Volkswagen just officially pulled the silk off of the 2021 ID4, the latest member of an all-electric lineup of cars and SUVs. VW says the new SUV, the name for which it stylizes as “ID.4,” is the company’s first long-range EV for the United States—the e-Golf was merely a baby step toward electrification. Also unlike the e-Golf, the ID4 will be the first chance U.S. customers will have to experience an entirely new exterior and interior design language from the German automaker. (Europe got a head start with the ID3 hatchback, which won’t be coming here.) If you want all the specs on the ID4, including range and charging info, you can check out our 2021 Volkswagen ID4 First Look here. But earlier this week, MotorTrend got an in-person preview of the ID4 in the metal, and it both impresses and leaves some things to be desired.
Inside, the design is fresh for VW, if a little Spartan. The ID4 isn’t a concept—we were shown a preproduction model—but it has the minimalist styling inside you’d expect of a concept car flexing a little design muscle. At first glance, it seems too minimal—”hmm, that’s it?”—but what you do get is a step in the right direction for a car that is essentially paving the way for VW’s electric future.
Volkswagen’s new infotainment system is more user-friendly than ever. Getting used to its smartphone-like user interface is a cinch. The upgraded 12.0-inch display is bright and slightly angled towards the driver to make it easier to see. It’s also snappier in most places than VW’s previous infotainment system, which could take a beat or two to register your inputs and respond accordingly.
The infotainment’s icons are easy to understand, user-friendly, and with a more intuitive menu structure for HVAC, navigation, and media controls. And while we’ll always prefer a conventional volume knob, the touch-sensitive volume slider is much more responsive than the ones maligned in past Hondas and Cadillacs. That’s good because everything is touch-sensitive. The controls for the exterior lights, cabin lighting, steering-wheel-mounted functions, and even the mirror-adjustment controls are touch-sensitive capacitive panels. That will certainly take more getting used to than the new infotainment software.
The instrument cluster, however, is a tiny digital display mounted on the steering column, so it moves as you tilt the steering wheel up and down. That seems fine on paper, but the amount of info VW tried to cram into a 5.3-inch screen makes it feel cluttered, and some of the info isn’t perfectly within the driver’s line of sight. It’s a noticeable change—and in some regards a downgrade—when compared to something like the large Digital Cockpit display offered in other VWs. Plus, the cramped display belies the genuinely impressive amount of room available in the ID4’s cabin.
Hop in and look around; you’ll find a ton of room in the passenger compartment. The VW Tiguan, a similarly sized SUV that’s VW’s best analogue to this new EV, can feel a bit cramped at times. But the lack of a high central tunnel in the ID makes the driver and passenger area feel much more spacious than the Tiguan’s, and the rear is best described as cavernous. I’m exactly six feet tall, and with the driver’s seat set to my preferred driving position, I still had about 10 extra inches of knee room to play with.
The rear seats are just as comfortable as the fronts, and the leatherette Volkswagen used to line them could easily be mistaken for real leather. There are also two USB-C ports in the back (as well as two at the front of the cabin) for charging your devices, and a handy “smartphone pocket” built into the back of the front seats. The panoramic glass roof that comes with the Statement package actually adds headroom and makes the whole cabin feel airy and light.
While the cabin’s roominess is a pleasant surprise, the heavy use of hard plastics throughout is a disappointment, even if it’s understandable given how expensive EV powertrains—and batteries in particular—remain to produce. The upper parts of the door panels—where the window switches sit and the areas near the window seam—are all hard and feel cheap. The lower portion of the dash, despite being pleasant to look at, is also obviously hard plastic. The elbow rests on all doors are nicely padded, but somehow it all feels like a step backward from many VW interiors current and past.
The Volkswagen Atlas, VW’s biggest SUV, also suffers from uninspiring plastic on the doors and dash, but in the ID4 the materials feel even less sturdy. Give the window switches a stiff tug and it feels as if they might snap right off. It is worth noting that the ID4 we were shown was a preproduction model, and might not be representative of the ID4’s final fit and finish.
However, if you can ignore the imperfect use of materials in the cabin, the ID4—with its 250 miles of range, spacious interior, and nifty new infotainment setup—is a pretty compelling package. The ID4 will be going on sale later this year, but if you’re interested in one you can put a $100 reservation down right now to ensure you’re one of the new EV’s earliest adopters. The ID4 Pro (the base model for now) starts at $39,995 before any potential federal and state incentives are applied.