Review: I Didn’t Think I’d Say It, But I’d Take A 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 AWD Over A Golf GTI

With the automotive world going electric, the ID.4 AWD is a solid option

2021 Volkswagen ID.4 AWD
Kase and I recently tested the 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 AWD — in top-spec Pro S (Statement) form — and it finally convinced me on thinking toward an EV. (Images: TFLCar)
Better dynamics with the dual-motor setup It’s not Tesla quick, if that’s your benchmark
Spacious, remarkably comfortable Irritating infotainment system
Currently the least expensive all-wheel drive EV Only 125 kW DC fast-charging

2021 Volkswagen ID.4 AWD Pro S Overview

Like it or not, electric cars are gaining momentum in the market, and more players are jumping into the fray. I’m a strong proponent that more competition is a net positive for the consumer, and the Volkswagen ID.4 gives buyers another option if they’re ready to make the plunge into an EV. Thing is, though, the base rear-wheel drive model just isn’t as fun as it could be. With just a single electric motor, it lacks the gusto to make me think twice about, say, a hot hatch like the Golf GTI.

Add in a dual-motor powertrain, and that story changes. Not only is the all-wheel drive version nearly as efficient as the base RWD car, but the extra power adds that bit of extra quickness I thought the First Edition we originally drove lacked.

With 295 horsepower on tap, a 0-60 time in the mid-5-second range and a practical package, the 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 AWD hits the same basic pillars that make the GTI so appealing. Sure, the ID.4 is missing that fizzy EA888 engine and a manual transmission, sure. But on paper, at least, I came into this experience wondering if it could sate my appetite for a peppy hatchback. Can it deliver a zero-emission experience and be fun to drive and feasibly own?

Volkswagen flew Kase and I out to Chattanooga, Tennessee — where the automaker will build the ID.4 in 2022. A note on availability: the AWD models will launch later this year, but they’ll still come from Germany until Chattanooga’s ID.4 production comes online. Jump down to the video below to see him get hands-on with the new AWD Pro S, and read on for my impressions.

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Performance: This AWD Pro model finally gets the boost it needs

Known as the “GTX” overseas, Volkswagen kept to a simpler naming scheme for the U.S. market. Spec the AWD version of the ID.4 here in the States, and the dual-motor arrangement will deliver a combined output of 295 horsepower and 339 lb-ft of torque. Like the RWD model, you still get the same 201 horsepower electric motor over the rear axle. Now, though, the all-wheel drive version adds a 107 horsepower motor to the front axle — and both work together to deliver substantially higher overall torque off the line.

The effect of an extra motor? Two seconds off the 0-60 time, which comes up in 5.4 seconds. You may not think about doing too many standing starts in your ID.4, but even in terms of merging onto a freeway or needing some on-demand passing power, a couple seconds makes a world of difference.

In real-world driving on highways and the back roads through the hills around Chattanooga, this AWD Pro S model manages its 4,888-pound curb weight well around the bends. As ever, that instantaneous shove from pure-electric torque coupled with a direct drive setup makes accelerating out of the corners a giggle, for sure. There’s a flip-side to that coin, though: As you build speed tat torque will drop off dramatically. In short, it’s quick, but the ID.4 AWD doesn’t pack the neck-snapping performance you get from, say, a Tesla Model Y Performance.

2021 Volkswagen ID.4 AWD

Battery and charging

This car supports 125 kW DC fast charging, allowing you to charge up from 5% to 80% in about 38 minutes. The 11-kW Level 2 charger can manage charging up in between a bit over 7 hours. VW also offers three years of complimentary fast charging through its Electrify America charging network.

The 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 Performance uses the same 82-kWh (77 kWh usable capacity) battery pack as the rear-wheel drive model. Even with the extra motor, though, the AWD version only loses around 10 miles of range. The AWD Pro model manages 249 miles on a charge (vs. 260 for the RWD Pro), while the Pro S model manages 240 miles on a charge (down from 250 on the RWD Pro S). That does fall short of the Ford Mustang Mach-E with the Extended Range battery, though it’s worth noting that car does use a larger 88-kWh battery pack. It’s also not as quick as the Mustang Mach-E or a Tesla Model Y, but there is another side to that token: Price.

The ID.4 AWD isn’t horrendously expensive, either.

One reason I particularly like the ID.4’s approach is it balances its performance with a relatively low price tag. Here’s the rub: If you want to get an all-wheel drive EV with similar range to what VW offers right now, you’ll have to reckon with spending at least $50,000. It’s true in the case of the Model Y Long Range ($53,990) and the Mustang Mach-E Premium Extended Range ($56,400) — both of which would be the two most affordable options after Volkswagen.

The ID.4 AWD, on the other hand, starts at $44,870 (including $1,195 destination) for the Pro model. Even the Pro S version we drove here starts at $49,370. That’s before the $7,500 federal tax credits and state incentives. Bring in fuel and maintenance savings as well — official EPA range specs posit you’ll save $4,000 over 5 years on fuel coming from an average ICE car — and you could get into this car for less than a $38,990 GTI Autobahn.

Volkswagen ID.4 Trim options

Again, Volkswagen’s keeping the 2021 ID.4 lineup simple with just two trim models for both RWD and AWD models. The Pro trim offers standard IQ.Drive assistance tech, including lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and a Travel Assist hands-on, semi-autonomous support system. You also get a 10-inch “Discover Pro” infotainment display, heated seats and a heated steering wheel, wireless charging, dual-zone climate control, 10-color ambient lighting and four USB-C ports.

The Pro S (for Statement) model adds in more advanced LED headlights, as well as an illuminated grille and badge. You get a panoramic fixed glass roof, as well as 12-way power adjustable seats and a hands-free liftgate. The larger 12-inch Discover Pro Max infotainment system is part of this trim, while you also get leatherette surfaces here, in place of cloth seats. For an extra $1,500, the Gradient package adds larger 20-inch alloy wheels, a black-painted roof and silver roof rails and accents for some extra styling touches.

No matter which ID.4 you buy, you don’t currently get a 360-degree camera system anywhere in the range, which is a bummer.

Interior comfort is excellent

Overall, the interior materials, quality and spaciousness offer a strong case for the ID.4. You wouldn’t necessary expect to think “premium” in the same vein as something like the Volvo XC40 Recharge or the Audi e-tron, but it’s nice sitting in and driving VW’s electric crossover. It has a simple layout at first glance, with a 5.3-inch digital instrument cluster in front of the driver and that 10 or 12-inch infotainment display taking center stage. Both the steering wheel and climate controls are touch-sensitive as well. That may be a bit off-putting at first if you like physical buttons, but neither are bad once you get used to them.

In addition to the driver assist controls, one of the touch-responsive buttons beneath the climate settings handles the drive modes. The all-wheel drive ID.4 still gets your Eco, Normal, Sport and Custom settings. However, here you also get a “Traction” mode, which keeps both electric motors engaged in all-wheel drive mode to get the best possible traction at slow speeds, in slippery conditions.

One point of commendation on what is ostensibly a value-oriented car: the ride. That low-mounted, heavy battery pack certainly helps there, but the ID.4’s ride is supple without being floaty. The interior noise levels are also serene on most road surfaces, with the panoramic roof shade being the loudest noise you may encounter. The seats are also comfortable, and leg room is good for both front and rear passengers.

But…there’s a big gripe

That said, I can’t commend the infotainment system itself. Don’t get me wrong, it’s all there. You still get wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, built-in navigation and SiriusXM satellite radio, all as standard fare. You even get gesture control, where you can operate certain functions by waving your hand in front of the screen. On paper, that’s all great — but man, is it frustrating to use.

Some basic functions, like getting to the home screen (it’s a square icon on the left side) or seeing the station you’re currently on are annoyingly obtuse. Then let’s say you’re actually using the built-in navigation. Pinching to zoom in or out was laggy at best, and simply didn’t happen at all at worst.

I’m tired of infotainment systems that try to mimic smartphones. When you have no physical buttons, it helps to have common commands close to the top so you don’t have to sift through menus to get to the functions you want. I know you’re supposed to use the “Hello ID.” system to tell the car what to do, but guess what? That didn’t work flawlessly either — surprise, surprise. The internet-supported voice recognition system failed to give me the radio station I wanted (when you can’t get to it easily using the normal menus), even when I used the most direct commands in the most robotic voice possible.

2021 Volkswagen ID.4 AWD

Despite the headaches, this is still one damn good electric car.

I still had fun in the 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 AWD Pro S, despite some of the frustrations. If anything, what endears me to this car more than a Tesla Model Y or a Mustang Mach-E is that it is, for all intents and purposes, a normal crossover. You still have some of the powertrain components under the hood (so no frunk), and the styling doesn’t try to be too tomorrow’s world from a conventional car. I know you can effectively argue the frunk thing is a point against overall practicality, but to my mind there’s some satisfaction from being able to see a bit of what’s going on with the powertrain.

For a shade under $50,000 (or slightly over, if you get the Gradient Package), you get an all-wheel drive EV with solid performance, great everyday usability and decent range. I’d connect my smartphone through Apple CarPlay/Android Auto to get around my grievances with the infotainment system. If you’re looking for more assertive or glitzy styling, there are better options out there, and I still have a strong need to have a manual transmission — which is why I still do. When the time comes to get an electric car and eschew “old-school” gasoline-powered cars like the GTI however, I’d strongly consider getting an all-wheel drive ID.4 if I were looking to buy right now.

As ever, though, the world’s changing fast. A hot version of the ID.3 based on the hot ID.X concept is reportedly coming (per Autocar UK), though I’m not holding my breath on actually seeing it in the U.S.