Volkswagen’s fully electric ID R race car, fresh off a record-breaking victory at last summer’s Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, is now testing at an entirely different, even more daunting venue: Germany’s Nürburgring Nordscheife.
Last week, when VW presented the ‘Ring-ready ID R—again as an ambassador of the ID family—Volkswagen Motorsport boss Sven Smeets provided a little more insight into how the ‘R’ part of its name relates to production vehicles.
“The R brand is looking into having an electric top version,” he said with a smile. “It won’t have 680 horsepower, so the ID R will be like its big brother.” Precisely how much power this electric line-topper will have and what form it will take remain guarded, but Smeets suggested we’ll hear more about the model by 2021.
Volkswagen ID R Nürburgring
At that point, Volkswagen’s EV offensive will already be well under way, with the first vehicle, now called ID 3, on sale in Europe, and the production version of the more rugged-themed ID Crozz concept also expected to be available in the U.S.
R is an in-house division of Volkswagen responsible for making performance cars. Think of it as an equivalent to Audi Sport, Mercedes-AMG, and BMW M, but it operates in different segments of the market. While adding an electric model to a line-up fueled by forced-induction engines might take brand purists by surprise, Smeets argued it’s a step the firm and all of its rivals will need to take sooner or later.
“The first cell phones were big and heavy. When you saw someone with one, you thought they were crazy. Today, everyone has one, but it’s much smaller—it’s better. Nokia once dominated the market, but it nearly vanished because it missed a turn. The car industry currently is in a similar era,” he opined.
Volkswagen ID R Nürburgring
Volkswagen began testing its fully electric ID R race car—and its ideas for power and battery management, especially—on the ‘Ring during the last week of April. Smeets wouldn’t reveal the lap times that French pilot Romain Dumas is posting to avoid spoiling the surprise, but he declared everything is going well.
The 680-hp drivetrain should allow Dumas to average about 110 mph per lap, while reaching nearly 170 mph on the long straights. The car is not perfect yet, however; Smeets’ team has identified the areas that need improvement, and the first problems it needs to solve.
Dumas needs time to adjust, too. He’s familiar with the ID R (he piloted the car for the record-breaking Pikes Peak run in 2018), and he has won four 24-hour races on the Nürburgring behind the wheel of gasoline-powered GT cars, but combining the two takes the experience to a whole new level.
Volkswagen ID R time attack special at the Nürburgring - Image via S. Baldauf/SB-Medien
He hinted the electric powertrain is functioning as planned, and the ID R takes corners much faster than he’s used to, but his team still needs to fine-tune the suspension to cope with the many bumps jutting out from the track’s surface. Dumas gave us a thumbs up when we asked him how he feels behind the wheel.
Volkswagen will continue testing the ID R through May, and Smeets said the company will take its first stab at the record this summer. Breaking a record formerly held by the Nio EP9 will give VW ultimate electric car performance bragging rights.
A new record will also help Volkswagen define the role of the unique breed of R performance in the electric car chapter it’s about to open.