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Volkswagen goes large with its new ID.7

 (Handout)
(Handout)

Volkswagen’s idea of a range-topping model has changed over the past couple of decades.

Spool back 20 something years and you’d get the Phaeton limousine with a leather-lined interior and a 12-cylinder engine. Now the mantle has been passed to the ID.7, a big, electrically-powered five-door hatchback, which might be described as championing inconspicuous rather than conspicuous consumption in the way it looks and what it does.

In fact, the car effectively fills the market once occupied by the Passat saloon. The four-door Passat, VW’s one time middle class hero, has been dropped from its UK range after nearly five decades, although a new generation Passat estate goes on sale this April (and there will also be an ID.7 station wagon).

Slippery customer

The ID.7’s chunky body has been finessed to cleave the air efficiently, with features such as flush door handles. The result is quite handsome, if not particularly distinctive.

Spacious

The gap between the front and rear wheels is a big one, and there’s plenty of space front and rear for people and luggage. The floor is completely flat and rear passengers have good knee and legroom, so lolling about is a definite option.

There’s an enormous glass sunroof, and the rear of the roof sweeps downwards at quite a rakish angle, but back seat headroom for most people is fine, although anyone over six foot three might feel a bit constricted. Oddments storage is generally good, both in the centre console and generously proportioned door bins.

The new ID.7 (Handout)
The new ID.7 (Handout)

The ID.7 is a hatchback with a low loading lip and a generous boot, offering 532 litres of space with the rear seats raised. Their backrests can be tipped forward, and although the resultant load deck isn’t completely flat, it provides 1,586 litres of room.

Some electric cars have a front boot. The ID.7 isn’t one of them.

Soft touch?

When VW launched its first mass market electric car, the Golf-sized ID.3, its interior came in for some stick for feeling a bit cheap and plasticky (something that’s improved since), and the ID7 has a pleasing low-key plushness. Although a few hard plastics are used in out of the way places, most of the surfaces like the top of the dashboard are made from soft touch materials. The result is classy in a sober way.

Command and control

Telling the car what to do requires the inevitable touch screen, which sits in the middle of the dashboard.

 (Handout)
(Handout)

Although not the acme of responsiveness, it’s not at all bad and most of the functions it oversees are straightforward to find and understand. There’s a strip at the base of the screen that oversees some of the heat/vent functions, but old-school dials and buttons would have been more effective still.

One irritation is that if you want to adjust the car’s air vents this is done using the touch screen and a rather fiddly graphic. Knobs would have been less gimmicky and far more useful.

One more moan. Instead of there being four electric window switches in the driver’s door, there are two, with a button to make them swap between front and rear windows. This is fiddly and frustrating to use.

Easy going

The ID.7 might not have the handling precision of the BYD Seal, but it’s a very capable, thoroughly pleasant thing to drive. Its 210 kW Motor sits between the rear wheels (twin motor, all-wheel-drive versions will follow) provides strong performance and carthorse-like pulling power from low speeds. The car is also very quiet, in a way that would flag up any rattly bits of trim, but there were none.

The VW ID.7 (Handout)
The VW ID.7 (Handout)

It rides firmly but comfortably, has light steering which is perfectly direct and strong, progressive brakes. For such a big thing, it’s easy to place on the road. There is a selection of driving modes, but none ramps up regenerative braking so the car can be driven almost without touching the brakes, because the motor does most of the slowing down.

Making the car go and stop involves a column stalk rather than the toggle switch found in earlier electric VWs. There’s also a small, rectangular digital readout directly in front of the driver giving useful, basic information for things like battery range and speed.

Special features

The ID.7 is a well-equipped car, but three features stand out a little. One is that the front seats can massage their occupant’s extremities, the second is that the sunroof will switch from clear glass to opaque using an electric charge, and the head-up display features augmented reality graphics.

 (Handout)
(Handout)

Pulled together

The fact that the ID.7 isn’t yet another bulky, jacked-up sports utility (SUV) makes a pleasant change. It’s spacious, well made and nice to drive. It’s a car for grown-ups.

The Facts

Volkswagen ID.7 Pro Match

0-62mph: 6.5sec

Top speed: 112 mph

Claimed range: 383 miles (WLPT combined)

Fast charging: up to 80 per cent in 28 minutes

CO2 emissions: 0g/km

Price: £50,670