Volkswagen isn’t the manufacturer of the wacky and comically complex cars that it used to be. It was known for cramming silly engines in everything and its obsession with diesel, but now it makes a long line of normal, boring family cars. The Volkswagen ID.4, despite being a novel vehicle, is a product of normal, safe VW. That’s changing a bit with the ID.4 AWD.
Volkswagen decided to add some spice to its electric SUV in the form of a second motor, and in doing so made a vehicle that is a reminder of what the marque used to be like.
(Full disclosure: Volkswagen invited me out to Chattanooga, Tennessee, to play with the 2021 ID.4 AWD in the mountains and tour the ID.4's factory. It paid for my airfare on an adorable CRJ200 and put me in a quirky hotel with lots of spicy margaritas.)
The Volkswagen ID.4 AWD is the same ID.4 as before, but given a healthy kick of power. Really, it has the same familiar interior and the same familiar body. The only way you’ll know an ID.4 is AWD is by spotting a tiny badge on either side of the car.
It retains the original 201 horsepower, 228 lb-ft torque electric motor in back. But now there’s a second motor up front. The front motor adds 107 HP and 119 lb-ft. Together, both motors have a max output of 295 HP and 339 lb-ft torque.
Much of the rest of its parts remain unchanged from the RWD model, including the 77 usable kWh battery pack. It does lose some range powering two motors, so this model is good for up to 249 miles on a charge with the Pro trim or up to 240 miles with the Pro S (Statement).
The extra power slices its 0-60 mph time down by two seconds to 5.4 seconds. That’s a smidge slower than what VW thinks is its competition with the 5.2 second time of the Ford Mustang Mach-E Select AWD and the 4.8 second time of the Tesla Model Y Long Range.
It has a remarkably tight turning circle at 36.4 feet compared to the 33.6 feet of the RWD model. That’s still sharper than the competition—the Tesla Model Y has a 39.8-foot turning circle and the Ford Mustang Mach-E’s is 38.1-ft.
The extra power also means that ID.4 AWD also has a decent tow rating. It can pull 2,700 pounds. No, it’s not going to haul your kei cars home from port, but it’s enough to haul some motorcycles, ATVs or snowmobiles.
An Extra Motor Makes A Difference
I rounded a highway on-ramp and stomped my shoe on the play button of the accelerator pedal. The 201 HP rear motor and its 107 HP front companion surged into action, pushing the SUV onto the freeway with power that pulls your cheeks back and plants your head on the headrest.
That acceleration is good even at highway speeds. Gone are those situations where some car is blocking your merging path. Choose any car and any gap and the SUV can shoot into it. It pulls harder than the outrageous Touareg V10 TDI and does it without a terrifying diesel engine.
The ID.4 AWD isn’t just about speed and I got to see how it handles climbing Tennessee’s Signal Mountain.
The two axles and their motors aren’t connected like they would be in a traditional AWD ICE vehicle. Instead, they spin their wheels independently through their own differentials and single-speed gearboxes.
In normal driving conditions, the front wheels are really only steering until the car determines the front motor is needed. The power transition is pretty seamless and if you run it in Sport mode, then the front motor is always lending a helping hand.
I was delighted to find the SUV hugs corners better than you’d expect an SUV to. Some of it is the vehicle’s brake-based torque vectoring at work trying to keep it glued to the road. The instant power of the two motors make you want to push it harder and maybe take the next corner a little faster.
But you never quite forget that the ID.4 AWD’s 4,888-pound weight in those curves. You mass shift when you push it through corners.
If you drive it past the edge and break traction in a turn, the front end begins to plow forward with understeer. Amusingly, the ID.4 AWD’s traction control system doesn’t completely stop you from hooning the SUV, so you can put the pedal down harder and make the front motor pull the tires through kicking and screaming.
I quite enjoyed weaving through the mountain roads. The ID.4 AWD‘s chassis and motive power make you feel confident enough to drive like a hooligan.
I also took the ID.4 AWD onto loose gravel and found that the front motor does a good job at keeping the vehicle pointed in the direction that I wanted it to go. Volkswagen says it made the AWD version in part for these low-traction situations. I bet it will handle snowy conditions just fine, too. And if you really get stuck somewhere, the ID.4 AWD has a Traction driving mode that engages both motors together at speeds of up to 12 mph.
Compared to the RWD model, the ID.4 AWD sits a mere 0.6 inches higher. You really won’t notice the difference in height between the two.
Using the accelerator like an on/off switch came with a steep range penalty. I started the drive with a full battery and after about 160 miles it estimated a remaining range of 35 miles.
Volkswagen Can Still Be Fun
The Volkswagen that produced this ID.4 AWD isn’t the same Volkswagen that offered a silly number of engines for the Passat, or produced the Phaeton. The days of weird galaxy brain engineering choices made “just because” are over and its ever expanding line of SUVs are generally normal. The RWD ID.4 is among those SUVs, not really providing much in the way of excitement.
The AWD version is a reminder that Volkswagen hasn’t completely lost that sense of fun. It’s not silly like a Volkswagen of the mid-2000s, but it’s not all serious and boring, either.
Some traits of the old wild Volkswagen can be found in the ID.4.
There’s no real startup procedure for the EV. You hop in and press the brake pedal to wake it up, then rotate the shift dial to go. There are no start buttons to push or no keys to insert. You just get in and go.
Our Jason Torchinsky noted the hopelessly laggy infotainment system’s performance issues in his review of the RWD version. I hoped that the system would maybe have been updated, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Getting around the system can be difficult if you’re not technically inclined, and so many of the car’s functions are controlled by the screen. It seems like VW threw things in random places with vague menus and you never really know where anything is. UI navigation should be immediately familiar like an Android or iPhone and I’m not sure what’s going on with that lag. That Boss aftermarket headunit that I tested earlier this year is smoother.
One of our other complaints about the RWD ID.4 was the lack of a frunk. EVs can benefit from having extra storage space because they don’t have a bulky engine up front.
However, the ID.4 AWD, like its RWD sibling, doesn’t give you any up front storage. In exchange for not having a frunk you do get a short and stubby hood, at least.
The ID.4 AWD is not quite Piëch-era levels of bonkers, but it shows that Volkswagen hasn’t totally put on a business suit and gotten serious, either. It’s not so fast that you’re going to brag about it to your friends, but it’s enough to make you smile. It’s a nice blend of family crossover that does what you need it to but with a punch for some fun after a long workday or to taking the jet skis down to the lake.
The simple addition of an additional motor puts the ID.4 AWD right in the middle of tough EV competition. The EV comes in at $43,695 for the ID.4 AWD Pro. Spring $48,175 for ID.4 Pro S and you get stuff like an illuminated light bar, ambient interior lighting and a glass panoramic roof. Throw another $1,500 in for the Gradient Package and you get a black roof, silver accents and 20-inch wheels.
That’s a lower price than the $45,595 Mach-E Select AWD and the $53,990 Model Y Long Range, making it the least expensive AWD EV on the market. As an added incentive, Volkswagen throws three years of free DC fast charging by VW’s Electrify America.
Customers are expected to get their ID.4 AWDs beginning early next year.
Torchinsky ended his review by saying that Volkswagen needed to finish the job it started with the RWD ID.4. It didn’t drop the price or add any weird gimmicks, instead it gave the SUV a shot of adrenaline, and that might be just what it needs to be a mass-market winner.