It sounds strange to point to a brand-new, all-electric vehicle as being a great vehicle for the drivers in this world that hate all this superfluous tech that jams into our cars these days, but I want you to hear me out. The 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 serves a niche that definitely exists, and it serves that niche well.
Full Disclosure: Volkswagen provided the ID.4 to a massive get-together for female auto journalists organised by A Girls Guide to Cars in and around the Los Angeles Auto Show. It was one of 22 vehicles, but it was one of the more sought-after ones at the event. All that being said, all opinions are my own.
My fellow Jalop, Jason Torchinsky, drove the VW ID.4 at a press event several months ago, and he wasn’t left awed by the vehicle. Not that he thought it was bad, per se, but because it didn’t leave him feeling any particular sort of way. It was just a pretty good electric vehicle.
But when I got behind the wheel — for a quick, hour-long test drive, I admit — I had a different takeaway. I fell in love with the technophobe-friendly interior that provided exactly what anyone would need from their car without going too overboard.
That’s important to me because it seems like EV makers are going one of two ways these days: They’re either creating a really lush interior that includes way too much tech, or they’re creating a super Spartan interior that includes way too much tech. The ID.4 that I drove had a comfy interior, but it wasn’t overdone, nor was it Spartan. And instead of going all-out, it gave you a handful of features that you really needed. It didn’t feature any crazy, over-the-top screens for passengers, and it didn’t have a massive digital dashboard. It was, to put it pretty simply, good.
The digital dashboard is incredibly small, and it only gives you need-to-know information, like your speed and your position in the lane — so if you’re the kind of person that likes to monitor tire pressure, navigation, music, and temperature behind the wheel, you might be disappointed. But if you’re someone who’s looking at new cars and asking why anyone needs to have this much information at their disposal, you’ll appreciate what the ID.4 has to offer.
Its touch-screen multimedia system, too, is pared back. I’ll admit that it took me a while to figure it out and it had its drawbacks; instead of featuring an obvious ‘home’ button, you tap on an empty square box on the left-hand side of the screen. You have to do a lot of your significant climate control actions through that screen. It could take a few moments to figure out how to get from one setting to the next.
But if you’re the kind of person who gets confused by all those superfluous buttons, who struggles to navigate through a ‘home’ menu that includes everything from your extremely specific, fine-tuned driver settings to two different map functions (I’m looking at you, Genesis), then you’ll probably like the ID.4. It took me under a minute to set up Android Auto, at which point I had the two things I use the multimedia system for most frequently: music and navigation.
I enjoyed the fact that the ID.4 included options for customizability, but it also offered helpful presets. For example, in the climate control menu, you could easily change specific things like temperature or location of the airflow. You could also choose a different page in that menu and tap presets like window defogging, eco-friendly air conditioning, and more.
Last week, I tested a lot of cars, and one of the group challenges we undertook was figuring out the multimedia system functions of every single vehicle. That was an exhausting process. Some automakers, like Genesis or Mercedes-Benz, offered so many features that it was difficult to keep track of them all. Others, like our lower-trim Toyota, didn’t do a whole lot of anything at all — and was still kind of difficult to figure out.
The ID.4, then, was a relief. Once I figured out where the home button was (seriously, that was the hardest part), I was set. Everything was incredibly simple, but it provided the option — usually tucked behind a different page of the same menu option, like in my climate example — to get really specific if you wanted to. It was one of the few vehicles whose multimedia systems felt versatile enough that my 15-year-old sister and my grandpa could both easily figure out. And that’s an incredibly rare thing.