CNN  — 

Volkswagen unveiled its first electric SUV, the ID.4, Wednesday. VW calls the ID.4 it’s first long-range electric vehicle for the US market, and says it’s an important part of the brand’s overall move toward electric vehicles.

VW hopes the ID.4 will have as much impact in the US as the brand’s most famous model, the classic Beetle, once did, said Scott Keogh, CEO of Volkswagen Group of America. Volkswagen sold nearly five million Beetles in the US between 1949 and 1977.

Prices for the ID.4 will start at about $40,000, not including the widely available $7,500 federal tax credit for purchasing an electric vehicle. Factoring in the tax credit would result in a total purchase price of about $32,500. In 2022, after ID.4 production begins in the United States, VW anticipates the starting price will drop to around $35,000. But, for now, the SUV will be built in Germany.

The ID.4’s starting price is higher than that of the Toyota RAV4 or Honda CR-V, but similar to well-equipped versions of both those bestselling SUVs.

The Volkswagen ID.4 is VW's first electric SUV.

Volkswagen intends for the ID.4 to compete directly against those gasoline-powered SUVs. Volkswagen isn’t just going after customers looking specifically for an electric vehicle, but for those looking for a small SUV in general, said Keogh. Among owners of small SUVs, 30% have said they will consider an electric model for their next purchase, he said.

The ID.4 is a little smaller than the Volkswagen Tiguan, the brand’s gasoline-powered compact SUV, but it has similar interior space, according to VW. That’s possible because the ID’4’s electric motors and batteries take up less space than the Tiguan’s gas engine and transmission.

Volkswagen designers considered using just the central screen for information, but decided drivers still wanted to have important information displayed directly in front of them.

The ID.4 will initially be available in 201-horsepower rear-wheel drive versions. Special “First Edition” models, with a $44,000 starting price, will have an estimated driving range of 250 miles, according to VW. In 2021, VW will start selling a 302-horsepower all-wheel-drive model.

Unlike some other electric SUVs, such as the Tesla Model Y and Mustang Mach-E, the ID.4 has no “frunk,” or front trunk. VW designers decided the extra space left by the absence of a gasoline engine could better be used to house air conditioning machinery and, in all-wheel-drive models, an electric motor. Otherwise, these things could impinge on interior space.

The VW logo on some versions of the ID.4 will light up. VW designers wanted to give the ID.4 a friendly and approachable appearance, said Keogh, without the intimidating, scowling look so many car designs have today. For that reason, the narrow “grille” design on the front emulates a smile, he said.

On the inside, a band of light stretches across the dashboard just under the windshield. This narrow strip of light will change colors, blink or seem to ripple in various ways to provide cues to the driver. For instance, it could communicate when the vehicle is turned on or off, when doors are locked or unlocked or when the navigation suggests an upcoming turn.

The brake pedal has a double-bar Pause symbol on it, while the accelerator pedal has the triangular Play icon on it, a clever visual reference to digital media player interfaces.

Instead of disc brakes on all four wheels, as most cars and SUVs have today, the ID.4 will have rear drum brakes. Drum brakes, in which brake shoes press outward onto the inside of a drum, were once common on the rear wheels of most cars since less stopping power is needed in the back, and they can still be found on some entry-level car models. While four-wheel disc brakes, in which brake shoes squeeze inward on a metal rotor, used to be common only on performance cars. Today, many passenger vehicles have them. The ID.4 has rear drum brakes because they’re better suited to an electric vehicle, according to VW.

Electric cars use their brakes less than other vehicles because much of their deceleration, even when the driver presses the brake pedal, comes from “regeneration.” That’s when the wheels are allowed to spin the car’s electric motor rather than the other way around. This slows the car while also producing electricity that’s stored in the battery. For this reason, electric vehicles’ brakes tend to last longer than brakes on gasoline-powered cars.

The VW ID.4 is the brand's first long-range electric vehicle in the United States.

The ID.4 is based on the company’s new MEB engineering platform. MEB stands for Modularer E-Antriebs-Baukasten or Modular Electrification Toolkit. That basic engineering setup will be shared with a range of electric vehicles from several other Volkswagen Group brands, including Škoda, Audi and SEAT.

At the Frankfurt Motor Show last year, VW unveiled the ID.3, a compact hatchback also based on the MEB platform. There are currently no plans to offer the ID.3 in the US because of slight demand for compact cars here, electric or not, VW executives have said. A number of automakers have stopped selling small cars in the US altogether, while the market for small SUVs has been increasing.

Production of the ID.4 started last month in in VW’s Zwickau, Germany, factory. Starting next year, it will also be produced in VW’s Chattanooga, Tennessee, factory. Ultimately, it will also be built in two factories in China and another one in Europe, as well.