Two Mainstream Family SUVs Face Off
Volkswagen literally means “people’s car” in German, and the brand built its reputation on well-engineered German machines for the masses like the Beetle, Golf, and Jetta – cars which were economical to run, spacious and practical, and surprisingly fun to drive. These days, however, the center of the market isn’t cars, but SUVs. Modern SUVs aren’t compromised like they used to be, and combine the lively driving experience and good economy of a car with a raised ride height that makes getting in and out easier, as well as better for travelling on rough roads. In recent years, Volkswagen pivoted with the market successfully to becoming an SUV company, and the Atlas and Tiguan are among the brand’s best-selling vehicles.
It should come as no surprise, then, that VW’s first high-volume electric vehicle in America is an SUV (the e-Golf, the brand’s first EV, was a city car with limited range). It would almost have been too easy to make a cute little electric Beetle; the ID.4 is targeted at the heart of the largest and most competitive segment in the U.S., and it comes armed with an all new dedicated EV platform, a big 82-kWh battery, and futuristic styling to go with its futuristic drivetrain.
The question is, how does the ID.4 stack up against the similarly-sized Volkswagen Tiguan, the brand’s most comparable gasoline SUV? Compact but spacious, fun to drive but economical, the Tiguan has a great reputation and its owners love its versatility and low running costs. Will the ID.4 prove to be more attractive as well as better for the environment?
Same Footprint, Way More Space
The biggest difference between the ID.4 and the Tiguan – outside of what’s “under the hood,” of course – is the amount of space inside. While their physical footprints are relatively similar, the electric ID.4’s interior is far roomier than the gasoline-powered Tiguan. That’s thanks to the electric motor (or motors, in all-wheel drive ID.4s) which are significantly more compact than a gasoline engine.
There’s no “room” required up front for the engine, and the battery is a thin pancake under the floor instead of a big tank at the rear, which has allowed VW to push the wheels closer to the corners of the ID.4, creating a longer wheelbase. The upshot is a generously-sized cargo area, and a cabin that feels almost limousine-like in terms of rear legroom, headroom, and shoulder room. In short, it feels almost Atlas-like inside the ID.4, even though on the outside, it’s about the same size as a Tiguan.
Other advantages of the ID.4’s dedicated electric platform compared to the Tiguan include a totally flat floor with no transmission hump; this means the console bin has a huge amount of usable space in it. On the other hand, while the rear seats fold easily to expand the cargo area, they don’t create a flat floor.
Both the Tiguan and ID.4 have very comfortable seats, and an impressively high level of build quality for the price. The atmosphere inside the ID.4, though, feels decidedly more futuristic. Instead of physical controls for things like the climate control and heated seats, every function has been consolidated into a cluster perched on the dash containing a large touch screen and capacitive sliders. In practice, it works well enough, but there is a bit of a learning curve, and will be an adjustment for those who are used to more conventional controls. Even the volume control requires you to swipe on a shiny piece of black plastic instead of turning a knob.
If you are a fan of old-school VW interiors with solid switchgear, you might prefer the ergonomics of the Tiguan. While it has a digital dash display like the ID.4, and features a large touch screen in the middle of the dash, there are more physical controls, including switches switches for all four windows – the ID.4 actually requires you to tap a capacitive switch on the door panel to use the two “front” window switches to operate the rear windows. Like the ID.4, the Tiguan has an available wireless charging pad as well as wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for seamless integration with your smartphone.
On the upside, the ID.4 has a much less cluttered interior with a futuristic look. And, spend enough time with its various setup options by diving deep into the menus, and you can create an experience that feels truly special, and tailored specifically for you – with your preferred shade of interior lighting; doors that unlock when you walk up to them; and customized displays.
The ID.4, even in its most basic form, comes packed with technology that goes far beyond its “all touch, all the time” infotainment system. The big screen and the capacitive buttons on the steering wheel give you access to a remarkable array of features bundled under the title of “IQ.Drive.”
The ID.4 comes standard with adaptive cruise control, which helps adjust your road speed to keep a safe distance from the car ahead; blind spot monitoring; rear traffic alert; automatic collision warning (and automatic braking if a collision is imminent). Lane keeping assist can be activated to keep you within your lane on long cruises. These are all features that normally cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, as options on similar SUVs, and other than the rear traffic alert being overly sensitive, they all work seamlessly and don’t impinge on the driving experience.
IQ.Drive is also available on the Tiguan, but as an optional upgrade on some trim levels (it’s standard on the top model) – meaning that the electric model not only comes with more standard safety features, but is also future-proofed as semi-autonomous driving becomes more common.
Both the Tiguan and the ID.4 come with the myVW app and the VW Car-Net system, which adds convenient features like remote start, lock and unlock, vehicle locator, and vehicle alerts. The ID.4’s version of the app also lets you monitor the state of charge and activate the climate control system to pre-heat or pre-cool the car while it is plugged in – not just improving comfort, but also enhancing range.
How Do They Drive?
For a compact SUV, the Tiguan is a remarkably good drive. Its 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine produces 184 horsepower and hustles it along very well, even with the whole family on board. The steering is quick and sharp, and ride quality is excellent. The brakes are fantastic, too. In short, it feels German: secure and comfortable no matter what the speed, and confident in the corners.
Like all electric vehicles, the ID.4 fast, smooth, and quiet. The single-motor, rear-wheel drive model produces 201 horsepower. While that’s more than the Tiguan, the ID.4 has more weight to haul around, but it does so beautifully: like all electric motors, it produces instantaneous torque, making the electric VW feel even faster than it is.
Step up to the all-wheel drive version and you get 295 horsepower, which adds a lot of extra zip. The ID.4 gets to 60 mph in just over six seconds, but more impressive is the way it dashes away from traffic lights and whooshes past slower traffic. With no gears to shift between, progress is smooth and seamless, and there’s no engine revving, buzzing, and grunting – this is the most relaxing VW to drive. Kudos as well to VW for how well the brakes are calibrated: under normal circumstances, regenerative braking is light; and feels more natural for those coming from gasoline vehicles; a more aggressive mode is available with a simple twist of the shift knob, giving one-pedal driving ability.
For an SUV with this much interior space, the ID.4’s range is actually quite impressive. Most drivers will opt for the 82-kWh all-wheel drive version, which, by the EPA’s estimates, will deliver 240-plus miles; the lighter, simpler rear-wheel drive version gives you 280 miles. For longer trips, the ID.4 offers 125-kW fast charging, meaning 5-80% on the right kind of DC fast charger will take about 40 minutes. Every new ID.4 also comes with three years’ worth of 30-minute free charging sessions on the Electrify America network, one of the nation’s fastest and most comprehensive, with almost 10,000 chargers nationwide.
Somewhere between EPA Estimates of 240 and 280 miles is less range than you’d get from a gasoline Volkswagen Tiguan, to be sure – but it’s also enough that you won’t stress in day to day driving. Owners will mostly charge overnight from a level 2 wall box, meaning they’ll leave home every morning with a full “tank” of electrons every day – something you can’t say for gasoline.
Let’s do some math now, shall we? On paper, the ID.4 looks expensive compared to the Tiguan. A rear-drive ID.4 Pro comes with a starting MSRP of $41,230; add an extra $3,680 for all-wheel drive and way more power. Upper trim levels, the Pro S and Pro S with Gradient, are an MSRP of $45,730 and $47,230 – and all-wheel drive is still optional on both.
Those base prices are a lot more than the Tiguan, which actually starts at just an MSRP of $26,490 for the base Tiguan S with front-wheel drive. Adding all-wheel drive comes with a $1,500 premium, but unlike the ID.4, you don’t get a bump in horsepower or speed along with the extra drive wheels. Plus, the Tiguan S is significantly less well-equipped than the ID.4 Pro. In fact, you’d have to mosey past the Tiguan SE to the SE R Line Black, at an MSRP of $32,950, to get similar feature content, including the driver assistance features that are standard on the ID.4. The top-of-the-line SEL R Line starts at an MSRP of $37,230.
However, the ID.4, which will be made in Chattanooga, should be eligible for a $7,500 federal rebate – plus you can find many regional and local rebates as well depending on where you live. Factoring in the federal rebate, the ID.4 would actually cost closer to $33,730 – bringing the Pro right in line with the Tiguan SE R Line Black.
Factor in the rising cost of fuel, and going all-electric means you’ll actually save over the long run – your savings improving the more you drive. Plus, the ID.4 offers more sophisticated technology, a more modern interior with more room, and lower maintenance costs over time, with no oil changes to do.
All of this makes the ID.4 – if you can find one, or order one – a real tipping point for the Volkswagen brand. With its capabilities and range, it almost feels like a no-brainer alternative if you’re considering a Tiguan, and can set yourself up with charging at your home or office. Volkswagen’s only issue at the moment seems to be not being able to get enough of them to meet the demand.