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VW ID.3, not what we expected.

Volkswagen, Das Auto. That's the slogan for one of the biggest car manufacturers in the world. This also means that they have made the most influential cars in recent history. The Beetle and the Golf are probably the ones most well known. Since the times are changing and the demand for EVs is rising, VW is now producing what they believe is the future of their company. The VW ID.3. When it was unveiled it looked very promising; cool futuristic looks, minimalist interior, and a bunch of trims to choose from. What struck us the most was the fact that the looks are unlike any other city car out there. It looked like a straight-up concept car. And indeed when we picked ours up, the concept car vibes stayed with us.

Let’s get to it. Our car was specced in Makena turquoise metallic, a bright turquoise that makes the exterior pop. The trim level was the top of the range 1st Edition, which gets a larger 58 kWh battery with an approximate range of 350km. Power is sent to the back wheels only, 204 horsepower is the magic number. It's quick, but just EV quick. There might hopefully be an AWD-version soon with the ID.4 GTX motors, but that might be overkill. Our average consumption was 17.2 kWh/100km, 2 kWh/100km less than VW claims (19.4kWh/100km). This might mean that we've been gentle on the throttle or the ID.3 is just really efficient. Fast charging is supported up to 128kw and we could charge from 40% to 80% (with only 100kw) in around 30 minutes. Inside the quirky nature continues; minimalist front gauges and transmission tunnel. The accelerator pedal even has a funny little play button on it and the brake pedal a pause button. The only way you'd know that you have the 1st Edition is the small logo on the steering wheel. Things we particularly liked were the minimalist design on the outside and the driveability in town.

The ID.3 has all the ingredients to be a damn good EV, respectable range, fast charging, and of course the reliability of a VW. We have to talk about that last part.

This is where the problems begin. While the recipe is very good, the execution is not what you'd expect from VW. You'd expect that a successor to the Golf would be the best that VW can do, but it's not. While testing the ID.3 for a very short three days, there were numerous problems with its software and electronics. There were several failures of the electric motors when first starting it up, it just wouldn't start/set off. The fact that there isn't a real starter button means that you can't just turn it off and on. You have to get out, wait several minutes for the whole car to shut down, and then if you're lucky it'd start. After that, the whole car would frantically brake and then we were on our way, finally.

There were also several instances where the front braking and warning assist shut off temporarily and the front lights were constantly having a problem. In short, there were warning labels and messages on the dashboard nearly every day of testing. These things are annoying, but the car is still driveable.

This takes us to the final part of the problems we encountered software-wise. On the last evening of testing, we were driving home and still had a good 40 minutes to go. When coming out of a tunnel and accelerating to the new speed limit (through cruise control) the whole car just basically shut off. The steering, pedals, and lights still worked, but everything else was down. Because of the harsh recuperation of EVs, we suddenly braked from 120km/h to around 80, while having no idea what was going on. The result was a nearly undrivable experience with no cruise control, maps, EV relevant gauges, and most importantly, your speed. This forced us to stop at the next gas station to check out what had happened. We thought this would be a quick fix but since you cannot turn the car fully off, the "just turn it off and on" procedure didn't work. In desperation, we tried everything but nothing worked. We looked on VW's website, forums and we were about to call somebody to help us. But since the car still drove fine, we just whipped out an app on our phone that measures your current speed and traveled the last 30 minutes home, guessing what speed we were going. In our minds, this is just unacceptable. Things like this shouldn't happen, especially in VW's new flagship EV. In general, the whole software and infotainment are one of the worst we've experienced, considering the ID.3 1st Performance is more than 50'000 CHF. The display is laggy and non-intuitive, the touch capacitive buttons are a nightmare to operate and the front digital display is small and doesn't have a lot of customizability.

When we got the call that the test for the new ID.3 was on, we were excited to see what a large manufacturer can do to change the EV business. It all looked so promising, but it wasn't to last. Sadly the ID.3 might be one of the most disappointing cars we've driven. It's not that the car is bad, but it could be so much better. The problems we encountered might've been specific to our test car, but it's still unacceptable. We get the appeal for the ID.3, we see them a lot in Switzerland and Europe in general. Maybe it wasn't our cup of tea.


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