The AWD ID.4 built by VW Chattanooga offers plenty of power / traction, but the best is yet to come OTA
VW invited Electrek to its plant in Chattanooga to test the new AWD ID.4, which increases the electric SUV from around 200 to 300 hp with a front-wheel drive engine. Even better, next year, North American units of the ID.4 will be built locally at the huge VW factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which we got to see firsthand …
I had a few days to look at the RWD 200 PS ID.4 in March just before a blizzard this year and found it to be an excellent car but not suitable for my very steep, unploughed driveway in a blizzard. The big realization for me was that this was an EV that anyone could get in and ride right away. No sloping doors like the Mach-E, no central display and a spartan interior like the Tesla Model Y. Simply a great car for those who switch to ICE and who don’t necessarily read electric car websites on a regular basis.
However, my complaints fell into a few general areas …
- No four-wheel drive
- Mediocre performance
- Slow / buggy center stack software
- No charging with plug-and-charge
The AWD ID.4 is almost the same car outside and inside. The extra motor doesn’t have to take up space, and other than the AWD label on the sides and 0.6 inches more ground clearance, it appears to be identical to the original RWD models. Oh, the VW logo on the front lights up – which is not the case on all RWD models or in Europe.
If the data sheet didn’t fix the first two flaws on my list, a few seconds behind the wheel sealed the deal. The 300 horsepower, 339 lb-ft of torque and 5.4 seconds 0-60 are fast enough for most drivers – putting the AWD ID.4 in the same class as the standard Mustang Mach-E and Tesla Model Y. The top speed is about 112 mph … or so I was told.
Since the electric drivetrain is silent, it destroys VW’s two main ICE competitors, the Toyota RAV 4 and the Honda CR-V, seemingly without trying. I can’t imagine anyone testing these three cars and driving alone in a distant 1st place without the ID.4. Oh, and it has an impressive 36.4-foot turning radius.
Fortunately for us, a bug in the car’s native navigation system led us onto a dirt road in the mountains around Chattanooga, allowing us to unexpectedly test the suspension and all-wheel drive off the asphalt.
I can say that it passed with flying colors. I’m not sure if the big 20-inch wheels or the suspension were the differentiator, but this is one road I wouldn’t have been comfortable with my Model Y on, at least at relatively high speeds. We’ll have a video of the experience this weekend.
Although we couldn’t test the towing capacity of the ID.4, it is rated for 2700 lbs. and comes with a towbar already installed. I imagine the 250 mile range will drop significantly with an RV in the back.
ID.4 Over The Air updates wanted!
The native navigation bug was one of many crunching center-stack problems that are still sore thumbs on this car. The advantage is that all glitches disappear as soon as you are in CarPlay or Android Auto. The upside is that most of the people I know with CarPlay or Android Auto use it almost exclusively through the vehicle’s native navigation and entertainment systems. With wireless CarPlay and both USB-C and wireless charging options, it’s super easy to get into CarPlay and stay there.
VW says it will keep updating the center stack OTA to make it faster and more reliable, but we’ve been in the rollout for almost a year – I think we’re officially lagging behind here. The navigation system, which I think is powered by Nokia’s Here Maps, seemed to us to be in one liberation Scenario.
Speaking of delayed OTAs, the gold standard of charging that every EV engineer should have at the top of their list is the plug-and-charge standard for charging EVs. The Ford Mustang Mach-E and VW’s sibling Porsche Taycan can go to an Electrify America station and just plug it in (like all Teslas at their own proprietary stations). At VW you currently need the app or an RFID transaction.
This time too, as we did in winter, we asked when Plug and Charge was coming and again we heard that it was in an upcoming OTA.
Further questions to Volkswagen USA
VW provided US CEO Scott Keogh, electric vehicle product manager Jeffrey Lear, and Dustin Krause, former Tesla manager and VW electric mobility director, and I had to
corner her at the bar Questions to the 3rd
Plug and Charge when?
Jeff: It’s high on our priority list, but getting the ID.4 and now the AWD ID.4 out the door was obviously our top priority. We did that and now we focus on the smaller things. We are even working on bi-directional charging in future models, but we have nothing to announce today. We are also working on this middle pile.
What do you think of the current Democratic government legislation moving through Washington that allows automakers with unions to receive higher subsidies for electric vehicles than VW, Tesla, Nissan, etc. without?
Scott: Why should workers in Detroit have better incentives than workers in Tennessee? We don’t think that’s right and plan to fight for a level playing field.
Who made the decision not bring the ID.3 to the US and why? Do you still see successes with the Golf and GTI in the USA?
Scott: The decision was made together with the US team and the German HQ. The reason was to put all the wood behind the ID.4 when it was launched. The direction was towards bigger cars and SUVs in the US (not to mention Europe and China, which are seeing the same trend). In fact, we assume that the ID.4 will sell better than the ID.3 in Europe too.
If you had known the Chevy Bolt sales * would go up in flames *, would that have changed the calculation?
What will we see next from VW in terms of electrification in the US?
Dustin: The next step for the USA is the return of the legendary Microbus in the ID.Buzz form factor. This will be a 7-8 seater van that we will see in late 2023-2024. There will be a full 3 rows and even [6’3″?] Adults like me can easily fit in the back row, as the first row is closer to the front of the car than SUVs. Then there is the limousine-looking thing from our presentation [pictured below]:
VW also invited us to go to the factory and take a look at the battery assembly, where cells from SK Innovation in Georgia are removed and packaged. The final assembly takes place in the adjacent huge factory complex outside the city of Chattanooga. It’s a sight and the pictures that I was allowed to take (many areas were taboo including battery assembly) do not do it justice:
I came from this event with a really good feeling about VW’s prospects in the future US electric vehicle industry. While they are obviously still catching up with Tesla, they are way ahead of their traditional automotive brethren in the transition to electric vehicles. Our own at the local level Bradley Chambers was able to talk for hours about how much the “chat works” brought to the area and boosted the economy by bringing great jobs and people to the city.
The AWD ID.4 is exactly what I wanted in terms of hardware after driving the RWD model in the snow. It’s upbeat and can drive off-road and in bad weather. The center stack software and features like plug-and-charge / bidirectional charging aren’t there yet, and it’s our job to keep VW ahead until those promises are kept. But overall, the package is great at the moment and at a very attractive price, especially after subsidies.
We can’t wait to spend more time with the ID.4 and the other EVs VW has in the pipeline.
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