Two things bookended my brief test drive of a 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 prototype. As I was getting familiar with the car in the parking lot of a local dealer, which VW corporate had requisitioned for this test, a 20-something Honda Civic Coupe owner walked out of an adjacent dealership, saw the car, and shouted, “That’s the best-looking VW I’ve ever seen,” before asking a number of other questions.
After my test, a 50-something man in a suit, also at the adjacent dealer, met me at the car’s door to ask about the ID.4. I’ve been driving new Volkswagen products for 15 years and have never seen such a reaction, let alone twice in an hour, to one of the brand’s products. This is a vehicle quite unlike anything the German brand has done before.
That’s not because it’s particularly different, though. The ID.4 is your typical compact crossover, from its form factor to its innocuous demeanor. It innovates though, exploiting the advantages of an electric vehicle platform to offer a more spacious cabin and a more pleasant driving experience, while at the same time using clever aerodynamics to introduce more attractive exterior design. This feels like the first mainstream vehicle from a conventional automaker that treats its electrification as a benefit rather than a raison d’être, mainly because it doesn’t beat you over the head about being an EV.