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Car talk

Hurry Up and Wait but finally, It’s Here

The VW ID.4 is here and its part mine and part the bank’s. It is easily the nicest car I’ve owned and driven. VW got most everything right for an easy ICE to BEV transition. Yet the car is nicely kitted out and engaging to drive

It took the new Das Auto about 10 weeks to cross the ocean. There was a wait for a slip to load up, a two week transit, and a wait for a slip to unload in Baltimore. Then more waiting for an auto transporter and haulage to the local marshaling point and delivery to the dealer.

I screwed up

Two years ago, a local VW dealer mended the MK 7 GTI expertly, properly, and gremlin free. Feeling sympathetic I ignored the one negative Yelp review and placed my order through them. What should have been an hour to review the invoice, add any from stock accessories, and do the motor vehicle registration and loan paperwork turned into a nightmare of bullshit invoices and other shady practices that met the letter of Virgina’s weak consumer protection laws. Dealer dropped the brass ring. Dealer lost my service business.

VW is selling every ID.4 it can make and ship without dealer assistance. People wanting the car are ordering unseen without a test drive, and without sales assistance. The dealer is literally removing the packing material, performing some VW required and compensated pre-sales inspections like topping off the traction battery, load testing the traction battery, etc. The dealer is also taking the customer’s payment and paying VW. VW’s dealer envoice has a hardwired 10 percent gross margin for the dealer. If he were selling from inventory, he’d be financing stock. ID.4’s never go into inventory They are delivered and VW paid from settlement proceeds. It is on the dealer’s lot for, at most, 5 days and more like 2 if received before mid-week. The ordering customer takes delivery the day the vehicle is ready for delivery. And nobody turns one down.

First Impressions of Hey, ID.

Entry and egress is easy. The vehicle wakes as the key approaches and enters standby. The door locks and unlocks electrically. Place your foot on the brake pedal and the automatic climate control, lighting, and infotainment goes to work. Should the key battery run down, a regular mechanical key can be used to enter the vehicle. An RFID tag in the key allows near-field sensing of the key to operate the vehicle until the key battery is replaced.

The ID.4 interior (I have the gray synthetic leather interior) is comfortable and nicely appointed. Seats have power adjustment of bottom angle, back angle, fore and aft position. And maybe up and down.

Seat position is important to driving comfort but also to vehicle first impressions as I learned while shopping for the GTI. It is important to position your eye high enough to see the fender edges and hood edge. Failure to do this makes driving in tight spaces feel very claustrophobic. Failure to raise my height of eye test driving an Audi Q3 took that vehicle off of my short list.

Lighting is LED and completely automatic. Controls are simple and intuitive. There are traditional controls for lights, wipers, etc. The touch screen is needed only for initial setup of the vehicle, navigation, and infotainment.

Tech, Apple Car Play and Android Auto

They’re there. They work once a cell phone is paired. Turn car Bluetooth on, open phone Bluetooth menu and pair phone and car. A six digit code on the car display confirms that you are pairing with the correct vehicle out of all those around you than may have heard the pairing request. A curated subset of Apple iPhone goodness is available. At this point, Car Play is well known.

The ID.4 has a wireless charger for one cell phone forward, several USB C connectors, and there may be places for SD-Card media. I’ve not looked yet. There are also USB C ports for the passengers. I don’t recall any in the Way Back.

Bravo Zulu on the Backup Aids

VW has significantly refined the backup camera. It now has bendy path lines in addition to the directly astern reference lines. This makes backing into a parking spot much easier than with the older Mk 7 GTI backup display.

The sonar is improved. It is better at discriminating between objects at risk and nearby objects not in the path of movement. The audio cuing is better. The range to contact display is improved and does not obscure the visual display astern.

Lane Change Aids

The US still requires mirrors and forbids use of video cameras in lieu of mirrors. So we don’t get the nice displays of what is along side the vehicle. Instead, we get yellow caution lights set in the mirror housings that alert us to the possible presence of a vehicle in the rear quarter blind spots. These are nice and easily learned.

Driver Assist

I’ve not really tried the lane keeper. It would not activate during heavy night time stop and go returning home from the dealer’s shop.

Gee Officer, I thought the limit was 45 …

That won’t work any more. The nav system shows you the speed limit for the road segment you are driving, accurate to the second.

Mundane Matters

There is no spare or jack. Call roadside assistance. VW provides 3 years of roadside assistance.

There is no storage under the bonnet. Just mechanical bits. Steering is electric. Brakes are electro-hydraulic. The brake booster is electrical rather than a standard vacuum power brake assist. Traction control, stability, etc appear to use the traction motors and brakes. I didn’t see an anti-lock brake manifold under there.

Air conditioning on US vehicles uses R1234YF refrigerant developed by DuPont and Honeywell. Other jurisdictions use CO2 refrigerant. US heat is electric resistance and maybe heat reclaimed from the battery. The air conditioning condenser and fan are up front as is the cooler for the battery and drive. Washer fluid, brake fluid, etc are easily located and checked.

Two Batteries and either can make you walk.

The traction battery is obvious and under foot. But under the bonnet lives a second battery whose job is to run the lights, wipers, defoggers, traction motor controllers, radio, Car-Net and infotainment, etc. Oh, and let you in and out of the vehicle.

This battery can go flat while the vehicle is idle for extended periods (several weeks). The traction battery charging system charges both the auxiliary battery and the traction battery. Between traction battery charges, the auxiliary battery is on a trickle discharge. But one vehicle (Tesla Model S) would not charge the auxiliary battery between traction battery charges even though connected to the house EVSE electrical supply. So James May, headed to the shops one afternoon, found his Tesla Model S sitting inert in his garage. Access to the auxiliary battery is trivial on the ID.4 but not on the Tesla Model S where it was located under hard to remove trim panels.

How ID.4 Moves

The ID.4 feels like a big Golf to drive. That’s a good thing. Body roll and suspension damping are excellent. Dampers adjust, something not on the old M7 GTI SE. The car is not floaty. It feels planted and confident in pitch and roll. The low position of the traction battery mass helps here.

Going and Stopping

The AWD ID.4 moves nicely. It is smooth. It is perhaps the nicest car to drive of any I have owned. Without a peak in the torque curve, it is faster than it feels. It just pulls until the limiter at about 90 MPH or 150 KPH.

Throttle tip in to roll-off and modulation at speed is smooth and easily learned. The car is quiet. There’s no exhaust note to cue you to engine speed or engine level of effort so it is easy to be going faster than intended.

Off throttle coast is nice. I recommend driving in D around town and B for stop and go like a tunnel backup or coal train backup.

Brakes are more family car like than in the GTI. The GTI dual clutch sequential transmission down-shifted with rev matching to provide robust engine braking. So pedal effort was light. The ID.4 has a longer travel, softer feel, but still seems linear in effect and braking follows effort nicely.

The traction motors perform regenerative braking during gentle stops below 0.25G deceleration. Above that, the mechanical brakes blend in. This is not really noticeable. The vehicle controls do it nicely and transparently.

The ID.4 is not a “one-pedal driving” car. One pedal driving is a calibration of the traction controls that brings the vehicle to a complete stop and holds it with no throttle input and no brake input. The ID.4 will slow to a creep but needs brake input to stop and hold.

I found it easy to drive using D-mode in the stop and go traffic of Military Highway after work while bringing the vehicle home. Attention was needed to speed as the vehicle is quiet, maybe too quiet to drive by sound initially. Tire noise dominates the soundscape with the radio off or down.

Windy Road Motoring

Steering is nicely weighted. Turning radius is comparable with the GTI, maybe a bit bigger in the AWD but easy to make U-turns where required by a divided boulevard. Steering is nicely weighted and ratio nicely chosen. Body lean and roll is very well controlled. The vehicle is pleasant to drive and should be engaging in the hills and sweeping turns of the Piedmont. Travel here in the coastal plain is pretty boring and quite congested.