By Sasha Lekach
Tesla lets you name your car (I went with the very original “Tessie” during a Model 3 loan last year), but Volkswagen’s upcoming electric compact SUV, the ID.4, lets you customize the entire feel of the car.
The ID.4 was revealed in September as VW’s first electric SUV available in the U.S. Its sold-out 1st Edition version will start rolling out in the first part of 2021. It includes a 12-inch touchscreen (instead of 10-inch in the standard, cheaper version coming out later next year), a panoramic roof, and the option of electric white accents throughout the interior. It’s $43,995, but the simpler version will start at $39,995.
On a recent media drive in Northern California, I didn’t even connect my iPhone to the infotainment system displayed on the 12-inch screen in the 1st Edition pre-production prototype. But it still felt like I was in my own quiet, electric bubble thanks to easy-to-customize screen settings and ambient lighting.
It may seem superficial, but the feel of the car screens really sets the vibe for a modern driving experience. With a mini 5.3-inch screen behind the steering wheel offering all pertinent driving information (including battery charge levels up to 250 miles), the center console is there to enhance your ride.
You can select from preset colors or “moods,” like red for “euphoria” or teal for “eternity.” Or you can mix your own colors to create your own mood. It’s just ambient lighting that isn’t too noticeable during the day, but it did make a difference having a bright red energizing the space compared to a chiller blue.
The Tesla experience in a Model Y (and the smaller Model 3) is very stark and a bit cold with the giant screen and nothing else. While the ID.4 is just as spacious as a Tesla, it felt more welcoming. With cute “play” and “pause” symbols on the gas and brake pedals, and both the screen and side and front panels lit up to your color selection, it’s a lot more playful. In a few taps of the screen I could create my own little world, even for a 45-minute drive.
You can also choose what to display on the screen, like the audio source, or charge levels, or a “home” screen with a map and a graphic representation of the road and cars around you, and you can move around buttons and split-screens. In that way it feels like rearranging your cellphone home screen to your liking. In most cars, you hop in, connect your phone, and use whatever presets are, well, set for you on the screen.
Then there’s the “Hello ID” voice recognition system. While talking to your car is nothing new, this was the first time it didn’t feel like I was talking to a car-size version of Siri. Instead of “Set the heat to 70 degrees” or something similarly specific, I could just say, “I’m feeling chilly.” It was very colloquial yet functional. I wasn’t screaming demands at a giant Alexa device, but almost having a conversation with a helpful passenger.
The ID.4 was also fun and easy to drive. Like a good electric vehicle, it was smooth, quiet, and I even regenerated some battery charge on downhills and while braking, but it’s the interior features that really make it stand out.