When just about anybody mentions VW, the first image is probably the bug. Not exactly a family-friendly vehicle and that’s part of the reason VW introduced the Type 3 at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1961. In the U.S. it was to compete with Chevy’s Corvair which hit the market a year earlier. The Type 3 came in three body styles, Notchback, Fastback, and this Squareback (sort of a wagon) that I spotted near Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., on a recent trip.
More than a million of these were manufactured in Germany, Brazil, and Australia until production ended in 1973. What are they worth? I checked on Classic.com and found them just as affordable as the bug ranging from $3,000 all the way up to $43,000 while averaging around $15,000.
Electric VW well thought out, well-executed crossover …
Electric car haters might as well tune out right now as this review of Volkswagen’s new ID.4 all-electric crossover/SUV might melt your battery pack and explode your motherboard.
That’s because the ID.4 is an extremely well-thought-out and executed EV that most families would enjoy. Like other crossovers and SUVs, it is roomy inside, offers a comfortable ride, a quiet (electrics are quiet by nature) interior, and for us Wisconsinites, there’s AWD.
This was the top-level ID.4 AWD Pro S model in Dusk Blue, a mid- to deep metallic blue conjoined with silver roof pillars and a black roof thanks to the $1,500 Gradient package.
ID.4 comes as either a rear-drive Pro or AWD Pro S model. The difference, other than AWD, is that there’s an electric motor front and rear for the Pro S and that gives the ID.4 295 horsepower and 339 lb.-ft. of torque. The rear-drive model has just 201 horsepower and milder torque.
Another difference, the RWD model has a 260-mile range while the AWD’s range is rated 250 miles, although in our 20- to 40-degree weather the most I got on a full charge was 235 miles.
For the technically inclined this new VW, which is just slightly smaller than VW’s gas-powered Tiguan, uses two 82 kW lithium ion battery packs with 288 pouch style cells that ride in an extruded aluminum case in the floor for power. One electric motor powers the front wheels, another the rear. The batteries are charged via a plug-in charger that neatly stores under the cargo bay’s floor. A standard 120-volt outlet as in my garage slowly adds about 1 to 1.5 miles per hour of charge. A 240-volt charger reportedly more than doubles that.
Naturally there’s range anxiety if one were planning an inter-state trip in the ID.4, but VW has an answer for that, free charging at Electrify America charging stations of which there are about 2,550 nationwide with nearly 5,500 charging stalls. Many are located in Walmart lots and an app will help you find them. A fast charge from 5% up to 80% takes about 40 minutes, just long enough to sample a Slurpy with a side of Slim Jims.
VW says ID will be its sub-brand for electric vehicles and the German carmaker is pushing to have half its sales be all-electric by 2030 with close to 100% by 2040. Much of that is pushed by stricter emission rules in Europe than in the U.S.
ID.4 competes with the likes of Ford’s new Mustang Mach-E, although the VW is more family friendly whereas the Mustang is more performance oriented, not surprising considering its name.
The VW features better ride than Mach-E despite a considerably shorter 108.9-inch wheelbase. Handling is good, but only sporty in the Sport drive mode, one of five. Acceleration is smooth and quiet (some electric whine, naturally), but not rocket ship fast, just quick.
VW claims a 0-60 mph start of 5.4 seconds with the AWD and 7.6 seconds with the rear-drive model. Then again, this is a family crossover/SUV, so you’re likely not planning any dragstrip action. Let’s be honest, most Mach-E drivers aren’t either.
For the record the EPA rates the VW at 98 MPGe city, 88 highway. The big info screen readout told me I was getting about 2.5 miles per kWh. So 10 hours of charging should net me about 25 miles of charge. Cruising on the highway I saw the figure hit 2.7 kWh.
The key for moms and dads is that the ID.4 is a useful crossover that easily caries four or five adults while offering oodles of storage room behind the second row seats. There’s a power hatch and under-floor storage there too.
VW’s interior is comfy and looks more Star Wars than Saved by the Bell, meaning digital to the max. With a few exceptions it’s quite functional.
First, there’s a small driver’s instrument pod with speedometer and battery mileage readout attached to the manual tilt/telescope steering wheel column. So adjusting the wheel never blocks a driver’s vision of the pod. Bravo!
The other centrally mounted info screen controls virtually everything else and is a bit more than 12 inches. A 10-incher comes on the RWD model. Once you play with it a bit you’ll understand its levels, but there are a few fixes needed. First, there’s no dedicated radio button so you must access it by punching a square button on the left that apparently is Home. Beyond climate controls a radio is the second most used item, so requires a dedicated icon below the screen.
That’s where the climate controls are accessed, but sadly that includes the heated seats and steering wheel. Those should be on the console or steering wheel for easier access. That’s especially important because only the driver’s heated seat setting is remembered once the vehicle’s ignition is switched off. The heated wheel should be recalled too. A friend who adores VW agreed and also noted that the touchscreen was somewhat slow to respond to input too, resulting in double-punching some screen icons.
Another item that takes some getting used to, but becomes normal within a week’s drive, is the gear-shift selector, a knob attached to the right side of the instrument pod binnacle or hood. Rotate it forward for Drive and back for Reverse. Park requires pushing the end of the knob. Note too that rotating the knob forward twice shifts drive mode into one that allows more aggressive regenerative braking when the vehicle is coasting. Normally the ID.4 coasts like a standard car, but in this B mode the electric motor braking engages more aggressively to boost battery charge and you’ll find yourself using less brake pedal.
The upside of the shifter locations is that this allows for a wide-open console with oodles of storage space and a roll-top storage bin that includes the wireless phone charger. It’s easy to get at and to see, if you leave the bin opened.
My test vehicle featured a brown leather dash top and door trim along with perforated black leatherette seats and satin chrome dash trim and door releases and side air vents. Trim on the screens, arm rests and console were piano gloss black. Front seats also come with captain’s chairs armrests that fold back.
Overhead is an absolutely massive panoramic sunroof and shade. The roof is fixed, so does not retract.
Seating is well shaped and comfy with powered front seats, plus VW wisely goes with a flat-bottom steering wheel to create more knee room when entering and exiting the crossover. I should note that the ID.4 climate system heats extremely quickly too, a big plus in winter and ironic considering the bad ol’ days of the original Beetle’s horrible heater.
On a practical note, the plug-in port for the charger is located on the rear passenger’s side, much as you’d find with a standard fuel-filler door. That will work for some folks, but if your garage’s electrical sockets are on a driver’s side wall or front of the garage, as are mine, this requires you to back the ID.4 in for a charge. Not optimal, and all other EVs I’ve driven had their port in the nose or just in front of the driver’s door, both seem better locations.
Pricing? First, remember there’s a $7,500 government tax incentive on most electric vehicles. Those will disappear as each manufacturer’s sales move behind the government-set maximums.
But the current base Pro model lists at $41,190 with delivery and the tested Pro S at $49,370 with delivery. With its Gradient package this hit $50,870.
Additionally the tester was built in Mosel, Germany, because it’s an early model. But future ID.4s are to be built at VW’s Chattanooga, Tenn., plant. VW reports it will make a lower-cost entry-level ID.4 there, with a starting price expected in the $35,000 range.
ID.4 proves that automakers are closing in on affordable electrics that meet family needs and offer reasonable range. This is just the start, more range and more models will be coming along in the next few years. Watch this space!
FAST STATS: 2021 VW ID.4 AWD Pro S
Hits: Smooth, quiet,comfy, plus AWD. Roomy crossover with good handling, ride and power, and 230-mile range in cold weather. Usual standard electronic safety features. Five drive modes, massive panoramic sunroof, heated seats and wheel, fast interior heating, power hatch, comfy seats, flat-bottom wheel, wireless phone charger.
Misses: Climate controls accessed only through touchscreen, no dedicated radio entry to touchscreen, touchscreen somewhat slow to respond, heated wheel not included in climate memory when restarting crossover, odd shift knob by instrument pod, plug in on rear passenger’s side, not convenient for garage plugs.
If you’ve ever attended EAA’s AirVenture, your eyes probably spent more time on things in the air than on the ground. Well, you’ve missed the event’s unsung hero, the vehicle that gets the safety crews and staff all over the grounds, their staff of VWs. Here’s the story of the Piper Cub of their fleet.
Shorter Cross Sport aims at slightly different buyer …
Rarely are two vehicles as similar as the Volkswagen Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport. Rarer yet is my getting to test such a duo within weeks of each other.
A little more than a month ago I enjoyed the Atlas, which is about 5 inches longer than the self-proclaimed “sportier” Cross Sport. This was a handsome Tourmaline Blue Metallic (dark metallic blue) Atlas Cross Sport SEL R-Line Premium. That’s a monster name for a sport-ute that intends to lure buyers with its slightly more sloped roofline, shorter length and oodles of interior room, especially for cargo. Continue reading VW Atlas Cross Sport SEL R-Line Premium→
Volkswagen’s Karmann Ghia was a looker, but inexpensive, making it a perfect collectible car, if not for its propensity to rust. But in the model car collecting world we don’t have to worry about such mundane matters.
So collecting a 1962 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia now is easy. Ghia’s were the cute rounded thing that so many of our buddies drove in their teens, or early 20s. They were, like the Beetle, reliable and inexpensive, but way sportier looking. Dare we say sexy? Continue reading Die-cast: WhiteBox 1962 VW Karmann Ghia→
Autoart recreates Bugatti’s first modern supercar, the EB110 GT
Bugatti’s existence is best characterized by a rollercoaster. Its ups have been spectacular, and its downs, well, also were outs.
But in September of 1991 its new owner introduced the new mid-engine EB110 GT, the 110 signifying the 110th anniversary of company founder Ettore Bugatti’s birth. The EB110 was a supercar ahead of its times in several ways. Sadly, sales results weren’t one of its successes.
Now Autoart has creates a 1:18 version of the 110 GT with its usual eye to detail, and in four colors, blue, white, silver and the dark red of our sample.
Bugatti, an Italian who built his successful company in France, created beautiful high-performance cars for years, its heyday being the 1920 and 30s. But the company floundered after World War II and ceased production in 1963, only to be revived in 1986 by Romano Artiolli. When it appeared in 1991, the 110 GT was Bugatti’s first car in roughly 40 years and it was spectacular.
The supercar featured the low lean look that Ferrari and Lamborghini had been taking to the bank for years, but added scissor-style doors and a 3.6-liter quad-turbo V12 and all-wheel-drive to make it both racy looking and giving it top-shelf performance. Continue reading Die-cast: Autoart’s Bugatti EB110 GT→
Passat’s diesel economical and we’re not blowing smoke!
Perception often matters as much as reality, especially in the retail world of which the auto business is a top dog.
So the perception of a diesel engine being loud, smoky and not terribly pleasant to drive remains Volkswagen’s biggest obstacle when selling its pleasant mid-size front-drive Passat. This and the Chevrolet Cruze are the main turbo diesel cars available on our market today.
Their advantage is excellent fuel economy and reduced engine maintenance. That’s the case for both.
But VW has been offering its turbo diesels (TDI in VW parlance) for years, so you’d expect its version to perform better and feel more refined. It does not. My test earlier this year of the Cruze shows it to be quieter, run smoother and feel, well, more refined.
However, the tested champagne silver Passat TDI SEL, got excellent fuel mileage. Rated 30 mpg city and 40 mpg highway, I got a stellar 41.4 mpg in about a 50-50 mix of city and highway driving. The Cruze, while rated at 27 mpg city and 46 mpg highway netted me just 35 mpg in a drive tilted toward highway miles. Continue reading 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI SEL→
Give Chevrolet full credit on this one, it took a turbo diesel it uses in Europe, a hot bed for turbo diesels, and plunked it into its popular Cruze for the U.S. market.
Why the accolades for Chevy? Well, it’s the first U.S. automaker to give us a clean turbo diesel that gets way above average mileage and is affordable. Oh, and it also outperforms its only competition, Volkswagen, in the vital highway mileage department. Bravo!
Plus, because Milwaukee is a leading market for diesel sales (no one is sure why!), we get first crack at the new Chevy turbo diesel, while other Midwest markets may have to wait months to see one. A GM spokesman tells me the Cruze diesels should be in Milwaukee area dealerships shortly.
But I got my hands on one already and I can tell you it was pretty impressive.
Here are the basics. Chevrolet is using its proven 2.0-liter I4, turbo diesel from its European branch in the mid-size Cruze, already a favorite with young families and stingy Baby Boomers who know a bargain when they see one. The diesel delivers about 148 hp, but a whopping 258 ft.-lbs. of torque smoothly via a 6-speed automatic transmission. Continue reading 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Turbo Diesel→
Volkswagen Beetle’s popularity continues, in die-cast now
Everybody loves the Beetle. I mean more than 21 million Beetles were made and sold since going into production in 1938, the final original style Beetle rolling off a Mexican assembly line in 2003.
That makes Volkswagen’s Beetle the most produced car ever, at least using one basic design.
So it’s no surprise that a diecast car maker, Autoart, has taken up the Beetle’s cause for 1:18 scale collectors.
Autoart nailed it.
Most folks, especially us Boomers, know the story of Hitler demanding a “people’s car” (Volkswagen) for Germany in the 1930s and car maker/designer Ferdinand Porsche coming up with the bug-like design. Only a few were made before WWII, but vehicles based off the design, known as Type 82 Kubelwagens, were built for the German war effort. Continue reading Die-cast: Autoart VW Beetle impressive→