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An electrified vacation in the Volkswagen ID.4

With the push to steer the world toward electric vehicles, it's important to see how they handle a real trip.

From the outside, the all-new 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 Pro doesn't look much different from its gasoline-powered brethren.
From the outside, the all-new 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 Pro doesn't look much different from its gasoline-powered brethren.Read moreVolkswagen

Volkswagen ID.4 Pro: Plug and play?

Price: Starts at $39,995

Conventional wisdom: Car and Driver likes the “roomy cabin, smooth ride, decent driving range,” but not that it “lacks driving verve, fussy infotainment interface, anonymous styling.”

Marketer’s pitch: “The ID.4 EV: Winner of the World Car of the Year 2021.” But you can only build and reserve it. Maybe next year?

Reality: Plug and wait a bit, maybe, and hope, and plan, then play.

A vacation from the pump: While going through my list of vehicles for the summer, I spied the new electric SUV/wagon from Volkswagen, the ID.4 Pro.

After some rearranging and negotiating, the Sturgis family would be riding in this new EV SUV when visiting Rehoboth Beach, Del. If the experts keep telling us EVs are the future, then professionals should take one outside of their natural habitat, see what happens, and report back.

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A quick scan of ChargePoint confirmed that chargers were available around town. The range of the vehicle — an alleged 260 miles — seemed plentiful for the 110-mile trip.

Let’s do this. First, a four-day diary leading up to the Big Day.

Day 1: I don’t know how you travel, but Mr. Driver’s Seat can get a little tense. (A little? exclaims the Lovely Mrs. Passenger Seat.) I deal with this by being the guy who stops wearing any clothes I might want for the trip, so they won’t get hung up in the laundry, and by making copious to-do lists.

Of course, these lists often go: 1. Make list. 2. Check off first item. 3. Reward self with nap.

So I’m not nearly as productive as I sound.

Still, don’t let anything get in my way. No car trouble, no illnesses, no aches and pains, no animal care hassles. It’s all gotta go smoothly.

So, back to the ID.4. The fleet driver left it in the driveway, so I needed to move it into the garage to top off the charge. The vehicle’s interior had grown super hot from sitting in the 90-degree sun. But I wasn’t able to access the HVAC controls; the touchscreen kept telling me, “Sorry, this function is not available right now.” And everything is in the touchscreen.

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I lowered the windows, thinking that maybe some cool air would help the functionality. That didn’t work immediately, and within seconds I was really sweating. (Oh, that’s another pet peeve — being hot. I’m a very sensitive Mr. Driver’s Seat. I’m the Princess with a Malfunctioning HVAC Control.)

One confusing thing — there appears to be no start button. The ID.4 was working, but maybe there’s some functionality lacking because of that?

I quickly contacted Volkswagen, and PR reps and engineers answered that this happens occasionally and usually remedies itself immediately. (They also assured me that the vehicle starts automatically when someone sits in the driver’s seat.) We were about 20 minutes into “Immediately” at this point, and I could feel my stomach churning. One spouse may have yelled at the other spouse, “I knew we should have just taken the Sienna!”

OK, Sturgis, you’re losing it. You have three more days, pal. Relax.

So I went back and started playing around with different functions. When I switched out of Sport mode, things started to work. I don’t imagine the two events were related; it just took time.

Day 2: Well, this doesn’t seem as if it’s getting better. Now it’s telling me it can’t start because … oh, oops, I left it plugged in. Sheepishly and snark-free, “Thanks, car.” (Gets out and unplugs it.)

So I drove to the trail for a run and had the car parked in the not-as-hot sun for about an hour. When I got back to the ID.4, the media menu didn’t want to work for a second. But it was remedied more along the lines of VW PR’s “immediately,” so, whew. At least I could cool the car down immediately.

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Day 2, evening: Sturgis Kid 4.0. wanted to see what the ID.4 was like. We sat inside in the garage and toured the functions before we got moving. But then it didn’t want to go. I twisted the gear selector toward Reverse and waited. Nothing happened.

I tried twisting forward to Drive. Nope. I tried Reverse again. Nope.

Finally the car shut itself down completely. We sat there in the dim light in the garage waiting for the ID.4 to decide it was ready for us.

After about 5 seconds, it cooperated and was ready to roll. Geez, this is like owning an air-cooled Beetle; it requires a great deal of patience.

Day 4: The re-initiation into the world of EVs has been pretty bumpy, and so even despite an uneventful Day 3, I’m still nervous about this vacation. But getting to Rehoboth Beach went off without any hitch. The electricity consumption pretty much followed as advertised, and I finished the 110-mile trip with plenty of miles to spare.

And there’s nothing like deciding you’re going to drive without hurrying to make a trip pass much more quickly.

So much to say: We’ll take a ride next week and see how the ID.4 compares with the rest of the universe of vehicles.