Volkswagen’s timing couldn’t have been better.
On the very day – Wednesday – that the Government of Canada promised billions of dollars of investment in the electrification of automobiles, and California announced that no new cars powered by gasoline will be sold there by 2035, Volkswagen Canada unveiled plans for the Volkswagen ID.4, the company’s first fully electric compact SUV.
Two things of note: the vehicle will have a range of more than 400 kilometres and although Canadian pricing is unavailable – the ID.4 won’t go on sale in Canada till mid-2021 – company officials said the sum will be more than competitive. That’s code for, “This is a production-ready prototype that still might be tweaked so we don’t know how much it will cost, for sure.”
Anyway, talk to just about anybody these days about Volkswagen and they will still bring up the 2015 investigation known as “Dieselgate,” in which the company was found to be cooking the books on emissions. Software had been installed in VWs to make it appear as if its “clean-burning” cars were passing clean-air tests when, in fact, they weren’t.
That disaster cost the company about $35 billion. That’s billion with a “b”. To stop the ship from sinking, Volkswagen embarked on a relaunch that will see it spend just about as much (more than $30 billion and counting) on 30 or so electric vehicles that will be rolled out world-wide through 2025.
The ID.4 is Volkswagen’s way of telling civilization that it has learned its lesson and is plunging headlong into the planet’s largest market segment with a fully electric entry generating zero emissions. On top of everything else, its manufacturing method will be carbon-neutral.
So let’s talk about the car. First, it’s a good-looker. It’s 4.5 metres long, is low to the ground, has big wheels as well as small overhangs at both ends that make the interior nice and large and comfy. And it offers flexibility, meaning it can be driven like a sports car or a family sedan and be satisfying either way.
It has rear-wheel and all-wheel drive models (there will be a small reduction in range on the AWD one) and two trims, Standard and Statement.
The battery – it’s flat and on the bottom, giving the car a low centre of gravity – stores up to 77 kWh of energy that can deliver more than that-promised 400 kms of range. The electric drive motor, which is connected to the rear axle, puts out 150 kW, which means it generates 201 hp and can go from 0 to 100 km/h in 8.5 seconds with a top speed of 160 km/h.
Inside, which is what really counts, there are a couple of interesting features. For instance, a heat pump will keep the battery toasty warm (we live in a northern climate, after all), and the steering wheel and seats – the whole inside, actually – can be pre-heated.
A small light bar stretches out along the bottom of the windshield and flashes left or right when the navigation system signals a turn is upcoming. It will also tell you how much juice is left in the battery and whether you are about to crash (it turns red when the frontal warning system says to stop).
And the dash features a small digital driver’s display behind the steering wheel – speed, fluid temperatures and so-on – as well as a horizontally mounted infotainment screen to the right of the wheel (I like this; you don’t really have to take your eyes off the road) where you will find the navigation, radio stations, etc. There’s 858 litres of cargo space and that increases to 1,818 litres with the back seats down.
The rest of the now-usual safety features are either on, or available on, the ID.4 plus perks such as wireless smartphone chargers and the like. Here’s something to chew on: unlike many current SUVs, this one can tow, and has a 2,700-pound tow rating.
“You’ve heard our tagline, ‘Electric for the millions, not just the millionaires’,” said VW Canada President Pierre Boutin. “Compact SUVs make up the biggest segment in the Canadian market, so we’re very happy to start our electric future here.”
So, to close, here’s some really good news: Canadian ID.4 customers will get free charging at all Electrify Canada stations for at least two years. And a fast charge means you can go from 5 per cent to 80 per cent capacity in just under 40 minutes. Just enough time to plug in, stretch your legs, use the facilities and buy and drink a coffee.
The ID.4 deserves a look – once it gets here, of course, and there’s a price tag in the window.