Volkswagen ID4: The people's car goes electric
Volkswagen's battery-powered ID4 on a mission to tempt families from their petrol and diesel SUVs, says William Scholes
VOLKSWAGEN is so serious about electric cars that it has contemplated changing its name to 'Voltswagen', writes William Scholes.
Or at least that's what the company said in a release to US journalists at the end of March, causing them and others to scratch their heads and ask each other, 'They're not serious, are they?'
It turned out VW wasn't entirely serious. After initially saying the story was true, they backtracked and said the whole 'Voltswagen' farrago was an April Fool's joke gone wrong.
Someone, somewhere in VW has a sense of humour, even if the gag backfired on this occasion.
Happily, an electric car won't ever backfire on you. And, like just about every other major car-maker, Volkswagen is convinced its future lies in electric vehicles, or EVs. It plans to build 22 million of them by 2030.
We are in the early days of this journey away from the internal combustion engine, but expect the number of battery-powered offerings from within the Volkswagen Group alone to grow exponentially in double-quick time.
Leading the charge for VW was the ID3, a family hatchback with the footprint of a Volkswagen Golf and an all-new platform specifically engineered, at vast cost, to see service in a variety of different cars and to accommodate various sizes of batteries and motors.
The ID3 name was carefully chosen. It is intended to convey that the car heralds the start of Volkswagen's third 'identity' as a manufacturer, with the first 'ID' being the Beetle and the second the Golf.
The Beetle and the Golf were each defining cars, and VW earnestly hopes the ID3 will have a similar transformative effect.
Perhaps the only slight difficulty with that narrative is that although hatchbacks like the Golf continue to sell in huge numbers, the zeitgeist is more SUV- and crossover-shaped.
SUVs now account for more than 40 per cent of Europe's new car registrations, and they are particularly popular among family buyers who prize their extra space and practicality over a comparable hatchback.
All of which brings us to the car on these pages. It's the Volkswagen ID4 and it can be summed up as being the SUV version of the ID3.
The ID4 has a 'drive the future, now' vibe. It marks the start of something new, the dawn of a new era when family cars will increasingly be driven by volts volks
If nothing else, this demonstrates the versatility of VW's electric platform. This 'modular electric drive matrix' has a long German name which is more easily referred to simply as 'MEB'; it slings the battery pack under the floor, allowing motors to be accommodated at the back or front and different bodies to be built on top.
VW has big ambitions for the ID4. Where the ID3 is a Europe-only product, the ID4 will be built in Europe and China, as well as the United States, where VW is atoning for its 'diesel-gate' scandal.
It launched in Northern Ireland in a limited-run '1st Edition' trim, and because it is such a new model it will take a little time for the full range to be offered.
Eventually, the ID4 line-up will include City, Style, Life, Family and Max grades and a mix of batteries and power outputs.
Two batteries form the foundation of the range. The larger battery, a 77kWh unit, is dubbed 'Pro' in VW parlance, while the smaller capacity 52kWh battery is called 'Pure'.
A crude but helpful analogy is to think of EV batteries as similar to fuel tanks on a petrol or diesel car; a larger battery has the potential to let you travel further.
The Pure battery offers a range of up to 213 miles according to the official WLTP tests, with the Pro Performance combination capable of up to 323 miles.
These batteries can be paired with one of three electric motors. The bigger Pro battery comes only with a 201bhp/229lb ft 'Performance' unit while the Pure can be paired with either a 146bhp/162lb ft or a more powerful 'Performance' 168bhp/229lb ft motor.
As with the ID3, the ID4 has a rear-mounted motor, single-speed transmission and rear-wheel-drive.
However, a sporty four-wheel-drive version, with an extra motor driving the front wheels, will join the ID4 range later. It will be badged 'GTX', to evoke a bit of GTI magic.
VW talks about how the ID4 can regain up to 199 miles of range from a 125kW rapid charger in 30 minutes, though this is of little use to Northern Ireland motorists relying on our slow public charging network.
Of more relevance to buyers here is that a 7.2kW home charger takes around 11 hours to fully re-juice the ID4 Pro Performance's battery.
Although it has a smaller footprint, there is a similar amount of interior space to the Tiguan Allspace, a larger, conventional Volkswagen SUV
Following the 1st Edition, the first wave of ID4 variants to reach us will have the Pro Performance drivetrain and the choice of Life, Family and Max trim.
The Pro Performance Life costs from £41,570 and includes features such as a 10-inch infotainment screen, wireless phone charging, two-zone climate control, LED headlamps and heated front seats.
Stepping up to Family trim, which starts at £45,520, cuts range to 318 miles, though you get 19-inch alloy wheels instead of steel items.
It upgrades the LED headlights, and adds tinted windows and a large panoramic sunroof to the Life specification.
Top-of-the-range Max models have a range of 314 miles and cost from £49,990.
Equipment includes a 12-inch infotainment screen with an augmented reality head-up display, sports seats with heating and advanced driver assistance systems. It also gets a heat pump, which is a hefty £1,250 option on the Life and Family models.
The smaller battery ID4 will be cheaper, and expect some versions to be eligible for the government's £2,500 grant available on sub-£35k cars.
The ID4 isn't especially quick by EV standards - the Pro Performance does 0-62mph in 8.5 seconds - and while it handles tidily enough, the real driving appeal lies in just how smooth and quiet it is compared to a petrol or diesel car.
The top speed, as with a lot of electric cars, is limited, in the ID4's case at 99mph.
It's a roomy car, too, taking advantage of some of the benefits of its EV architecture. Although it has a smaller footprint, there is a similar amount of interior space to the Tiguan Allspace, a larger, conventional VW SUV.
The boot has a volume of 543 litres, which grows to 1,575 litres if the seats are folded. It can tow a 1,000kg braked trailer.
Company car users who pay benefit in kind tax are heavily incentivised to switch to an EV, with a rate of just 1 per cent this year, rising to 2 per cent from 2022; a 40 per cent taxpayer will have an annual BIK bill of as little as £166 with a ID4 Pro Performance.
The financial benefits are persuasive, though the list price of the Pro Performance cars feels high compared to established petrol and diesel cars.
However, none of them have the 'drive the future, now' vibe of the ID4. It marks the start of something new, the dawn of a new era when family cars will increasingly be driven by volts volks.