Published on September 10th, 2020 |
by Steve Hanley
September 10th, 2020 by Steve Hanley
Auto Motor und Sport is Germany’s premier automotive news source. Its opinions carry a lot of weight with automobile buyers in Europe. It has just completed a test of the Volkswagen ID.3 and has a long list of negative things to say about the car. Basically, AMUS says it an OK car but a bit clunky when it comes to the electronics that all cars are expected to have these days. According to AMUS, Volkswagen has largely failed in its first effort to follow Tesla’s lead into the brave new world of “car as computer on wheels.”
First The Good News
From behind the wheel, the ID.3 is a pretty good car. “The drive and chassis…..work perfectly. The equally natural and agile handling of the compact is one of the strengths of the ID.3, [which] is characterized by perfectly balanced driving behavior, steering with well-measured holding forces and a high willingness to communicate, as well as good traction. Not so long ago, those were the things drivers cared about most. But the world has moved on and expectations have been raised. AMUS says the ID.3 has been weighed in the balance and found wanting.
Now For The Bad News
The criticisms AMUS has for the ID.3 are grouped into two categories — build quality and electronics. One would not expect a Volkswagen product to suffer from poor build quality but that’s exactly what AMUS found on its test car, which admittedly was a pre-production model. “Hard plastics that are sensitive to dirt are built into the cockpit. The inside of the bonnet looks as if it was painted with the spray can.”
Indeed, the underside of the hood in the test vehicle is in primer gray, never having been painted to match the color of the car. It’s possible Volkswagen plans to add some sort of underhood trim piece to cover the parts finished in primer — many cars do have such enhancements — but it was certainly not fitted to the test car. AMUS went on to complain that “the car does not meet VW’s usual high VW requirements for accuracy of fit of the body parts, minimal gaps, high quality materials and details.”
We have heard many dark rumblings about Volkswagen having issues with the electronics fitted to the ID.3. We know some features such as the optional heads up windshield display will be unavailable until sometime next year but AMUS found in its testing that the electronics fitted to the car now are clunky in operation. In particular, it says “the infotainment system only starts up slowly, the navigation system often remains disoriented for several hundred meters. The system does not call up online services at all. The ten-inch monitor is relatively far away from the driver and is therefore somewhat difficult to operate. Switching to voice control is not much fun because the system does not work properly and quickly.”
Some may remember similar complaints about the software features of the Jaguar I-Pace when it was first launched. Jaguar says it has come to grips with most of those issues — 3 years later — but those problems highlight the difficulty traditional auto manufacturers have moving into the computer era. I once owned a Jaguar XK-E whose only electronics consisted of an aftermarket Alpine AM/FM stereo. The most important features of that car were how it looked and having that great, thumping dual overhead cam 6 cylinder engine nestled under the bonnet. Things have certainly changed since the 60s!
Lastly, AMUS reports the ID.3 with a 58 kWh battery gets very close to its advertised range in gentle driving. “The ID.3 manages 359 kilometers, which corresponds to a consumption of 16.9 kWh / 100 km. At 16.1 kWh / 100 km, the WLTP consumption value is very close to reality with a defensive driving style. But when driven less conservatively “including motorway and city driving … the test average was 23.2 kWh / 100 km. That means: The battery is empty after around 260 kilometers.”
How do those test results square with the report recently that an ID.3 with the same battery was driven from Germany to Switzerland on a single battery charge — a distance of 531 km? The answer is, they don’t. People who own electric cars know that range is a highly variable thing that depends on ambient temperature, terrain, speed, how many people are on board, and a bunch of other factors.
The Take Away
Based on this testing report from AMUS, it seems safe to conclude the ID.3 is still a work in progress. Conventional wisdom says to never purchase a car during the first year of production and that applies equally to electric cars as well. Volkswagen will have a certain honeymoon period when customers will be tolerant of deficiencies in order to own one of the first cars on the road but it won’t last long.
Zachary Shahan has demonstrated that the true cost of ownership of an ID.3 is about equal to the cost of ownership of a VW Golf — an important milestone in the EV revolution. But that in itself will not be sufficient to make the ID.3 a success. Volkswagen will need to up its game and do it quickly if it wants the ID.3 and the electric cars that will follow it to be players on the world stage.
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