CHATTANOOGA, TENN.—Volkswagen in 2021 seems like a rather different company than Volkswagen circa 2015. The company has transformed itself in the wake of dieselgate, and it’s found forgiveness in the arms of American consumers as evidenced by skyrocketing SUV sales. VW has also thrown itself wholeheartedly into electrification, applying the approach of a highly modular platform that can be used to build a range of battery electric vehicles including hatchbacks considered too small for the US and that electric bus everyone loves so much.
In North America, the ID.4 is the tip of the electric spear, an electric crossover that’s pitched perfectly at our automotive mode du jour. We’ve already driven the ID.4 a couple of times: briefly as a pre-production prototype, then for a couple of days on home turf. It wasn’t particularly flashy, and there were a couple of things that needed tweaking. Yet, overall, we were impressed. (And we weren’t alone.)
At launch, the ID.4 was only available in a single configuration: an 82 kWh (gross, 77 kWh useable) lithium-ion battery powering a 201 hp (150 kW), 229 lb-ft (310 Nm) permanent magnet synchronous electric motor at the rear axle. But American car buyers like power, and they love all-wheel drive (for potentially misguided reasons about traction and grip, but that’s neither here nor there).
All-wheel drive means two electric motors
And so, as promised, VW has readied its twin-motor version of the ID.4, which we recently tested on some mountain and country roads near the company’s massive factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This adds a 107 hp (80 kW), 119 lb-ft (161 Nm) motor to the front axle. With twin-motor BEVs, peak combined power and torque is more a function of the battery’s ability to power both motors simultaneously (and perhaps some gearing) than simply adding both outputs together. For the ID.4, that equates to 295 hp (220 kW) and 339 lb-ft (460 Nm).
Unlike an all-wheel drive car or SUV with an internal combustion engine, there’s no mechanical connection between the front and rear axle. Instead, the computer(s) responsible for managing the ID.4s powertrain and vehicle dynamics decide when to send power to each motor.
In day-to-day driving, especially in Eco or Comfort modes, that’s almost always the rear motor. Which means that in day-to-day driving, the $43,675 ID.4 AWD drives an awful lot like the $39,995 ID.4 (both prices are before the $7,500 federal tax credit is taken into account).
The front motor is the asynchronous type, and so when there’s no magnetic field being induced, you don’t really notice it’s there in terms of steering feel. And there’s not much more mass, either. The curb weight has increased from 4,665 lbs (2,116 kg) to 4,782 lbs (2,169 kg), which again is not really noticeable.
The turning circle has also increased slightly. The rear-wheel drive ID.4’s ability to rotate on a dime—or 33.5 feet/10.2 m, to be accurate—was a charming surprise the first time I drove one, and it’s been a very handy feature every time since. The ID.4 AWD needs 36.4 feet (11.1 m) to do the same, which is still better than most cars on the road.
Is more power automatically better?
Day-to-day driving in an ID.4 is a pleasant experience, whether that’s 25 mph (40 km/h) city driving or on some of Hamilton County’s finer mountain roads. The cabin is quiet, without too much wind or tire noise at speed, which is always something one notices in a BEV. There’s not a tremendous amount of steering feel, so I tend to prefer the lighter weight of Eco and Comfort mode to Sport, which increases the amount of effort you need to turn the wheel without adding much more involvement.
On an open road in Eco or Comfort, the ID.4 is even quite fun to drive as a momentum car, conserving speed in corners and coasting where possible. (With the drive selector in D and the ID.4 in either Eco or Comfort modes, it coasts when you lift your foot from the accelerator; in B it engages some regenerative braking when you lift.) That’s also an efficient way to drive, although in a BEV if you do need to use the left pedal, you recapture some of that energy via regenerative braking (at least up to 0.25G, at which point the friction brakes take over).
Comfort is probably the sweet spot for highways, as the speed limiter in Eco starts to seriously blunt acceleration above 75 mph (120km/h), which can often just be the speed of traffic on US highways.
Sport mode makes more use of the front motor, particularly if you’re injudicious with the right pedal. It doesn’t exactly turn the ID.4 into a GTI—conveniently leaving room for a hotter version in time—but it does drop a couple of seconds from the 0-60 mph time, to a hot hatch-rivaling 5.4 seconds.
Still, this is not a hot hatch-rivaling driving experience, nor is it meant to be. Head too fast into a bend and you will be met with understeer that requires you to scrub off the speed if you want to negotiate it successfully. If you do need to cover ground quickly, slow in, fast out works best. Sport mode also increases the default amount of lift-off regen in D, and in B is almost a true one-pedal driving mode, although the car will not come to a complete stop like some other BEVs with true one-pedal driving.
As in my earlier review of the ID.4 First Edition, at least once I noticed the traction control icon illuminate, and not during what I’d regard as a low-traction event. In fact, I’d not have known anything about it save for the brief time the glyph displayed itself. For actual low-traction driving, the ID.4 AWD has a Traction mode, which engages both motors together at speeds of up to 12 mph (19 km/h). Unfortunately, I didn’t encounter any suitable stretches of sand or mud to test that out. I didn’t even get a chance to try the ID.4 AWD in the rain, which held off until the afternoon (at which point it came hard and heavy).