How much is not having to buy gas worth to you?
That question can be answered by comparing the VW ID.4 electric crossover with VW’s two otherwise similar small crossovers, the Tiguan and Taos – neither of which is electric.
And for that reason cost about $12-$15k less to start – and come standard with twice as much range.
On the other hand, they’re not electric – and you can’t fuel them up at home.
And that may be worth less to you.
The ID.4 is a compact-sized, two-row (five passenger) electric crossover that’s a few inches longer on the outside than a Taos – and not quite as long on the outside as the Tiguan.
Which is a bit smaller – in terms of cargo space – on the inside.
The ID.4 is also electric – and it’s the only rear-wheel-drive crossover (or otherwise) VW sells. The base trim comes standard 208 miles of range and stickers for $38,995 to start.
The Pro gets you a stronger battery and more range (275 miles) plus AWD is available. But it knocks 20 miles off the VW’s range.
A top-of-the-line Pro S with AWD and 255 miles of range lists for $55,295.
What’s New for 2023
In order to make the ID.4 more affordable, VW has lowered the base price of its little electric crossover by $2,240 vs. last year. The catch is the price cut costs range. Last year’s $41,235 base trim ID.4 came standard with 250 miles of range.
A larger (12 inch) centrally mounted touchscreen is now standard in all trims.
Costs less (to start) than it did.
More room inside than in the Tiggy – and bigger on the outside than a Taos.
What’s Not So Good
It still costs almost $40k to start – which is a lot for a small crossover.
Base battery’d model isn’t especially quick – and doesn’t go very far.
AWD equipped models are quicker – but don’t go much farther, either.
Under the Floorpans
The base rear-drive ID.4 has a new, less powerful 58 kilowatt-hour battery pack that costs less – but also costs you range, which is just 208 miles now. Best case. The latter in italics to emphasize that, with battery-powered cars, the actual range you can drive is often less than the indicated range in the dash display.
Cold weather, for example, can (and will) reduce the distance you can actually drive because of the power consumed keeping you (and the battery) warm in the cold. When it’s warm and you want to stay cool, use of the AC will draw power – and cost range.
Remember that in an electric car, everything is electrically powered. Including the heater (and AC) for the cabin and the heating (and cooling) system for the battery, which has to be kept within a certain range of temperature at all times in order to avoid damaging it and so that it can be charged up in the cold, too.
VW offers that with the Pro trim – which can go as far as 275 miles. But you’ll pay $5,000 more for the additional range. And if you buy AWD – which comes with a second motor driving the front wheels – you lose 20 miles of that margin.
So equipped, the VW’s range slips to 255 miles.
Also: AWD isn’t available with the lower-performance (and lower cost) 58 kilowatt-hour battery that comes in the base trim, which is RWD only.
Almost every other crossover on the market (including the Taos and Tiggy) are front-wheel-drive/AWD, which they are because that’s generally what people who buy crossovers want. The rear-drive layout (engine up front, light in the tail) is a kind of anomaly in the crossover class generally – because it’s not the optimum layout for snow-day driving. A FWD crossover with the right tires can be a great snow-day vehicle.
More to the point, you can skip paying extra for AWD and still not get stuck when it snows.
But – don’t worry too much. The rear-drive ID.4 should be ok in the snow because – like the old VW Beetle – the engine (well, the electric motor) is rear-mounted and that puts the weight of the engine over the drive wheels, enhancing traction. Most rear-drive vehicles are front-engined vehicles and so light in the rear, which is why they are generally slippery in the snow (and the wet).
With the standard battery/single motor set-up and the EV equivalent of 201 horsepower, the ID.4 gets to 60 MPH in about 7.5 seconds, which is slow for an EV but slightly quicker than otherwise similar non-electric crossovers like the Tiggy, which makes the same run in just over 8 seconds.
Things happen quicker with the optional, larger battery pack and the EV equivalent of 295 horsepower. So equipped, the ID.4’s zero to 60 times falls to just over 5 seconds, a speedy time as such but even more impressive given the 4,300 lbs. this small crossover weighs.
Like other EVs, you can recharge the ID.4’s battery pack at home using either standard 120V (Level 1) or 240V (Level 2) charging, with the latter taking about 7.5 hours to fully recharge. Be aware that it takes much longer to charge using 120V (Level 1) and that most homes built before the last two or three years are not likely to have a 240 hook-up in the garage.
Many homes do have a 240V outlet – inside the house – for a clothes dryer or electric stovetop. But that’s probably not close enough to reach – and you’d have to unplug your dryer or stove to be able to plug in your EV.
If you don’t have a 240V outlet in your garage – or close enough to plug your EV into – you will probably need to have an electrician come to your home and wire one up. The cost for that can be as little as a couple hundred bucks – and as much as $1,000 (or more) bucks, if the panel needs to be updated.
You’ll also need to have a garage – and that generally means a single family home. You can’t add a 240V line to an apartment you rent – and it’s hard to run an extension cord from there to wherever you parked, on the street.
Also be aware that you cannot “fast” charge an EV at home – because private residences generally do not have the ability to do that.
On The Road
With the dual motor drivetrain (and stronger battery pack) the ID.4 is capable of impressive burst of instantaneous acceleration. There’s an old story about the race car legend Carroll Shelby putting a $100 bill on the dashboard of the AC Cobra that carried his name, telling the person riding shotgun it was his if he could grab it. And then he’d punch it.
No one ever collected the $100.
The ID.4 is like that, except it’s not a high-strung, two-seat race car. It’s a family crossover.
But the catch is that making use of the latent potency it possesses will rapidly sap whatever charge you’ve got left. Just the same as watching the needle move toward empty in a “gas hog” like the Shelby Cobra, with the difference being that it takes a lot more time to put electricity back into an energy hog EV.
This use it and lose it business is one of the unresolved paradoxes of EVs, especially ones like the ID.4 that are – ostensibly – not meant to be race cars. Why then the emphasis on quickness-capability?
Why, to take your mind off how far you can’t go – and how much it costs.
To get an EV to go even half as far as an otherwise comparably-sized vehicle takes a very large (and very heavy) battery pack, because it takes one of those to store even half the electric-power equivalent of about half a tank of gas (around 7-8 gallons). That’s just physics and chemistry – and until it changes, EVs will necessarily need big and heavy (and expensive) batteries to be able to even approximate the range of a non-electric equivalent.
This would not be a big deal, even so – were it possible to recharge an EV in the same time it takes to refuel. Well, it’d still mean more stops. And having to stop every other day for even a 5 minute charge vs. once a week for 5 minutes for a full tank would still cost time – but it might be manageable. But having to stop – and wait – for 30 minutes or even 15 every other day is not a strong selling point when you can still buy an otherwise similar vehicle that has twice the range, costs a third less and only makes you wait for a few minutes to refuel to full.
And so – look how quick it is!
But then see how much it costs.
VW tried to address the latter this year by lowering what it costs – but that costs a lot of range, as well as quickness.
This is not to say the ID.4 is a bad vehicle. Not in terms of how it drives, which is silent and smoothly – as well as quickly. The problem – for VW and for most of us – is that $40k is a lot to spend to go maybe 208 miles in between stops. It’s also a lot to spend, period – when you can still spend $15k less to be able to go close to 500 miles in between stops.
At The Curb
VW chose to go with conventionally crossover exterior styling, which is a plus if you don’t want to make a big deal about driving an electric car, which can be a plus given the politics (ask people who drove a Prius back when it looked like what it was – and what everything else wasn’t).
For example, the way you engage Reverse or Drive is by rotating the top right section of the main LCD instrument cluster that “floats” on top of the steering column. Backward (toward you) to get Reverse, forward to get Drive. This eliminates center console clutter and also makes sense – even for a non-EV – because in most new vehicles, the transmission’s ranges are engaged via-drive-by-wire rather than by cables. Of course, the ID.4 (like most EVs) has no transmission, so all you’re doing is changing the direction the motors turn.
For Park, push the button located on the side of the section of the instrument cluster you rotated for Reverse and Drive.
Almost everything else is controlled via the second, larger LCD touchscreen off to your right.
The layout is minimalist, which is interesting in that in this one respect, EVs are a kind of throwback to what basic cars were like 50 years ago – when you got a speedometer, a gas gauge and not much else. Of course, an EV does not need much else – such as the tachometer, oil pressure, water temp and other gauges you got with fancier cars back in the day (and that becomes standard in most cars by the mid-1990s).
The things you might want to monitor – such as use of power (and adjust, so as to use less) can be found by tapping and swiping through the menus in the center console display. One of these is the climate control system, which can be optimized to use as less electricity – remember, everything that’s powered in an EV is powered by electricity – but this reduces cooling (and heating) performance for the sake of not burning up range.
It’s an EV Catch-22 to be aware of.
In terms of the physicalities:
The ID.4 is 180.5 inches long, which puts it in-between the compact-sized Tiggy (186.1 inches) and the Taos (175.8 inches) in terms of its footprint. Some reviewers have praised the ID.4 for having more space available for cargo behind its second row (and with those seats up) than the larger-footprint Tiggy does – and this is true.
However, the Tiggy has about the same total cargo capacity – 65.3 cubic feet vs. 64.2 for the ID.4 and the Taos – which has a smaller overall footprint – has about the same capacity 27.9 cubic feet) behind its second row and slightly more total cargo space (65.9 cubic feet) when you fold them down.
Relative to other small electric crossovers in the class, it’s a draw. The Ford Mustang Mach e has 34 cubic feet of space behind its second row and 64.4 cubic feet of total cargo carrying capacity. The Tesla Model Y has 34.3 cubic feet of space behind its second row and 76.2 cubic feet if total capacity.
Interestingly. the ID.4 has no “frunk” – or trunk, up front – if you buy the dual-motor/AWD version. The second motor takes up the space. Also, there’s no 12V power point, so you can’t plug in accessories that use that kind of interface without an adapter.
The Bottom Line
The ID.4’s main draw is probably its low price – for an EV, relative to other EVs in the class such as the $42,995 to start Mustang Mach e and the $52,990 to start Tesla Model Y. And especially relative to the new (and $43,190 to start) Nissan Ariya and Kia EV6 ($48,700 to start). Neither of the latter two go much farther, either. The Ariya’s standard range is 216 miles; the Kia’s EV6’s is a not-much-better 232 miles.
The problem – for all of them – is none of them go very far as they come. You have to pay thousands more for a little more range – and even then, you haven’t got much. That means more time spent charging, to get it back.
But at least with the VW, you’ll be spending less money.
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