VW’s ID.4 electric SUV will be a game-changer for families

Claimed 520km range


New VW ID4You just know we are on the cusp of a major shift in mindset when a new electric car is capable of making as strong a case as an equivalent fossil-fuelled family favourite. That is a big statement and I could be, as is occasionally my wont, overstating matters just a bit.

But I remain steadfast in my belief that the new Volkswagen ID.4 electric SUV is a realistic alternative for people who currently drive or are thinking of buying a diesel Tiguan five-seater, or seven-seater Tiguan Allspace (there will be a seven-seat ID.4 down the line) or other rivals.

That is not to overlook two pertinent facts: the diesel goes further on a fill of fuel but the electric vehicle (EV) travels less expensively.

The EV benefits too from grants and VRT rebates worth thousands depending on the model. In the expectation that such incentives will remain for the foreseeable future, I believe the relevance of this ID.4 is strong.

After driving a left-hand-drive five-seater German spec version for a while recently, here’s why I’m sticking my neck out.

I was taken aback by how much bigger and roomier it was than I’d expected. It’s big and strong to look at, tall with long sloping roofline and rounded, minimalist front. Inside they’ve worked the space magic — due in large part to the wheelbase being similar to the Tiguan Allspace (which has seven seats but is 12cm longer than the ID.4’s 4.58 metres).

The first thing I did was slide on to the back row; I’m talking near limousine-type space there. Headroom is better than the Tiguan in all five seats and boot space is similar (it goes from 543 litres to 1,575 if you fold the rear seats).

Up front there was the familiar layout from the smaller ID.3 hatch, only it worked better. The head-up display was excellent on detail, showing me graphically my distance from the car in front, for instance. The two information displays were crystal clear, with the larger, central tablet-like screen easy to navigate.

I am still not a fan of the gear selector gizmo. I got used to it in the ID.3 but I still maintain getting Drive, Boost, Neutral and Reverse should be a lot easier.

Volkswagen has made practical use of the substantial space between driver and front passenger too with a central stowing spot in front of USB-C slots and cup holders. Really useful and well-thought-out. The steering wheel, larger than I’d like, was thankfully not cluttered with buttons.

Getting my preferred driving position took all of 30 seconds and what a great forward view I had (despite being on the ‘inside’ of the lane in my left-hand-drive model). Maybe I’d be a bit critical of rear-view obscurity if there were taller passengers back there. The seats were excellent, with good thigh support. My version had brown-leather trimmed seats and door panels, lending a nice feel to the cabin.

Out on the road, it was extremely quiet over coarse and poor small-grain surfaces but was prone to thuds and noticeable up-and-down wheel travel over average divots and ruts. Put the latter down to the larger wheels, I think.

There was a bit of body roll, which surprised me given how much VW emphasises the lower centre of gravity gained by having the battery bank under the floor and between the axles. And there was adaptive chassis control with sports suspension. Strange.

For some reason, it didn’t feel as quick off the mark either. Electric vehicles are great at taking off because they get all their pulling power (torque) from the start, whereas normal engines have to wind-up revs to do so.

Volkswagen claims the battery is good to cover up to 520km on a single charge (you get a three-pin home socket charging cable and eight-year battery warranty or 160,000km, whichever comes first). I’d reckon on a range of 430km-450km being a practical target.

Yes, this is the one area where the existing fossil-fuel alternatives win comfortably. A diesel in the Tiguan is good for 650/700km-plus in my experience.

I get the sense that some people will regard that as its Achilles heel and decide against the ID.4. But I still think this has enough to make a substantial number think again because the range is, I believe, easily manageable and can be catered for by most families. That, along with everything else on board, is the vital mindset-shifter. And it helps explain why Volkswagen expects 1,700 of us to buy one this year. They already have orders for 350 — and it doesn’t get here until March. My gut instinct is this is a game changer of some import.

Facts and Figures: Volkswagen ID.4 electric SUV

ID.4 1st from €43,426; ID.4 1st Max tested: €56,565. Lithium ion battery (77 kWh), electric motor, 204PS, range up to 520km. Spec includes: 10in Discover Pro nav system, two-zone climatronic, Lane Assist, adapative cruise control, 20in alloys, rear-view camera. MAX edition adds 12in ‘Discover Pro’, panoramic sunroof, adaptive chassis control, sports suspension.

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About The Author image for Eddie Cunningham
Eddie Cunningham

Motoring Editor Irish Independent. Read Eddie's articles first every Wednesday in the Irish Independent