2020 Volkswagen ID.3 first drive: The iCar Apple not built

"The Volkswagen ID.3 is attractive and user-friendly and an electric vehicle that you can live with every day."

  • Smooth, linear drive train

  • Usable electric range

  • Extra spacious interior

After stopping to take a few photos, I briefly loosened the rear wheels while pulling off a dirt road, which was hardly unusual. What surprised me was that this happened behind the wheel of a Volkswagen. The company has largely stayed away from rear-wheel drive vehicles since ceasing production of the iconic rear-engined Beetle. Although the ID.3 opens the next chapter in Volkswagen history, it also picks up where its sought-after ancestor left off.

Before we dive in, let's dispel a myth: No nudging or nudging will convince Volkswagen to sell the ID.3 in the USA. It is clearly not happening. And yet it's worth a closer look, because the technology it introduces will permeate over half a dozen electric cars to come, including a Tiguan-sized crossover called ID.4, which will eventually be built in the US and which has been long awaited Modern bus preview thanks to the ID.Buzz concept.

Start over

Volkswagen developed the ID.3 on a blank board. It's not an electric version of an existing car like the E-Golf was, and it shares almost no parts with other recent additions to the company's range, like the eighth-generation Golf. It's his own thing. It is the beginning of a new adventure for Volkswagen. It is based on a specially developed architecture called MEB, which in its standard configuration has rear-wheel drive. However, all-wheel drive is as simple as adding a second electric motor over the front axle. Volkswagen told me MEB was flexible enough to support anything from a city-friendly hatchback to a family-sized SUV. Limousines, wagons and vans are also planned.

Although recognizable as a member of the Volkswagen family, the ID.3 shares very few stylistic elements with its siblings, and its proportions are anything but anodyne. It's 100 percent electric and wasn't designed for internal combustion engines (not even a range extender), so stylists could extend the wheelbase to almost Passat-like proportions while reducing the overhangs. Its motor is compact enough to fit in a sports bag.

Stylists have put a lot of energy into reducing the visual bulk of the ID.3 with styling cues.

The ID.3 measures 167.8 inches end to end, is 71.2 inches wide, and 61.1 inches tall, meaning it's an inch shorter, about an inch narrower, and four inches taller than the latest Golf. It's a bit higher than expected because the lithium-ion battery that sets the engine in motion is stowed right under the passenger compartment. Silke Bagschik, Head of Marketing and Sales for Electric Cars at Volkswagen, explained that stylists had put a lot of energy into reducing the visual mass of the ID.3 by using stylistic elements like plastic panels on the underside of the doors and a curved panel that clipped from there the base of the windshield extends to the tip of the tailgate.

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Do these mind tricks work? You tell me.

The ID.3 is a little larger than the average hatchback, but also much more spacious inside. The bottom is a little higher than expected, which in turn is due to the battery underneath. However, it is completely flat and offers a surprising amount of legroom, regardless of whether you are sitting in front or in the back. It offers 13.5 cubic feet of trunk space, space for four or five adults, depending on the configuration, and numerous storage spaces in the cabin. And yes, the pedals are marked with play and pause, just like the ID concept that was unveiled at the 2016 Paris Motor Show and the stunning ID. Buggy concept I drove in sunny California in 2019 The production version of the retro The fabulous ID.Buzz concept, which is expected to appear in 2022, will also receive it.

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Apple? Is that you?

From the driver's seat, the ID.3 feels like a car that turns everything you can eat at the technology counter and keeps a small piece of heritage for dessert. It's a fascinating paradox. Instead of looking at circular displays, the driver is faced with a 5.3-inch screen that shows everything they need to know while driving (like speed, available range, and navigation directions) and nothing superfluous. Although the electric motor can spin up to 16,000 rpm, you won't find a tachometer in your line of sight. I like this simple approach, but it's not new. In a way, it reminds me of my 1972 Beetle, which has an equally simple instrument cluster that consists of a single track. It groups an analog speedometer, an odometer, a fuel gauge (which is broken after almost 50 years) and … that's it.

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There is a 10-inch freestanding touchscreen on the dashboard. It shows off a new infotainment system that looks and feels like a tablet. It is easy to use, the graphics are sharp, it responds quickly to inputs and the menus are arranged logically. Touch-sensitive sliders just below the screen replace the bulky knobs, dials and buttons on the climate system. There's another touch-sensitive slider to adjust the volume of the stereo, as well as additional touch-sensitive buttons on the steering wheel that control the various driving aids (like adaptive cruise control). Do you notice a pattern? Almost everything in the ID.3 is touchable, with the exception of key systems such as turn signals and windshield wipers, which for security reasons should not be replaced by buttons on a screen.

Touch-sensitive sliders just below the screen replace the bulky knobs, dials and buttons on the climate system.

Volkswagen kept conventional power window switches, but instead of four, only two are embedded in the door panel on the driver's side. To open or close the rear windows from the driver's seat, you have to press a backlit button that – you guessed it – is touch sensitive to activate it and use the same two switches that control the front windows. By tapping again, the rear windows are disengaged and the front windows are supplied with power again.

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From the driver's seat, the ID.3 feels like a giant iPhone before you even move. I know this is an overused cliché, but I've never seen a vehicle that embodies it so accurately. It has been a few years since we heard about Apple's auto project. The ID.3's blend of simple, clean design and user-friendly technology makes it the closest thing ever to mass production to the long-rumored iCar.

Always gentle

One of the few buttons in the cab is on the right side of the steering column. It is used to wake up the electric motor. Volkswagen told me it didn't need to add this feature, its engineers could easily have programmed the car to wake up on its own by recognizing its key fob, but decided to add it at the last minute because it recognized some Owners Did That Switching from gasoline to electricity will appreciate a dose of familiarity in an otherwise unfamiliar setting. Driving down is as easy as pressing the brake pedal – I mean pressing the pause pedal – and turning a small lever next to the instrument cluster to shift into gear.

At the time of writing, buyers have three lithium-ion battery packs to choose from: 48, 62 and 82 kilowatt hours. These numbers correspond to a maximum range of 205, 260 and 340 miles. Note, however, that these numbers were obtained for the WLTP test cycle used in Europe, which for electric vehicles brazenly relies on the optimistic side of the scale. Regardless of which battery you sit on, it routes the stored power to a rear engine that has 204 horsepower and 228 pound-feet of instant torque. Electric cars are heavier than comparable gasoline-powered models, and the 3,790-pound ID.3 is no exception. The time from zero to 100 km / h is 9.2 or 7.3 seconds, depending on how it is configured. It's not fast, but it's brisk.

Sleek and nimble, the ID.3 is a true city dweller who loves to jump from light to light in crowded cities.

Sleek and nimble, the ID.3 is a true city dweller who loves to jump from light to light in crowded cities. The design forces viewers to pause while eating, stare for a few seconds, and wonder if they should report a UFO sighting. The best part about driving this car in an urban center is not interrupting meals. It's the dazzlingly tight turning radius that makes maneuvering to or from a parking lot a breeze. Volkswagen said it had succeeded in teaching the ID.3 to turn on a cent because there is no engine between the front wheels. It is therefore believed that the other members of the ID family with rear-wheel drive offer motorists the ability to do a three-point turn at a time.

It is pleasant to drive on the winding back roads of Germany, where the relatively aggressive energy recovery system – when operated with the same lever that shifts the gear – allows driving with a pedal. For example, instead of braking when entering a city, you can simply take your foot off the accelerator and let the ID.3 slow down while the motor recovers kinetic energy and feeds it back to the battery. Alternatively, the adaptive cruise control analyzes the navigation data and automatically slows the hatchback if it determines that the speed limit is about to change. The instrument cluster displays a message to let the driver know what's going on. When you're traveling at 100 km / h, it will flash “70 ahead” before slowing down so you won't be surprised when the car makes decisions for you.

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Don't let the datasheet fool you. The ID.3 is rear-engine and rear-wheel drive, but doesn't feel like a Porsche 911 or the current generation Renault Twingo popular on this side of the pond. The heaviest part of the car is the battery, which takes up most of the space between the axles, making the ID.3 … feel preloaded from below. Its center of gravity is lower than that of a golf, so it is firmly planted on the road. If you're looking for a comprehensive performance, you'll have to wait patiently for Volkswagen to bring out a line of GTX-badged electric cars. It's too early to say if the ID.3 will be part of the range, though it does well for a sportier chassis setup.

Instead, the ID.3 is best enjoyed when driven calmly and relaxed. It provides linear acceleration, in part because the engine turns the rear wheels through a fixed-ratio gearbox that never shifts. The steering is well weighted without much feedback and the ride is pretty firm but not punishing. And the ID.3 is incredibly quiet as soon as the warning signal for pedestrians over 19 km / h switches off. The only noise in the cabin comes from the wind and tires, but neither is excessive or annoying – and both are inevitable regardless of what drives a car.

The ID.3 is incredibly quiet as soon as the pedestrian warning tone switches off above 19 km / h.

With my cell phone and an app called Sound Meter, I recorded around 68 decibels in the ID.3's cabin while driving at 75 miles per hour on an empty German autobahn. There were no other cars around; It was just the battery-powered Volkswagen and me. Of course the windows were closed and the stereo was turned off. Admittedly, this is hardly a scientific measurement, and I will never present myself as a car interior noisologist. So take this reading with a grain of salt. The declared app 68 decibels corresponds to a normal conversation. For context, it was found that a rating of 20 decibels is as quiet as a mosquito and 40 decibels is equivalent to the noise level in a library. And do you remember the 1972 Beetle I mentioned earlier? The air-cooled quadruple engine belts off about 82 decibels when I start it up after sitting for a few days.

The ID.3's user interface remains intuitive, although I wish Volkswagen had built in a volume control instead of a slider – I like these better when they're edible, preferably stuffed with beef and cheddar. This is not the most accurate method of turning the stereo up or down. And the two-step buttons on the multifunction steering wheel are extremely sensitive, although I imagine it's a habit to apply the right amount of pressure when you are behind the wheel for several days. Volkswagen informed me that the cool augmented reality head-up display announced in 2019 has been delayed by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has forced it to neutralize its global operations. The function will be transferred to the ID.3 ordered with it via a wireless software update before the end of 2020.

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My time behind the wheel of the ID.3 was too short to measure the range accurately. However, it is important to remember how far you can get to charge a charge last. This will depend on a variety of factors including your driving style and manner of driving, wearing and the road conditions. Volkswagen emphasized that the 77 kilowatt hour battery is compatible with the 125 kilowatt fast charging technology. The two smaller packs have an output of 100 kilowatts.

Our opinion

With the ID.3, Volkswagen is proving that it is serious about bringing electric vehicles into the mainstream. It is a car that represents a holistic, informed, and engineering-led effort to make battery-powered technology attractive, usable, and relatively affordable for as many drivers as possible. Mainstream is the key word here. Volkswagen pointed out that it is a volume-oriented manufacturer. The decision not to sell the ID.3 in the US, where hatchbacks are housed in a shrinking niche, makes perfect business and marketing sense. Simply put, nobody would buy it. That's why the standard Golf isn't returning and Honda is keeping the E off our shores.

Electrical engineering is still not cheap, even if it is a production car. Therefore, the ID.3 is considerably more expensive than a comparable petrol-powered hatchback. In Germany, its home market, it has a base price of 35,574 euros (about $ 42,000) before taking into account the various available incentives. To put this number in perspective, the Golf starts at 19,880 euros (approx. 23,500 US dollars) and an entry level The Audi A4 costs 33,240 euros. However, if you're willing to pay the price, when you've decided that an electric car will suit your lifestyle, and if you live in a market where the ID.3 will be available, this is an excellent choice that may be can be the only car in your garage.

Americans don't have to apply, even if they ask nicely, but everything I liked about the ID.3 (including the smooth drivetrain and easy-to-use technology) will arrive on our shores in a bigger, bigger package called ID.4 , which is due in 2021. It will be positioned in the same emerging segment as the Ford Mustang Mach-E, the Nissan Ariya and the Tesla Model Y, among others. It will be full. let the games begin.

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