Volkswagen is putting the ID.4, the first purpose-designed EV it’s selling in America, through an unusual test. It’s sending a heavily-modified electric crossover to Mexico’s Baja peninsula to compete in the 2021 edition of the National Off-Road Racing Association (NORRA) Mexican 1000 race dominated by gasoline-powered machines.
Professional racer Tanner Foust teamed up with Rhys Millen Racing to make a rally beast out of an ID.4 First Edition. They added skid plates to protect the underbody from crippling encounters with rocks and other obstacles. They also upgraded the suspension system with coilovers, tubular lower front control arms, and boxed lower rear links. Fitting 18-inch wheels and a two-inch suspension lift allowed the builders to fit chunkier tires.
Inside, the ID.4 lost its HVAC system and its reach bench and gained a roll cage and racing seats. Key information about the crossover and its surroundings is displayed on a screen installed on the left side of the dashboard.
Volkswagen is not making any modifications to the ID.4’s powertrain. The Baja-bound crossover is a rear-wheel-drive model with an 82-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. It’s rated at 201 horsepower and 229 pound-feet of torque, and it offers a maximum driving range of 260 miles when it stays on the pavement. Electrify America chargers are difficult to come by in the middle of the desert, so the team will haul around a biofuel-powered generator that juices up a portable, 50-kilowatt fast charger. The event will exceptionally be run in loops due to travel restrictions, and Volkswagen hopes to complete about 98% of the stages in the loop event without recharging.
This year’s edition of the NORRA Mexican 1000 starts in Santo Tomás, Mexico, on April 25, and it ends 1,141 miles later at a venue named Horsepower Ranch on April 29. The list of vehicles entered in the event is shockingly diverse; it includes several dozen buggies (which are ironically powered by Volkswagen’s venerable flat-four), a 1968 Ford Bronco, a 1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee (ZJ), and a 1989 Porsche 911. There’s even an AM General Humvee on the roster. As of writing, the ID.4 is the only EV entered in the race. It needs to comply with the same basic set of regulations as other racers from what organizers call the Evolution Era, but Volkswagen will be allowed to put the ID.4 on a trailer while it’s in transit between stages in order not to deplete the battery pack’s charge.