich with graphics. A wee shift stalk selects gears. My kids’ smartphone generation will be disappointed by the cheap voice recognition. Fortunately, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto save the day.

But the biggest shortcoming of EVs like ID versus peers like Tiguan is battery range.

As I contemplated my trip to Hell — 50 miles west of my Oakland County home — range anxiety was instant. In 30-degree March temps, ID had eaten 100 miles of battery range from a full charge in two days of local driving despite only traveling 60 miles. That 60% of predicted range means VW’s advertised 250-mile range is more like 150 in Midwest winters.

With 147 miles of range left and a 100-mile round-trip to Hell ahead (including an Ann Arbor side trip to grab my favorite Zingerman’s Reuben) — I knew I couldn’t make it. Tiguan never worries me with such thoughts thanks to plentiful petrol infrastructure.

I asked ID’s nav system for charging stations en route and it turned up a long list — but the only one that made sense was a rare Electrify America super-charging station at the Novi Walmart. Other 240-volt chargers that would take hours to deliver the necessary mileage.

When I arrived at the EA charger, all four stalls were available. But when I plugged in, the charge card reader didn’t work. Worse, the plug wouldn’t disengage to start a new session using ID’s remote app. I called EA’s help line and the problem was fixed after 20 minutes. The good news? VW offers free EA charging for three years.

After another 15 minutes of charging (a 45-minute detour in all) to add 45 miles and I was on my way.

That extra mileage would be crucial in returning me to Oakland County for a 4 p.m. tennis match. As I babied ID.4 up Telegraph Road with just 30 miles of charge remaining (the 130-mile trip sucked 175 miles of range), I asked the nav system for charge stations near the courts where I could add some juice.

The system directed me to a Telegraph Road BMW dealer. But the dealership had moved from that location four years ago.

Bottom line, EVs like ID.4 are niche vehicles. Install a 240-volt charger at home for daily commutes. In the EV ecosystem, the compact V-dub compares favorably to $35,000, subcompact EVs like the Chevy Bolt or Hyundai Kona. It’s more affordable than luxe offerings from Tesla and Polestar.

But it’s a long way before it can claim Beetle’s practicality crown. For now, the crown’s still worn by gas-swilling Tiggy.

Not a box. The 2022 VW ID.4 offers softer, swoopier lines than its cousin, the gas-powered Tiguan.

2022 Volkswagen ID.4

Vehicle type: All-electric, rear- and all-wheel-drive, five-passenger compact hatchback/SUV

Price: $41,190, including $1,195 destination fee (about $45,190 for 1st Edition as tested)

Powerplant: 77 kW lithium-ion battery pack mated to rear electric motor

Power: 201 horsepower, 229 pound-feet of torque

Transmission: One-speed direct drive

Performance: 0-60 mph, 7.6 seconds (Car and Driver); top speed, 100 mph

Weight: 4,665 pounds (as tested)

Fuel economy: 250-mile range

Report card

Highs: Modern, minimalist interior; settled handling despite girth

Lows: Pricey compared to comparable Tiguan gas model; sparse charging network

Overall: 3 stars

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