There’s a Surge of New EVs. We Take Them for a Spin

Volkswagen, Chevrolet, Volvo, Porsche, and Polestar have each introduced new battery-powered models. So we hit the road with each of them.

In the past year, options for the EV-curious have exploded. Not long ago, Tesla, Chevrolet, Nissan, and BMW were the only truly viable games in town. Now, there are extremely capable all-electric models from virtually every manufacturer. Most have ranges well above 200 miles, and a few start below $40,000.

Among the latest entries: Volkswagen’s ID.4 compact crossover, the Volvo XC40 Recharge, Hyundai’s Ioniq, the Ford Mustang Mach-E, the Polestar 2, Kia’s Niro EV, a new Chevy Bolt and larger Bolt EUV, and more affordable versions of Porsche’s performance-oriented Taycan. In just the last few weeks, Audi has announced its upcoming compact Q4 E-tron crossover and the production version of its dramatically styled E-tron GT, while Jaguar has said it will go all-electric by 2030. EV startups Rivian, Lucid Motors, and Lordstown Motors have detailed their own progress.

There’s a lot going on, though the big unknown continues to be whether consumers will flip the switch or dig in with their old ways. Improved technology has certainly boosted the current models’ ranges and ability to withstand extreme temperatures, so the appeal to buyers of conventional cars is steadily improving. But as we noted in our review of the Mach-E in December, easy and convenient access to compatible charging in public remains an issue. The White House recently signaled a commitment to rectifying that—something that can’t come soon enough if this evolution has any hope of continuing.

So how do some of the recent EV options stack up? We’ve been out on the roads with several new models. Here’s our take on the lot:

pThe ID.4 is Volkswagen's first cleansheet electric car.p

The ID.4 is Volkswagen’s first clean-sheet electric car.

Photograph: Eric Adams

Volkswagen ID.4

This is Volkswagen’s first true clean-sheet electric car, and its success will tell the company a lot about its future prospects for winning over customers. The $39,995 base price—before the $7,500 federal tax rebate—places this small crossover outside true “people’s car” territory, but it’s not unreasonable for an EV today. Its 82-kWh battery generates 201 horsepower and up to 250 miles of range, which is excellent. The white interior on the model I drove is sleek and clean—nicely matching the distinctive exterior design—and it absolutely feels like a premium interior. The car is well-built and uses high-quality materials. The dynamic, icon-based infotainment system is similarly forward-thinking. When the navigation system is active, for example, an LED light bar shows you which way you’ll be turning next. The rear seats are pretty flat and aren’t the most comfortable, but it’s roomy back there and plenty functional.

On the road, the ID.4 is confident and powerful, with 229 pound-feet of torque giving it just the right amount of push that you’d want when launching from stoplights and while jockeying for position on the highway. Having rear-drive on a small car is rare these days, but even in icy conditions the car remained stable—and future models will have an all-wheel-drive, dual-motor option. Overall, it’s a tight, responsive package, extremely fun to throw into turns and over crests, with the electric whine shooting you nicely into the future. Potential buyers should note that VW provides three years of free charging at the VW-funded Electrify America stations, but make sure there are enough stations in your area before signing on the dotted line.

chevy bolt ev
Chevrolet says the new Bolt EUV can operate hands-free on some roads.Photograph: Eric Adams

Chevrolet Bolt EUV

Chevrolet recently unveiled the new Bolt and a larger crossover variant called the Bolt EUV, the latter of which we drove outside New York City recently. Though both vehicles use the same platform and powertrain, the EUV sits a little higher and extends 6 inches longer, generating much better legroom in the rear seats. There are other visual differences between the two, including cargo rails on the roof of the EUV. But the biggest difference is the inclusion of GM’s sophisticated Super Cruise technology, a form of limited self-driving, on the EUV. This is the first time Chevrolet has offered the system—it debuted on a variety of Cadillacs—and it isn’t quite the full package. The EUV doesn’t include the pricey lidar sensors, eliminating the ability to change lanes and pass cars on its own.

The EUV is still a big deal, though. Chevy says it can operate hands-free on roads the company has laser-mapped and embedded into the system, using its other sensors to respond to obstacles and alert the driver to take over if necessary. Along the way, a driver-monitoring system aims to ensure you’re always paying attention. This is as close as any EV has come to Tesla’s Autopilot system, in a compact and affordable package. (The EUV starts at $33,395, though the Super Cruise-equipped Launch Edition is $43,495.) Having that capability, regardless of the vehicle size or cost, is still a fresh, nearly miraculous feeling.

With Super Cruise off and the driver in full command, the car is crisp and responsive, with good visibility. It loses a few points for an uninspiring interior and high wind noise, but gains some back for its 250-mile range.

volvo xc40 recharge

The Volvo XC40 Recharge offers carlike feel with the visibility of an SUV.

Photograph: Eric Adams

Volvo XC40 Recharge

Volvo also has committed to full electrification, aiming first to have 50 percent of its vehicles battery-powered by 2025. That’s not far off, so it hopes its first electric, the XC40 Recharge crossover, will lure potential EV buyers smitten by the Swedish brand’s style and safety. The Recharge, which starts at a relatively steep $53,990 before federal tax rebates, offers a range of 208 miles, a 402-hp powertrain that includes two motors and all-wheel-drive, and a not-bad 0–60 mph time of 4.7 seconds.

That’s a compelling package, and on the road the Volvo delivered. Its power felt present and always available, thanks to the 486 pound-feet of torque. That’s a significant number. I didn’t get to assess its abilities off-road, but I did clamber up a steep dirt road in the Recharge and feel confident it can do some solid soft-roading as needed—thanks in part to its 6.9 inches of ground clearance. On the road, it felt carlike in all the good ways—smooth and maneuverable—and SUV-like where it counts most, in height-based visibility. The Recharge comes with Volvo’s usual suite of infotainment interfaces, with only modest nods to the electrification as needed. That system is competent but somewhat less than intuitive—until you get used to it, it’s a bit awkward and clumsy. That’s a minor gripe for what is otherwise an outstanding EV.

porsche taycan

The powertrain on the Porsche Taycan 4S is designed to maintain performance as the battery loses its charge.

Photograph: Eric Adams

Porsche Taycan 4S

The Taycan arrived a few years ago in its top trim, somewhat oddly branded as a “Turbo.” If that counts as a misstep, it’s pretty much the only one the company has made with this car. The Turbo blew us away back then, and this more affordable 4S version still has us convinced that the Taycan is the best EV on the road, price notwithstanding. (The top-of-the-line Turbo S starts at $185,000, the Turbo at $150,900, the 4S at $103,000, and the base Taycan at $79,900, all before federal rebates.) It’s engineered to Porsche standards of quality and performance, and its powertrain is designed to maintain performance as the battery loses its charge; that’s a problem for many other EVs, including Teslas. So you can do 0–60 runs all day long, and lap after lap on a racetrack. That’s a significant achievement. Much of this stems from the innovative two-speed transmission on the rear motor, which helps deliver both range and performance and absorbs the enormous torque delivery of electric motors.

The 4S delivers an EPA-estimated 227 miles of range, though early users have suggested it can go up to 50 miles farther. It’ll get you to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds, thanks to a launch control system that optimizes the motors and electricity delivery for a quick start and the up to 562-hp dual motors, from the 79.2-kWh Performance Battery pack. On the road, you first notice the lack of wind and road noise—a testament to both aerodynamic finessing and in-body sound-deadening. But you instantly forget about that the moment you mat the pedal. The car goes like a rocket and won’t let up, absorbing turns and handling road disturbances effortlessly—despite its stout 4,771-pound weight. That, of course, comes from the heavy battery; but the engineers have made that feel almost nonexistent, even in this dialed-down version from the Turbo models. In short it’s a Porsche, to the bone.

Polestar 2

Though Polestar is owned by Volvo, it’s a newly separate brand and an independent company, and thus still a bit of a mystery to US consumers. The Polestar 2 should change that. The company debuted with an ultra-premium plug-in hybrid sport-coupe, the Polestar 1; this is its mass-market debut. The two-motor, five-seat sedan generates 233 miles of EPA-rated range and 408 hp. When we previewed the car in Sweden in 2019, we were startled by its ability to manage hard track driving in wet conditions. Now that we’ve spent some time with it on our own turf, we’re charmed by the car’s competence and Volvo-esque quirkiness.

Make no mistake, the $59,900 Polestar 2 is a striking car, but its styling heads in the opposite direction of most mid-sized sedans. Instead of pursuing wedgy angles and abundant curves, the Polestar 2 embraces its chunkiness, with more right angles than you might expect. It’s a great look but may not be to everyone’s tastes. Behind the wheel—aided by the first-ever integrated Google infotainment and connectivity system, with natural-speech recognition capability—you’ll find navigating the world familiar and easy, and driving a sublime pleasure. The 78-kWh battery delivers its power efficiently and reliably, with steady thrust and instantaneous adaptation to sudden changes in driving conditions. You tend to sometimes forget you’re sitting on 400 horses, but when you do remember they’re there, they’re a joy to unleash.

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