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2021 Volkswagen ID.4 AWD Quick Spin: Are We There Yet?

volkswagen-id4-awd-pro-s-2021-02-dynamic-exterior-profile-red-suv 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

The “almost there” in the headline of my review of the rear-wheel-drive 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 represented many things about the first version to hit the market: having a range shorter than key competitors, the still-not-implemented Plug & Charge function and the all-wheel drive that, at the time, was coming soon. Now that AWD is available for order, two versions so equipped appeared at the 2021 Midwest Automotive Media Association Fall Rally at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisc. I took it for a quick spin (no, not on the racetrack) to see if the added power and driven wheels affected how the car drives, because they made no apparent difference visually.

Related: Volkswagen ID.4 AWD Gets 249-Mile Range, Lowest Price Among AWD EVs

The short answer is: Absolutely. There’s no mistaking the effect of an additional motor on the front axle that results in a system horsepower of 295 horsepower, up from 201 hp from the rear motor alone. (The front motor is rated 107 hp, but seldom are motor outputs additive in a powertrain.) The AWD ID.4 accelerates more confidently off the line and has even more guts for highway passing — which isn’t bad in the RWD version. We didn’t perform instrumented tests, but VW says AWD shaves 2.1 seconds off the 0-60 mph time, to 5.4 seconds.

volkswagen-id4-awd-pro-s-2021-01-dynamic-exterior-front-angle-red-suv 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

Where the RWD ID.4 somehow failed to impress the uninitiated the way many new EVs do, the AWD version does a better job of combining efficiency with quickness — a peculiarity we’ve come to respect in electric vehicles. Think about it: The AWD adds more than 200 pounds and 100 hp (shaving more than 2 seconds off to 60 mph), yet decreases range by only 10 miles from the same battery pack? Adding a motor means adding more regenerative braking. It’s a very different world.

Now, it’s not like the rear-drive ID.4 had a problem with wheelspin — at least not when the road and tires were warm and dry. Torque was modest, or possibly just well controlled. Still, I think I was expecting the driven front wheels to stabilize the ID.4 a bit while maintaining its rear-wheel-drive feel. It does, but not completely. There were times when the ID.4 Pro S AWD I drove had a front-drive feel despite the fact that the front motor has roughly half the power and torque of the rear one. Perhaps Volkswagen is apportioning torque this way because mild understeer is safer than oversteer — or maybe I was just feeling the effects of the added mass, all of which is certainly in front. Right when I was starting to investigate it, it was time to give the ID.4 back.

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As much as I dislike the ID.4’s preponderant touch-sensitive controls, the more I experience the vehicle, the more I like driving it. The ride comfort alone despite its short wheelbase is a triumph, and I think it’s easy to overlook how good its dynamics are. It handles with such composure that you might not recognize how competent it is if you don’t look at your speedometer. For some reason the inexcusably bouncy Ford Mustang Mach-E is often described as having sporty handling, but I’m not sure being sloppy in the corners and having inadequate tire grip is what makes something sporty. Fun, perhaps. But the ID.4 deserves more credit than it gets for quietly and smoothly going about its business, even when its business is a twisty road. And the new all-wheel drive seems to aid in this regard … but we’ll need more time with it to know for sure.

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