Mountain Wheels: Entry price drops for VW’s hard-to-get id.4 EV

A smaller battery helps bring the base price for a rear-wheel-drive Volkswagen id.4 to under $40,000, before made-in-America EV credits.
Courtesy photo

The backstory behind the creation and debut of Volkswagen’s id.4 electric vehicle, and the demise of diesel vehicles in VW’s North American fleets, is maybe better explained with a comprehensive account found at one of my other automotive outlets.

To add to that drama, this first VW EV recently had to do some shifting of points of manufacture in order to qualify for the new rules related to federal EV subsidies, which it does, if you make sure that the vehicle is assembled in Tennessee.

Oh, and you can’t buy one, anyhow — they’re all sold out, and they’re no longer taking reservations for new ones, so you’ll have to talk to a dealer to do so. It’s all enough to give you a headache.

All of this was on my mind as I had my third shot at an id.4 in several years and, unfortunately, my feelings about this lower-range, single-motor machine, a 2023 id.4 S model, priced at $45,290 before credits, are more similar to my very first outing in VW’s crossover-shaped electric car.

That is … under the right circumstances, maybe this is your lower-priced entry point into the world of EVs, though it’s rear-wheel drive and probably not quite as seasonally adept as the more expensive, two-motor, all-wheel drive variant.

Then there’s the matter of range, and charging. The EPA rating here for the 201-horsepower, 62-kilowatt-hour battery id.4 is 209 miles of range and a combined city/highway figure of 107 electronic mpg. I got the car delivered to me with about an 80-something percent charge and that figure quickly dropped to 180 miles, then very quickly to 160 miles, with no steep mountain drives involved, or planned. That’s not a lot of range.

And while owners will get extended, free half-hour fill-ups at Volkswagen’s proprietary Electrify America chargers, including the station at the Walmart in Frisco, they didn’t work for me, which was pretty much par for the course with my overall EV experience. They also make you pay extra for a home charging cord with the 2023 models.

That all put a sour note on what is otherwise a competent, attractive and comfortably-sized vehicle, especially since the fantastically bizarro id.Buzz microbus debuts this week and the larger id.7 sedan is just around the corner.

That new battery does indeed create a lower starting price for the id.4, and the vehicle has been upgraded with standard equipment including a 12-inch touchscreen display and electronic parking assist. There have also been incremental changes to design and colors, plus new wheels on the entire lineup.

The model range starts at about $39,000 for the standard model and tops out with an S Plus model; I am again suggesting that you look at the Pro models’ all-wheel drive and the 82 kilowatt-hour battery (producing 295 horsepower and offering 255 to 275 miles of range, to make life more pleasant.  

If you’d like to mix semi-autonomous driving with EV technology, the 2023 vehicles also have IQ.Drive, a hands-on system that centers the car in lane and makes long-distance trips a little easier.

The driving experience is still peculiar for first-time users and the electronic displays and systems remain somewhat alien, though they will probably start to make sense with extended use.

Like Polestar, the car comes to life (or virtually shuts off) when you plant your behind in the seat, with a whoopee-cushion controller, though there’s also an old-fashioned start/stop button hidden on the right side of the steering wheel.

The central display is a mess to deal with but reveals some utility. Still, some useful and necessary items are still four menus deep. The wallet-sized instrument panel has four display modes, but is purposefully plain, while the crank-to-go (or maybe crank-to-go-into-reverse) angular shift knob is still bewildering at best.

The 201 horsepower of this model does get the car flying, with 240 pounds of weight loss thanks to the smaller battery pack, and it has all the speed and relative silence of the EV experience. It does make a hell of a lot of artificial noise below 20 mph to warn others of its presence. Charging for the lower-power battery models can be done at 140 kilowatt-hours at a DC fast charging station, and 170 kilowatt-hours with the larger battery, with the ability to go from 10% to 80% in 30 minutes — at some charging station I’ve yet to see in real life.  

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