Fresh from winning the 2021 World Car of the Year award last month, the Volkswagen ID.4 has now been announced as the first production electric vehicle to complete the National Off-Road Racing Association (NORRA) Mexican 1000 off-road race in the Baja peninsula or Mexico.

The successful attempt was meant to showcase the capabilities of the ID.4’s powertrain in incredibly demanding conditions and terrain. Out of 90 vehicles entered the race, the EV was one of the 64 vehicles that managed to cross the finish line while only receiving a few modifications.

“This was an exciting test of ID.4 technology because no other production-based EV had ever entered this event, let alone completed it,” said Scott Keogh, president and CEO of Volkswagen of America. “Congrats to our team for demonstrating that EVs can stand up to extreme environments, and showing how fun electric vehicles can be. The ID.4 could definitely be the Baja Bug for the electric age,” he added.

The ID.4 used was a 1st Edition model that retained its stock powertrain, which consists of an 82-kWh battery pack powering a rear electric motor rated at 201 hp and 310 Nm of torque. While the drive systems were untouched, the EV did receive a modified off-road suspension with rally-style coilover struts and tubular lower controls arms.

The radiator was also raised several inches to improve approach angles and cooling capacity, joined by 3/8-inch steel skid plates to protect the undercarriage. Inside, the team stripped the cabin and only installed race-related gear like a roll cage, racing seats and screens to display key data like battery temperature.

Driving duties were divided between Volkswagen brand ambassador and professional racing driver Tanner Foust, who drove most of the race, with writer and off-road racer Emme Hall complete two stages. The Mexican 1000 had stages measuring between 33 to 167 miles (53 to 269 km), which is well within the ID.4 EPA-certified range of 260 miles (418 km).

Between stages, the team used a portable biofuel-powered generator connected to a 50-kW flat charger to recharge the racing ID.4. In some instances where the ID.4 was scheduled to be transited to the next stage but the charger was not available, the team flat-towed it behind a chase vehicle for a short distance, using the regenerative braking to add range.

Driving through the Baja wilderness, the only damage suffered by the ID.4 was some cosmetic injury to the rear bumper, while key systems performed as expected. The EV was raced mostly in “B” level battery regeneration mode with traction control turned on.

“This was everything we had hoped for. The course was challenging, but the ID.4 was more than up to the tasks we asked of it. This demonstrates the real potential for EV technology to make an impact in all sorts of areas that we have only just begun to explore,” said Foust.