Driving the ID.4 At Volkswagen’s Off Road Testing Facility And Hints Of A Bulked Up Version To Take On Jeep

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Two Volkswagen ID.4 news stories today with a common message — the soon to be unveiled ID.4 electric SUV from Volkswagen will be off road capable and a ruggedized version may be in the offing to challenge the  legendary Jeep Wrangler. Its Unlimited version is enjoying strong sales from those who crave that go anywhere, do anything aura of a Jeep even if the only time their vehicles leave the pavement is when they turn into a mall parking lot.

Volkswagen ID. 4
Courtesy of Volkswagen

Perception is reality in the world of sales. If a vehicle holds out the allure of climbing towering mountains, that is enough reason for many folks to plunk down the $32,000 entry fee to own one for themselves (the average sales price is much higher). Volkswagen has clearly done its marketing research and discovered there is a significant number of potential owners who might get excited by the thought of an electric SUV that can do what the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited does but without the exhaust fumes.

“Ruggedized” is a term that will be familiar to military veterans. Much of the weapons, radios, computer systems, and vehicles the military buys started life as ordinary consumer goods that were repurposed to make them capable of surviving in hostile environments, withstand being dropped from helicopters, and capable of tolerating constant abuse in the field.

According to the UK’s Car Magazine, VW has shelved plans for the ID. Buggy — the oh-so-cute homage to the original Myers Manx dune buggy — and decided to concentrate on a hunkier version of the ID. 4. In fact, the internal company name for the car is the ID. Ruggedzz. Rumors suggest the car will feature design cues from the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited — a nearly vertical front fascia and windshield, vertical sides with a  flat hood and roof to finish off the package. You can look at the design sketch from Car or imaging a Wrangler Unlimited with a Volkswagen badge on it. It will probably look as much like that car as possible without sparking a law suit from Jeep.

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
Credit: Jeep

A raised suspension with beefy wheels and tires is de rigueur for such vehicles, as is 4 wheel drive. In the case of the ID. 4 off road variant, its dual motor electric powertrain can be configured to provide torque to any one wheel independently of the others — a distinct advantage when loping down the Rubicon Trail or negotiating dry river beds and such.

The whole Ruggedzz idea is the brainchild of Volkswagen Group CEO Herbert Diess. His original vision, according to Car, was what he called an RUV, short for ‘rugged utility vehicle.” It would be cheap to build, easy to clean, flexible, and affordable to run. Its target audience would be the young outdoors and lifestyle crowd. Car says if the project goes forward, development will be handled by the Skoda division of Volkswagen. A target on sale date in 2025 is planned.

ID. 4 Goes Off Road Testing

What leads some credence to the ID. Ruggedzz rumors is a YouTube video from nextmove that shows an ID. 4 undergoing off road testing at Volkswagen’s dedicated wilderness testing site. Is it a coincidence that such a testing protocol should be going on while whispers about the ID. Ruggedzz are flying about? Absolutely not. There are no random coincidences in the world of automobile development and marketing. That Volkswagen is putting the ID. 4 through its paces in the dirt does not guarantee that the ID. Ruggedzz will appear in 2025 or any other time but it suggests the management of Volkswagen is at least thinking about building it.

It also shows that electric chassis configurations like Volkswagen’s MEB platform lend themselves to having various bodies married to them. At Canoo, they call the different designs that will fit on their EV skateboards “top hats.” Such platforms are designed to be flexible in their principal dimensions, so they could underpin a bit of whimsy like the ID. Buggy, an electric version of the superbly silly Type 181, known in America as The Thing, the ID. 3 hatchback, the ID. 4 SUV, the upcoming ID. Buzz, and perhaps a dozen other designs Volkswagen intends to bring to market in the next 5 years.

Thomas Geiger of nextmove points out in the video that Volkswagen is looking at the ID. 4 the same way Tesla views the Model Y — an electric car aimed straight at the heart of the hottest segment of the new car market in virtually every nation on Earth. As such, he says, it is the car Volkswagen expects to be the best seller in its ID. line up. Many SUVs at least pretend to have some off road capability and so the ID. 4 needs to establish its “beyond the pavement” prowess to compete.

Geiger says the ID. 4 will be introduced first with rear wheel drive but will offer a dual motor version sometime in 2021. He also says the car has more interior space for passengers and all their stuff than the Tesla Model Y and notes the quality of the interior materials represents a step up from the ID. 3. The ID. 4 will cost about €7,000 more than the ID. 3 as well.

The Volkswagen rally test track may not appear to offer many challenges for serious off roaders, but the fact that the company is doing such testing hints at its broader sales strategy. What people want and what people need are two different things. Lots of new car shoppers today want an off road capable SUV and Volkswagen intends to see that they get precisely that from the company’s first all electric SUV.


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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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