Volkswagen may have launched the ID.3 as its first fully-electric vehicle designed from the ground up to be electric. However, since the ID.3 is only for the European market, it’s not quite as important for the German automaker as the larger ID.4 crossover (basically a taller, restyled version of the same basic vehicle).
Driving the ID.4 for an entire week, I really got to know it fairly well and I came away from the experience quite impressed. It does all the Volkswagen things really well, like assembly and materials quality inside, ergonomics, practicality and space. It’s not the most exciting thing to drive or look at from the exterior, but it’s still quite a futuristic design and it’s certainly less dull to look at than other modern VWs.
Out on the road, it feels very planted and surefooted and even though it is a rear-wheel drive vehicle, the fact that you can’t disable traction and stability control means you can’t really feel the back stepping out if you floor it out of a corner. This is at odds with one of its main rivals, the Ford Mustang Mach-E, which does allow you to play around more and invites you to drive in a sportier fashion.
One of the ID.4’s biggest problems was supposed to be its glitchy infotainment that has been criticized by nearly all reviewers who have tried the car. However, in my experience, other than the occasional slight snag when you swipe through menus, I encountered no problems whatsoever with it. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say it’s actually pretty good, very easy to use and one of the best such systems I’ve tried.
In the photos, the ID.4 looked a bit strange, from a proportions standpoint, but once you see it in the metal, it’s actually pretty cool. Its proportions are still not conventional, and there’s definitely a futuristic air about it, but it’s not a bad looking vehicle; it’s certainly more interesting to look at than most current Volkswagens.
The front fascia is not very flashy and VW opted not to give it a full-width light bar up front. There is a white line that connects the daytime running lights from both headlights (and from some angles it may appear to have LEDs), but only the rear gets a full light bar. The car rides on staggered wheels (wider in the rear) and it doesn’t sit especially high off the ground; it does have 21 cm / 8.2 inches of ground clearance, but it doesn’t appear to be an especially tall vehicle.
Inside it certainly looks different compared to other Volkswagens, at least from a design standpoint, because the high quality materials and the sturdy build are trademarks of the manufacturer. You get a small smartphone-sized digital driver’s display and a 10-inch display or optionally a 12-inch display for the infotainment. Wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay come as standard on all models.
The interior is still not what you’d call exciting, but traditional VW buyers will appreciate the toned down, minimalist look. What they may not like are the controls for the lights and defrost (which are now placed on a new touch-sensitive panel), or the window and mirror switches which are a bit awkward to use (check out the video review to see exactly what I’m talking about).
Out on the road, the ID.4 impresses with its smoothness, refined cabin and excellent sound insulation. It feels just as well insulated inside the ID.4 as in the very best EVs that I’ve driven, some costing far more than it. Throw it into a corner a bit too quickly and even though it’s rear-wheel drive, no drama ensues and it just sticks to the tarmac in a very undramatic fashion.
This surefooted feel is definitely welcome, especially considering my tester didn’t have all-wheel drive, but it also makes the car a bit boring to drive. If you want a very sporty feeling electric crossover, then the Ford Mustang Mach-E will be better for you, or if you want the quickest such vehicle, just get a Tesla Model Y.
Probably the most impressive part of driving the ID.4 is its maneuverability. It has a 10.2 meter / 33.5 feet turning circle radius, making it extremely easy to thread through tight, twisting spaces. You actually have to adjust to it for a few miles after you first drive the ID.4, but then you really begin to exploit it and it saves you from having to do two- or three-point turns.
On the tech front, it has to be said the ID.4 is not class leading. It will eventually get over-the-air updates, an augmented-reality head-up display and other state of the art features (they were not available in Romania where I am based, at the time I shot this review, which was in early May), but right now it’s just an electric Volkswagen crossover, a battery-powered alternative to the Tiguan. It’s a well thought out, well rounded vehicle, but it doesn’t have an edge over any rival in any way, so even if it’s objectively quite good, it’s not remarkable.
If you're reading this from America (which you probably are), it is worth noting that Volkswagen sells the ID.4 in the US cheaper than it perhaps should be (and it may not make money selling it at that price).
Gallery: Volkswagen ID.4 First Edition