Volkswagen ID.4 test: the ideal SUV?


Volkswagen's offensive in the electric car market has only just begun. After the ID.3 tried between two confinements this fall, it's the turn of the ID.4 family SUV to pass through our hands, on a dismal day in Normandy.

I greatly appreciated the compact ID.3 : lively, silent, comfortable, a nice success unfortunately marred by a few flaws: a finish not really in line with the brand's image and a still excessive price. All this without taking into account the infrastructure issues related to electric vehicles today: recharging and range. Will ID.4 do better?

When you discover the model in the parking lot, the sympathy capital is quite strong. Admittedly, this is an SUV, a category that cheerfully swallows up the automotive market despite common sense, but this one is significantly different. Taking the broad outline of ID.3, ID.4 is mainly composed of smooth curves. The bow irresistibly reminds me of a panda (who knows why?). The profile is marked with a simple body line, starting directly from the front fender and stretching to the tail lights. The slanted rear quarter panel in an imitation aluminum finish tries to energize the whole thing, but in fact brings more a resemblance to a Peugeot 5008, which already uses the same artifice as well as the hook on the rear wing. If the ID range wants to give itself an aesthetic distinct from the other models of the brand, the rear lights nevertheless take up the continuous stripe design already seen. on the Seat Ibiza from the 90s or the T-Roc.

It is impossible to ignore the gigantic 21 ’wheels that my trusty Twilight Blue of the Day steed is equipped with. Renault had launched fashion with its Scenic, which seems to continue. This is again a small figure of speech to dress a profile that otherwise would have been quite massive.

It's time to get on board to discover, oh surprise, the same dashboard as in the ID.3! The same ? No. One detail has been changed: the abominable screw visible in the middle of the center console has disappeared. Thank you Volkswagen! The perceived quality of the materials seems a slight cut above the ID.3. Nothing transcendent either, fans of foamed plastic at heart and pint-sized assembly will be hungry for it, but there is progress. However, no improvements to the ergonomics of some controls.

The dreaded haptic feedback touch controls (a buzzword to mean that it vibrates) are still so temperamental and endowed with a life of their own (and aren't backlit). And if the reduction in the number of buttons is more in the right direction, there may be some limits that should not be crossed? Electric windows for example: only 2 left / right buttons, operating the front windows by default. And if it is the rear windows that you want to open, you have to press a dedicated button. While driving, of course. Besides that, other ideas are well thought out: the head-up display with augmented reality or the LED inserts in the dashboard which, coupled with the GPS, show you the direction to follow.

To live, one feels really good in this ID.4. There is no shortage of space on board, the glazed surfaces are generous, the floor is completely flat. If there is one positive side to remember about the electric motor, it is the free space on board. The ID.4 is based on the same SEM platform as the small ID.3. The wheelbase of 2.76 m is the same. The engine is placed on the rear wheels, the batteries in the floor.

The ID.4 is distinguished by a longer rear overhang, allowing for a generous 543-liter trunk, in line with its family vocation. Quite cubic in shape, it also has a double hidden bottom for your discreet trips in a tax haven. And under the front hood? Well, no engine, no trunk. Simply a kind of technical compartment that would have benefited from being fitted out.

It’s time to assess the handling of this beautiful baby weighing over 2 tons. With my foot on the brake, I turn the selector to Drive and off we go. The first (long) kilometers of the course are on the motorway, terrain on which electrics are not the most comfortable to maintain their autonomy. Constant speed, headwind and acceleration at the tollgate are not very friendly. Dynamically, the ID.4's 204 hp seems the right mix to keep a car upbeat but not overdone. The times are certainly not at the same level as the lighter ID.3, but remain in the high average of the family. The regenerative braking system is again the same as that of its predecessor with two possible settings. Unfortunately, this type of braking does not allow you to come to a complete stop, unlike what is sometimes done with the competition.

It’s once on small departmental roads that I can test the SUV’s true character. With an almost immediate observation: I am seasick. Nothing to do with our destination of the day (Seine Maritime), but the cause is more on the side of the suspensions. Far too flexible, they excessively dampen speed bumps and irregularities, with too much rebound. The solution is for once quite simple: switch to Sport mode. The change is quite radical without being violent. The piloted damping hardens to provide, say … Germanic comfort. Firm, but with greater rigor of behavior. The steering is also firming up, for more precise driving.

Thus rigged, our valiant three masted ID.4 is transformed into a very good road, quick to approach the virolos serenely, to play with the first tractor come and to chain the kilometers in an imperial silence and all in comfort. The propulsion behavior of this big SUV is quite surprising and ultimately makes it quite endearing, for a family-oriented car. The high ground clearance even makes it possible to go off road without fear of failing miserably in the exercise. As for the braking, it is most correct, but the pedal travel is far too long and must be anticipated to achieve the desired result.

Idyllic picture? Not quite, because ID.4 has succumbed to one of the seven deadly sins: she is greedy. At the end of my test, I got an average consumption of around 21.7 kWh, with a mix of 60% fast roads / 40% small roads. But the test conditions were particularly trying for the electric powertrains with low temperature (8 ° readings), headwind and heavy downpours on the way home. These measures may need to be re-evaluated under more optimal conditions.

The theoretical range of 520 km in WLTP was much closer to 350 km in real conditions, with the "big" 77 kWh battery. Despite a 30-minute recharge at the Ionity terminal in the Baie de Somme and a "full" at 80% capacity, I saw my range visibly melt away on the way back, prompting me to adopt a driving style. as economical as possible to avoid breakdown. I finally arrived safely with another 80 km of margin, but I was not really at ease. And this is a recurring problem for all electric vehicles: the infrastructure must develop so that recharging is as easy as refueling. It is essential for the anguished by nature, of which I am a part.

Our test car with a very complete 1st Max finish was billed at € 58,950, excluding government aid of € 3,000. By way of comparison, a correctly configured Peugeot 3008 GT Puretech 180 costs around € 45,000. The difference is still there, but seems to be diminishing, not even counting the difference in use which makes it possible to seriously consider a switch to electric that is not experienced as a forced march.

To help you, Volkswagen has already planned changes to its range: a muscular ID.4 GTX (300 hp and 4-wheel drive) and an opportunistic ID.5 SUV-Coupé whose essential difference should be aesthetic. Come on, Volkswagen, one more effort on the consumption and efficiency of your batteries and we will get there!

I would like to thank Volkswagen very much for organizing this day, which is all the more complicated in the current circumstances.

Photo credits: Régis Krol

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