Car talk

Thoughts on Millennium Falcon’s First 3 Months

After 3 months at Dismal Manor, my ID.4 has shown enough personality for a naming. I christen thee Millennium Falcon. That’s a storied name with big boots to fill.

Featured image by the author. Vehicle display images by the author.

Why Millennium Falcon? Well like the Falcon, the ID.4 is sort of big, sort of fast, and sort of nimble. But only sort of. There is no mistaking it for a 3-Series or S4 Avant. It is still a bit of a sled. With a bit of personality like the Falcon.


Repeat after me, “VW North America is not Tesla, VW North America is not Tesla, VW North America is not Tesla…” VW North America does not get it. I came to the ID.4 reservation website with the expectation that the new car order would be a web purchase with local dealer delivery free of haggling and price games.

In practice, the VW North America website was a referral front end for the VW North America dealers who are free to offer a last-century purchase experience. I didn’t vette the dealer before hand and was sadly disappointed. I gave them the order following a favorable collision service experience a few years before.

This large multi-franchise dealership features the following in its purchase experience.

  • High pressure sales of worthless add-ons.
  • Dealer packs pre-installed on the vehicle. Or not as the items described were likely fraudulent goods. (Component ID tracking and gone missing tracking). Very sketch and obviously so.
  • Opaque process and pricing
  • Excessive (1.5 times median) DMV processing fees relative to Virginia norms
  • Sales staff not even pretending to be busy, just shooting the shit while waiting for prospects to appear, this near month end and year end when they should have been hustle.
  • Bull shit was baffling. Couldn’t get from the sticker to an offering price in a transparent way. Generally sucked. Sales manager was engaging in deliberate and obvious obfuscation.
  • Dealership now on Dismal Manor’s off-limits list. Military readers will recognize that term. Dishonest local businesses are on this list.

Anyway, vette the dealers before-hand. Meet the sales folks. Get them to tell you about the vehicle. That’s about all they can do since most don’t have a demo vehicle on the lot. If you see any red flags, keep looking. If you see anything in Yelp, especially an absence of comments in Yelp, keep looking for a dealer. People generally write about good experiences in Yelp so an absence of reviews is a potential red flag. Same with FaceBook and Google reviews. No news is bad news.

Great Car, Wanting HMI

The ID.4 is a great automobile. It is easily the most comfortable of those I’ve owned and the easiest to drive. After 3 months and 900 miles of around town, I really like the way it moves. It is smooth on throttle, the brakes are settled in as we approach 1000 miles, and I’m adjusted to the brake off throttle behavior of B-Mode driving.

Pleasant to Drive

The only real give-away that the car is electric is that it is quiet and smooth in acceleration. The car builds speed quickly yet quietly and can be a bit of a challenge to drive by sound as there’s just tire noise and a little wind noise at higher speeds. VW has made the ID.4 structure really quiet and rattle free. You really have to keep your scan up from mirrors to view ahead, to driving binnacle readings.


The ID.4 has a typical SUV view of the hood when you first board. Cuing of vehicle corners requires raising the driver seat, setting the seat upright, and adjusting seat bottom tilt for proper leg support. Once adjusted, you have a good view forward and can keep the car in a tight lane.

This car has thick B-pillars. Roof pillars are A, B, C, … from front to back. Because the top is glass on this variant, the roof supports are beefy. With my proportions, I usually end up with the driver seat and B pillar aligned. The ID.4 was no exception. Visibility to the left is poor. Fortunately, the mirrors and adjacent lane assist functions make lane changes easy to manage. Lights built into the mirror bodies warn of overtaking vehicles and vehicles in formation along side.

Side mirrors are big and pretty much tell the story. Inside rear mirror is less useful as the rear window is high and distant. Field of view is small and high. Side mirrors have a good view aft and into the lane behind the vehicle. Rear view cameras are very good at identifying overtaking vehicles and alerting you to them. I have yet to experience a false negative where the blind spot monitoring missed something. Occasionally, it will give a false positive but these are rare. A direct access button bar button lets you activate the rear view underway to see back aft, maybe. Not tried this but it is the left button on the bar, one of the two you can find without looking.

The center mirror view aft feels like looking down a well. The vehicle structure and interior fittings frame a small view port aft that will alert you to close followers. Because of the frame’s size and shape, distance in trail cuing is different than on earlier vehicles. But you can keep a scan of the mirrors up to maintain awareness of potential problems resulting from a hard stop.

What’s this D and B stuff

The “gear selector” lets you pick reverse, neutral, park, D, and B. Delta closely approximates driving a recent vintage automatic transmission vehicle. The car will slow gradually coming off throttle to idle speed in the current gear. In D mode, you must apply the brakes to slow the vehicle appreciably.

Bravo mode approximates a traditional manual transmission and carburator engine experience. Lifting off the throttle causes torque to drop and reverse to produce an emulated engine braking experience. It very much approximates the GTI DSG gearbox experience without the sound effects and gear switches. In the Mk 7 GTI, gentle brake pressure initiated engine braking. In the ID.4 B-mode, lifting off throttle initiates slowing.

In both modes, initial braking is by aft traction motor mechanical energy absorption. When regeneration is happening, a green bar in the driver’s binnacle will show the rate of energy recovery happening. When the car is accelerating, a blue bar will show the percent of available instantaneous power being used. Available peak power is limited by battery state of charge and temperature. Available power is robust and more than adequate for daily driving.

As brake demand is increased, the brake hydraulics begins front braking and transitions the rear to a mix of hydraulic and motor braking. The B mode braking works well enough that most around-town driving can be done with just the throttle using the brake for a complete stop and to stay put. Without the brake applied, the car will creep like a regular slush box vehicle or a VW DSG vehicle. But more smoothly with precise control as there is no engine idle to maintain or clutch to feather.

How Much Regeneration?

Whenever the ID.4 is slowing, energy recuperation is happening. In D-mode, the service brake pedal initiates regeneration. In B-mode, lifting throttle initiates regeneration. Up to 1/8 G deceleration, all slowing is the result of energy recovery. Beyond 1/8 G, the service brakes are scrubbing off some mechanical energy as heat.

The rate of deceleration determines the rate of energy recovery. The total speed change determines the amount of energy recovered. The energy recovered is proportional to the difference of the squares of the initial speed and final speed. A 1/8 G deceleration will recover minimally more energy than a 1/16 G deceleration lasting twice as long. The gentler deceleration rate allows more rolling resistance and drag losses than would be the case at 1/8 G.

Select ID’s Personality

I mostly use the Comfort maps. Choices are Eco, Comfort, Sport, Traction, and You Set Em (Custom). The choices are qualitative, usually Eco, Comfort, or Sport — the values from the stock maps are copied over into the Custom Map. There appears to be only one Custom map. Sorry partner/spouse.

The modes don’t feel dramatically different but sport mode brings on the torque a bit faster and the steering is a bit more. Maybe a bit less lane keep assist.

  • Eco mode is for the stingy. A gentler throttle map and off-throttle coast to braking transitions.
  • Comfort mode is designed for general use. This map is best for urban stop and go.
  • Sport offers a more aggressive throttle map. Power comes on more quickly with pedal movement and braking is crisper. Steering feel is a bit stiffer (less boost).
  • Traction mode operates the front motor on all launches and continues front power up to about 15 MPH or 25 KPH. It is intended for use in loose materials like sand and snow. and on dusty dirt roads.
  • In the Comfort, Sport, and Eco modes, hard launches invoke front motor activity. VW has done this in a way that involvement of the front motor is imperceptible. At least on dry surfaces, there is no wheel slip, torque steer, or other Ford Taurus SHO style drama. The car is just quicker.
  • The torque curve is not peaky. Being electric, you could emulate a 1975 Honda Civics’s peaky torque delivery but VW doesn’t Torque builds smoothly with throttle position and the car pulls smoothly without boy-racer cheap thrills. The result is that the car is quicker than it feels. No drama, slow car. Drama, fast car was what the big naturally aspirated V-8s of yore taught uss.

Driver Assists

I use Driver Assist around town. Lane Assist tracks where the car is in the travel lane and will keep the vehicle in lane for you. It also senses forward vehicles and will give an indication that you are following at a decent interval. If the vehicle up front stops unexpectedly, it will cue you and may perform an emergency stop. In general, it works well as set up by the VW vehicle dynamics boffins but there are some tuning options so you turn off the automatic guidance or enable a yoke shaker.

Lane Assist

Lane assist keeps you between the ditches. Cameras pick out the road edges, usually using the paint strips as guides. If the machine vision is confident it has an edge, it is shown as a solid line. If less confident, the edge appears as a dashed line. If lane keeping is active, the lines are green, otherwise white. The front cameras and radar will pick up the first vehicle forward and show the range to it. A line across the road image shows minimum recommended distance in trail. If the vehicle is farther away, it will be drawn in perspective away from the line. If the vehicle box is encroaching on the line, you should back off. The rendering differentiates between motorcycles, passenger vehicles, and lorries (trucks).

Adaptive Cruise Control

Adaptive cruise control is impressive. With the electric drive, it holds speed down into the weeds. And if you are in a conga line of traffic, it will keep you at a safe distance. If the conga line slows, it will reduce speed with the vehicles in front to preserve interval. VW has done this feature very well. It works great on neighborhood through streets which can be windy and busy. If traffic speeds up, the ID.4 will increase speed up to the set value.

Speed Advice

ID.4 can read road speed signs in use in all regions where the vehicle is offered. It can be set to alert when vehicle speed exceeds posted speed by one of 2 available thresholds. I have found this less useful in the US where posted speeds are often considered a suggestion. Safe operation often requires exceeding posted limits to flow with traffic.

A Digression on Speed Limit Setting

Only light speed is the law! Highway engineer friends advise that speeds are properly set based on road curvature, sight line length, proper banking, traffic density, etc. Physically safe speeds are usually higher than speeds set based on the road’s surroundings. In my neighborhood, posted speeds are sometimes about right, sometimes too slow, and sometimes too fast. Areas of dense commercial driveway connection are usually posted for faster speeds than driven and residential lanes are often driven at faster speeds than posted. I

HMI Issues

ID.4’s Human Machine Interface (HMI) suffers from some fundamental design mistakes. The worst mistakes were made in deciding what physical controls to provide and how to provide them. These mistakes are more annoyances than serious flaws as most controls are infrequently used.

The consequences of these poor choices are that almost no controls in the center stack can be operated by reach alone. VW was formerly very good about this. Everything important needed in a voyage could be operated solely by direct reach.

The bottom button bar of the center binnacle is a good example. Where physical controls are present, they are capacitive touch controls without tactile differentiation from the surrounding surface and adjacent controls. The controls in this row lack back lights so can’t be seen when the cabin is dark like in a tunnel. Fortunately, these are seldom operated. But a dog riding shotgun can operate them. Boop.

The custom mode display and center binnacle

A slider bar appears above the bottom button bar. Again, not lighted. The blue and red things tweak the cabin temperature up and down when tapped. Tapping both adjusts the heated set setting to high, medium, low, or off. There is no short cut for the heated wheel. The center control is a slider used to turn radio volume up and down.

A closer look at the button bar and slider bar

Did ID Know it Was Summer Time?

No time zone summer time rules are not baked in but there is a summer time check box that adjusts the time ahead one hour over zone base time. Easy to find in car settings.

Lighting Controls and Wiper Controls

VW has been very good about providing physical controls for the driving lights, windscreen wipers, drive, and driver assistive controls. Column mounted levers control the wipers, turn signals, dim driving lights, etc. The light control cluster located where the rotary light switch was formerly placed includes buttons for the front and rear window clearing, driving lights, and fog lights. A single button steps through the lighting modes. Since the lights are automated and the automation is well behaved, these controls are largely set and forget. But like the center stack controls, you have to look at them to operate them. Cant be done by touch. Lights can be put in auto or manual dimming and the turn stalk controls high beams and driving light flashing. Flash to pass alerting functions in all light modes. No need to go into the HMI buttons for these tasks.

Driver Assist Controls

The driver assist controls on the left spoke of the wheel are a mix of click controls and swipe controls. Click controls start and stop the assistive functions and set cruise control speed, resume speed, and increment/decrement speed. A swipe control puts cruise control in adaptive or traditional mode.

Phone and Audio Controls

The phone and audio controls are on the right spoke of the ID.4 wheel. Left and right click controls raise and lower radio volume. The phone hook switch controls are also here to answer and end calls. Another button starts ID listening for spoken direction. He can do some things but the grammar is not well described. A few syntax diagrams would help. “ID show commands”

Center Binnacle Oversights

The image below shows the center binnacle. The top shows the touch screen. Below the touch screen are two rows of touch controls, a set of sliders and a set of 5 buttons. The center of the button bar holds the flashers button. It is a capacitive touch control, not switches like in the MIB-2 cars. Four touch buttons flank the flasher switch. These select the top menu, the climate menu, the mode menu, and the assists menu.

Center Binnacle

Most notably, the physical controls for window defogging flank the driving light controls. Two buttons start front and rear defogging devices. On US AWD cars, defogging at both ends is by heating film internal to the glass. They function quickly and well without foggy boarders or visible traces.

Driver’s Binnacle

The driving binnacle shows vehicle speed, driving assist settings, lane markings, distance in trail, local speed data, and next turn and distance to the turn. I’ve found the driving binnacle easy and intuitive to use. This binnacle also shows the energy remaining in miles of travel, energy recovery while braking, and energy use as a fraction of available peak power. It is simple and easily discovered through use.

About Those Window Controls

YouTube reviewers like to hold court on the VW window controls, that they are only 2 that must be switched from front to back. In practice, I’ve not found this to be an issue unless I needed to lower a window to chat. In the ID.4, Mr. Helmholtz rumbles mightily when windows are down above 25 MPH or 40 KPH. I’ve not experimented to see if there is a usable window configuration for a pleasant spring day drive. Each car model has a different shape and a different workable open windows configuration. Some just don’t like for their windows to be open in any configuration beyond a smoker’s vent.

Side Mirror Controls

I found setting the side mirrors controls more annoying than the window lift controls. I kept trying to make them work like the switches in my Audi A4 Avant or Mk 7 GTI but that was so last century. The new knob interrupts and the controller tracks interrupts. Turn right one click to set the left mirror, right once more to none, right once more to set the right window, and right too much to fold them in. And right some more to fold them out, and right some more to go around again. Weird. Anyway, one and done as car will save and recall for you along with seat positions once set.

Display Organization and Function Identification

VW has consistently made grouping and function identification mistakes, probably from working in a different first language than mine. They’ve succeeded in bringing that Japanese copier control experience to German autos. Guess what this cute symbol does.

For all it is maligned, the infotainment controls are seldom used while driving. With music in USB storage, there is no radio fiddling. I usually pick and artist and album and let it roll. Mostly hard bop jazz. Navigation is set up at voyage start and left alone. Climate control is largely automatic so does not require constant attention on a voyage other than to initiate window defogging.

Display Organization

In my work career, I was involved in the development of Combustion Engineering’s controls for its advanced control room offering. In this project, CE was trying to reduce the physical clutter of the nuclear power generating station control room and to organize all of the displays into task oriented sets of views and controls. So a task set was used to organize the displays. And working with licensed reactor operator-instructors, we went through the display sets to ensure that there was sufficient information for each evolution and task available using 2 displays at the operator’s work station.

We organized the display set into a ring of trees. We could page directly to any display by entering its page number, we could move up and down the tree using the up and down arrows, and we could retrace our steps back up a path we had gone down. We could move left and right to the adjacent tree to see information about related systems. Getting around was easy. A button on the key pad showed the control display for each component appearing on the current display.

What made it work well was that it was plant system structure and plant task oriented and it was easy to move from working with multiple systems to working with single systems to working with a system component and to find your way back.

ID Display Organization

That yellow square takes you to the “Hollywood Squares” display. Each display set has a tile on the squares display. Here, I have selected the Vehicle tile which opens the vehicle status displays. To the left of the display, a button bar shows time, exterior temperature, phone service status, the back/top button, and climate control shortcut.

The next button bar shows the sub-displays of the current display. The Vehicle status display has a Charging view, Locations view, Vehicle View, Vehicle Info view, and trip/energy view. VW seems somewhat non-English in the ordering and grouping of things in these views. For example, the Charging view shows info for the battery charge under way. If not charging the battery, it is not needed. The Location display is about battery charger locations and charging preferences for that location. The vehicle’s GPS location selects the active item. You cannot have 2 items for a location. One location, one strategy only, please. This display seems ill conceived to this former submarine Electrical Officer.

The Vehicle display group lets you worry about the locks, the mirrors, the interior lighting setup, etc. The Status display showing shows the vehicle odometer, tire pressure OK, and other stuff.

Vehicle Related Displays

The Driving Data display shows the trip mileage since today’s first start, summary data since birth, and summary data since the most recent charge. I’m not sure there is an old fashioned trip odometer to be used as desired by the driver.

Organizing Paradigm?

I’ve been unable to identify an organizing paradigm for the VW display set. At times, it is task oriented (navigating, adjusting system settings, etc), at other times, it appears oriented around a part of the car and the things located in that part, eg. outside, mirrors, locking, etc.

Aside from the voyage displays on the driver’s binnacle, there are no monitoring displays for car systems. The automation largely takes care of car systems but only alerts are available to indicate a problem but not how bad or how quickly the situation is deteriorating. Immediate actions are to stop and call your dealer. There are no alert logs to review once ID has decided it is time to get out and walk. VW controls software keeps good logs behind the scenes but there is no operator’s view of them. A VW test set (VAGCOMM) is needed for a technician to review them.

By davehamby

A modern Merlin, hell bent for glory, he shot the works and nothing worked.